Archive for April, 2017

Apr 27 2017

Rising Seas Claiming California’s Coast Faster Than Scientists Imagined

A slow-moving emergency is lapping at California’s shores — climate-driven sea-level rise that experts now predict could elevate the water in coastal areas up to 10 feet in just 70 years, gobbling up beachfront and overwhelming low-lying cities.

The speed with which polar ice is melting and glacier shelves are cracking off indicates to some scientists that once-unthinkable outer-range projections of sea rise may turn out to be too conservative. A knee-buckling new state-commissioned report warns that if nothing changes, California’s coastal waters will rise at a rate 30 to 40 times faster than in the last century.

The potential result: crippled economies, compromised public safety, submerged infrastructure and a forced retreat from our iconic Pacific coast.

No state has done more than California to curb greenhouse gas emissions that contribute to climate change and sea-level rise. But experts say that even if carbon reductions continue, residual warming of the ocean will continue unchecked, breeding surges that will impact the state’s coast and Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta.

Last month the U.S. Geological Survey estimated that without concerted intervention, as much as 67 percent of Southern California’s beaches could be lost to rising seas by the end of the century.

A consensus of scientific research makes catastrophic projections that, in the worst case, will be reality by the end of this century:

  • International airports in San Francisco and Oakland will face flooding, rendering them unusable.
  • Housing perched on fast-eroding coastal bluffs in Pacifica and elsewhere will continue to crash into the sea.
  • Malibu’s Broad Beach will dwindle into a seldom-seen slice of sand, its name an oxymoron.
  • Flooding in the Delta will overwhelm rivers and strain levees critical to California’s water supply.
  • Power plants, nuclear waste sites and other sensitive waterside sites need to be fortified or will be lost.
  • Roads, bridges and railways along the coast from Mendocino to San Diego will be abandoned and relocated inland.
  • San Francisco’s Embarcadero and low-lying cities such as Huntington Beach will flood more frequently and more severely.
  • More than 42,000 homes in California will be under water — not merely flooded, but with seawater over roofs.

The grim outlook is mirrored in the latest report, which is being presented April 26 for adoption by the state’s Ocean Protection Council. Its sea-level rise projections will assist state agencies and local governments with planning.

No stretch of the state’s 3,400 miles of coast, bays, inlets and islands will be spared. Addressing sea-level rise will cost a staggering amount of public and private money, and will particularly impact the poor and vulnerable. The problem becomes more urgent with much of California’s wealth huddled along the coast, supporting an ocean-dependent $44 billion economy.

In the end, state and local officials may come to the gut-wrenching conclusion that some coastal land should be simply abandoned.

“We’re not doing well at all,” said Democratic Assemblyman Mark Stone, chairman of the Select Committee on Coastal Protection and Access to Natural Resources. “We have yet to really start to answer the hard questions and make policy — saying, ‘No, we are not going to put public money here.’ Eventually we should get to the point that we are not going to do any public investment in those places any more.”

Most scientists tread lightly in the policy realm, providing the information for others to craft into regulations. Not Bill Patzert, who has for years sounded the alarm about rising oceans.

“It’s not an existential threat. It’s real. It’s gonna happen,” said Patzert, a climatologist at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory. “Here’s the bigger issue: If you’re in the tunnel and you see the train coming at you, what do you do? Do you race towards it or do you back out? It’s just common sense. As a society, why aren’t we doing that?”

How high will it go? Check sea level rise near your neighborhood 
Scientists use maps such as this to help state and local officials plan for sea level rise and associated flooding. This interactive graphic shows potential flood zones with water up to 10 feet, the outer range of current projections. (Map by Climate Central)

From deep in the hive of large brains at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, set hard against the San Gabriel Mountains, an intense group of scientists from Caltech and the NASA are harnessing satellites that for decades have been peering into space and are now directing their gaze to Earth.

The researchers — with advanced degrees in physics, mathematics and oceanography — are engaged in what many consider to be the critical research of our time.

They are watching ice melt.

Sitting alone in a cubicle, bathed in the glow of a computer screen or staring down the barrel of a telescope, can be a balm for scientists. Concerning themselves with one finite slice of a planet-wide catastrophe allows them to compartmentalize and disengage from the entire sobering picture.

But even professional detachment fails against the unfolding horror show depicted in the cold display of satellite imagery.

“We are in the process of watching the ice sheet in Greenland disappear,” said the lab’s oceanographer Josh Willis, who leads a team studying Greenland. “This is the first time humans have been able to measure it. The last time it was shrinking at this rate was tens of thousands of years ago.”

The diminishment of Greenland’s ice mass has been accelerating alarmingly, losing a trillion tons in the last four years. The rapid melting is getting the attention of scientists because locked away in the Greenland ice sheet is the possibility to raise global sea levels by 24 feet. The Antarctic holds 187 feet of potential ice melt. Polar ice loss on that scale would have unfathomable consequences for continued life on Earth.

Willis uses satellites to measure the warmth of the waters around Greenland. Because he has a sense of humor, his project is known to all as OMG: Oceans Melting Greenland. (He preferred calling it Water Temperature Fjords, but couldn’t get the acronym past government sensibilities.)

“As scientists, we’re witnessing these huge events, and it’s telling us how the Earth is changing,” Willis said. “Of course, I’m also a citizen, I live on this planet, and it is worrying that it’s happening. It’s sometimes profoundly shocking to wake up and realize we’re reshaping our entire planet.”

Understanding the threat of sea-level rise in California depends to some extent on where you are standing: Boots in the dust of the Central Valley and you might curse the lateness of a rail shipment held up by flooding at the port of Oakland; bare feet in the sand at Huntington Beach and you may have to consider relocating your family, your home and all your possessions.

Some simple math: Every inch of sea-level rise equates to an 8- to 10-feet loss of beach. So, using the conservative projection of a 4-foot rise, and the lower-end 8-foot-per inch formula, that equates to 384 feet of coastal beach loss in the next 70 years.

The 10-foot rise scenario, which scientists peg as the new worst-case, would cause a land loss of 800 feet — the length of two-and-a-half football fields. The sea will not rise the same amount in every place; scientists say each discrete elevation is dependent on factors such as the shape of the sea floor and the slope of the landfall.

Considering the scope of this coming catastrophe, it does not appear to be front-of-mind to many in the state. But that doesn’t mean it’s gone unstudied. California has a peerless capacity to turn over problems until they are smooth and shiny. Understanding comes first, with action often a distant and expensive second.

A tour through recent scientific analyses:

A 2009 report on sea-level rise commissioned by the state paints worst-case scenarios that are the stuff of disaster movies: A half-million Californians at risk of flooding and more than $100 billion worth of infrastructure. More than two dozen coastal power plants flooded, along with hundreds of hazardous waste facilities, as well as schools, hospitals, police stations, ports and major airports.

A 2012 report prepared for the California Energy Commission focused just on the San Francisco Bay and its 1,000 miles of shoreline, concluding: “Rising sea levels will overwhelm the existing protection structures, putting the 140,000 people currently living in vulnerable areas at increased risk.” The authors cautioned their findings did not reflect worst-case scenarios. And, if no action is taken to address the vulnerabilities, the risk projections should be considered “substantially low.”

The California Assembly weighed in with a report in 2014, and the next year the Senate chimed in with its own review, amping it up a bit: “With current projections, rising seas combined with a 100-year flood event would close over 2,000 miles of roadway, the Oakland and San Francisco airports, and the Port of Oakland.”

The sobering fact of those state-of-the-art reports, recent though they are, is that they are already out of date and not nearly comprehensive enough in describing the scope of what currently faces California. Nor remotely scary enough. What scientists are observing now is, they say, a rapid and steep change that, even as it unfolds over comparatively long periods of time, is nonetheless occurring at a breathtaking pace.

A melting glacier calving.
A melting glacier calving. (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration)

Sea-level rise is caused primarily by two factors related to global warming: the expansion of seawater as it heats up and the added water volume from melting ice. Researchers focused on glacial melt in Greenland and Antarctica see the process as an action-packed cataclysm marked by heaving ice shelves collapsing into the sea and sheets of decaying ice sloughing off the end of a continent.

The power unleashed by that tide of ice is awesome to contemplate. Water has always been one of the most destructive and transformative forces in nature. With warmer waters creating more energy that incubates more powerful storms, some see a near future in which seas assault our coast more frequently and with greater force. Exhibit A: California’s past winter, when repeated storms lashed the state, resulting in a preliminary price tag of $569 million and a federal disaster declaration.

Scientists warn that intensified El Nino events, coupled with higher seas, will bring about unprecedented flooding. What civil engineers refer to as nuisance flooding — overwhelmed storm sewers and street flooding — is already more common. King Tides are getting worse. Commuting times, the ability of first-responders to get to an accident scene, and the transportation of goods by road will be severely compromised, researchers say.

That risk, too, can be observed at its point of origin. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) maintains tide gauges that bob and float in U.S. waters, sentinels sending out a stream of data measuring current sea levels. The information feeds tidal forecasts used by surfers and mariners, and is also monitored by emergency services.

The tide and currents map is both colorful and alarming. The maps depict the North American continent ringed by arrows pointing straight up, denoting trending rising sea levels, like pickets defending the coast.

It turns out the coast is all-but defenseless.

Brett Sanders, a civil and environmental engineer at UC Irvine, is using a grant from the National Science Foundation to help inform communities along the California and northern Mexican coast about the risk of rising waters. Most people are thrilled that they’ve managed to fulfill a dream of living near the beach, Sanders said, and are unaware of what they should do to protect themselves.

“We have done a bad job of mapping flood risk. It’s awful,” Sanders said.

Zillow, the website that calculates residential real estate values, recently took its maps of coastal property and overlaid NOAA’s sea-level projections. Using what are now thought to be conservative projections, the company estimated 2 million coastal homes in the United States would be underwater by the end of the century. Not as in being upside down on a mortgage, but as in fish swimming through the den. The total value of those homes? Nearly $1 trillion, in California, $49 billion.

Zillow’s chief economist, Svenja Gudell, said she was surprised that when the company shared its information with mayors or city planners, officials saw it as an event that would take place far in the future. “For some of these places the time horizon is not 100 years, it’s happening now,” she said. “It’s not as top of mind as it should be or you would like it to be. People are underinsured when it comes to flood insurance. The system is broken.”

Gudell said that her research showed that homeowners living in high-risk areas are not getting market cues —real estate values in beach areas destroyed by Hurricane Sandy are now higher than before the superstorm that played out on national television in the fall of 2012.

“We were not able to explain that rationally,” Gudell said. “We will see in the future, if you are on a cliff and that cliff is further eroding and if you put a piece of property on that land, it won’t be safe anymore. For now, the benefit of living in these homes clearly outweighs the current and future cost of living there.”

Apartment buildings hang perilously over an increasingly eroded bluff in Pacifica.
Apartment buildings hang perilously over an increasingly eroded bluff in Pacifica. (Eric Cheng/The Nature Conservancy)

Which leaves us with the National Flood Insurance Program, a troubled and debt-ridden program operated by the Federal Emergency Management Agency. The flood insurance covers millions of Americans living in flood zones, based on maps that are decades out of date. The program is currently $24 billion in debt and requires reauthorization from Congress.

Critics of the federal insurance say the rates don’t reflect current risks, leaving taxpayers on the hook for someone else’s folly.

Democratic state Sen. Henry Stern represents a coastal district that includes Malibu and a string of state beaches. A lifelong surfer, he understands the attraction.

“It’s so alluring,” he said of living by the beach. “But my whole thing is to make the market tell the truth about it. We know where sea level rise is going to happen. What I don’t want to happen is for all of us to bear the bill afterwards.”

Even with the horrific projections scientists have repeatedly shared about public health and safety associated with rising seas, it might be the economic cost that spurs action. A 2016 paper published in the journal Nature estimated the annual global cost for sea-level rise adaptation measures at about $421 billion per year.

The authors of the study argue that the figure doesn’t take into account population growth and clustering around coasts. By the year 2100, the report warns, the price tag for mass relocations could exceed $14 trillion. Given California’s coastal population clusters — 75 percent of the state’s residents live in a coastal county — the figure here will be enormous.

The Ocean Protection Council receiving the new science report is a state agency whose mission, as its name implies, is to look after the welfare of California’s piece of the Pacific Ocean. It’s an almost laughably large responsibility, and one that the members approach thoughtfully.

The report placed the scientific findings at the forefront, said Liz Whiteman, the science and strategy director for the Ocean Science Trust, which was a partner in the study. That means the analysis does not entertain the question of whether climate change is altering the behavior of the Pacific. Nor does it belabor stale arguments about how weather has always changed. It is, rather, an unsparing document that presents the best projections about the range of sea rise, and, for the first time, assigns a probability and risk to those numbers.

“California is in a great place for being willing to call the hard question and not shying away,” Whiteman said. “There is no doubt that there is some scary information contained in a report looking at sea-level rise and our future.”

Dan Cayan, one of seven scientists who contributed to the newest report, is a researcher at Scripps Institution of Oceanography, investigating how climate affects changes in oceans. Viewed from his office window in La Jolla, the Pacific Ocean appears benign and soothing. But a glimpse into the updated information he’s assembling paints a different, darker picture.

New data and more sophisticated modeling, he said, coupled with more extreme climate warming, “Is going to be pushing the amount of sea-level rise above what was thought to be reasonable.”

Comparing previous projections to current ones, he said, is no longer useful. “We’re actually off this scale,” he said.

Cayan pulls out the 2012 report from the National Research Council, which is the basis for California’s current sea-level rise assumptions and the predicate for the state’s coastal policies. The mid-range of its projections envisions about 3 feet of rise by 2100.

Then he carefully takes out a sheet with the new data. Cayan points at the the elaborate graphs to the updated mid-range projection— 8½ feet. Cayan and his colleagues shrug off questions about how to apply their science—that’s the job of the politicians. But the report does counsel state officials to consider the worst-case scenario in their deliberations, and cautions: “Waiting for scientific certainty is neither a safe nor prudent option.”

So what now? California planners and policymakers will pore over the latest report. Their deliberations will result, at some point, in “updated guidance” to use the parlance of the bureaucracy. The final document will help local officials incorporate the sea-level rise projections into their future plans for building and safety, in some cases altering zoning and building codes.

Meanwhile, Greenland’s summer ice melt season begins, and the 2-mile deep ice sheet that was created in the last Ice Age continues to shrink. Researchers drilling ice cores have been astounded to find more and more streams of water rushing below the sheet—a river of water scything through ice. The proliferation of these ‘melt streams’ is leading scientists to consider that the loss of Greenland’s ice may be set on an unstoppable trajectory.

No longer a matter of if, but only of when.


Read the original post on: https://ww2.kqed.org/news/ Check sea level rise in your neighborhood

Apr 23 2017

Canary in the kelp forest

The one-two punch of warming waters and ocean acidification is predisposing some marine animals to dissolving quickly under conditions already occurring off the Northern California coast, according to a study from the University of California, Davis.

In the study, published in the journal Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences, researchers at the UC Davis Bodega Marine Laboratory raised bryozoans, also known as “moss animals,” in seawater tanks and exposed them to various levels of water temperature, food and acidity.

The scientists found that when grown in warmer waters and then exposed to acidity, the bryozoans quickly began to dissolve. Large portions of their skeletons disappeared in as little as two months.

“We thought there would be some thinning or reduced mass,” said lead author Dan Swezey, a recent Ph.D. graduate in professor Eric Sanford’s lab at the UC Davis Bodega Marine Laboratory. “But whole features just dissolved practically before our eyes.”

SKELETONS KEY

Bryozoans are colonial animals, superficially similar to, but not related, to corals. They are abundant in California kelp forests and are calcareous, meaning they build their honeycomb-shaped skeletons from calcium carbonate.

The scientists found that when raised under warming conditions, bryozoans altered their chemical composition by building higher levels of magnesium into their skeletons, particularly if they were also eating less food. When exposed to acidic conditions already observed off coastal California, these changes predisposed the animals to dissolve.

The researchers consider bryozoans a canary in the coal mine for other marine animals that build calcareous skeletons containing magnesium. These include sea stars, sea urchins, calcifying algae and tube-building worms.

The authors do not know why the bryozoans added more magnesium to their skeletons under warmer temperatures. But they conclude that marine organisms with skeletons made of high-magnesium calcite may be especially susceptible to ocean acidification because this form of calcium carbonate dissolves more easily than others.

Bryozoans grow in connected colonies. During the experiments, the animals shut down parts of themselves when undergoing the stress of ocean acidification, redirecting their energy to new growth. This was somewhat like closing down units of a condominium complex while building new ones at the same time. But the moss animals could not outpace the dissolution.

“They were trying to grow but were dissolving at the same time,” Swezey said.

CALCIFIED ANIMALS INCREASINGLY VULNERABLE

The authors said the study underlines the increasing vulnerability of calcified animals to ocean acidification, which occurs as the ocean absorbs more atmospheric carbon emitted through the burning of fossil fuels.

During the spring and summer months, deep ocean water rich in carbon dioxide periodically wells up along the California coast when surface waters are pushed offshore by strong winds. These upwelling events also push nutrients to the surface to help support kelp forests and productive fisheries. However, this deep water tends to be more acidic.

Climate modeling shows that the trends of warming ocean temperatures, stronger winds and increasingly strong upwelling events are expected to continue in the coming years as carbon dioxide concentrations in the atmosphere increase. This indicates that acidic conditions will likely become more common, rather than episodic.

MARINE LIFE FACES MANY CHANGES AT ONCE

“Marine life is increasingly faced with many changes at once,” said co-author Sanford, a professor in the UC Davis Department of Evolution and Ecology. “For bryozoans, their response to warmer temperature makes them unexpectedly vulnerable to ocean acidification. The question now is whether other marine species might respond in a similar way.”

###

The study’s other co-authors include Jessica Bean, Aaron Ninokawa, Tessa Hill, and Brian Gaylord from UC Davis. Bean is also affiliated with UC Berkeley.

The study was supported by grants from the National Science Foundation and the University of California Multicampus Research Programs and Initiatives. Swezey was also supported by a NSF Graduate Research Fellowship.

Disclaimer: AAAS and EurekAlert! are not responsible for the accuracy of news releases posted to EurekAlert! by contributing institutions or for the use of any information through the EurekAlert system.


Originally posted: https://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2017-04/uoc–cit041717.php

Apr 20 2017

NOAA Fisheries Scientists Spawn Pacific Sardines For The First Time In Captivity

Biologists at NOAA Fisheries’ Southwest Fisheries Science Center (SWFSC) have cracked the code for how to spawn Pacific sardines in the laboratory, opening a new window on the life cycle of the commercially important species.

Like many species, sardines require just the right conditions to reproduce. Researchers working with sardines in the SWFSC’s Experimental Aquarium had tried for decades to identify those conditions. Then in early March, they hit upon the right combination of conditions and documented sardine spawning for the first time in captivity.

“The biggest challenge is getting them comfortable enough in captivity to get them ready to spawn, because we’re trying to replicate the conditions they would experience in the ocean,” said John Hyde, leader of the Experimental Aquarium and Fisheries Genetics Program at the Science Center.

The advance will allow scientists to more closely study and better understand the early life cycle of the species that is known for wide swings in abundance. That in turn will help biologists refine the life-cycle models they use to estimate the size of the sardine population and determine whether enough fish are available to support commercial harvest.

Scientists from the SWFSC’s Fisheries Resources Division varied the lighting, temperature, feed and other conditions in tanks holding the small silvery fish to encourage them to reproduce. Once they recognized that the sardines were ready to spawn, they injected the fish with hormones to induce spawning. The sardines spawned for the first time on March 1, and then again the next day when researchers observed a second batch of fertilized eggs in the tanks.

Researchers collected newly spawned eggs on March 1 and reared them in incubators at three different temperatures: 11°C, 13°C, and 15°C, chosen to mimic the range of temperature conditions they are likely to encounter during sardine spring spawning in the southern California Bight. Staff continued to rear the eggs over the following days until they hatched, sampling the eggs in each incubator every two hours to track their progress. Then they sampled the larvae once or twice per day through exhaustion of the yolk. The preliminary results of the egg-rearing data are still being analyzed.

Spawning sardines in the laboratory can give scientists new insight into early development of the fish, since it is very difficult to capture sardine larvae in the wild without damaging them. For example, sardine ear bones (called “otoliths”) provide natural records of the water conditions experienced by individual fish throughout their life. “By combining the chemistry of these bones with genetics, we can better understand where larvae and young fish are spending their time and how they may respond to changing ocean conditions such as shifting temperatures or ocean acidification,” said Emmanis Dorval, the lead scientist of the spawning experiment. “Ultimately, the research can lead to a better understanding of how biological and ecological factors influence sardine populations along the U.S. West Coast.”

The experiments to develop methods of sardine spawning are a collaborative effort between various FRD programs (including the Life History, Ichthyoplankton Ecology, and Genetics, Physiology and Aquaculture groups) in sample collection, processing, and fish rearing.

Stage 5-6 sardine eggs subsampled from the 15°C incubator. Each major unit on the ruler represents approximately 0.33 mm. Larger circles represent the chorion of the eggs.

FRD contractor, Megan Human, taking a subsample of eggs during the egg-rearing experiment at the SWFSC Aquarium.


Originally posted at: https://swfsc.noaa.gov/

Apr 19 2017

CFOOD: New Study Sheds Light on Relationship Between Forage Fish, Predators, and Fishing

April 18, 2017 — The following was published by CFOOD. Founded by Dr. Ray Hilborn from the University of Washington, CFOOD is a network of scientists formed to study the science of fisheries sustainability, and to correct erroneous stories about fisheries in the mainstream media:

A paper published earlier this month shows a new understanding of how commercially fishing forage fish impacts forage fish predators like sea birds, marine mammals, and pelagic finfish.

Forage fish are small, silvery, bottom-of-the-food-chain fish that eat plankton and small invertebrates. They are eaten by seemingly everything in the ocean, providing “forage” for many other animals—you’ve probably heard of the two most common forage fish: sardines and anchovies. If asked their favorite marine species, not many people would choose a forage fish, but many would choose a forage fish predator: Penguins and puffins are endearing, dolphins and seals are adorable, and tuna and swordfish are delicious. Forage fish help sustain these populations, but are also favorite foods for many cultures.

With a high oil and protein content, forage fish are also the perfect species for conversion to fishmeal and fish oil. The largest fishery in the world, Peruvian anchovy, is such a fishery. Fish oil provides essential fatty acids and is sold in drugstores as a nutritional supplement. Fishmeal is food for several of our favorite edible animals. It is especially important in farmed fish production (like most of the salmon eaten in the US), but is also fed to terrestrial livestock like cows and pigs. Essentially, forage fish fisheries take a renewable resource and turn them into protein that people eat.

But how do these fisheries affect the marine predators that feed on forage fish? This is an important question that has only recently been investigated. A paperpublished in 2012 used mathematical models to estimate the impact of fishing forage fish populations on their predators and recommended that commercial reduction fishing be cut by 50-80% to ensure forage fish predators get enough food. However since then, several papers—including some by the authors of the original—have recognized that the models used in the 2012 research were not suitable for the questions asked, and further studies are needed.

The latest, Hilborn et al. (2017) published earlier this month (open access), shows that environmental variability, left out of the original models, is actually the most important factor affecting forage fish populations. Commercial fishing often has little effect on forage fish populations and their predators. Instead, ocean conditions and nutrient cycles (things humans have no control over) dictate how many forage fish survive each year.

The new paper also suggests that the relationship between forage fish and their predators is complicated by several factors. Forage fish predators often rely on specific, high-density locations where the abundance may be largely unrelated to the total abundance of the population. Basically, instead of predators relying on the total number of forage fish, they rely on forage fish appearing in certain locations, such as near breeding areas. Predators are also not singularly reliant on commercially harvested forage fish to survive—most consume a wide variety of prey. Indeed, Hilborn et al. (2017) found no link between larger forage fish populations and increases in predator populations.

Forage fish provide a wonderful service to humans. They are tasty, nutritious, and their harvest provides food for animals that we enjoy and eat, both above and below the surface. Understanding their ecological role is important to ensure sustainability.


Read the story at CFOOD | Watch a video about the study here

Apr 12 2017

Sardines off the menu again for West Coast fishers

Sea birds fly out to greet the Maria T. returning from an overnight fishing trip off the Palos Verdes Peninsula to catch sardines in April 2007. (File photo)

 

Fishing for Pacific sardines in California has been banned for the third year in a row.

The Pacific Fishery Management Council voted Monday afternoon in Sacramento to close the fishery through June 30, 2018 because the population limit of 150,000 metric tons wasn’t met.

Researchers estimate that only about 87,000 metric tons of the oil-rich fish are now swimming around off the coast.

The decision blocks commercial fishers in San Pedro, Long Beach and elsewhere across the West Coast from anything other than small numbers of incidental takes. While sardines don’t command the high price of California shellfish, their plentiful numbers and popularity make them one of the state’s most-caught finfish.

But fishery managers say there’s reason to believe sardines are much more plentiful than studies have found.

Dept. of Fish and Game agent Eric Kingsbury collects a random sample of fish from a sardine catch in San Pedro. The fish will be analyzed and entered into a database in efforts to monitor the health of the marine ecosystem. (File photo)


Flawed count?

NOAA’s Southwest Fisheries Science Center deputy director Dale Sweetnam said the acoustic-trawl method that researchers use to estimate the number of sardines is in the process of being improved to take into account other areas closer to shore.

The count is done from a large NOAA ship that surveys the entire West Coast by sampling schools of fish, and then bounces sound waves off of them to create a diagram that estimates the size.

But the ship is too large to go into harbors or coastal areas where sardines like to congregate.

“There are questions about the acoustic detector being on the bottom of the ship — how much of the schools in the upper water columns are missed by the acoustics,” Sweetnam said. “Also, the large NOAA ship can’t go in shallow waters, but most of the sardine fishery is very close to shore.”

The fisheries service will soon employ a Department of Fish and Wildlife plane, along with drones, to survey coastal areas for sardines.

“It will take some time because we’re going to have to determine a scientific sampling scheme,” Sweetnam said. “We’re starting this collaborative work with the fishing industry to extend our sampling grid-lines to shore.”

 

Ocean activists cheer closure

However, environmental activists cheered the decision to close the sardine fishery for a third season.

Oceana, a worldwide conservation advocacy organization, blames the sardine population decline on overfishing.

“Over the last four years we’ve witnessed starved California sea lion pups washing up on beaches and brown pelicans failing to produce chicks because moms are unable to find enough forage fish,” said Oceana campaign manager Ben Enticknap.

“Meanwhile, sardine fishing rates spiked right as the population was crashing. Clearly the current sardine management plan is not working as intended and steps must be taken to fix it.”

Industry representatives, however, argue that fishers are reliable environmental stewards and that they are just as eager as environmental activists to protect the long-term survival of marine species.

California fishers were able to replace sardine takes with increased numbers of squid in recent years. This year, promising anchovy stocks and other fish may keep the industry solvent.

California Wetfish Producers Association Executive Director Diane Pleschner-Steele said fishermen are frustrated.

“Fishermen are just ready to pull their hair out because there’s so many sardines and we can’t target them,” said Pleschner-Steele. “I’m relieved that the Southwest Fisheries Science Center acknowledges problems with the current stock assessment and has promised to work with the fishermen to develop a cooperative research plan to survey the near-shore area that is now missed. Unfortunately, this does not help us this year.”

Editor’s note: This article was updated with additional comments from NOAA’s Southwest Fisheries Science Center deputy director Dale Sweetnam.


Originally posted: http://www.presstelegram.com/

Apr 11 2017

D.B. Pleschner: Study: No correlation between forage fish, predator populations

On April 9-10, the Pacific Fishery Management Council is meeting in Sacramento to deliberate on anchovy management and decide on 2017 harvest limits for sardine, two prominent west coast forage fish.

Extreme environmental groups like Oceana and Pew have plastered social media with allegations that the anchovy population has crashed, sardines are being overfished and fisheries should be curtailed, despite ample evidence to the contrary.

Beyond multiple lines of recent evidence that both sardines and anchovy populations are increasing in the ocean, a new study published this week in the journal Fisheries Research finds that the abundance of these and other forage fish species is driven primarily by environmental cycles with little impact from fishing, and well-managed fisheries have a negligible impact on predators — such as larger fish, sea lions and seabirds.

This finding flies directly in the face of previous assumptions prominent in a 2012 study commissioned by the Lenfest Ocean Program, funded by the Pew Charitable Trusts, heirs of Sun Oil Company. The Lenfest study concluded that forage fish are twice as valuable when left in the water to be eaten by predators and recommended slashing forage fishery catch rates by 50 to 80 percent.

However, in the new study, a team of seven internationally respected fisheries scientists, led by Prof. Ray Hilborn, Ph.D., of the University of Washington, discovered no correlation between predator populations and forage fish abundance. The new research also found multiple omissions in the methodology of the Lenfest study. For instance, it — and other previous studies — used ecosystem models that ignored the natural variability of forage fish, which often fluctuate greatly in abundance from year-to-year.

Ironically, the Lenfest findings were largely based on a model called EcoSim, developed by Dr. Carl J. Walters, one of the seven co-authors of the new paper. Dr. Walters found that the EcoSim models used in earlier studies had omitted important factors, including natural variability, recruitment limitations and efficient foraging of predators.

The Lenfest study also failed to account for the fact that predators typically eat smaller sized forage fish that are not targeted by fishermen. In light of these omissions, the Hilborn et al study concluded that Lenfest recommendations were overly broad and should not be considered for fishery management. “The Lenfest conclusion … is not based on any fact,” said Dr. Carl Walters, “…it’s based on model predictions…models that we know now are fundamentally flawed. In hindsight, it’s an irresponsible recommendation.”

This isn’t the first-time ecosystem models used in earlier studies have been questioned. One year after the Lenfest study was completed, two of its authors, Dr. Tim Essington and Dr. Éva Plagányi, published a paper in the ICES Journal of Marine Science saying, “We find that the depth and breadth with which predator species are represented are commonly insufficient for evaluating sensitivities of predator populations to forage fish depletion.” The Hilborn et al study reaffirmed this finding, noting “several reasons to concur with the conclusion that the models used in previous analysis were insufficient.”

The authors concluded their study by noting the importance of forage fish as a part of human food supply chains, as well as the low environmental impact of forage fisheries. They also praised the high nutritional value of forage fish, both through direct human consumption and as food in aquaculture. Curtailing forage fisheries, as recommended by Lenfest, would force people to look elsewhere for the healthy protein and micronutrients provided by forage fish — likely at much greater environmental cost.

We all know it’s important to balance the needs of the ecosystem, human nutrition and coastal communities in the management of our fisheries. That’s why the Council should heed these new findings, and base management guidance on the latest, best scientific evidence. The future of California’s historic wetfish industry, the foundation of California’s fishing economy, hangs in the balance.

D.B. Pleschner is executive director of the California Wetfish Producers Association, a nonprofit dedicated to research and to promote sustainable Wetfish resources. More info at www.californiawetfish.org.


Original post on: http://www.santacruzsentinel.com/

Apr 9 2017

NATIONAL FISHERMAN: When is menhaden like a mortgage?

What do forage fish and real estate have in common? Location, location, location.

A new study led by University of Washington fishery science Professor Ray Hilborn reveals some surprising relationships between predator success and prey abundance.

The paper, “When does fishing forage species affect their predators?” was published Monday in the journal Fisheries Research in response to the 2012 Lenfest Report, which set the recent standard for forage fish management by asserting that an across-the-board reduction in the commercial harvest of forage fish would result in higher numbers of fish species that prey on them.

“It looked reasonable that if you appropriate half of the production of a prey species by a fishery that you can’t support so much production of predators,” said Carl Walters, professor emeritus of the University of British Columbia’s Institute for the Oceans and Fisheries. “That seemed perfectly reasonable. It was just wrong.”

According to this study, prey species follow the real estate principle of investing in prime locations. When forage fish are abundant, the research shows, their population spreads over a wider area, creating smaller subpockets around a core reproduction zone. When they’re in low abundance, they retract to the core region. Successful predators keep their breeding grounds close to that core region, maintaining access to food even in times of low prey biomass.

Read the full story at National Fisherman


Apr 4 2017

Hilborn-led study: Predators less affected by catch of prey fish than thought

Stocks of predatory fish may be less affected by the catching of their prey species than has previously been thought, according to new research published on April 3.

The study – published in journal Fisheries Research and led by well-known University of Washington professor Ray Hilborn – suggests previous studies on this topic overlooked key factors when recommending lower catches of “forage fish”.

Said forage fish include small pelagic species, such as anchovies, herring and menhaden.

The team of seven fisheries scientists found that predator populations are less dependent on specific forage fish species than assumed in previous studies, most prominently in a 2012 study commissioned by the Lenfest Ocean Program, which is managed by the Pew Charitable Trusts.

The Lenfest Forage Fish Task Force at that time argued that forage fish are twice as valuable when left in the water to be eaten by predators, and recommended slashing forage fish catch rates by up to 80%.

For fisheries management, such a precautionary approach would have a large impact on the productivity of forage fisheries. As groups such as IFFO (the Marine Ingredients Organisation) have noted, these stocks contribute strongly to global food security, as well as local and regional social and economic sustainability.

The new research claims to have found multiple omissions in the methodology of the Lenfest study.

“When you review the actual models that were used [by Lenfest], there are a few key elements on the biology of these animals that were not represented,” said Ricardo Amoroso, one of the study’s co-authors. He added that one of the authors’ approaches was to “look for empirical evidence of what is actually happening in the field.”

Previous studies relied on models which took for granted that there should be a strong link between predators and prey.

Specifically, the Lenfest study and another study using ecosystem models ignored the natural variability of forage fish, which often fluctuate greatly in abundance from year to year, this new study said.

It also failed to account for the fact that predators tend to eat smaller forage fish that are largely untouched by fishermen.

 

These failings were acknowledged by a co-author of that study, Carl Waters, who is also one of the co-authors of the new paper.

Because of these oversights, the new study concluded that the Lenfest recommendations were overly broad, and that fisheries managers should consider forage species on a case-by-case basis to ensure sound management.

“It is vital that we manage our fisheries to balance the needs of the ecosystem, human nutrition and coastal communities,” said Andrew Mallison, IFFO director general. “These findings give fishery managers guidance based on science, and update some of the inaccurate conclusions of previous reports.”

Two further authors of the Lenfest study – Tim Essington and Éva Plagányi – also went on to publish a paper in the ICES Journal of Marine Science, noting previous analyses used insufficient models.

They found that the distribution of forage fish has a greater impact on predators than simply the raw abundance of forage fish, as well as noting the importance of forage fish as a part of human food supply chains, praising their high nutritional value, both through direct human consumption and as food in aquaculture, as well as the low environmental impact of forage fishing.

“Cutting forage fishing, as recommended by the Lenfest group, would force people to look elsewhere for the healthy protein and micronutrients provided by forage fish – likely at much greater environmental cost,” the authors wrote.

“Forage fish provide some of the lowest environmental cost food in the world – low carbon footprint, no water use,” said Hilborn.

“[There are] lots of reasons that forage fish are a really environmentally friendly form of food.”

You can read the newly-published study in full here.

Only in February 2017 the NGO Bloom Association issued a report — “The Dark Side of Aquaculture” — claiming industrial fisheries reduce edible wild fish into fishmeal, when they are perfectly edible by humans.


Read the original post here: https://www.undercurrentnews.com/

Apr 4 2017

Predators may be less affected by catch of small fish than previously thought, new study says

Previous studies overlooked key factors in recommending lower catch of forage fish

Click here to watch the authors of the study discuss their findings, which suggest that previous research overstated the impact of fishing forage fish on their predators.

WASHINGTON (NCFC) – April 3, 2017 – New research published today in the journal Fisheries Research finds that fishing of forage species likely has a lower impact on predators than previously thought, challenging previous studies that argued forage fish are more valuable left in the ocean.

A team of seven respected fisheries scientists, led by Prof. Ray Hilborn, Ph.D., of the University of Washington, found that predator populations are less dependent on specific forage fish species than assumed in previous studies, most prominently in a 2012 study commissioned by the Lenfest Ocean Program, which is managed by The Pew Charitable Trusts. The Lenfest Forage Fish Task Force argued that forage fish are twice as valuable when left in the water to be eaten by predators, and recommended slashing forage fish catch rates by 50 to 80 percent.

For fisheries management, such a precautionary approach would have a large impact on the productivity of forage fisheries. As groups such as IFFO (The Marine Ingredients Organisation) have noted, these stocks contribute strongly to global food security, as well as local and regional social and economic sustainability.

However, the new research found multiple omissions in the methodology of the Lenfest study. “When you review the actual models that were used [by Lenfest], there are a few key elements on the biology of these animals that were not represented,” said Dr. Ricardo Amoroso, one of the study’s co-authors. He added that one of the authors’ approaches was to “look for empirical evidence of what is actually happening in the field.” Previous studies relied on models which took for granted that there should be a strong link between predators and prey.

Specifically, the Lenfest study and another study using ecosystem models ignored the natural variability of forage fish, which often fluctuate greatly in abundance from year to year. It also failed to account for the fact that predators tend to eat smaller forage fish that are largely untouched by fishermen. Because of these oversights, the new study concluded that the Lenfest recommendations were overly broad, and that fisheries managers should consider forage species on a case-by-case basis to ensure sound management.

“It is vital that we manage our fisheries to balance the needs of the ecosystem, human nutrition and coastal communities,” said Andrew Mallison, IFFO Director General. “These findings give fishery managers guidance based on science, and update some of the inaccurate conclusions of previous reports.”

The Lenfest findings were largely based on a model called EcoSim, developed by Dr. Carl J. Walters, one of the co-authors of the new paper. Dr. Walters found that the EcoSim models used in earlier studies had omitted important factors, including natural variability, recruitment limitations and efficient foraging of predators.

Dr. Walters noted that there were “very specific” issues with previous uses of the EcoSim model. “It was predicting much higher sensitivity of creatures at the top of the food webs to fishing down at the bottom than we could see in historical data,” he said.

This is not the first time ecosystem models used in earlier studies have been questioned. One year after the Lenfest study was completed, two of its authors, Dr. Tim Essington and Dr. Éva Plagányi, published a paper in the ICES Journal of Marine Science where they said, “We find that the depth and breadth with which predator species are represented are commonly insufficient for evaluating sensitivities of predator populations to forage fish depletion.” The new study reaffirmed this finding, noting “several reasons to concur with the conclusion that the models used in previous analysis were insufficient.”

In addition to its critiques of previous research, the researchers found further evidence of the lack of fishing impact on forage fish. Their research indicated that environmental factors are often much more important drivers of forage fish abundance. They also found that the distribution of forage fish has a greater impact on predators than simply the raw abundance of forage fish.

The authors concluded by noting the importance of forage fish as a part of human food supply chains, praising their high nutritional value, both through direct human consumption and as food in aquaculture, as well as the low environmental impact of forage fishing. Cutting forage fishing, as recommended by the Lenfest group, would force people to look elsewhere for the healthy protein and micronutrients provided by forage fish – likely at much greater environmental cost, the authors wrote.

“Forage fish provide some of the lowest environmental cost food in the world – low carbon footprint, no water use,” Dr. Hilborn said. “[There are] lots of reasons that forage fish are a really environmentally friendly form of food.”

It is also well-established that forage fisheries provide substantial health benefits to human populations through the supply of long chain omega-3 fatty acids, both directly through consumption in the form of fish oil capsules, and indirectly through animal feed for farmed fish and land animals.

The paper was authored by Dr. Ray Hilborn, Dr. Ricardo O. Amoroso, and Dr. Eugenia Bogazzi from the University of Washington; Dr. Olaf P. Jensen from Rutgers University; Dr. Ana M. Parma from Center for the Study of Marine Systems -CONICET, Argentina; Dr. Cody Szuwalski from the University of California Santa Barbara; and Dr. Carl J. Walters from the University of British Columbia.

Read the full study here

Watch a video about the study here

Read an infographic about the study here
About the NCFC
The National Coalition for Fishing Communities provides a national voice and a consistent, reliable presence for fisheries in the nation’s capital and in national media. Comprised of fishing organizations, associations, and businesses from around the country, the NCFC helps ensure sound fisheries policies by integrating community needs with conservation values, leading with the best science, and connecting coalition members to issues and events of importance. For more, visit www.fisheriescoalition.org.

About IFFO
IFFO represents the marine ingredients industry worldwide. IFFO’s members reside in more than 50 countries, account for over 50% of world production and 75% of the fishmeal and fish oil traded worldwide. Approximately 5 million tonnes of fishmeal are produced each year globally, together with 1 million tonnes of fish oil. IFFO’s headquarters are located in London in the United Kingdom and it also has offices in Lima, Peru, and in Beijing, China. IFFO is an accredited Observer to the UN Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO). To find out more, visit www.iffo.net.


 

Apr 3 2017

Hilborn Study Redifines Forage Fish Predator Relationships; Suggests Fishing Pressure Lesser Factor

— Posted with permission of SEAFOODNEWS.COM. Please do not republish without their permission. —

Copyright © 2017 Seafoodnews.com

Seafood News


 

New research published today in the journal Fisheries Research finds that fishing of forage species likely has a lower impact on predators than previously thought, challenging previous studies that argued forage fish are more valuable left in the ocean.

In 2012 a Lenfest study got wide play claiming that models showed fishing pressure on prey species had big impacts on the abundance of predator species, such as cod and tuna.  However, some of the authors of the original model have now joined with other researchers to say it is out of date.

A team of seven respected fisheries scientists, led by Prof. Ray Hilborn, Ph. D., of the University of Washington, found that predator populations are less dependent on specific forage fish species than assumed in previous studies including a 2012 study commissioned by the Lenfest Ocean Program is managed by The Pew Charitable Trusts. The Lenfest Forage Fish Task Force argued that forage fish are twice as valuable when left in the water to be eaten by predators, and recommended slashing forage fish catch rates by 50 to 80 percent.

For fisheries management, such a precautionary approach would have a large impact on the productivity of forage fisheries. As groups such as IFFO (The Marine Ingredients Organisation) have noted, these stocks contribute strongly to global food security, as well as local and regional social and economic sustainability.

However, the new research found multiple omissions in the methodology of the Lenfest study. “When you review the actual models that were used [by Lenfest], there are a few key elements on the biology of these animals that were not represented, ” said Dr. Ricardo Amoroso, one of the study’s co-authors. He added that one of the authors’ approaches was to “look for empirical evidence of what is actually happening in the field. ” Previous studies relied on models which took for granted that there should be a strong link between predators and prey.

Specifically, the Lenfest study and another study using ecosystem models ignored the natural variability of forage fish, which often fluctuate greatly in abundance from year to year. It also failed to account for the fact that predators tend to eat smaller forage fish that are largely untouched by fishermen. Because of these oversights, the new study concluded that the Lenfest recommendations were overly broad, and that fisheries managers should consider forage species on a case-by-case basis to ensure sound management.

“It is vital that we manage our fisheries to balance the needs of the ecosystem, human nutrition and coastal communities, ” said Andrew Mallison, IFFO Director General. “These findings give fishery managers guidance based on science, and update some of the inaccurate conclusions of previous reports. ”

The Lenfest findings were largely based on a model called EcoSim, developed by Dr. Carl J. Walters, one of the co-authors of the new paper. Dr. Walters found that the EcoSim models used in earlier studies had omitted important factors, including natural variability, recruitment limitations and efficient foraging of predators.

Dr. Walters noted that there were “very specific” issues with previous uses of the EcoSim model. “It was predicting much higher sensitivity of creatures at the top of the food webs to fishing down at the bottom than we could see in historical data, ” he said.

This is not the first time ecosystem models used in earlier studies have been questioned. One year after the Lenfest study was completed, two of its authors, Dr. Tim Essington and Dr. Éva Plagányi, published a paper in the ICES Journal of Marine Science where they said, “We find that the depth and breadth with which predator species are represented are commonly insufficient for evaluating sensitivities of predator populations to forage fish depletion. ” The new study reaffirmed this finding, noting “several reasons to concur with the conclusion that the models used in previous analysis were insufficient. ”

In addition to its critiques of previous research, the researchers found further evidence of the lack of fishing impact on forage fish. Their research indicated that environmental factors are often much more important drivers of forage fish abundance. They also found that the distribution of forage fish has a greater impact on predators than simply the raw abundance of forage fish.

The authors concluded by noting the importance of forage fish as a part of human food supply chains, praising their high nutritional value, both through direct human consumption and as food in aquaculture, as well as the low environmental impact of forage fishing. Cutting forage fishing, as recommended by the Lenfest group, would force people to look elsewhere for the healthy protein and micronutrients provided by forage fish – likely at much greater environmental cost, the authors wrote.

“Forage fish provide some of the lowest environmental cost food in the world – low carbon footprint, no water use, ” Dr. Hilborn said. “[There are] lots of reasons that forage fish are a really environmentally friendly form of food. ”

It is also well-established that forage fisheries provide substantial health benefits to human populations through the supply of long chain omega-3 fatty acids, both directly through consumption in the form of fish oil capsules, and indirectly through animal feed for farmed fish and land animals.

The paper was authored by Dr. Ray Hilborn, Dr. Ricardo O. Amoroso, and Dr. Eugenia Bogazzi from the University of Washington; Dr. Olaf P. Jensen from Rutgers University; Dr. Ana M. Parma from Center for the Study of Marine Systems -CONICET, Argentina; Dr. Cody Szuwalski from the University of California Santa Barbara; and Dr. Carl J. Walters from the University of British Columbia.


Copyright © 2017 Seafoodnews.com