Archive for the Breaking News Category

Dec 16 2016

Monterey harbormaster to retire after 21 years

Monterey >> Harbormaster Steve Scheiblauer’s days walking the docks down at the waterfront are numbered.

That’s because after 21 years, Scheiblauer is retiring. His last day will be Feb. 21.

“I’ve been doing this for 41 years – I’ll be 68 by the time I retire,” said Scheiblauer. “I’m ready to do some other things – travel a bit, do a little bit of writing.”

Scheiblauer has been serving in the role since January 1995 when then-City Manager Fred Meurer brought him on board.

That was after Scheiblauer worked as Santa Cruz’s harbormaster for some 20 years, from 1975 to 1995.

Since that time, he’s seen the city’s marina replaced and took a central role in nurturing Monterey’s commercial fisheries.

“We had to get money, permits and the design together to replace it,” said Scheiblauer, about the rebuilding of the old marina back in 1995 soon after he became harbormaster. “It was one of the largest capital projects that the city has ever done.”

Meurer remembers it well.

“There was continual arguing over the slips in the marina and a waiting list 100 years long,” said Meurer. “Steve brought order to it all in a very calm way and did a great job managing the total refurbishment of the marina with little impact on the users.”

Scheiblauer said it’s the development of good relationships that’s key to getting things done with the boating community.

“A lot of changes were needed at the city’s waterfront and I’ve had the support for that and couldn’t have done it without the city council and city management both past and present,” he said.

But in doing so, Monterey Community Services Director Kim Bui-Burton said he’s represented the city and its marine and ocean life interests to a very high standard.

“He’s succeeded in managing a lot of the harbor operations and really responding to the boating community,” said Bui-Burton.

While Scheiblauer said he’s especially proud of that constructive relationship that Monterey has with its commercial fishermen and sailors, Bui-Burton also noted his role in developing the city’s Fishing Community Sustainability Plan.

“It’s really the blueprint for retaining our community’s fishing heritage and making it viable into the 21st century,” said Bui-Burton.

While Scheiblauer works to finish the current project of replacing the wooden parking deck down at Wharf 1, he said once he’s retired he’ll be forming his own consultant business. Marine Alliances Consulting will specialize in harbor management, fisheries, economics and ocean environmental issues.

“I wanted to make use of some of the things I’ve learned over the years,” he said.

Meurer said it’s Scheiblauer’s knowledge and people skills that will leave a huge void in the city’s organization once he’s done.

“He’s a huge advocate for the protection of the marine environment while protecting the fishing heritage of the port of Monterey.” said Meurer. “He knew the rules of the sanctuary and the coastal act and he used his knowledge of rules and regulations to do his best for the city of Monterey and the Monterey harbor. He’s the epitome of what a public servant should be.”

Dec 15 2016

NOAA: ‘Arctic Is Warming at Least Twice as Fast as the Rest of the Planet’

The Arctic broke multiple climate records and saw its highest temperatures ever recorded this year, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s (NOAA) annual Arctic Report Card released Tuesday.

Map: Temperatures across the Arctic from October 2015-September 2016 compared to the 1981-2010 average. Graph: Yearly temperatures since 1900 compared to the 1981-2010 average for the Arctic (orange line) and the globe (gray).NOAA

The report shows surface air temperature in September at the highest level since 1900 “by far” and the region set new monthly record highs in January, February, October and November. “The Arctic as a whole is warming at least twice as fast as the rest of the planet,” report author and NOAA climate scientist Jeremy Mathis told NPR.

Watch the video from NOAA on the annual Arctic Report Card below:

Report Card Highlights

  • The average surface air temperature for the year ending September 2016 is by far the highest since 1900 and new monthly record highs were recorded for January, February, October and November 2016.
  • After only modest changes from 2013-2015, minimum sea ice extent at the end of summer 2016 tied with 2007 for the second lowest in the satellite record, which started in 1979.
  • Spring snow cover extent in the North American Arctic was the lowest in the satellite record, which started in 1967.
  • In 37 years of Greenland ice sheet observations, only one year had earlier onset of spring melting than 2016.
  • The Arctic Ocean is especially prone to ocean acidification, due to water temperatures that are colder than those further south. The short Arctic food chain leaves Arctic marine ecosystems vulnerable to ocean acidification events.
  • Thawing permafrost releases carbon into the atmosphere, whereas greening tundra absorbs atmospheric carbon. Overall, tundra is presently releasing net carbon into the atmosphere.
  • Small Arctic mammals, such as shrews, and their parasites, serve as indicators for present and historical environmental variability. Newly acquired parasites indicate northward sifts of sub-Arctic species and increases in Arctic biodiversity.

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Nov 7 2016

West Coast CSF Launches “Boat-to-School” Program to Teach California Students About Seafood

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

Copyright © 2016

Seafood News


SEAFOODNEWS.COM [Civil Eats] By  Anna Guth – November 7, 2016

New programs in three states support local seafood markets while educating children.

A few years ago, Alan Lovewell had a vision. He wanted to replace the bland, deep-fried anonymous “fish” served in school cafeterias with flavorful, locally caught seafood—as a way to bring nutrition to the kids in his area, and help them understand where their food comes from.

Lovewell had created a community supported fishery (CSF) subscription service called Real Good Fish, which provides local seafood direct to consumers, in much the same way that community supported-agriculture (CSA) works for produce. The program enjoyed quick success after it launched out of Monterey Bay in 2012 (it now supplies more than 1,000 members with weekly shares). But Lovewell wasn’t satisfied. In his mind, he had a long way to go to build a regional food system.

The young entrepreneur shifted his focus toward supplying seafood to public K-12 schools, particularly in districts where the majority of students receive free or subsidized meals. In 2014, Real Good Fish partnered with the nonprofit Center for Ecoliteracy to pilot the “Bay2Tray” program in California’s Monterey Unified School District. After a significant number of students reportedly chose the fish tacos over pizza, the team at Real Good Fish knew they had some traction. Bay2Tray quickly spread to three more school districts in the state.

“Looking at the maps [in California], the irony is that most of the areas that produce the nation’s food are in fact food deserts,” says Lovewell, who was recently named a White House “Champion of Change for Sustainable Seafood.” “I realized that the missing piece was schools and children: they have the lowest income and lowest access, and obviously, they are the ones with the vested interest in the future of our oceans.”

The Bay2Tray program is not alone. Across the country in seaside states including Oregon and Massachusetts, schools are piloting a range of models of “boat-to-school” programs. Most of these programs feature an educational component as well as an edible one; organizers provide ethically caught seafood, and an understanding of where and how that seafood was harvested.

In 2015, Real Good Fish received a $6,000 grant from the outdoor clothing company Patagonia to bring the fishermen into the classroom. Fisherman Ernie Koepf, who has a lifetime of experience catching herring in the San Francisco Bay, contributes his spare time. After answering the typical, urgent questions about whether he’s seen a whale—or a shark!—Koepf focuses on making the basic connection between local fish and the food on the kids’ plates.

“When I come into the classroom, I speak to them about seafood [from] the perspective of the food chain—how fish end up on their plates, and how we catch them,” says Koepf. “And they find this very fascinating. It’s a very rewarding experience.”

Building Local Seafood Markets
Consumer awareness and interest in local, sustainably caught seafood has grown in the years since the first CSF, Port Clyde Fresh Catch, took off in Maine in 2008. The fishermen in that community mobilized in response to the decimated stocks of signature New England species like cod and flounder and the resulting tightening of federal fishing restrictions; to save their livelihoods, they abandoned their wholesale markets and sold other, less popular species directly to their community.

CSFs are the first “building blocks for a community to take more control over the [seafood] supply chain,” says Brett Tolley, who comes from a four-generation commercial fishing family and is now a community organizer for the advocacy organization, the Northwest Atlantic Marine Alliance (NAMA).
Falling into step, schools and other institutions have a huge role yet to play, notes Tolley. He says he’s starting to see a shift “toward institutions paying fair price and committing to buying a large volume collectively from many smaller, independent businesses.” It’s a change that “stands to make an enormous, game-changing difference to family fishermen and fishing communities, who are right now struggling to survive.”

For fishermen often unable to find a domestic market for their product, the benefits of the local support from boat-to-school programs cannot be overstated. Koepf says he’s looked for outlets for his herring for years—without success—and so he had been selling it exclusively to Japan until Alan Lovewell approached him about Real Good Fish.

Koepf’s story echoes big picture statistics. The U.S. imports 91 percent of its seafood and selling a third of its domestic catch abroad. This global conundrum arises not from a lack of domestic fish—the U.S. successfully adopted stronger fishing regulations in recent years, with healthier fisheries as a result—but rather from our domestic market’s taste for a select few species. Remarkably, shrimp, canned tuna and salmon accounted for 55 percent of all seafood consumed in the U.S.

Companies like Real Good Fish have their work cut out for them, therefore, to introduce new species to students and their members. “We really want children to engage and make that connection between their lunch and the natural world,” says Maria Finn, Real Good Fish’s marketing director. “And we really want our members to be aware that there are seasons in seafood,” she continues. “There are things that have an impact. For instance, if it’s stormy out, they’re probably going to get oysters, clams, or abalone because fishermen can’t go out in the ocean.”

Boat-to-School Programs in Oregon and Massachusetts 

Organizations in other states have followed in Real Good Fish’s footsteps. In Oregon, the Seaside School District is piloting a yearlong boat-to-school program run by the Oregon Albacore Commission (OAC) and funded by a $15,000 farm-to-school education program grant from the Oregon Department of Education.

The curriculum kicked off this October, themed “salmon month,” and includes fieldtrips to a local hatchery, presentations from fishermen, taste tests, and even ingredients for a take-home dinner for families. Students will also explore crab, tuna, pink shrimp, and groundfish such as cod, flounder, halibut, and sole, based on the season

“This is an outlet for us as an industry to tell our story, to talk about the changes that we’ve made, the things that we’re doing right, and to allow children to try something that’s very close to home,” says the OAC’s Vice Chair Christa Swensson, who helped spearhead the grant and who also does marketing for Bornstein Seafood, another supplier and program funder.

In another state where fish is close to home, Deborah Jeffers, the director of Salem, Massachusetts’ Food and Nutrition Services, is sourcing local seafood by using federal funding. Once a week, Jeffers serves Salem high school students with local fish from the nearby Cape Ann Fresh Catch Fishery, which was one of the first CSFs started by the Gloucester Fishermen’s Wives Association back in 2008.

Jeffers plans to extend the program to the elementary school and provide local fish to all 3,800 students across the 12 schools in her district.

The Benefits and Challenges

For schools, supporting fishermen to catch otherwise unmarketable species can have unexpected cost-cutting benefits. For example, Lovewell convinced black cod fishermen to sell Real Good Fish grenadier, a fish they mostly throw back because, as Finn says, it “has zero markets—it’s really ugly.” For $5 per pound however, the mild, flaky white fish is perfect for fish tacos in schools.

“This is a lesson farm-to-school advocates learned in the apple industry: People started selling cider apples, the really small ones, to schools because they were perfect for little kids,” says Simca Horwitz, the Eastern Massachusetts director for the Massachusetts Farm to School project, reflecting on similar uses of underutilized, abundant fish in east coast schools. “In a lot of ways, schools turning to local seafood today is where we were with land-based agriculture about 10 years ago.”

While all three boat-to-school programs have received strong enthusiasm from students, cost and distribution issues often stress the programs. On the supply side, Real Good Fish now uses a third-party distributor so schools don’t have to coordinate with multiple vendors. But this makes the program almost cost-prohibitive for the company. To help fund the effort, Real Good Fish’s CSF members now have the option to add $1.25 per week to support a school lunch.

Food Services Director Deborah Jeffers in Salem also confirms her costs per portion are higher when she serves fish, but she uses the commodities provided by four U.S. Department of Agriculture lunch programs to supplement the effort.

In a similar strategy, the Oakland Unified School District’s farm-to-school supervisor Alexandra Emmott supplements some of the meal’s protein requirement—a standard of the National School Lunch Program—with a side of rice and beans—in order to serve small portions of fish.

Both Jeffers and Emmott have had to train cooks and cope with the under-resourced kitchens in their districts as well. The entire district serves over 30,000 lunches per day, and many of the kitchens aren’t equipped to prepare food from scratch, let alone de-bone hundreds of pounds of fish.

The question of location is another big one. “I’m lucky, right down the road, we have Gloucester fishermen!” explains Jeffers. “But anyone who is in the center of the state, maybe they have it easier for farms, but where are they going to get their fish? It’s going to have to be delivered to them and maybe frozen.”

Brett Tolley of NAMA has a more optimistic viewpoint. It makes sense boat-to-school programs are piloted near the coast because it’s such a new model, he says. But there’s also a tremendous opportunity to match institutions’ need for healthy proteins with domestically caught fish.

NAMA collaborates with organizations like the Real Food Challenge, Sea to Table, and Health Care Without Harm, which are pioneering the way for institutions to buy large amounts of seafood while still holding suppliers accountable for ecologically sustainable practices.

“Institutions that are more inland and landlocked have been, in many ways, the most vulnerable to being exploited by the industrial seafood system,” Tolley adds. “They only get the fish that has been frozen three times over and traveled thousands and thousands of miles. It’s especially important that we can focus on those institutions.”

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Oct 27 2016

Antarctica’s Ice Sheets Are Melting Faster — And From Beneath

This image taken in 2012 shows part of the Crosson Ice Shelf (center left) and Mount Murphy (foreground) in western Antarctica. Thwaites Ice Shelf lies beyond the highly fractured expanse of ice (center).This image taken in 2012 shows part of the Crosson Ice Shelf (center left) and Mount Murphy (foreground) on the western edge of Antarctica. Thwaites Ice Shelf lies beyond the highly fractured expanse of ice (center).


Antarctica’s ice has been melting, most likely because of a warming climate. Now, newly published research shows the rate of melting appears to be accelerating.

Antarctica is bigger than the U.S. and Mexico combined, and it’s covered in deep ice — more than a mile deep in some places. Most of the ice sits on bedrock, but it slowly flows off the continent’s edges. Along the western edge, giant glaciers creep down toward the sea. Where they meet the ocean, they form ice shelves.

The shelves are the specialty of Ala Khazendar, a geophysicist and polar expert at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif.

“You have this floating plate of ice being fed by the glaciers flowing from the interior of the continent,” he says, “while having ocean water underneath it.” He calls the shelves “the gates of Antarctica.”

Although the shelves float, they’re still connected to the mainland. The point at which the ice shelf is no longer supported by bedrock is called the “grounding line.”

A team from JPL has been studying that grounding line in several places along the edge of the West Antarctic ice sheet. They used radar to look beneath the ice. In particular, overflights have targeted ice shelves along the West Antarctic ice sheet known as the Amundsen Sea Embayment.

They’ve found that the ice is melting faster than they’ve ever seen. The researchers believe the cause is warm water circulating beneath the ice shelf. The melting was most pronounced from 2002 to 2009. (The influx of warmer water to the region stalled recently, and the rate of melting seems to have slowed somewhat.)

Khazendar says the more the bottom of the shelves melt, the more ice is exposed to warm water. “It becomes a runaway process,” he explains, “which makes it unstable.”

Where’s the warmer water coming from? The team, whose findings appear in the journal Nature Communications, points to global warming that’s heating up the oceans. There’s been a spate of research lately showing that Antarctic ice is melting faster than previously thought — and raising global sea levels.

Khazendar says the melting process appears to be irreversible. Polar scientists fear that at some point, the shelves will collapse and Antarctica’s glaciers will flow into the sea. As to whether and when that might happen?

“The simple answer is we don’t know. And that’s the scary part,” Khazendar says.

Copyright 2016 NPR. To see more, visit NPR.

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Aug 26 2016

Our View: Stakeholders deserve open process in monument designation

Posted Aug. 26, 2016 at 2:01 AM

Editor’s Note: The letters by the mayors of New Bedford and Monterey, California, referred to in this editorial are printed elsewhere on this page. New Bedford Mayor Jon Mitchell wrote to the White House Council on Environmental Quality and Monterey Mayor Clyde Roberson wrote to President Obama.

The National Park Service was established 100 years ago when President Woodrow Wilson signed the National Park Service Organic Act.

“The service thus established,” the act reads, “shall promote and regulate the use of the Federal areas known as national parks, monuments, and reservations hereinafter specified by such means and measures as conform to the fundamental purpose of the said parks and reservations, which purpose is to conserve the scenery and the natural and historic objects and the wild life therein and to provide for the enjoyment of the same in such manner and by such means as will leave them unimpaired for the enjoyment of future generations.”

This brilliant action — called America’s Best Idea by the Park Service — has enriched our nation, even the world, in ways perhaps never imagined by President Wilson or Congress, for the population is 3½ times today what it was in 1916, and the environmental impact of that growth could scarcely have been predicted.

The 84 million acres under the NPS is a treasure that belongs to all of us, and we applaud efforts to expand the protection of our natural resources, but we also recognize some such efforts go too far, including in the push to establish a national monument off the New England coast.

The Canyons and Seamounts are indeed precious resources, but the scope and the current process being advanced by environmental organizations lack checks and balances that would deliver a better policy.

New Bedford Mayor Jon Mitchell last week sent a letter to the acting director of the Council for Environmental Quality, a White House agency that advises the president on such issues, noting the push for the seamounts monument has kept stakeholders from participating in the process.

Indeed, we have previously reported on efforts by environmentalists to keep their advocacy for the monument designation a secret in order to gain an advantage over industry and other stakeholders.

Mayor Mitchell’s argument in last Friday’s letter to CEQ is that the public processes ensconced in the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act provide a robust framework with both the scientific rigor and stakeholder access needed to create good public policy. He also noted that a virtuous alternative to the proposed designation and the potentially devastating impact this opaque process would have on commercial fisheries has been advanced by the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission. Both economic and conservation goals are achieved by the plan proposed by ASMFC, a congressionally authorized coalition comprising “the director of the state’s marine fisheries management agency, a state legislator, and an individual appointed by the state’s governor to represent stakeholder interests” in each of the 15 coastal states from Maine to Florida. The species sought and the methods used show sensitivity to the preservation of the resources, and the ASMFC proposal is “acceptable to the industry,” the mayor wrote.

Also last Friday, the mayor of Monterey, California, Clyde Roberson, sent a letter to President Obama, because he is fighting off a monument designation off of his coast that similarly threatens the commercial fishing industry there.

He argues that laws such as Magnuson-Stevens, the Marine Mammal Protection Act, Endangered Species Act and the National Environmental Policy Act are more than adequate to ensure protection of the natural resources with full transparency and access to stakeholders. He says the closed process being urged by environmentalist under the Antiquities Act is inadequate to the task.

The president did not go along with the environmentalists last fall, and it is our fervent hope that if he isn’t advised by CEQ to pursue the more open process, the duty to represent and hear all stakeholders will prevail.

Read the full editorial at the New Bedford Standard-Times

Read Mayor Jon Mitchell’s full letter here

Read Mayor Clyde Roberson’s full letter here


Originally posted by Saving Seafood

Aug 5 2016

Agencies Mull Options to Prepare for Future Domoic Acid Events

CDPH Crab Testing 7CDPH staff collects viscera from cooked crabs during domoic acid testing in 2015.   photo courtesy CDPH


In 2015/2016, there was an unprecedented bloom of a single-celled plant called Pseudo-nitzschia in ocean waters, which resulted in  elevated levels of domoic acid in Dungeness crab and rock crab. The elevated levels of domoic acid in crab along the West Coast impacted California fisheries from Santa Barbara to the Oregon Border.

The conditions that support the growth of Pseudo-nitzschia are impossible to predict, but tend to be more common in the warmer months of the year. Crustaceans, fish and shellfish are capable of accumulating elevated levels of domoic acid in their viscera and muscle tissue.

Domoic acid was discovered in California in 1991.  Shortly after, in 1993, the California Department of Public Health (CDPH) initiated its marine biotoxin monitoring program and now, through a network of volunteers, routinely collects phytoplankton and bivalve shellfish samples from a number of sampling sites along the coast year-round. As elevated levels of domoic acid are identified in bivalve shellfish in a particular area, additional species (anchovies, sardines, crabs, lobster, etc.) are sampled and analyzed for domoic acid content. CDPH coordinates with the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) to collect pre-season Dungeness crab samples each fall from representative locations along the coastline. This pre-season monitoring ensures that Dungeness crab do not contain elevated levels of domoic acid when the fishery opens.

Last year, CDPH found elevated levels of domoic acid in Dungeness and rock crab along a large portion of the California coastline. When CDPH finds that crab contain a level of domoic acid in the viscera that exceeds the federal action level, a health advisory is issued to notify the public of the risk of consumption.  The 2015/16 season was also unique in that it was the first year that CDPH isolated domoic acid from the meat of both Dungeness and rock crab.  Continued harvest of crab with elevated levels of domoic acid from an area under advisory and offering those crab for sale puts the fisherman and subsequent distributors and retailers in violation of the law.

During the 2015/2016 event, the Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment, in consultation with CDPH, determined that the fishery should be closed for both recreational and commercial fishing in order to avoid potentially serious human health impacts. A recommendation to close the fishery was initiated by California state health agencies when Dungeness crab viscera or meat exceeded the action level.

The agencies involved have reviewed the 2015/16 event and evaluated options for handling future events. While an event of this magnitude is unlikely to occur very often, state agencies plan to prepare a response in case another event occurs. The agencies plan to discuss options and hear additional feedback and ideas from the Dungeness crab industry later this month.

Read more about preparations being made for future events in the full version of the multi-agency memorandum Domoic Acid Background and Potential Option for Future Events.  Visit the Ocean Protection Council website for information regarding opportunities to join the discussion.

from Memorandum issued by the California Department of Fish and Wildlife, California Department of Public Health, and California Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment

Jul 19 2016

Closing parts of the ocean to fishing not enough to protect marine ecosystems

Date: July 13, 2016

Source: University of Washington

Summary: Managing a country’s entire fisheries is a better strategy than closing parts of the ocean to fishing, a new commentary argues. Marine protected areas have grown in popularity since the early 2000s. Recent examples include an area twice the size of Texas in the central Pacific established in 2014 by President Barack Obama, and a proposal to close 25 percent of the Seychelles’ exclusive economic zone, an island nation off Africa’s east coast.



A University of Washington fisheries professor argues that saving biodiversity in the world’s oceans requires more than banning fishing with marine protected areas, or oceanic wilderness areas. In a three-page editorial published in the journal Nature, he argues that this increasingly popular conservation strategy is not as effective as properly managing recreational and commercial fisheries. “There’s this idea that the only way you can protect the ocean is by permanently closing parts of the ocean to fishing, with no-take areas,” said Ray Hilborn, a professor in the UW’s School of Aquatic and Fishery Sciences. “You protect biodiversity better by regulating fisheries over the country’s entire economic zone.”

Marine protected areas have grown in popularity since the early 2000s. Recent examples include an area twice the size of Texas in the central Pacific established in 2014 by President Barack Obama, and a proposal to close 25 percent of the Seychelles’ exclusive economic zone, an island nation off Africa’s east coast.

Several environmental organizations have set a longer-term goal of making 30 percent of the world’s oceans into no-take marine protected areas by the year 2030. But Hilborn believes this is not the best way to protect global marine ecosystems.

“If the problem is overfishing or bycatch, then fisheries management is much more effective than establishing MPAs because you regulate the catch over the entire economic zone,” Hilborn said. “I don’t see how anyone can defend MPAs as a better method than fisheries management, except in places where you just can’t do management.”

In countries with functioning fisheries management systems, Hilborn believes, conservationists and the fishing industry should work together on large-scale protection of marine biodiversity and sensitive marine habitats.

For example, changes in fishing practices that allowed “dolphin-safe tuna” have cut dolphin deaths in the eastern Pacific by almost 100 times between 1986 and 1998, the article notes.

“You could never have reduced dolphin deaths that much by simply closing part of the ocean to fishing,” Hilborn said.

He argues that working with the fishing industry to modify what types of gear are used and when and where different species are allowed to be caught can make more of a difference than establishing new marine protected areas.

“In Alaska, for example, more than 50 percent of the continental shelf waters are closed to specific kinds of fishing gear and the entire shelf is covered by species-specific catch restrictions,” he writes. “This is much more protection than could be offered by turning 30 percent of the region into MPAs.”

Hilborn said he worries that marine protected areas are being created without specific objectives, lacking input from affected communities, and without analysis of the larger-scale effects. Closing one area to fishing will just shift the pressure to a different area, Hilborn said, or cause people to seek other, more environmentally harmful sources of food.

In early September, world leaders will meet in Hawaii for the high-profile World Conservation Congress, held every four years by the International Union for Conservation of Nature. Hilborn hopes his article will prompt discussion about priorities for preserving the health of marine environments.

“The modern conservation movement is places too much emphasis on protected areas,” Hilborn said. “The focus needs to shift. We can better protect biodiversity, and still provide food, by looking to fisheries management as the first defense.”

Story Source:

The above post is reprinted from materials provided by University of Washington. The original item was written by Hannah Hickey. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.

Journal Reference:

  1. Ray Hilborn. Policy: Marine biodiversity needs more than protection. Nature, 2016; 535 (7611): 224 DOI: 10.1038/535224a


Jul 14 2016

Ray Hilborn: Sound Fishery Management More Effective Approach Than MPAs to Protect Oceans

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

Copyright © 2016

Seafood News

SEAFOODNEWS.COM Ray Hilborn – July 14,2016

On 1 September, government leaders, directors of non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and others will meet in Hawaii at the International Union for Conservation of Nature’s World Conservation Congress to discuss environmental and development challenges. Twenty-three NGOs, including the Pew Charitable Trusts and the Natural Resources Defense Council, are calling on the IUCN to make 30% of the world’s coastal and marine areas fully protected from fishing and other forms of exploitation by 2030.

If this target were achieved, the abundance of exploited species in the areas that are closed off would undoubtedly increase1. It is not clear, however, whether the same would be true for marine biodiversity overall.

There are currently two very different views on the effectiveness of zones where fishing is either banned outright or tightly restricted. Many conservationists see the establishment of these marine protected areas (MPAs) as the only way to protect biodiversity. Others — me included — argue that the protection of biodiversity at sea can include recreational and industrial fishing and other uses of ocean resources. In fact, we think that closing waters to some kinds of fishing gear and restricting the catch of named species can offer much more protection than cordoning off even 30% of an area. We are concerned that MPAs may simply shift fishing pressure elsewhere2.

Opinions are so divided that the conservation expertise of fisheries managers is being left out of national and international drives to protect ocean resources. Likewise, the suite of threats to biodiversity besides fishing, such as from oil exploration, sea-bed mining and ocean acidification, are not being addressed in standard fisheries management.

The seas face myriad problems — climate change, development and the nutritional and other needs of a growing human population. To tackle them, conservationists and those involved in fisheries management must work together and answer to the same governing bodies.

Rise of protection
Calls for MPAs began in earnest during the 1990s, when overfishing was common in most of the developed world and collapses of fish stocks repeatedly made headlines. In the early 2000s, ecologists often assumed that biodiversity could flourish only inside protected areas. One group proposed in 2002, for example, that 40% of the ocean be made reserves, on the assumption that the replenishment of fish populations through reproduction could not happen outside them3.

Most ecologists and conservationists now accept — in theory — that even if as much as 20% of a region were cordoned off from fishing, most of that area’s biodiversity would exist outside the protected zones as long as effective fisheries management was in place. Yet the dominance of MPAs in conservation policy has, if anything, increased since the 2000s.

In the past decade especially, numerous environmental NGOs and conservation-funding groups have taken up MPAs as their preferred tool for ocean protection. Together, the conservation group WWF, Greenpeace and other NGOs have spent hundreds of millions of dollars over the past ten years lobbying for MPAs around the world. One effect of this was US President Barack Obama adding just over 1 million square kilometres (an area roughly twice the size of Texas) to the US Pacific territories national monument in 2014. Another has been President James Michel of the Seychelles promising to make 412,000 km2 of the Indian Ocean surrounding the islands a totally protected MPA.

MPAs also dominate the scientific literature on marine conservation. Researchers documenting the effects of MPAs on biodiversity, in my view, ignore or underappreciate the benefits of fisheries management. Jane Lubchenco and Kirsten Grorud-Colvert4 for instance, have equated biodiversity protection in the oceans to the establishment of no-take areas, writing: “Even lumping all categories together, only 3.5% of the ocean is protected” and “only 1.6% is ‘strongly’ or ‘fully’ protected.” And in 2014, Carissa Klein and co-authors5 evaluated the degree to which the ranges of more than 17,000 species are contained within MPAs. I interpret this as implying that species whose ranges do not fall within MPAs will be lost, although these authors concede that, for some species, “the best conservation outcome may be achieved with other strategies, including fisheries regulations”.

Management strategies
There are many other useful tools and legal frameworks designed to reduce overfishing, rebuild fish stocks and protect the biodiversity of the oceans. National and international fisheries agencies have been developing and enforcing these for the past two decades.

Problems are identified and tools selected to solve them in what is often a highly participatory process involving many stakeholders. If a certain fishing approach, such as bottom trawling, threatens a habitat, the area can be closed to that type of fishing. If a species is being threatened as a result of being caught unintentionally along with the targeted species, the fishery may be closed, fishing permitted at only certain times of the year, or catching techniques modified to reduce by-catch. Dolphin mortality fell almost 100-fold between 1986 and 1998 in the eastern Pacific6, for instance, after vessels changed fishing practice so that ensnared dolphins were released before the nets were hauled aboard. (The technology was developed by fishermen after the Inter-American Tropical Tuna Commission instituted limits to dolphin by-catch.)

The United States spends more than US$300 million per year on fisheries management. It does so through the implementation of key pieces of legislation, including the Magnuson–Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act, the Endangered Species Act, the Marine Mammal Protection Act, the National Environmental Policy Act and the Clean Water Act. In Alaska, for example, more than 50% of the continental shelf waters are closed to specific kinds of fishing gear and the entire shelf is covered by species-specific catch restrictions. This is much more protection than could be offered by turning 30% of the region into MPAs.

Because of fisheries management, overfishing has largely been eliminated in US waters7. The proportion of fish stocks listed as ‘overfished’ — those in which abundance is lower than that needed to produce near-maximum yield — halved between 1997 and 2014 to 16% (see Overfishing has also largely stopped in the European Union’s Atlantic fisheries, New Zealand, Australia, Iceland, Norway and Canada (see ‘The fruits of fisheries management’)8. And management strategies recently implemented by major Latin American countries, including Peru, Argentina and Chile, have reduced the proportion of stocks that are fished above optimal rates from 75% in 2000 to 45% in 2011 (unpublished data).

In short, it is now clear that for those countries with effective fisheries management in place — a group of nations responsible for 45% of the global catch — fish stocks are stable, or increasing. Of course, most of the world’s fisheries, especially in Africa and in parts of Asia, have no protection of any kind.

Bridge the divide
Studies show that enforcing the closure of an area to fishing increases the density of fish in the reserve by around 166%1. Yet, at best, MPAs will cover a small fraction of the ocean and few studies have evaluated their effect on biodiversity outside their perimeters. Catch data, records of boat movements and other monitoring efforts indicate that fishing pressure may increase beyond MPAs2.

More pressingly, neither MPAs nor fisheries management alone can shield marine biodiversity from the panoply of current threats: climate change and ocean acidification, land-based run-off, oil spills, plastics, ship traffic, tidal and wind farms, ocean mining and underwater communications cables.

The enormity of the challenge calls for a change in approach. Instead of working at cross purposes, MPA advocates and those in fisheries management need to identify and solve area-specific problems together, and in consultation with diverse stakeholders. These may range from professional and recreational fishermen, park officers and environmental NGOs to developers, oil and gas companies and communications companies.

Regional coastal-management agencies, such as the California Coastal Commission, which operates as a quasi-independent government agency, are a potential model. But their mandate and membership would have to be significantly expanded if they were to deal with the impacts of fisheries and the establishment of MPAs. Such commissions have traditionally been confined to nearshore waters and have been able to regulate only development permits.

Marine spatial planning is a generic term for the process of resolving conflicts in the use of marine resources and would seem to be the obvious mechanism to integrate fisheries management and MPAs. Yet after more than a decade of discussion and some attempts at implementation, there are few examples of the process effectively bringing the two ‘tribes’ together to work towards common goals. I suspect that this is, in part, because insufficient efforts have been made to convince both parties that decision-making bodies represent their interests appropriately.

The best examples of MPA advocates and fisheries-management communities working together are small-scale. In the Philippines and Indonesia, for instance, communities are working with local governments and NGOs, using a mix of protected areas and other forms of regulation, to try to rebuild coral-reef fish stocks9. Here the principal aim is to make fishing more sustainable; the objective of protecting representative habitats is not typically considered.

In larger industrial fisheries, such as in Europe, Australia and New Zealand, it should be possible for MPA advocates to collaborate with national fisheries departments. This would require a clear elaboration of the objectives of each. It would also require the appointment of more conservationists and MPA advocates to fisheries-management organizations, which are currently dominated by regulatory agencies and fishing-interest groups.

Another way to foster collaboration on a national scale would be to merge the various government departments responsible for conservation and fisheries management into a single department of marine management. Such an organization could oversee the protection of biodiversity and the sustainable use of fisheries, and regulate competing marine uses. As a first step, a set of formal consultations, informed by case studies that measure the actual level of biodiversity protection achieved in different places through existing mixes of MPAs and fisheries management, could begin to identify clear measurable objectives.

At the local, national and international levels, biodiversity protection and fisheries management must be overseen by the same bodies if either is to be truly effective.

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Jul 7 2016

NOAA authorizes Oregon to continue killing sea lions to save endangered fish

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration has authorized three northwestern states to continue killing sea lions that prey on endangered fish species as they try to climb the fish ladder at the Bonneville Dam, officials said Wednesday.

California sea lions often congregate at the mouth of the the Columbia River and in the waters just below the dam, the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife said in a statement, and the hungry marine mammals have put a big dent in the numbers of salmon and steelhead looking to make their yearly migration upstream.

“Last year sea lions were estimated to have consumed nearly 10,000 adult spring Chinook salmon, amounting to more than 3 percent of returning adult fish,” the administration said in a statement. “The impact on individual populations within the run may be much higher. An estimated 25 to 35 percent of the fish consumed are listed under the Endangered Species Act.”


Sea lions may be killing more salmon than estimated, NOAA study says

The authorization for Oregon, Washington and Idaho to trap and euthanize the sea lions will run for five years, the administration said in a press release, and is just one tactic the government is trying to help bolster the numbers of flagging fish species.

Oregon officials have tried exclusion gates, pyrotechnics and shooting the animals with rubber buckshot to dissuade the animals from congregating to feed at the dam, but all of those efforts only work temporarily, Oregon officials said.

Problematic sea lions that have been observed feeding near the dam’s fish ladders are individually identified and trapped. Though officials would prefer to relocate the animals to zoos or aquariums, that isn’t always possible and the animals sometimes have to be killed as a last resort.

Since the effort began in 2008, some 166 animals have been removed, 59 of them this year alone. Of 166 sea lions removed, 15 went into captivity, seven died of accidental deaths and 144 were euthanized, a spokesman for NOAA said.

Since the states began the program in 2008, officials estimate 15,000 to 20,000 salmon and steelhead have been saved from predation.

There are about 300,000 California sea lions off the west coast and the authorization only allows for 92 animals to be removed per year. The authorization also precludes removing any Steller sea lions, which are protected by the Marine Mammal Protection Act.

—   Kale Williams

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Jun 23 2016

US and Mexico to define criteria for catching sardines

Monterrey sardine, Sardinops sagax. (Photo: NOAA)

A study on populations of sardines (Sardinops sagax) that inhabit the waters of Baja California could be crucial to define the guidelines for capture, care and sustainability of the species to be agreed by the governments of Mexico and the United States.

Interviewed by the News Agency Conacyt, study author Norma Laura Lucio Martinez, a researcher at the Coastal Research and Development Centre (CIDECO), said that for the evaluation samples were taken during 2012, 2013 and 2014, to carry out comparisons.

The researcher explained that there is concern by the US government to establish fishing quotas for catching sardines. This is because in Mexico it is performed under the size criteria, and the study shows the sector that Baja California takes advantage of a shared reserve that makes it impossible to set quotas.

To determine that the sardine populations living in Baja California are mixed with various groups that migrate along the California current, an otolith analysis was performed.

The otoliths are bones found in the front part of the sardine, which makes it possible to see what part of the California current the sardine comes from through rings that get marked similarly to those on the trunks of the trees.

The researcher explained that the distribution of the Monterrey sardine ranges from Canada to Baja California Sur, and there are three main populations that migrate for food, except for the southern one.

“With these three populations that are identified, rings are being deposited and finally if they are caught off Ensenada and the otoliths are identified by microscope, by measuring the proportions it is possible to know their age and where this species was born. This is how the study was conducted, by measuring the otoliths, sizes and also by making comparisons with weight and size,” she explained.

With regard to capture policies, Lucio Martinez said that through the Tri-National Sardine Forum, researchers, producers and government officials discuss capture guidelines as well as those for the care and sustainability of the species.

“In the United States it has been said that quotas must be established, which is how they perform their capture; in Mexico it is not managed through catch volumes but by size, being the minimum catch size 15 centimetres because it is said to be the size in which at least the specimen has already spawned once,” she explained.

Through the same forum, the results of the research have been provided. They state the sardine population is migrating along the entire California Current, which confers the study a direct link with the productive sector.

“As the population can not be controlled so that it does not move, the population belongs to both countries, then it is a shared resource, we identify that it could have been in any of the two countries where the species was born,” concluded the researcher.

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