Archive for the Legislation Category

Jul 13 2017

What factors play a role in analyzing forage fish fishing regulation?

The interaction of predators, fishing and forage fish is more complicated than previously thought and that several factors must be considered, says researcher.

The group of researchers was evaluating the interaction after results from an earlier report found that fishing of forage species had a large effect on predator population, said the Marine Ingredients Organization (IFFO). Those harvested fish are used in several areas including as feed ingredients.

The new study was initiated because there were some questions regarding the methods used in the initial project, said Ray Hilborn, with the school of aquatic and fishery sciences at the University of Washington and corresponding author.

“When the original Lenfest [Forage Fish Task Force] report came out, a few of us said it seemed that the methods they were using were not up to the questions they were asking,” he told FeedNavigator. The report also offered several policy recommendations, he added.

“It was on our radar screen,” he said. “And one of the things I’ve been interested in looking at is the intensity of natural fluctuation in populations, and forage fish are notable for how much they vary naturally.”

The interaction between forage fish populations and predators is more complicated than may have been suggested by earlier studies tracking that relationship, and several factors need to be considered when analyzing the role that fishing plays on that relationship, he said. “The key point isn’t that there isn’t an impact, but that you have to argue case-by-case,” he added.

Several factors need to be considered when assessing the interaction among predators, forage species, and fishing of those forage species, the researchers said in their study. “We show that taking account of these factors generally tends to make the impact of fishing forage fish on their predators less than estimated from trophic models,” they added.

Study response

The results from Hilborn’s group have seen responses from groups including IFFO.

Previous research based on models suggested that forage fish were more valuable when left in the ocean and recommended reducing forage fish collection rates by 50% to 80%, said IFFO. However, the new paper presents an argument for a more case-by-case basis for management.

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

It is important that fisheries are managed with an effort to balance requirements from the ecosystem, coastal communities and human nutrition, IFFO said. The new results provide additional guidance and update conclusions from past reports.

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

Study specifics

Fishing of low trophic or forage fish has generated interest in recent years, the researchers said. These fish include small pelagic fish, squid and juveniles of many species.

The evidence and theory suggest that fishing can limit the abundance of some fish stocks and can affect predators’ reproductive success by the density of their prey, they said.

“Although it would therefore seem obvious that fishing forage fish would have a negative effect on the abundance of their predators, the empirical relationships between forage fish abundance and predator abundance, or population rates of change, have not been examined in a systematic way,” they said.

In the study, the group examined 11 species of forage fish in the US, including what animals eat them and the role the species play in their predators’ diets, they said.

Species’ predators were identified, estimated fish abundance was analyzed and several models were fit to the data being assessed, they said. A simulation model also used information from fisheries regarding six different species of forage fish to evaluate the potential reduction in food for predators given a 5,000-year timespan.

“The question that they were asking is an important question, but to ask it properly you need to have analysis that includes the important biology,” said Hilborn of earlier evaluations. “We’re just doing a more detailed look at the biology, which you need to do to understand fishing forage fish and what happens to their predators.”

Research findings

The goal of the study was to identify the key factors that should be considered by analyzing the effect of fishing on forge fish, said the researchers. The group found, overall, that the models previously used were “frequently inadequate” for determining the role the fishing of forage fish plays on their predators.

“The most important feature that needs to be considered is the natural variability in forage fish population size,” they said. “Their abundance is highly variable even in the absence of fishing, and creditable analysis of the fishing impacts must consider how the extent of fishing-induced depletion compares with that of the natural variability.”

The research results did offer some unexpected results, said Hilborn.

“I was really surprised that we didn’t see any empirical data showing the relationship between predators and prey,” he said. “We only looked at American fisheries, but didn’t find at any correlation with fish and the predators.”

The majority of cases did not offer an obvious relationship between prey and predator abundance, the researchers said. The size of the fish eaten by predators may play a role.

“While some predators selectively eat small fish (usually not selected by the fishery), others prey on a large range of forage fish sizes,” they said. “The degree of overlap between fisheries and predators is highly variable.”

However, work on the subject is not complete, said Hilborn. Several groups of researchers interested in the area are addressing different elements of the analysis.

“We’re doing more detailed analysis of several of the components,” he said. “A more detailed model of specific places.”

The work includes looking more closely at the interaction of key predators and some of the larger forage fisheries around the world, he said. “I expect in some of these that we’re going to find some impact – overlap between what the fishery takes and the predator takes,” he added.


Read the original post: http://mobile.feednavigator.com/

Jun 15 2017

Controversial drift-gill net fishery wins long-fought battle

Federal fishery managers denied a proposal this week to immediately shut down Southern California’s most controversial fishery in the event that wide-mesh gill nets accidentally kill a handful of certain marine mammals or sea turtle species.

The swordfish and thresher shark fishery will remain open, even if it kills several whales or sea turtles, the NOAA’s National Marine Fisheries decided.

The decision not to institute so-called hard caps on the fishery comes after a public review period initiated last year was extended to discuss the law proposed by the state’s Pacific Fishery Management Council in 2014.

For the few dozen fishers who still catch swordfish and thresher sharks off Southern California in deep-water drift gill nets, the decision brought a big sigh of relief.

“It’s a great feeling to know that NOAA is using science and not political pressure to decide this issue,” said longtime local fisherman David Haworth. “We have just a few people fighting against millions of environmentalists who think taking one of anything is too many: That would be great, but we have to feed the whole world.”

The decision was a blow to Oceana, The Pew Charitable Trusts and other conservation groups that have lobbied for years to close the fishery.

“We’re disappointed that NOAA Fisheries decided to abandon these plans. It’s a long time coming,” said Paul Shively, project director for The Pew Charitable Trusts. “We did a poll (in 2015) that showed overwhelming support with Californians to shut down the fishery.

“This still remains the most harmful fishery on the West Coast when it comes to marine mammals and sea turtles.”

Existing protections working

The proposed hard caps would have forced a seasonal closure if gill nets killed two sea turtles or fin, humpback or sperm whales, or four short-fin pilot whales or bottlenose dolphin over a two-year period.

In 2015, 18 drift gill net vessels landed 66 metric tons of swordfish worth $454,000, according to a report by NOAA — the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. Meanwhile, the U.S. imported 8,386 metric tons of the fish from other countries.

Fishers and National Marine Fisheries Service regulators say protections they’ve instituted since the mid-1990s, when drift gill nets were indiscriminately killing tons of marine animals, have come a long way.

“We increased our net size and that helped (reduce bycatch) a lot,” Haworth said. “What’s very discouraging for us right now is that most marine mammal species are on the increase now. They wanted to shut us down over animals that are doing better. So, it was like, ‘What’s going on here?’ ”

NOAA fishery biologist Jim Carretta, who specializes in creating marine mammal protections, said regulations implemented since the 1990s have greatly reduced gill net damage.

Gill nets are now made with wider mesh to allow larger animals to escape, and are placed 36 feet below the ocean’s surface to avoid marine mammal interaction. They also have acoustic pingers that divert dolphins and other species.

“If you have a bycatch problem, you don’t immediately shut down the entire fishery. You start examining what factors are driving the problem,” Carretta said. “We’ve had great success in reducing bycatch in this fishery. But it’s not going to go to zero.”

Regulators and fishers are also testing new technologies to bring additional protections for bycatch, such as a new deep-set buoy gear and electronic observers on boats to monitor catches.

State Sen. Ben Allen, whose district includes much of the South Bay coast, proposed a bill last year that would hasten the use of deep-set buoy gear and ban gill nets. It remains in committee.

“We already have allowable take numbers for these marine mammals,” Carretta said. “The hard cap levels seemed arbitrary to me. They were not thoroughly steeped in the science behind calculating how much bycatch is sustainable.”

The Marine Mammal Protection Act and the Endangered Species Act also continue to set protections for vulnerable marine animals that were hunted to near-extinction.

‘Redheaded stepchild of fishing’

Mike Conroy, president of West Coast Fisheries Consultants that represents fishers, said he believes the rule would have been overturned in the courts if it had passed.

“Twenty years ago, the drift gill net fishery was the Wild West, but I can’t even remember the last time a turtle was caught,” Conroy said. “(The proposed rule) probably wasn’t enforceable anyway.”

Gary Burke, a veteran drift gill net fisher, also said he hasn’t seen a sea turtle in years.

But Shively questioned whether environmentalists can rely on the word of fishers whose livelihood depends on keeping the fishery opened. He advocates for having observers on board every fishing boat to ensure they’re accurately reporting bycatch. Regulators say that’s not feasible.

“We’re been the redheaded stepchild of fishing,” Burke said. “All fisheries have bycatch. But we’ve done great jobs to limit what we can. We are going to have some, but the question is whether we’re killing too many. That’s why NOAA takes estimates and decides how many can be removed to maintain healthy populations.”


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

Jun 13 2017

Trump administration overturns rule limiting by-catch of whales, sea turtles and dolphins

The Trump administration decided Monday to withdraw an Obama-era rule limiting the number of whales, sea turtles and dolphins inadvertently caught in nets used by sword fishermen.

At first glance, the decision by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration appears to be part of a pattern by administration officials of overturning or delaying rules that are deemed too burdensome on industry. Federal officials say they moved to scrap the rule based in part on how costly the new rule would have been to fishermen. But they also say it was redundant and not backed by science.

The rule, which was still in the process of being developed, would have set firm limits on the number of sea turtles, whales and dolphins that could be accidentally snared in drift nets. If more than two to four animals became entangled, the entire West Coast sword fishery would be shut down for up to two years.

Part of the problem is the method fishermen use to catch swordfish: long, mesh nets that hang in the water from floats. In the early 1990s, up to 500 dolphins a year were getting tangled in the nets, according to NOAA. Thirty-three beaked whales, so-called because of their long, narrow snouts, got stuck between 1990 and 1996.

In response, California banned drift gillnets in state waters in 1990. Six years later, NOAA convened the Take Reduction Team, a group of scientists, academics, environmentalists and fishermen to try to solve the problem in federal waters.

The team decided fishermen should use “pingers,” baton-like devices that hang from the nets and emit a high-frequency noise only detectable by marine mammals, not fish.

The results were dramatic: after 1996, no beaked whales got stuck. In 2015, less than 50 dolphins were entangled. The numbers declined for other species, too.

But the Pacific Fishery Management Council, which is a similar stakeholder group to the Take Reduction Team and makes fishery management recommendations to NOAA, wanted to go further. The group, which is also made up of a mix of fisherman, scientists, government officials and academics, voted to put into place strict limits on bycatch and recommended NOAA create a new regulation, which the agency began working on in the final months of the Obama administration.

“We should not be killing any” marine mammals, said Geoff Shester, a senior scientist at the advocacy group Oceana, which is not part of the council but supported the proposed rule. He said he was “furious” when he found out NOAA had decided to abandon the rule, especially because it had been crafted with industry support.

“We don’t usually see politics from a high level affect fisheries,” he said. “The fact that this rule was something that came out of the Pacific Fishery Management Council, and was denied, that’s highly unusual.”

But NOAA officials say their decision had nothing to do with politics. Jim Carretta, a research fishery biologist for NOAA in La Jolla, said he was happy to see the rule pulled because he thought the limits that the council set on by-catch were arbitrary.

“They didn’t seem to be informed by the theoretical underpinnings of how marine mammal populations increase and recover,” he said.

He also said the rule was unnecessary, given the progress the Take Reduction Team has had at reducing by-catch.

Finally, he thought the consequence for inadvertently catching just two to four whales, dolphins or sea turtles – the closure of the fishery – was too severe.

“Nobody likes by-catch. No one ever wants to see a dead dolphin. But one always has to put it in the context of the population as a whole,” Carretta said.

In other words, he said if the number of dolphins inadvertently snared isn’t enough to threaten the population as a whole, and allowing fishing will keep fishermen employed, it’s OK.

David Haworth, a sword fisherman from San Diego, agrees. “It upset me they were going to shut down fisheries over one or two marine mammals,” he said. “If we were harming an endangered species, we should not fish, we should shut down.” But the rule, he said, went way beyond that.

Currently, there are just 16 boats that go out each year to catch sword fish – down from over 200 in the 1980s. Haworth says the fish just aren’t there any more — they’ve moved up the coast into areas where sword fishing is even more restricted than it is off the coast of Southern California.


Originally posted: http://www.scpr.org/

Apr 12 2017

Sardines off the menu again for West Coast fishers

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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


Flawed count?

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Ocean activists cheer closure

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

Mar 30 2017

Legislators, fishermen discuss future of state fisheries

California Fish and Wildlife Department Director Charlton “Chuck” Bonham discusses the department’s budget issues with the Joint Committee on Fisheries and Aquaculture at the State Capitol building on Wednesday afternoon.

 

Speaking at California’s 44th annual “state of the fisheries” forum at the State Capitol on Wednesday, North Coast Sen. Mike McGuire and other state officials conveyed a dire future as the state experiences its lowest forecast salmon return on record and continuing poor ocean conditions.

“We are facing a true calamity here in California,” McGuire (D-Healdsburg) said during the Joint Committee on Fisheries and Aquaculture’s Zeke Grader fisheries forum in Sacramento. “Many families who have relied on the mighty Pacific for their livelihood are on the brink of economic ruin.”

The theme of Wednesday’s forum was fisheries in a changing climate and occurred a day after President Donald Trump signed an executive order calling for the rollback of climate change laws put into effect under Barack Obama’s administration. McGuire, who is chairman for the committee, said the state must “remain vigilant” of any federal actions, some of which in the past he said have led to catastrophic consequences such as the 2002 fish kill on the Klamath River and more recently a die-off of baby salmon on the river.

“We’re facing a new reality,” McGuire said.

The proposed closure of the commercial and sport salmon fishing season on the Klamath River this year was a main topic of discussion at the forum. Last week, the Pacific Fishery Management Council, which recommends fishing regulations to the federal government, forecast the lowest return of spawning Chinook salmon on the Klamath River on record, with about 12,000 fish expected. The council is set to finalize these recommendations in early April.

The Yurok and Hoopa Valley tribes face significant reductions in their salmon allocations this year. The Yurok Tribe anticipates it will receive about 650 fish total, or about one fish for every 10 tribal members, which the tribe’s Chairman Thomas P. O’Rourke Sr. described as a “nightmare.”

“I have never in my life dreamed that it could get this bad,” O’Rourke Sr. said in statement last week. “This is devastating to our people, not only physically but emotionally. It’s saddening and hard to believe.”

California Department of Fish and Wildlife Director Charlton “Chuck” Bonham told the committee he understands what this forecast means to the two tribes as well as the Karuk Tribe. Bonham said he expects he will likely have to ask the governor to declare a fisheries disaster for this year’s salmon season.

Pacific Fishery Management Council California troll salmon advisor Dave Bitts concurred. Bitts said that ocean fishing will likely be limited to about 700 Klamath River Chinook salmon when four years ago it was about 70,000 fish.

“We’re looking at either no fishing after April 30 or a couple little scraps of a commercial fishing season below Point Arena this year,” Bitts said. “In either case, the odds are excellent that this is going to be a disaster season by the federal standard. It’s not too soon to be laying the groundwork.”

Both Bonham and Bitts said the proposed plan to remove four Klamath River hydroelectric dams will work to address many of the issues such as low flows and warm waters that led to recent die-offs of baby salmon on the river.

Morro Bay crab fisherwoman Lori French, whose husband is also a fisherman, told the committee the poor salmon return will be “the straw that broke the camel’s back” for many young crab fishermen who also rely on salmon for income.

The poor season comes after the crab fleet experienced up to six-month delays in the 2015-16 crab season because of large toxic algae blooms. Bonham said crabbers are expected to have an average haul this year, but that many of them are still requiring federal disaster funding to make up for last season’s losses. Congress is working to appropriate these disaster funds in the coming weeks.

McGuire said the committee is planning to hold a hearing on the salmon season in May and another later in the year.

Another major topic of discussion was Gov. Jerry Brown’s proposed landing fee increase for the state’s fishing fleet, which came under fire from legislators and fishermen alike.

Committee Vice Chairman and North Coast Assemblyman Jim Wood (D-Healdsburg) said he is “adamantly opposed” to the increase.

“It is the wrong amount at the wrong time affecting the wrong people,” Wood said. “I will push back.”

The landing fee has not been increased since 1993. To address a $20 million budget shortfall in the Department of Fish and Wildlife Department, Brown is proposing to raise landing fees by as much as 1,300 percent. Landing fees are collected on a per pound basis of the amount of seafood fishermen catch or land.

However, McGuire said Brown’s proposal would increase the landing fees for crab fisherman by up to 13,000 percent.

“No industry should have to absorb these hikes,” McGuire said.

Bonham stated that the landing fees currently make up only a fraction of the department’s budget for regulating the commercial fisheries.

For the 2015-16 seasons, Bonham said fishing fleets brought in about $133 million of product, but only paid $322,000 in landing fees. Bonham said he recognizes the proposed fee increase is only a short-term solution that would not address the department’s predicted budget shortfall in the 2018-19 fiscal year. He said he has been directed by Brown to come up with a long-term funding plan.

“I have a sustainable financing source program for my whole department,” Bonham said.

Pacific Coast Federation of Fishermen’s Associations Executive Director Noah Oppenheim said the “excessive, capricious landing tax proposal” would result in buyers purchasing product from other states because of higher prices, would cause seafood prices to increase for consumers and place devastating financial burdens on a fleet working to recover from a disastrous season.

“It will absolutely shock the industry,” Oppenheim said.

 

Mar 30 2017

California’s Commercial Fishing Fees to Rise From $20 Million Shortfall in Fish and Wildlife Budget

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

Copyright © 2017 Seafoodnews.com

Seafood News


 

SEAFOODNEWS.COM [Eureka Times-Standard] by Ruth Schneider – March 29, 2017

Both of the state’s North Coast legislators, Sen. Mike McGuire and Assemblyman Jim Wood, are vocal in their opposition to a proposal put forward by the governor to increase fishing landing fees.

The plan from Gov. Jerry Brown to fill a $20 million shortfall in the state’s Department of Fish and Wildlife budget would increase landing fees for the state’s commercial fishing fleet. The increases would raise an additional $12.4 million.

“Currently, revenue from the commercial fish landing fees support less than one quarter of the Department’s program costs,” the budget summary states, adding that landing fees have not been adjusted for 20 years.

According to McGuire, the increase in the fees “exceeding 10,000 percent” is “simply unacceptable.”

“We have to protect and preserve California’s fisheries, and we’re deeply concerned about the future based off of threats from the federal government and the exorbitant fees being proposed by the Governor’s Office,” McGuire said in a statement.

Wood reacted similarly.

“As Vice Chair of the Joint Committee on Fisheries and Aquaculture and a member of the Assembly who represents nearly one-third of California’s coastline, I am adamantly opposed to the Governor’s proposal to increase landing fees on commercial fisheries,” Wood said in a statement.

He added that the fishing industry has not had it easy the past few years with toxic algae blooms halting the crab fishing season on the North Coast last year and salmon populations declining significantly.

“Exacerbating the financial hardships of an industry that has so recently suffered these crises in order to address the Department of Fish and Wildlife’s budget concerns is unconscionable,” Wood wrote in a letter to the Joint Committee on Fisheries and Aquaculture, which he co-chairs.

McGuire announced last week a fisheries forum set for Wednesday. It is set to begin at 12:30 p.m. and a live-stream can be found on the Senate’s website.

Here’s the status of a few environment-related bills working their way through the state Legislature:

Sustainable seafood >> SB 269, introduced by McGuire, would develop and implement a sustainable seafood promotion program for California. The bill seeks to increase direct sales of sustainable seafood from California fisheries. Under a provision of the bill, “Seafood produced through aquaculture or fish farming shall not be certified as sustainable under this division until nationally or internationally accepted sustainability standards have been developed and implemented,” the bill states. Earlier this month, the bill passed out of the Committee on Natural Resource and Water. It is set for an April 3 hearing in an appropriations committee.

Steelhead reporting >> McGuire introduced and Wood is a co-author of SB 144, which would extend the steelhead report-restoration card system that had been set to sunset in July 2017. The bill would extend the program through July 2022. The program charges steelhead fishers $5 annually for the card. The program tracks angling trends over time which help the Department of Fish and Wildlife make fisheries management and regulation decisions. Because the funds are generated from steelhead anglers, the restoration projects must benefit both steelhead populations and the anglers themselves. The bill is set for an April 3 hearing by the Senate Appropriations Committee.

Nature >> AB 1433, introduced by Wood, make funding available to the Wildlife Conservation Board for grants and programs that protect and improve natural resources. It would also fund programs that aim to reduce emissions of greenhouse gases. On March 13, the bill was forwarded to the Assembly Natural Resources Committee, where it awaits a hearing.


Copyright © 2017 Seafoodnews.com

 

Mar 26 2017

Congress to consider relief funds for California crab fleet

Fishing boats sit docked at Woodley Island Marina. North Coast U.S. Rep Jared Huffman said within the next few weeks Congress could approve long-awaited funds to help offset last year’s dismal season.
Fishing boats sit docked at Woodley Island Marina. North Coast U.S. Rep Jared Huffman said within the next few weeks Congress could approve long-awaited funds to help offset last year’s dismal season. Shaun Walker — The Times-Standard

 

Long-awaited federal funds to alleviate California’s crabbing fleet after last year’s dismal season could be approved by Congress as early as the next few weeks, according to California 2nd District Rep. Jared Huffman.

Huffman (D-San Rafael) said Congress is set to vote on a supplemental budget appropriation to prevent a government shutdown in the coming weeks. He said he and a bipartisan group of legislators have signed on to a letter to House Speaker Paul Ryan and Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi urging them to include fishery disaster funds in this budget bill.

“I don’t want to say ‘mission accomplished’ at this point,” Huffman told the Times-Standard on Wednesday. “I think the fact that we’ve got a nice bipartisan request in and that it’s not tied to President Trump’s budget is a good thing.”

Meanwhile at the state level, local legislators and fishing organizations are protesting Gov. Jerry Brown’s proposal to increase commercial fishing landing fees by as much as 1,300 percent in order to help close a $20 million shortfall in the California Department of Fish and Wildlife budget.

North Coast Assemblyman Jim Wood (D-Healdsburg), who also serves as the vice chairman on the Joint Committee on Fisheries and Aquaculture, stated Wednesday that he is “adamantly opposed” to Brown’s proposal.

“I recognize that the department’s budget is unsustainable and a solution must be found, but not on the backs of the men and women in California’s commercial fishing industry,” Wood said in a statement.

Disaster funds

After its season was delayed up to six months by toxic algae blooms in 2016, California’s commercial crabbing fleet has waited more than a year for federal relief.

Across the state, crabbers pulled in less than half of their average yearly haul by July 2016. North Coast crabbers hauled in about one-third of their average catch.

Many crabbers fell into debt as their boats and crews sat unused, which resulted in some crabbers leaving the industry for good.

Huffman and other members of Congress introduced a bill to in March 2016 to provide more than $138 million to the fleet, but the U.S. Secretary of Commerce Penny Pritzker needed to declare a fisheries disaster before those funds could be made available. That declaration occurred in January.

Should Congress approve the relief funds, Huffman said the funds could be made available in a few months at the latest.

If the disaster funds do not make this latest funding bill, Huffman said they still have until the start of the new fiscal year on Oct. 1 to appropriate the money.

Landing fee

In an effort to address a $20 million shortfall in the California Department of Fish and Wildlife budget, the governor is proposing in his budget to increase landing fees for the state’s commercial fishing fleet to raise an additional $12.4 million.

“Currently, revenue from the commercial fish landing fees support less than one-quarter of the department’s program costs,” the budget summary states. “Further, these fees have not been adjusted in at least 20 years. This proposal sustains the current level of service, acknowledging the need to implement more permanent measures in 2018‑19.”

In the 2015-16 fiscal year, landing fees — which are collected on a per pound basis of the amount of seafood fishermen catch or land — only brought in $500,000 and is expected to bring in $900,000 this year, according to the California Legislative Analyst’s Office.

The office — a 16-member bipartisan advisory committee overseen by the Joint Legislative Budget Committee — states in its review of Brown’s 2017-18 budget that the proposal would increase fees by as much as 1,300 percent. The office states this increase “may be too large for the industry to sustain” and that the department would still have a shortfall in the 2018-19 fiscal year.

Landing fees have not increased since 1992 as they are not adjusted for inflation. Even if the fee were increased to current inflation levels, the legislative analyst’s office states that would only result in an 80 percent increase — or about $725,000 — compared to the 1,300 percent in Brown’s proposal.

Trinidad crab fisherman Craig Goucher said typically buyers pay the landing fees for the fishermen. If Brown’s proposal goes through, he said it could result in buyers paying less for fishermens’ catch to make up for the increased costs. While California’s landing fees are lower than Oregon’s and Washington’s, Goucher said Brown’s increase would change that and result in unfair competition.

“(Brown) can justify raising it some, but they can’t justify raising $0.25 per pound,” Goucher said.

Fort Bragg Groundfish Conservation Trust President Michelle Norvell said that the fleet has already experienced losses due to poor ocean conditions and that the increased fee would only work to drive out fishing businesses from California.

“I hope wholeheartedly that the assessment is rejected and they go back to the drawing board and look at other ways of filling the shortfall,” she said. “I hope that it’s borne across more than just the commercial fishers. It’s not the burden of the commercial fishermen and hope they’re not going to slip something past us.”

A crab fishing boat sits docked at Woodley Island Marina across the bay from crab pots at Caito Fisheries. Gov. Jerry Brown has proposed an increase to commercial fishing landing fees by as much as 1,300 percent in order to help close a $20 million shortfall in the California Department of Fish and Wildlife budget. Shaun Walker — The Times-Standard

 

Will Houston can be reached at 707-441-0504.


Read the original post: http://www.times-standard.com/

Mar 6 2017

White House proposes steep budget cut to leading climate science agency

(National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration via AP)

The Trump administration is seeking to slash the budget of one of the government’s premier climate science agencies by 17 percent, delivering steep cuts to research funding and satellite programs, according to a four-page budget memo obtained by The Washington Post.

The proposed cuts to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration would also eliminate funding for a variety of smaller programs, including external research, coastal management, estuary reserves and “coastal resilience,” which seeks to bolster the ability of coastal areas to withstand major storms and rising seas.

NOAA is part of the Commerce Department, which would be hit by an overall 18 percent budget reduction from its current funding level.

The Office of Management and Budget also asked the Commerce Department to provide information about how much it would cost to lay off employees, while saying those employees who do remain with the department should get a 1.9 percent pay increase in January 2018. It requested estimates for terminating leases and government “property disposal.”

The OMB outline for the Commerce Department for fiscal 2018 proposed sharp reductions in specific areas within NOAA such as spending on education, grants and research. NOAA’s Office of Oceanic and Atmospheric Research would lose $126 million, or 26 percent, of the funds it has under the current budget. Its satellite data division would lose $513 million, or 22 percent, of its current funding under the proposal.

The National Marine Fisheries Service and National Weather Service would be fortunate by comparison, facing only 5 percent cuts.

The figures are part of the OMB’s “passback” document, a key part of the annual budget process in which the White House instructs agencies to draw up detailed budgets for submission to Congress. The numbers often change during the course of negotiations between the agency and the White House and between lawmakers and the administration later on. The 2018 fiscal year starts Oct. 1.

A spokesperson for the Commerce Department declined to comment. A White House official who spoke on the condition of anonymity said that the process was “evolving” and cautioned against specific numbers. The official would not respond to questions about the four-page passback document.

The biggest single cut proposed by the passback document comes from NOAA’s satellite division, known as the National Environmental Satellite, Data and Information Service, which includes a key repository of climate and environmental information, the National Centers for Environmental Information. Researchers there were behind a study suggesting that there has been no recent slowdown in the rate of climate change — research that drew the ire of Republicans in Congress.

Another proposed cut would eliminate a $73 million program called Sea Grant, which supports coastal research conducted through 33 university programs across the country. That includes institutions in many swing states that went for President Trump, such as the University of Wisconsin at Madison, the University of Michigan, Ohio State University, the University of Florida and North Carolina State University.

The OMB passback said that the administration wanted to “prioritize rebuilding the military” and would seek “savings and efficiencies to keep the Nation on a responsible fiscal path.” It said that its proposed funding cut for the Commerce Department “highlights the tradeoffs and choices inherent in pursuing these goals.”

The OMB also said that the White House would come up with ideas to modernize “outdated infrastructure,” but it said that agencies should not expect increases in their fiscal 2018 discretionary-spending “toplines” as a result.

On Wednesday, after his confirmation, Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross said that drawing up a budget would be a top priority. “One of the first steps,” he said, “will be securing adequate appropriations from the Congress. In a period of budgetary constraint, that will be a major challenge.”

The OMB passback document said that the Commerce Department, like other agencies, should “buy and manage like a business.” It urged the department to explore greater use of privately owned commercial satellites and commercial cloud services while submitting to the OMB a plan to retire or replace “at least one high priority legacy IT system” beginning in 2018.

Many scientists warned that the deep cuts at NOAA could hurt safety as well as academic programs.

Conrad Lautenbacher, a retired vice admiral who was the NOAA administrator under President George W. Bush, said, “I think the cuts are ill timed given the needs of society, economy and the military.” He added, “It will be very hard for NOAA to manage and maintain the kind of services the country requires” with the proposed cuts.

Jane Lubchenco, NOAA administrator under President Barack Obama, said that 90 percent of the information for weather forecasts comes from satellites. “Cutting NOAA’s satellite budget will compromise NOAA’s mission of keeping Americans safe from extreme weather and providing forecasts that allow businesses and citizens to make smart plans,” she said.

Rick Spinrad, a former chief scientist for NOAA, said: “NOAA’s research and operations, including satellite data management, support critical safety needs. A reduced investment now would virtually guarantee jeopardizing the safety of the American public.”

NOAA released a time lapse of satellite imagery from Sept. 27 to Sept. 30 that shows Tropical Storm Matthew moving into the Caribbean Sea, where it became a hurricane. (NOAA)

He said that weather warnings for tornadoes and hurricanes could be compromised and that navigational capacity used to help guide commercial ships and other mariners would suffer, leaving them without the “improved forecasts they need to safely maneuver coastal waters.” It could become harder to warn of tsunamis and forecast weather that will cause power outages.

David Titley, a professor of meteorology at Pennsylvania State University who served as NOAA’s chief operating officer in the Obama administration, said that “oddly” the White House budget office, despite the president’s commitment to building infrastructure, would cut NOAA’s budget for ships and satellites. “These cuts will impact good private-sector jobs in the U.S.,” Titley said. “The loss of capability will make America weaker both in space and on the sea — a strange place to be for an administration that campaigned to ‘make America great again.’ ”


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

Oct 27 2016

Climate-change ruling for Arctic seals has ramifications across U.S., California

ap_16217778087807This 2006 photo from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration shows a bearded seal in Kotzebue, Alaska. Michael Cameron AP

In a ruling that has ramifications for land-use and water policy across the United States and California, a federal appeals court ruled Monday that scientists can draw on long-range climate projections to determine whether a species should be listed as threatened.

On Monday, the San Francisco-based 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals reversed a 2014 ruling made by a lower court in Alaska. The lower court determined federal regulators were relying on speculation and conjecture to determine that bearded seal populations would lose so much of their Arctic sea-ice habitat to a warming climate that they would be endangered by 2095. Noting that the sparse seal population is spread through a vast area of the Arctic making seals difficult to count, the lower court described the agency’s findings as “arbitrary and capricious.”

But in Monday’s ruling, the appellate court ruled that the National Marine Fisheries Service used the best available science and climate models to list the seals as threatened. Moreover, an agency “need not wait until a species’ habitat is destroyed to determine that habitat loss may facilitate extinction,” Judge Richard A. Paez wrote for the three-judge panel.

The ruling was hailed by environmentalists and research groups, who say it allows agencies to take immediate action to protect species in the face of climate change. The ruling could spur new protections for numerous California species, from the bunny-like American pika to salmon and other fish under threat from droughts and warming rivers induced by climate change.

“The implications for California, and frankly, the entire nation, are profound: This court ruling recognizes that climate change is a real threat, that climate science and models are scientifically sound, and that the Endangered Species Act requires we use information on future risks to protect species today, rather than waiting for the downward spiral of extinction to begin,” Peter Gleick of the Pacific Institute said in an email.

Conservative and business groups, however, decried the ruling as a dangerous precedent. They noted that it follows another recent 9th Circuit ruling that protected polar bears facing habitat loss from climate change, and said similar arguments could be used to limit logging and mining in California.

“The takeaway from these cases is that the courts simply will not question scientific evidence offered by an agency in the same way that a court would question that same evidence were it offered in a dispute between private parties,” Damien Schiff of the Pacific Legal Foundation said in an email.

The Center for Biological Diversity petitioned federal regulators to protect the seals in 2008. Groups fighting the petition included the state of Alaska and the American Petroleum Institute.


Read the original post: http://www.sacbee.com/

Sep 15 2016

RELEASE: Ten Years after Magnuson-Stevens Act, U.S. Fisheries are the Best Managed in the World

 

Washington, D.C. — United States fisheries are the most sustainably managed in the world. Critical legislation has governed federal fisheries for the past four decades, and the enactment of the Magnuson Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Reauthorization Act, or MSRA, 10 years ago provided science-based management measures that have maintained the health of the U.S. ocean ecology and economy.

However, it is time to think about what comes next for the U.S. fisheries industry. The Center for American Progress has released a report looking at the successes of the Magnuson-Stevens Act and offering science-based recommendations to maintain and improve the health of U.S. fisheries over the next 10 years. The report was released at an event on the legacy of the MSRA featuring former Administrator of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, Jane Lubchenco; Maria Damanaki, global managing director for oceans at the Nature Conservancy; and Margaret Spring, vice president of conservation and science at the Monterey Bay Aquarium.

“It is no fluke that U.S. fisheries are among the best managed in the world,” said Michael Conathan, Director of Ocean Policy at CAP and co-author of the report. “The success of our science-based fishery management regime that has evolved over four decades of legislative oversight has made the resource far more sustainable while sustaining coastal economies. Now in the 21st century, federal fisheries face daunting challenges, including ocean warming and acidification stemming from climate change. The MSRA and its predecessors have made U.S. fisheries the healthiest in the world but it is now time to update these efforts to ensure their sustainability into the next century.”

The paper makes the following recommendations:

  • Regulators should work to account for changes in fishery dynamics that fishermen around the country are already experiencing as a result of climate change, including ocean acidification and warming.
  • Ecosystem-based management should be prioritized as a tool to facilitate a holistic fisheries management.
  • To increase accountability and data collection, NOAA should aggressively pursue the development and deployment of electronic monitoring systems for fishing vessels.
  • Congress should appropriate additional funding for ocean observation and baseline research to facilitate data collection and stock assessment science.
  • Using the MSRA’s strong international provisions, the Obama administration should finalize regulations aimed at curtailing illegal, unreported, and unregulated fishing abroad.
  • U.S. leaders and government officials should press the International Maritime Organization to expand application of its vessel monitoring and registration standards to include all fishing vessels operating on the high seas.

Click here to read the report.
Click here to watch the live stream of the event.