Archive for the Breaking News Category

Jun 25 2018

El Nino, squid tariffs concern California’s ‘wetfish’ sector as prices dive

A California market squid. Photograph courtesy of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

 

Facing difficulties in the other pelagic species it catches, squid was a much needed bright spot for the ‘wetfish’ sector in the US state of California. Until last week.

Landings of California market squid (Doryteuthis loligo opalescens) totaled over 68,211 metric tons for the 2017 to 2018 season, which ran from April 2017 until March. That compared to 38,510t for the 2016/17 season, a sign the fishery was climbing back from years of depressed catches due to El Nino.

Nearly 8,200t have been caught during the first three months of the current season, and with the news that the sector’s key export market, China, will impose 25% tariffs on the product on top of existing 27% tariffs, a bountiful season this year may not be a good thing.

“Fishing is slow right now which is probably better because it gives it a chance to adapt,” John DeLuca, president and CEO of the J DeLuca Fish Company, told Undercurrent News.

He said that like other ‘wetfish’ harvesters, his San Pedro, California-based firm has seen China-bound orders cancelled ahead of the July 6 deadline when the new rates are supposed to come into effect.

The solution, DeLuca said, will be to “wake up old customers and markets” such as Malaysia, Indonesia, and the Philippines, although none of those countries buy squid at the prices and volumes that China does currently.

The result, DeLuca predicted, will be lower prices for processors and fishermen. Ex-vessel prices for squid, currently around, $1,000 per metric ton, are poised to go lower to $700, perhaps even as low as $500, he said.

“How far its going to go down, what’s the bottom going to be, we still don’t know,” he said.

‘Wetfish’ worries

Days earlier, squid processors told Undercurrent that prior to the new tariffs China was paying roughly $3,500/t for squid, which included a 27% tariff already. However, once the new 25% tariff ($911.25) is added on, the cost of squid in China will go from a total of $3,645/t to $4,556.25/t, which Chinese buyers likely won’t bear.

For Diane Pleschner-Steele, the executive director of the California Wetfish Producers Association, that means the fishermen and processors could be forced to receive less for their efforts.

“That gets down the slippery slope of, if you’re going to reduce the price you have to pay the boats less and are the boats going to be able to go fishing at the lower price given the fact that fuel is now $4 per gallon?” she said.

New markets remain an option, she added, although it will depend on global supply and demand for squid.

The processors that her group represents are historically known as “wetfish” producers because their target pelagic species —  sardine, anchovy and mackerel — were canned while still wet.

But in addition to the trade woes, Pleschner-Steele said that the return of El Nino conditions could cause further issues. The National Oceanic Atmospheric Administration issued an “El Nino watch” earlier this month for the Pacific.

The agency predicted “neutral” El Nino conditions for the Northern Hemisphere for the rest of the summer with “the chance for El Nino increasing to 50% during fall, and ~65% during winter 2018-19”.

“We’re starting to see all the signs of it again. We’re seeing the red crabs coming again. We’re seeing fish pushing north. Usually when they start catching squid in Oregon it means that El Ninos aren’t far behind,” Pleschner-Steele said.

Unfortunately for wetfish fishermen, conditions for the pelagic species they catch haven’t been optimal either. Anchovy landings have been low, and a judge recently invalidated a rule allowing for a 25,000t quota, mackerel haven’t been plentiful, and the sardine fishery has been closed to directed commercial fishing although an incidental fishery is allowed.


Originally posted: https://www.undercurrentnews.com/ | Author: jason.smith@undercurrentnews.com

Jun 22 2018

China stops buying US squid in advance of tariffs

A California market squid. Photograph courtesy of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

The 25% retaliatory tariffs that China has promised to slap on about a billion dollars worth of US seafood imports don’t go into effect for another three weeks, but US squid producers already are feeling the pain.

Chinese buyers have started cancelling their orders out of concern that shipments won’t arrive in time, Undercurrent News has learned.

“People are not buying anything right now,” said Jeff Reichle, president of Lund’s Fisheries, a squid harvester, processor and exporter based in Cape May, New Jersey. “China is completely dead.”

China issued its retaliatory tariffs late on Friday, including nearly 200 seafood items along with numerous agricultural goods in a list of some 545 total items worth a combined $50bn, as part of a tit-for-tat trade battle with US president Donald Trump. Trump earlier in the day had updated the list of Chinese products for which he had levied a 25% import tariff, increasing the number to 1,102 worth $50bn.

Calamari. Photo courtesy of Del Mar Seafoods.

Following China’s response, the White House on Monday night further upped the ante by ordering the US Trade Representative to draw up a new list of $200bn-worth of Chinese goods to hit with an additional 10% tariff.

Beijing’s tariffs threaten to hit a number of seafood sectors particularly hard when they go into effect in a few weeks, including the US lobster industry, which counted on China to buy 7,894 metric tons of lobster in 2017 worth $136.9 million.

Not too far behind the US lobster industry in its reliance on China is the US squid industry.

The US sent China 34,713t of squid worth $92.8m in 2017, nearly half of its overall 71,165t squid export volume and more than half of its $181.9m overall export value, based on National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration data (NOAA).

By comparison, the second and third largest markets for US squid are Vietnam, which imported 8,855t worth $25.4m last year, and Japan, which imported 8,055t worth $21.5m.

‘We’re all dazed and confused here’

In particular, it’s the California market squid (Doryteuthis loligo opalescens) that the Chinese love. China imports roughly 70% of the 107,048 metric tons of the species caught off the California coast, estimates Joe Cappuccio, founder and president of Del Mar Seafoods, the US’ largest harvester and processor of the species.

Smaller and less expensive than most other squid, the California market squid can reach a total “tube length” of 28 cm, though a more typical size is 10 to 15 cm. They live just six to nine months, dying shortly after they reproduce, but are known for being able to handle a high amount of fishing pressure.

The California squid fishery was started in 1863 by Chinese immigrants, who used torches at night to attract them and skiffs to encircle a net around them. Today they’re caught by purse seiners and light boats who still use lights to draw them in.

When it comes to consuming the creature, “there is no substitute for California squid”, Reichle said. “The person that goes to a restaurant in China and orders a lobster is not the same person that orders squid. The squid, in China, is eaten by everyone, regardless of income level.”

Americans see squid and think calamari. But in China, squid is often served in a hotpot, dropping it into boiling water at a table. As a result, it’s popular during winter months.

China’s move was a punch to the gut for Del Mar, Cappuccio said. His company maintains eight of its own squid harvesting vessels and contracts with three other independent boats to harvest 20% to 25% of the California quota.

Lund’s, which also maintains a West Coast operation, catches and processes about 10% of California’s squid, said Reichle.

“We’re all dazed and confused here,” Cappuccio said on Tuesday.

China recently has paid top dollar for the California squid – roughly $2,700 per metric ton – plus a roughly 27% tariff based on a “minimum price” set by the Chinese government of $3,500 ($945). However, once the new 25% tariff ($911.25) is added on, the cost of squid in China will go from a total of $3,645 per metric ton to $4,556.25, an amount he and Reichle are both convinced the Chinese importers will not being willing to bare.

There are few remaining options for the US companies, except for reducing costs in order to keep the pain as low as possible for the Chinese buyers, the two men said.

“We’re all going to have to cut our margins back, the harvesters and the processors,” Cappuccio said.

On the bright side, as the price of squid is reduced, doors might open in other countries that were outbid by China. Cappuccio mentioned the Philippines, which he suggested could buy eager to buy more than the 1,732t of squid it spent $4.2m on in 2017.

Chinese importers similarly will struggle to replace California squid, Reichle said. There aren’t other kinds of squid that can easily take its place. In recent years when El Ninos, bands of warm ocean water that develop in the central and east-central equatorial Pacific, have hurt production, China simply went without importing as much squid, he said.

Solution needed before October

Undercurrent confirmed at least one report of squid containers on the water that may not get into China. Cappuccio said his company is keeping its fingers crossed for a few that were en route to China on Friday when the news broke about the tariffs.

But it could be worse, he said.

The Monterey Bay area of the California coast where squid are being harvested now accounts for only 20% to 30% of the total annual quota. The much larger portion, roughly 80%, will get harvested in the more southernly California coast between early October and late December.

However, should the Trump administration not be able to work out its differences with China before early October, the US squid industry could be in trouble.

“Come October, our company alone will be packing and shipping 30 containers a day, and we’ve done as many as 40,” Cappuccio said, noting that a single container typically contains 50,000 lbs.

Multiple trade experts have been quoted in the press as expressing skepticism that a deal can be reached between China and the US before July 6, and one trade expert said it could take the rest of the year. But Cappuccio is trying to remain optimistic.

“I think it’s too early right now to know what to think,” he said Tuesday. “We’re all guessing at this point.”


Originally posted: https://www.undercurrentnews.com/2018/06/20/china-stops-buying-us-squid-in-advance-of-tariffs/

Contact the author jason.huffman@undercurrentnews.com

Apr 23 2018

Dr. Ray Hilborn and Team Launch New Sustainable Fisheries Website

The website and education tools make learning and reporting about seafood sustainability easier than ever.

 

SEATTLE, WA April 23, 2018 – Dr. Ray Hilborn and his network a fisheries scientists launch SustainableFisheries-UW.org. The website is built around Sustainable Seafood 101, a series of posts meant to explain the science, policy, and social aspects of global fisheries.

 

“Our goal is that anyone interested – a high school student, PhD candidate, or reporter alike – could read Sustainable Seafood 101 and walk away with a good understanding of the complexities of global fisheries,” said Dr. Hilborn, professor at the School of Aquatic and Fishery Sciences at the University of Washington.

 

The new website also offers free fact-checking and source-finding for any interested journalist. Sustainable Fisheries UW can quickly put journalists, or other interested parties, in touch with the right expert to answer questions or fulfill interview requests.

 

The Sustainable Fisheries UW blog will keep readers up-to-date on events and research, as well as management and policy actions from around the world. Sustainable Seafood 101 coupled with up-to-date blogging gives readers access to fisheries science and policy in context, providing more complete information than can be gathered from a typical article. Sustainable Fisheries UW is a resource that explains fisheries news and provides relevant, supporting information quickly and easily.

 

The site also includes “Fishery Features” where long form posts detail the history and status of compelling fisheries around the world. The “Fact Check” section will highlight controversies in fishery science and stress the correct information.

 

Finally, SustainableFisheries-UW.org will serve as the archive for CFoodUW, our former website meant to give fishery scientists and experts a platform to discuss recent research and fishery policy.

 

You can find Sustainable Fisheries UW on twitter @SustainFishUW and Facebook. For a more in-depth description of the site and Sustainable Seafood 101, visit the about page, contact us, or see the introductory blog.

 

 

 

Jan 24 2018

California Sea Lion Population Rebounded to New Highs

Sea lion numbers reflect conditions in California Current through the decades.
California Sea Lion Population Rebounded, Photo credit: Jeff Harris

California sea lions have fully rebounded under the protection of the Marine Mammal Protection Act (MMPA), with their population on the West Coast reaching carrying capacity in 2008 before unusually warm ocean conditions reduced their numbers, according to the first comprehensive population assessment of the species.

The sea lion population is healthy and robust, the new research found, and its recovery over the past several decades reflects an important success for the MMPA. The landmark 1972 legislation recognized marine mammals as a central element of their ocean ecosystems, setting population goals based on levels that would contribute to the health and stability of those ecosystems.

The MMPA calls those levels the Optimum Sustainable Population (OSP), and provides options for states to take over management of species that have reached their OSP.

California Sea Lion Rookery, Photo credit: Sharon Melin
Adult male California sea lions are identified by their large size, dark brown fur and conspicuous crest on their forehead. Adult females are blonde to light brown and are smaller than the adult males. Pups are dark brown to black.

 

California sea lions have now reached those levels, according to the new assessment by scientists from NOAA Fisheries’ Alaska Fisheries Science Center and Southwest Fisheries Science Center. They published the results of the long-term collaborative study today in the Journal of Wildlife Management.

“The population has basically come into balance with its environment,” said coauthor Sharon Melin, a research biologist at the Alaska Fisheries Science Center who has tracked sea lion numbers in Southern California’s Channel Islands for years. “The marine environment is always changing, and their population is at a point where it responds very quickly to changes in the environment.”

California Sea Lion Rookery, Photo credit: Jeff Harris
California sea lion frolicking near the rookery at San Miguel Island, California.

Scientists combined the results of sea lion pup counts in the Channel Islands, aerial surveys of sea lion rookeries, survival rates and other information to reconstruct the growth of the sea lion population from 1975 to 2014. They gained enough insight into the dynamics of the population to fill in gaps from a few years with little data.

Video: California Sea Lion Rookery on San Miguel Island

Market hunting, bounties, pollutants such as DDT and other forces depressed sea lion numbers in the middle of the last century. The new study found that the species then rose from less than 90,000 animals in 1975 to an estimated 281,450 in 2008, which was roughly the carrying capacity for sea lions in the California Current Ecosystem at that time. It then fluctuated around that level, reaching a high of 306,220 in 2012 before declining below the carrying capacity in the years since as ocean conditions changed.

Such a long-term reconstruction of the sea lion population has never been done before, said Robert DeLong, leader of the Alaska Fisheries Science Center’s California Current Ecosystems Program and a coauthor of the new research.

California Sea Lion Graphic

California Sea Lion Graphic

The researchers found sea lion numbers very sensitive to environmental changes, especially changes in ocean temperatures that affect their prey. Their models based on past population shifts predict that an increase of 1 degree C in sea surface temperature off the West Coast will reduce sea lion population growth to zero, while an increase of 2 degrees will lead to a 7 percent decline in the population.
“When the California Current is not productive, they respond pretty fast and dramatically,” Melin said. “They’re out there in the ocean sampling it all the time. That makes them a very powerful indicator of what’s happening in the marine environment.”

Marine conditions since 2012 have illustrated that. An unusual marine heat wave off the West Coast known as “the blob” combined with an El Niño climate pattern reduced pup production and survival, with thousands of malnourished pups stranding on Southern California beaches. NOAA Fisheries declared the elevated number of deaths an Unusual Mortality Event in 2013.

The sea lion population dropped to just over 250,000 in 2013 and 2014.

“This is not just a story about continued growth of the population,” DeLong said. “These last several years have brought new environmental stresses to the California Current, and we’ve seen that reflected by the sea lions.”

Understanding the relationship between sea lion numbers and the environment can help scientists detect signals of coming change. Wildlife managers can then use that information to anticipate and prepare for shifts in the ecosystem and its inhabitants.

“It helps us to understand the factors driving this population, because we can incorporate them into management decisions,” said Chris Yates, Assistant Regional Administrator for Protected Resources in NOAA Fisheries’ West Coast Region.

The general recovery of sea lion numbers has had other consequences on the West Coast, including conflicts with people over beach access where sea lions haul out and concern about sea lion predation on threatened and endangered salmon and steelhead in the Northwest. NOAA Fisheries has authorized Oregon, Washington and Idaho to remove individually identifiable sea lions near the Columbia River’s Bonneville Dam that have been spotted repeatedly preying on fish protected under the Endangered Species Act.

The species maintained OSP levels even when small numbers of adult males were being removed to protect salmon runs in the Columbia River and climate events were depressing growth. That suggests that the removal of a limited number of sea lions in such programs is unlikely to affect the population as a whole, Melin said.

She stressed the value of long-term data in understanding the dynamics of the population. “If we had looked only at the last five years, we would have thought sea lions were in a tailspin,” she said. “Because we know the history of the population, we can put the recent decline in perspective.”

Breeding group with branded females, Photo credit: Sharon Melin
Territorial adult male California sea lion (large dark brown animal) with his group of adult females (large blonde animals) and their newborn pups (small black animals) at San Miguel Island, California. Five of the females with brands are part of the survival and reproductive studies.


Read the original post: https://www.fisheries.noaa.gov/

Jan 24 2018

A quarter million?! California sea lion population has tripled, new study finds

Sea lions bask in the winter sun Monday afternoon, Dec. 14, 2015, at Pier 39 in San Francisco, Calif. A research study published in this week’s issue of the journal Science reports an increase in the number of the mammals sickened by domoic acid, a toxin produced by naturally occurring marine algae. (Karl Mondon/Bay Area News Group)

The West Coast’s population of California sea lions — the playful marine animals that delight tourists on the Santa Cruz waterfront and San Francisco’s Fisherman’s Wharf while competing with salmon fishermen for valuable catches — has tripled in the past 40 years to more than 250,000.

In a study released Wednesday, federal biologists say strict environmental laws to protect marine mammals have worked so well that California sea lions have become the first marine mammal that lives along the entire West Coast to recover to its natural carrying capacity. That’s the maximum population size a species can reach based on an area’s available food.

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“There have been ups and downs, but generally the trend has been upward,” said Sharon Melin, a biologist with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration in Seattle.

In 1972, with the public alarmed that the hunting of whales and other animals was threatening to drive some species to extinction, President Richard Nixon signed the Marine Mammal Protection Act. One of the landmark environmental laws of the 20th century, the law cleared Congress on an overwhelmingly bipartisan vote that would likely be impossible today. The U.S. Senate passed it 88-2 and the House of Representatives 362-10. The law brought sweeping changes, making it illegal to hunt, kill, injure or harass any marine mammal, including whales, seals, dolphins and sea otters.

No longer hunted for their dense fur, sea otters have risen in number, and California gray whales — which were being killed from a whaling station in Richmond for Kal-Kan dog food as recently as 1972 — have bounced back so much that they have been removed from the federal Endangered Species list.

But California sea lions — which range from Mexico to Alaska — have exploded the most in number, jumping from an estimated 88,924 in 1975 to 257,606 in 2014, according to the new NOAA study.

But all the sea lions have caused problems.

They have broken docks and sunk boats at marinas. They have vexed salmon fishermen, following their boats and eating valuable fish off their lines.

“With some fishing days seeing as few as five to 10 fish, a commercial fisherman can still make money with 10 fish if they are $10 per pound, but if you’re losing them to sea lions that can have a major effect,” said John McManus, executive director of the Golden Gate Salmon Association in San Francisco.

The water boils with activity as sea lions, birds, dolphins and humpback whales feed on schools of anchovies less than a mile outside of the Moss Landing, Calif., in the Monterey Bay on Aug. 10, 2014. (Laura A. Oda/Bay Area News Group)

In December, three swimmers at Aquatic Park Cove in San Francisco suffered sea lion bites, causing puncture wounds on their legs and arms that sent them to the hospital. The National Park Service closed the cove for a week, then reopened it Dec. 20, only to have another swimmer bitten last week. The area, popular with distance swimmers in San Francisco Bay, is now open, but posted with warning signs.

“Biting is an unusual activity,” said Lynn Cullivan, a spokesman for the National Park Service. “Swimmers are still seeing animals out there, but they aren’t being aggressive. We are telling people to stay toward the shore and swim with a buddy.”

Sea lions were once shot in large numbers. From 1900 until the early 1930s, Oregon paid a bounty of up to $10 per dead sea lion to make it harder for them to compete with commercial fishermen. Washington state paid $5 per dead sea lion in the 1950s, causing thousands to be killed. Until the Marine Mammal Protection Act in 1972, fishermen regularly shot them off the California coast.

NOAA’s Melin noted that federal lawmakers have amended the act to allow the killing of a few California sea lions that have eaten large numbers of endangered salmon. In 2008, federal officials gave a permit to Washington, Oregon and Idaho to kill about 80 sea lions a year that were congregating at the Bonneville Dam on the Columbia River, eating large numbers of endangered spring run chinook salmon. The permit, which caused an outcry among animal welfare groups, calls for sea lions that are repeat offenders to be branded with a mark. Then, if they continue to eat the fish, they’re trapped and euthanized.

“It is kind of a garbage-can bear situation where animals learn the behavior,” Melin said. “If you can keep animals from learning it, then they don’t go in there. It’s not a population level problem; it’s an individual problem.”

The reason that California sea lions have rebounded faster than other West Coast species is that they have a wide variety of prey they eat, including squid, herring, sardines, mackerel and salmon, she said.

But the sea lions are vulnerable to changing water temperatures. During recent El Niño winters, when warm water caused some fish species to move hundreds of miles from their normal habitats, California sea lion populations dipped, and coastal residents reported malnourished pups along the shoreline.

The population peaked in 2012 at 306,000. If climate change causes the ocean to warm another 1.8 degrees Fahrenheit, that could cause their population growth to stop. And if the temperatures rise at twice that amount, the population would fall by up to 7 percent a year, the NOAA study found.

For now, experts say, the sea lion rebound is a good sign that the Pacific Ocean is fairly healthy.

“This is the day that people who wrote these laws really envisioned,” said Jerry Moxley, a research scientist with the Monterey Bay Aquarium. “It’s a grand success. It’s something we can all celebrate as part of our shared heritage.”


Read the original post: https://www.mercurynews.com/

Nov 9 2017

Several hundred tons of squid offloaded in Ventura

Ventura Harbor saw a haul of around 300 to 400 tons of squid Tuesday morning, which harbor officials say is a good sign. TYLER HERSKO/THE STAR

 

The smell of squid filled the air Tuesday morning at Ventura Harbor, where workers were bustling to offload hundreds of tons of it.

The morning’s activities represented one of the largest squid hauls the harbor has seen in recent history. Approximately 300 to 400 tons of squid were brought into the harbor, representing a positive turn of events, said Frank Locklear, manager of commercial fisheries and technology at the Ventura Harbor Village Marina.

Locklear noted that squid season typically begins in April and the harbor saw squid through June. That said, Locklear added that squid numbers were practically nonexistent from July through September, which forced the harbor’s fishing companies to carefully save their resources until squid returned. Beyond that, the past three years have been particularly difficult for squid fishing due to poor weather conditions.

While the harbor prefers to receive around 500 to 600 tons on an average day, Locklear was confident that Tuesday’s haul represented a change of fortune. Squid fishing is one of the leading factors in the harbor’s success, according to Locklear.

“The harbor is a huge economic ball that is supported by the fishing industry,” Locklear said. “Fishing is the lifeblood of this harbor, and squid is the key.”

The squid fishing businesses that use the harbor export a significant majority of their yields to China, Locklear said.

Most of the squid sold in restaurants is imported from Asia, where squid cleaning and processing is cheaper.

Regardless, Locklear stressed that squid fishing is crucial to the economic well-being of both local fishing companies and the harbor as a whole. The harbor uses part of the revenue it receives from squid fishing companies to send representation to Washington, D.C., to get the funding it needs for dredging, which removes sand and sediment from the bottom of the harbor’s entrance.

Regular dredging is of paramount importance, and squid fishing is the primary thing that makes dredging possible, according to Locklear.

“Ventura Harbor is home to three large recreational marinas that have dive boats, island excursion boats and sport fishermen that need to get out of the harbor to survive,” Locklear said. “Without the funds that we get for our squid, we can’t go to Washington to get the funding we need for dredging. If we don’t dredge yearly, our boats can’t come in and out.”


Read original post: http://www.vcstar.com/

Oct 25 2017

Testimony of Ray Hilborn to U.S. Senate subcommittee

Testimony of Ray Hilborn to U.S. Senate subcommittee.

 


 

Subcommittee to Continue Hearing Series on Magnuson-Stevens Act

WASHINGTON – U.S. Sen. Dan Sullivan (R-Alaska), chairman of the Subcommittee on Oceans, Atmosphere, Fisheries, and Coast Guard, will convene the hearing titled “Reauthorization of the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act: Fisheries Science,” at 2:30 p.m. on Tuesday, October 24, 2017. The hearing is the fourth of the series and will focus on the state of our nation’s fisheries and the science that supports sustainable management.

Witnesses:

– Mr. Karl Haflinger, Founder and President, Sea State, Inc
– Dr. Ray Hilborn, Professor, University of Washington School of Aquatic and Fishery Sciences
– Dr. Michael Jones, Professor, Michigan State University Quantitative Fisheries Center
– Dr. Larry McKinney, Director, Texas A&M University Harte Research Institute for Gulf of Mexico Studies

Hearing Details:

Tuesday, October 24, 2017
2:30 p.m.
Subcommittee on Oceans, Atmosphere, Fisheries and Coast Guard

This hearing will take place in Russell Senate Office Building, Room 253. Witness testimony, opening statements, and a live video of the hearing will be available on www.commerce.senate.gov.

Jun 20 2017

TWO IMPORTANT WEST COAST GROUNDFISH STOCKS REBUILT

PORTLAND, OREGON – Two important West Coast groundfish stocks that were formerly overfished have now been rebuilt.

Bocaccio and darkblotched rockfish, which are managed by the Pacific Fishery Management Council, were under strict rebuilding plans that have constrained West Coast fisheries for more than a decade. Bocaccio was declared overfished in 1999, and darkblotched rockfish in 2000; both were rebuilt well before their original target dates.

The Pacific Fishery Management Council is one of eight regional fishery management councils that manage ocean fisheries in the United States. Altogether, the Pacific Council manages more than 100 species of groundfish.

Managing groundfish fisheries under rebuilding plans has been an immense challenge for the Council and the National Marine Fisheries Service (NOAA Fisheries). These plans required sharp reductions in commercial and recreational fisheries targeting groundfish, which included widespread fishing closures through the establishment of Rockfish Conservation Areas off the West Coast and other measures. Since 2003, managing overfished species through area closures such as the Rockfish Conservation Areas has helped to reduce fishing impacts and rebuild overfished groundfish species.  In addition, the groundfish fleet has had to limit fishing for other more abundant species to avoid unintentional catch of the overfished stocks.

“The rebuilding strategies used to achieve this conservation success, coupled with favorable environmental conditions for groundfish productivity, have paid huge dividends in rebuilding our overfished groundfish stocks and resurrecting West Coast groundfish fisheries,” said Council Chair Herb Pollard.

The successful rebuilding of these species reflects the support and sacrifice of West Coast ports and fishermen who recognized the difficult actions and fishing cutbacks necessary to restore the stocks.  The rebuilding of bocaccio and darkblotched rockfish will lead to increased harvest opportunities beginning in 2019.

“By working together, we’ve brought bocaccio and darkblotched rockfish back to where they will again be part of a sustainable West Coast groundfish fishery that creates renewed opportunity for the fishing fleet, as well as more options for seafood consumers,” said Barry Thom, Regional Administrator of NOAA Fisheries West Coast Region.

Between 1999 and 2017, ten West Coast groundfish stocks were declared overfished, as surveys documented their declining numbers. Pacific whiting, for example, was declared overfished in 2002. The Council, working with NOAA Fisheries and the fishing industry, reduced commercial harvests. Combined with strong reproduction and recruitment, the fishing cutbacks led to the rapid rebuilding of Pacific whiting by 2004. The Council and NOAA Fisheries developed rebuilding plans for the other nine overfished stocks—bocaccio, darkblotched rockfish, lingcod, canary rockfish, cowcod, Pacific ocean perch, widow rockfish, petrale sole, and yelloweye rockfish.

Lingcod was declared rebuilt in 2005, and widow rockfish in 2012. Both petrale sole and canary rockfish were declared rebuilt in 2015. Rebuilding plans remain in place for three remaining overfished species: cowcod, Pacific ocean perch, and yelloweye rockfish.  New assessments for Pacific ocean perch and yelloweye rockfish will be reviewed this summer and may be adopted in September.  Cowcod is expected to be rebuilt by 2019.

“The Council is a transparent, science-based, inclusive approach to fisheries management,” said Council Executive Director Chuck Tracy. “Our progress in rebuilding overfished stocks shows the effectiveness of this approach. West Coast fisheries are a model of sustainable resource management, and they will continue to provide healthy seafood, jobs, and support for coastal communities, as well as access to this resource for all Americans.”

Process

The bocaccio and darkblotched rockfish assessments were developed by scientists at NOAA Fisheries and were reviewed by the Council’s scientific advisory bodies.  NOAA Fisheries confirmed the stocks’ status as rebuilt on June 16.

Council Role  

The Pacific Fishery Management Council is one of eight regional fishery management councils established by the Magnuson Fishery Conservation and Management Act of 1976 for the purpose of managing fisheries 3‐200 nautical miles offshore of the United States of America coastline.  The Pacific Council recommends management measures for fisheries off the coasts of California, Oregon, and Washington.

###

Contact:

Ms. Jennifer Gilden, Communications Officer, Jennifer.gilden@noaa.gov, 503-820-2418

Mr. John DeVore, Groundfish Staff Officer, John.DeVore@noaa.gov, 503-820-2280

Mr. Chuck Tracy, Executive Director, 503-820-2280

Mr. Jim Milbury, National Marine Fisheries Service, 310-245-7114

Michael Milstein, National Marine Fisheries Service, 503-231-6268

On the Web

Pacific Fishery Management Council: http://www.pcouncil.org

 

Bocaccio stock assessment: http://tinyurl.com/yaycynmq

Darkblotched rockfish stock assessment: http://tinyurl.com/ybzm3ob6

NOAA Fisheries article on rockfish rebuilding: https://go.usa.gov/xNvCV

Jun 7 2017

Cause of 2015 Toxic Algal Bloom in Monterey Bay Identified

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

Copyright © 2017 Seafoodnews.com

Seafood News


 

SEAFOODNEWS.COM [Monterey Herald] by Tommy Wright – June 7, 2017

Monterey – Upwelling caused the toxic algal bloom that poisoned large numbers of marine animals and led to the closure of commercial fisheries in Monterey Bay in 2015, but a research paper published Monday shows an imbalance between two nutrients may have caused high toxicity levels.

The bloom, considered the most toxic ever observed in the bay, happened in late spring 2015, when scientists from Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute, UC Santa Cruz, Moss Landing Marine Laboratories and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration were conducting a large-scale biology experiment in the bay called Ecology and Oceanography of Harmful Algal Blooms.

“It was a great coincidence and what it allowed us to do was to use the technologies that we love to use and to apply to see what’s going on,” said John Ryan, an MBARI oceanographer and lead author of the research paper. “That included these autonomous underwater vehicles that can not only map the environment and the distributions of the toxic algae at very high resolution, they can use their onboard sensors to take samples from the most dense bloom patches so we really know the what the extent of the most toxic populations is.”

The scientists also used environmental sample processors, which Ryan called “basically a laboratory in a can,” anchored at the northern and southern end of the bay. The processors take water samples, break open the algae cells and look at the DNA.

“That identified that one species (Pseudo-nitzschia australis) almost completely dominated this bloom,” Ryan said. “There are some 40 species of Pseudo-nitzschia, but it was this one that’s particularly toxic that dominated the bloom completely.”

While researchers considered unusually warm surface water in the Pacific Ocean a factor in the bloom, which stretched from Central California to the Alaska Peninsula, water in the Monterey Bay wasn’t unusually warm. Upwelling takes place when strong northwest winds move surface water away from the shore, allowing cold water, rich in nitrate, silicate and other nutrients, from deep in the ocean to rise to the surface.

“What was surprising is the warm anomaly had persisted already over a year, this ‘warm blob,’ was completely eliminated locally because of that upwelling of cold, nutrient-rich water,” Ryan said.

The warm water allowed the algae to bloom farther north than normal, which helped cause what Ryan called “the largest spacial scale over which marine mammals had ever been observed to be poisoned by this type of bloom” in the Northeast Pacific. Strong upwelling in Monterey Bay initiated the bloom locally and several milder events allowed the algae to persist and accumulate.
Pseudo-nitzschia australis is a regular inhabitant of Monterey Bay, but the bloom in 2015 contained especially high levels of domoic acid, which led to closures of anchovy, sardine, shellfish and crab fisheries. Algae diatoms need nitrate for biochemical processes, including the production of domoic acid. The diatoms need silicate to grow and reproduce. The researchers concluded the extremely high levels of domoic acid were caused by a low ratio of silicate to nitrate in Monterey Bay.

“This wasn’t a sudden occurrence in 2015, it accompanied the warm blob,” Ryan said. “So even though the temperature itself might not have had a direct effect, it may have had an indirect effect through its influence on ocean chemistry.”

According to Ryan, one of the key questions in understanding, predicting and preventing algal blooms is figuring out if humans have a role in the frequency or the severity of these events.

“We know that when we affect the nutrient chemistry of the coastal ocean, we can influence what types of microscopic algae bloom,” he said. “This very same species can be made more toxic when it’s exposed to urea, which can enter the coastal ocean from wastewater outflow. So we know that’s one example where we have to be careful about how we affect coastal ocean chemistry because it can come back and bite us. But in these case, it appears to be of much more natural, large-scale change in ocean chemistry that lasted at least as long as the warm blob. And we need a little more time of observation to determine if it’s fully returned to normal, or if this is part of a longer-term change in ocean chemistry that could promote more frequent or more severe toxic events.”


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May 16 2017

With No Disaster Relief Funds in Sight, Crabbers Discuss Next Steps

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SEAFOODNEWS.COM [Eureka Times-Standard] by Will Houston – May 15, 2017

After four years of poor crab and salmon fishing, including one of the worst crab seasons in recent memory, local fisherman and Eureka resident Bob Borck decided in November that it was time to move on. After selling his fishing vessel — the Belle J II — of four years in January, Borck is now planning to start work as a contractor.

“I couldn’t be married to the boat,” he said Friday. “I’ve got enough family responsibilities on shore that it was too difficult to dedicate it to everything it needed to be.”

Borck said he isn’t walking away from the industry completely if the right opportunity presents itself. But he said isn’t pining to return to it either, especially following a “pretty hard financial beating” after toxic algae blooms closed the 2015-16 Dungeness crab season for six months, placing many fishermen into debt.

Borck’s story is not unique.

After Congress decided in late April to not include millions of dollars in funds in its government spending bill to relieve fisheries that experienced disastrous seasons, Borck said he is concerned how many more fishermen will leave the industry.

“You’ve got a lot of youth interest now in trying to keep the U.S. commercial fishing industry operational,” Borck said. “If bankruptcies and financial difficulties are really what a guy has to look forward to on the horizon, unless he gets lucky in the fishing business, you’re going to have a hard time maintaining a U.S. industry.”

On the other end of the California coast, Devin Grace, 39, has been working as a rock crab fisherman in Santa Barbara for the past 10 years.

He had just received his own crab fishing permit — at the price of $75,000 — in April 2015 and fished for a few months when an unprecedented large toxic algae bloom enveloped the West Coast. This caused the normally year-round rock crab season to close for several months.

Grace said he has yet to recoup his losses from that season, and with no government financial relief in sight, he is now wondering if it is worth it to continue fishing.

“By the time the money comes around, most people will have either gone under or fired all their employees or lost their house,” Grace said. “It’s like, ‘Gee thanks, but where were you when we needed it?’ ”

After Congress decided not to include the relief funds, California Congressman Jared Huffman (D-San Rafael) and Congresswoman Jackie Speier (D-Hillsborough) introduced two bills on May 3 to provide $140 million in relief funds to California and Yurok Tribe fishermen.

Huffman told the Times-Standard on Friday that the bill will likely be voted on in the next appropriation cycle in September before the start of the new federal fiscal year in October. By that point, crab and salmon fishermen will have waited nearly two years for federal assistance.

As to whether the funds could be voted on earlier, Huffman said there is no assurances under the current Republican majority in Congress.

“I would say to everyone that is holding their breath hoping this thing happens, we’re trying multiple fronts. It’s not just this bill,” Huffman said before having to end the interview early for another call.

Grace said he is considering whether to take out a sizable loan to remain in the industry.

“To have no help in sight, it’s really disheartening. To watch the wheels of government turn as slow as they do toward industries, to no fault of our own —” Grace said, cutting off his sentence. “… One of my closest friends in the industry had to put a second mortgage on his house. Another is out for good. There are just thousands of jobs just dropping like flies in a really good industry.”

Grace is one of many crab fishermen who have expressed frustration at how the state handled the toxic algae bloom.

The state implemented an immediate closure of the rock crab and Dungeness crab fisheries in November 2015 after crab tested high for domoic acid, which is a toxin produced by algae. While the state is working to improve domoic acid testing and notification to fishermen, Grace said he still does not feel heard by the state.

Meanwhile, the state is considering raising fishing landing fees by as much as 1,300 percent in order to make up a $20 million deficit in the California Department of Fish and Wildlife’s budget.

The landing fees have not been increased since 1993. While wholesale buyers normally pay the fee, fishermen and local state representatives say the proposed increase will likely impact the per pound price of catch, further impacting fishermen’s finances.

At nearly 40 years old, Grace said he is not sure what he would do if he were to retire from fishing.

“I’m just trying to hang on by my fingernails,” he said.


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