Archive for the Opinion Category

Jun 6 2018

The Cost of Food

Everything we eat has environmental costs. We trade human health and nutrition for some necessary amount of environmental disturbance, though we should always strive to reduce our dietary impact. Seafood causes less environmental damage than any other animal proteins and should be considered in any low-impact diet.

Read it here:

http://sustainablefisheries-uw.org/seafood-101/cost-of-food/

May 7 2018

THE REAL STORY BEHIND SARDINES — Neil Guglielmo

Reporter Anne Roth quoted me in her article “When will sardines return? Not any time soon say scientists.” But she got many of her facts wrong, missed the point, and misquoted what I said. Here’s the true story.

I’m one of the fishermen whose observations Diane Pleschner-Steele relied on when she said ‘fishermen are seeing more sardines, not less.” We began seeing an abundance of small sardines beginning around the fall of 2014, leading up to the 2015 El Niño.

In fact, independent surveys as well as NOAA surveys also encountered record numbers of young of the year – both sardines and anchovies. The NOAA acoustic-trawl cruise caught a bunch of young sardines in its trawl net in 2015, but when scientists included the length composition data from those fish into the stock assessment model, it blew up the biomass estimate to more than a million tons. Scientists thought that was unreasonable, so they threw out the data.

The reporter quotes Oceana’s Geoff Shester extensively as an “authority” on sardine, but fails to acknowledge objective, and contradictory, scientific evidence on two important points: the first is that sardine abundance is driven primarily by ocean cycles with negligible impact from fishing pressure, especially considering the precautionary modern-day harvest allowance, and sea lions are now found to be at or above carrying capacity, and higher pup mortality rates are expected, along with an increase in disease that is also apparent now.

Oceana is quick to accuse the fishery of “overfishing,” but this is grounds for libel, as this allegation has been debunked not only by scientists but also by the [former] NOAA Assistant Administrator for Fisheries.

The reporter also misunderstood the reason why incidental catch rates are low now. It’s not because sardines are scarce and they don’t school – it’s just the opposite. Sardines often school with other fish like anchovy, and the mix can be 50:50 percent or higher. We don’t catch many sardines now because the percentage of sardine in mixed schools is often ABOVE the 40 percent rate allowed, so we must forego catching them.

The truth is that fishermen have seen an increasing abundance of sardines since at least 2015, but the government is only now beginning to realize and acknowledge that they’re missing fish in their stock assessments. We think they’re missing a lot of fish, and we’ve offered to help them document the abundance inshore of their surveys. But that’s going to take time, and the bureaucracy moves slowly. It may take years for government surveys to fully assess and account for sardines in the area where most of the sardines are, and I only have a few years of fishing left. But I hope I do see a return to sardine fishing in my lifetime. Fishermen know far better than scientists how many fish are in the ocean. It’s time they start listening to us.

 


When will sardines return? Not any time soon say scientists

Neil Guglielmo, a 76-year-old commercial fisherman, says he doubts the sardine stock will bounce back in his lifetime. (Annie Roth — Herald Correspondent)

Monterey >> Less than 30 years after the Pacific sardine population was deemed “recovered,” the stock has once again fallen into a severe slump according to stock assessments conducted by the National Marine Fisheries Service.

Scientists estimate the West Coast population of Pacific sardines has declined by 95 percent since 2006. Although sardine populations naturally fluctuate in response to shifting climatic conditions, overharvesting is believed to have accelerated the stock’s collapse. Although no one knows exactly how long it will take for the sardine supply to replenish, many scientists are certain it won’t be anytime soon.

“I wouldn’t be surprised if the stock didn’t come back for 20 years.” said Dr. Geoff Shester, California program director and senior scientist at Oceana, the world’s largest ocean conservation non-profit.

In 2012, scientists from the National Marine Fishery Service warned that another collapse was imminent — but this warning went largely unheeded. When this warning was issued, sardine biomass was still above the 150,000 ton threshold required for commercial fishing. The Pacific Fishery Management Council — whose members include fishermen, industry stakeholders, and federal and state officials from the National Marine Fisheries Service — said there wasn’t enough evidence of decline to justify a moratorium on commercial sardine fishing.

Sardine fishing continued until 2015, when the stock fell below the commercial cutoff and the directed fishery was closed. Shester believes the council’s failure to take precautionary measures made a bad situation worse.

“Because the population was already declining, and fishing made it worse, the stock is going to have a lot more trouble recovering than it would have had had we stopped fishing earlier,” said Shester.

Pacific sardines were on the rise during the early 2000s, but in 2006 the population took an unexpected downturn. Estimates suggest the Pacific sardine population decreased from 1.8 million tons to 86,000 tons between 2006 and 2017. The latest assessment puts the size of the Pacific sardine stock at a mere 52,065 tons, a fraction of the 150,000 ton threshold required for commercial fishing.

“Ultimately, a trade off was made to fish in the short term, and that’s now having this detrimental consequence that may last for decades,” said Shester.

Sardines are an important food source for several marine species including sea lions, salmon, brown pelicans, dolphins, and whales, and in California — whose coastal waters boast relatively large numbers of Pacific sardines — the fallout of their decline continues to be evident from shore.

Starving California sea lion pups have been washing up on beaches by the thousands since 2012, most suffering from malnutrition. According to a press release issued by the Marine Mammal Center in 2013, “The sardine and anchovy fish numbers were extremely low in 2012, and it appears this resulted in female adult sea lions having a difficult time providing enough nourishment to their pups.” Scientists estimate that 70 percent of California sea lion pups born between 2013 and 2014 died before weaning age due to a lack of nutrient rich food.

Even though the commercial sardine fishery is closed, you might still see sardines on the menu. The Pacific Fishery Management Council allows a few thousand tons to be harvested by fishermen who catch them incidentally or intend to sell them as live bait. In April, the council set an incidental catch limit of 7,000 tons for the 2018 fishing season.

Shester says this year’s incidental catch quota is “irresponsibly high” and considers the council’s decision to continue allowing a limited harvest a step in the wrong direction.

“There is no level of sustainable fishing on a stock that’s collapsing,” said Shester.

Fishermen rarely meet incidental catch quotas simply because it is very difficult to catch sardines by accident. In order to commercially land sardines caught incidentally, they have to make up less than 40 percent of your catch. Because sardines rarely form schools with other marketable species, achieving this ratio can be challenging.

If Pacific sardine biomass falls below 50,000 tons, fishery managers are required to close the live bait fishery and implement a moratorium on incidental harvest. In 2018, the estimated sardine stock was only 2,000 tons over this threshold. If current trends continue, it’s unlikely the stock will make this cutoff next year — but many fishermen have high hopes that it will.

In a press release issued earlier this month, Diane Pleschner-Steele, executive director of the California Wetfish Producers Association, said “fishermen are seeing more sardines, not less, especially in nearshore waters.”

Not only does Pleschner-Steele reject the notion that overfishing played a role in the decline of the sardine stock, she calls the stock’s collapse “fake news.”

“Oceana claims that overfishing is the cause of the sardine fishery decline, but the absolute opposite is true: fishing is a non-issue and more importantly, the sardine stock is not declining.”

Pleschner-Steele believes the way the National Marine Fishery Service conducts its sardine stock assessments is fundamentally flawed and urges members of her organization to disregard them.

“This [latest] stock assessment was an update that was not allowed to include any new methods and was based primarily on a single acoustic survey that reached only as far south as Morro Bay and totally missed the nearshore coastwide,” said Pleschner-Steele.

The National Marine Fishery Service has acknowledged its inability to survey nearshore areas, but the agency doesn’t believe the lack of this data has compromised the accuracy of its assessments.

“We’re likely missing some sardines but maybe not at a huge portion,” said Josh Lindsay, a fishery policy analyst from the National Marine Fisheries Service.

“There is a broad understanding from the agency that we are not sampling the entire population, and a lot of that uncertainty gets built into our stock assessment model,” said Lindsay

For the last several years, scientists from the National Marine Fishery Service have been developing new ways to improve the accuracy of the agency’s stock assessments. The agency recently announced plans to use solar powered autonomous drones, also known as saildrones, to survey waters that their ships can’t reach.

Pleschner-Steele hopes surveys of nearshore areas will prove her theory that the stock is increasing, but not all fishers share her optimism. Neil Guglielmo, a commercial fisherman and member of the California Wetfish Producers Association, fears the stock won’t bounce back in his lifetime. The commercial purse-seiner says he began to suspect the stock was crashing seven years ago, because sardines were becoming increasingly difficult to catch.

“When there’s a lot of fish around, they’re easy to catch,” said Guglielmo.

Guglielmo, who has been catching sardines, anchovies and squid off the California coast for more than 40 years, shares Pleschner-Steele’s view that the latest stock assessment underestimated the true size of the stock, but unlike Pleschner-Steele, Guglielmo doesn’t think the sardine population is bouncing back.

“I’m 76 years old. Unless something drastic happens, I don’t think I’ll ever fish sardines again,” said Guglielmo.

Apr 10 2018

California Wetfish Producers Association Statement: West Coast Sardine Fishery Management Action

April 9, 2018 — The following was released by the California Wetfish Producers Association:

On Sunday, the Pacific Fishery Management Council approved the management measures for the West Coast sardine fishery that were recommended by the CPS management team. The decision provides for 7,000 Mt for all uses, allowing fishermen a reasonable set aside for incidental take.

“We are very thankful to the Council for applying the best available common sense in making its decision, especially in light of the concerns expressed during the recent ATM methods review and the earlier problems voiced about last year’s sardine STAR panel review.

“And we are especially grateful to NOAA Assistant Administrator Chris Oliver, who took the time to address the Council in support of sustainable fishing communities, as well as resources, saying in part, ‘We have to combine that scientific underpinning with practicality and common sense.’

“This is especially topical given the ongoing forage fish discussion and its relationship to California’s historic wetfish industry, which has been the foundation of our fishing economy for more than a century. All too often, that importance is largely ignored or dismissed with pleas to ‘leave most of the fish in the water for other predators.’ Our precautionary catch rules already do that.

“In sum, a big thank you to the Council for doing the right thing for sardine fishery management and for fishing families and communities up and down the West Coast.”

Diane Pleschner-Steele, Executive Director
California Wetfish Producers Association


 

About the California Wetfish Producers Association
The California Wetfish Producers Association is a nonprofit dedicated to research and to promote sustainable Wetfish resources. More info at www.californiawetfish.org.

Contact
Diane Pleschner-Steele
805-693-5430
diane@californiawetfish.org

Ray Young
916-505-4245
ray@razorsharppr.com

Read more about forage fish management here

 

Apr 5 2018

Sardine Fishery Collapse Latest Fake News

For Immediate Release
April 5, 2018
Contact
Diane Pleschner-Steele
805-693-5430
diane@californiawetfish.org

Ray Young
916-505-4245
ray@razorsharppr.com

Sardine Fishery Collapse Latest Fake News

Deeply Flawed Population Survey Fuels False Claims

 

Buellton, CA – This Sunday, April 8, the Pacific Fishery Management Council is meeting in Portland to debate the fate of the West Coast sardine fishery, after the 2018 sardine stock assessment estimated the biomass has declined by 97 percent since 2006. The only problem with that finding is it belies reality.

“Fishermen are seeing more sardines, not less, especially in nearshore waters. And they’ve been seeing this population spike for several years now,” said Diane Pleschner-Steele, executive director of the California Wetfish Producers Association (CWPA). “This stock assessment was an update that was not allowed to include any new methods and was based primarily on a single acoustic survey that reached only as far south as Morro Bay and totally missed the nearshore coastwide.”

The 2018 update assessment of 52,000 tons, down from 86,586 tons in 2017 and 106,100 tons the year before, is based on a change in methods and assumptions in estimating population size developed during an independent stock assessment review in 2017. Scientists acknowledged that assuming the acoustic survey ‘sees’ all the fish leads to lower biomass estimates. But it’s obvious to fishermen that the survey missed a lot of fish. In fact, with different assumptions, the 2017 biomass estimate would have increased from 86,586 tons to 153,020 tons.

The thorny problem the Council faces in April is what to do with a flawed assessment that is perilously close to the 50,000-ton minimum stock size threshold that would trigger an “overfished” condition and curtail virtually all sardine fishing. (The directed fishery has been closed since 2015, but incidental harvest in other fisheries, as well as Tribal take and live bait fishing have been allowed under a precautionary annual catch limit of 8,000 tons for all uses.) The extremist group Oceana has already signaled its intent to lobby for the Council to declare sardines “overfished.”

“Despite ample evidence to the contrary – most scientists agree that environmental factors play the primary role in sardine populations swings – Oceana claims that overfishing is the cause of the sardine fishery decline,” said Pleschner-Steele. “But the absolute opposite is true: fishing is a non-issue and more importantly, the sardine stock is not declining.”

The NOAA acoustic survey was based mainly on the 2017 summer acoustic trawl cruise that ran from British Columbia to Morro Bay, CA, but did not include the area south to Pt. Conception and Southern California where fishermen have reported large schools of sardines for the past three years. What’s more, this stock assessment update was based on a model that the chair of the 2017 Stock Assessment Review panel termed the “least worst” option. In part, the problem is that acoustic trawl surveys conducted by large research vessels cannot gather data in nearshore waters inside about 50 meters depth – 27 fathoms. But 70 to 80 percent of California’s sardine catch comes from nearshore waters inside the 20-fathom curve.

Acoustic trawl survey methods also underwent review in January 2018, and independent scientists criticized current survey methods and assumptions, noting that the current ATM trawl procedure seems to focus on precision at the expense of accuracy, and the protocol is repeatable but not necessarily objective.

To document the missing fish, the California Department of Fish and Wildlife and CWPA conducted a cooperative aerial survey in the Monterey / Half Moon Bay area last summer – at the same time the acoustic trawl cruise was surveying outside waters – and saw a significant body of both sardine and anchovy inside the acoustic survey nearshore limit.

Here is the map illustrating the thousands of tons of sardine that the NOAA acoustic survey missed, an estimated 18,118 mt of sardine and 67,684 mt of anchovy.

And here is a video from fisherman Corbin Hanson who was out fishing for squid last November and saw large schools of sardines in Southern CA. He commented that, “…this is just one school. Last week we drove by the biggest school of sardines I have ever witnessed in my career driving boats. It was out in front of Ventura Harbor and we saw countless other schools along with it.”

The problem is this evidence has not yet been qualified for use in stock assessments. However, at the upcoming meeting, the Department of Fish and Wildlife will present the data from our nearshore aerial surveys in 2016-17. CWPA will also request that the Council approve our experimental fishery permit to help us qualify our aerial surveys as an index of nearshore abundance for future assessments.

“The bottom line is it’s vital for proper management of our fisheries that we use all available scientific data. That’s why the Council needs to take into consideration these nearshore findings when recommending sardine management measures in 2018,” said Pleschner-Steele. “CWPA along with sardine fishermen contest the 52,000-ton stock assessment and will request a new stock assessment review as soon as possible, including other indices of abundance in addition to acoustic trawl. If the Council closes the sardine fishery entirely, California’s historic wetfish industry – which until recent years produced 80 percent or more of the volume of seafood landed statewide – will suffer unnecessarily, along with the state’s entire fishing economy.”

About the California Wetfish Producers Association
The California Wetfish Producers Association is a nonprofit dedicated to research and to promote sustainable Wetfish resources. More info at www.californiawetfish.org.

# # #

Oct 31 2017

‘Rule of Thumb’ Management Approach Is Wrong For Forage Fish, Dr. Ray Hilborn Tells U.S. Senate

Saving Seafood interviews Dr. Ray Hilborn about forage fish management ahead of his testimony before the Senate Commerce Subcommittee on Oceans, Atmosphere, Fisheries and Coast Guard.

 

WASHINGTON (Saving Seafood) – October 31, 2017 – At a hearing of the U.S. Senate Commerce Subcommittee on Oceans, Atmosphere, Fisheries and Coast Guard last week, respected fisheries scientist Dr. Ray Hilborn testified that fisheries managers “can do better than a one-size-fits-all” approach to managing forage fish. He also said there was “no empirical evidence to support the idea that the abundance of forage fish affects their predators.”

Dr. Hilborn’s comments came in response to questioning from Sen. Roger Wicker (R-MS) about whether fisheries managers should manage forage fish according to a “rule of thumb” approach, where fisheries are managed according to a set of broad ecological and management principals, or a “case-by-case” approach, where management is guided by more species-specific information.

Dr. Hilborn, a professor at the University of Washington’s School of Aquatic and Fishery Sciences, was part of a team of top fisheries scientists that recently examined these issues, as well as what effects fishing for forage fish species had on predator species. Their research indicated that previous studies, like a 2012 report from the Lenfest Forage Fish Task Force, may have overestimated the strength of the predator-prey relationship.

Before the hearing, Dr. Hilborn spoke with Saving Seafood about his research and his message for lawmakers.

“It’s very clear that there really are no applicable rules of thumb, that every system is independent [and] behaves differently, and we need to have the rules for each individual forage fish fishery determined by looking at the specifics of that case,” Dr. Hilborn told Saving Seafood.

He also discussed his team’s finding that forage fish abundance has little impact on their predators. They looked at nearly all U.S. forage fish fisheries, including the California Current system and Atlantic menhaden, and concluded that predator species generally pursue other food sources when the abundance of any one forage species is low.

“The predators seem to go up or down largely independent of the abundance of forage fish,” Dr. Hilborn said, adding, “For Atlantic menhaden, for their major predators, the fishery has reasonably little impact on the food that’s available to them.”

Another key message Dr. Hilborn had for the Subcommittee was that fisheries managers must determine what they want to accomplish so that scientists can advise them accordingly.

“The time has come to refocus our fisheries policy on what we actually want to achieve because rebuilding is only a means to an end,” Dr. Hilborn told Saving Seafood. “Do we want to maximize the economic value of our fisheries? Do we want to maximize jobs? Do we want to maximize food production?”

In his testimony, Dr. Hilborn praised U.S. fisheries policy that has “led to rebuilding of fish stocks and some of the most successful fisheries in the world.” He attributed this success to a variety of factors, including funding of NOAA, regionalizing fisheries management decisions, and requiring managers to follow science advice. As a result, overfishing should no longer be the top priority for fisheries managers, he testified.

“The major threats to U.S. fish stock and marine ecosystem biodiversity are now ocean acidification, warming temperatures, degraded coastal habitats, exotic species, land based run off, and pollution,” Dr. Hilborn testified. “Overfishing remains a concern for a limited number of stocks but should not continue to be the most important concern for U.S. federal fisheries policy.”

The hearing was the latest in a series examining reauthorization of the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act, the nation’s supreme fisheries law. It was organized by subcommittee chairman Sen. Dan Sullivan (R-AK), and focused on fisheries science.


Originally posted: Saving Seafood Inc.

Oct 25 2017

Testimony of Ray Hilborn to U.S. Senate subcommittee

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

 


 

Subcommittee to Continue Hearing Series on Magnuson-Stevens Act

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

Witnesses:

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

Hearing Details:

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

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

Oct 23 2017

Professor has a message for Congress: Overfishing is over

Rob Hotakainen, E&E News reporter
Published: Monday, October 23, 2017
Ray Hilborn. Photo credit: University of Washington

Fisheries scientist Ray Hilborn. University of Washington

 

To his detractors, fisheries professor Ray Hilborn is an “overfishing denier,” a scientist who’s all too eager to accept money from industry groups to pay for his pro-fishing research.

To his backers, he’s a hero, a respected researcher who can always be counted on to challenge environmental groups that want to limit fishing.

Love him or hate him, there’s little doubt that the outspoken Hilborn has attained an international profile and that he has found a way to win big-time attention in fishing circles.

His next stop is Capitol Hill.

Tomorrow, Hilborn, a professor of aquatic and fishery sciences at the University of Washington, will appear before a Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation panel, getting another chance to argue his case that overfishing is no longer a concern for the United States.

He’s one of four experts scheduled to testify before the Subcommittee on Oceans, Atmosphere, Fisheries and Coast Guard.

“What I’m going to say in my testimony is that overfishing is no longer the major threat to the sustainability of our oceans or biodiversity,” Hilborn said in an interview. “My first line on Tuesday is going to be that we have really fixed our fisheries by having fisheries management follow science advice — and if you stop doing that, you’re in trouble.”

Hilborn also said it’s time to stop “vilifying” fishing.

“I wrote the book on overfishing, called ‘Overfishing: What Everyone Needs to Know,’ by Oxford University Press,” Hilborn said. “You know, overfishing is a serious problem in many places. It’s not a very serious problem in the United States now. It was 30 years ago. … And the U.S. has responded, as has Europe. In most developed countries, fish stocks are increasing in abundance, they are not declining in abundance.”

The question of overfishing is a key focus for Congress as lawmakers consider making changes to the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act, a law passed in 1976 that sets the rules for fishing in federal waters (E&E Daily, July 17).

Backers and opponents alike credit the landmark law for improving the health of U.S. fish stocks, though many worry the Trump administration has moved too quickly to allow more fishing.

Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross, who oversees NOAA, heightened those concerns with two key decisions: In June, he extended the season for the Gulf red snapper by 39 days, and in July, he overturned a decision by the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission that would have cut New Jersey’s recreational quota for summer flounder, also known as fluke (Greenwire, Sept. 20).

Critics fear Ross’ decisions could lead to overfishing and jeopardize both fish stocks in the long run.

Meanwhile, the president’s fisheries chief, Chris Oliver, told a House Natural Resources panel last month that 91 percent of all fishing stocks assessed by NOAA are no longer subject to overfishing.

Oliver, the head of NOAA Fisheries, told the Subcommittee on Water, Power and Oceans that the U.S. had “effectively ended overfishing,” allowing “room for flexibility” in applying annual catch limits (E&E Daily, Sept. 27).

Those are fighting words for many conservationists who worry the Trump team has already gone overboard in bowing to the demands of fishing groups.

“When they talk about flexibility, they’re really talking about rollbacks,” said John Hocevar, a marine biologist and ocean campaigns director for Greenpeace USA.
An ideal spokesman?

Hilborn has plenty of fans, but he has faced accusations of industry bias.

Last year, he won the International Fisheries Science Prize at the World Fisheries Congress in Busan, South Korea, recognized for a 40-year-career of “highly diversified research” on behalf of global fisheries science and conservation.

“There aren’t many fisheries scientists in the country who can match Ray Hilborn,” said Noah Oppenheim, executive director of the Pacific Coast Federation of Fishermen’s Associations. “He’s the ideal spokesman for his field to educate Congress about how science informs fisheries management. Anyone who questions Ray’s professional or scientific integrity doesn’t understand how science works, at best.”

But a study by Greenpeace last year found that Hilborn accepted more than $3.55 million from 69 commercial fishing and seafood interests to pay for his research from 2003 to 2015.

“It seems like he uses his genuine scientific credentials to make himself more valuable to industry as a spokesperson,” said Hocevar. “On climate denial, there are a bunch of those guys. But with fisheries, Hilborn is the guy. … He’s the go-to, and there’s really no one else out there like him who will come out and talk about how we don’t need marine protected areas and how the real problem is underfishing, not overfishing.”

Greenpeace gained access to University of Washington documents that showed Hilborn’s long and extensive links to fishing, seafood and other corporate groups by filing a request under the state’s public records law.

After Greenpeace complained that Hilborn had not properly disclosed his affiliations in all his published papers, the university investigated the issue and concluded Hilborn had not violated any of its policies.

But Hocevar said the issue is still relevant.

“He took millions of dollars from industry. … And studies have shown that where you get your funding from does create bias in terms of findings,” Hocevar said.

Hilborn dismissed the criticism from Greenpeace.

“You know, they’re hopeless fundamentally,” he said. “They’re basically a money-raising organization, and they have to scare people to raise money. They’re not interested in science at all. … Greenpeace has sort of put its cards on the table that fishing is a big deal, and they’re not going to raise money if people don’t believe that fishing is a threat.”

Schedule: The hearing is Tuesday, Oct. 24, at 2:30 p.m. in 253 Russell.

Witnesses: Karl Haflinger, founder and president, Sea State Inc.; Ray Hilborn, professor, University of Washington School of Aquatic and Fishery Sciences; Michael Jones, professor, Michigan State University Quantitative Fisheries Center; and Larry McKinney, director, Texas A&M University Harte Research Institute for Gulf of Mexico Studies.


Originally published: E&E Daily

Jun 13 2017

RAY HILBORN: WORLD FISH STOCKS STABLE


 

June 12, 2017 — Speaking at the SeaWeb Seafood Summit on Wednesday, 7 June in Seattle, Washington, U.S.A., University of Washington fisheries researcher Ray Hilborn said the perception that the world’s fish stocks are declining is incorrect, and that fishing could sustainably be stepped up in areas with good management.

Hilborn pointed to figures from the RAM Legacy Stock Assessment Database that indicate that fish stocks dipped through the last part of the 20th century, but have since recovered in many fisheries.

“There is a very broad perception that fish stocks around the world are declining. Many news coverages in the media will always begin with ‘fish stocks in the world are declining.’ And this simply isn’t true. They are increasing in many places and in fact, globally, the best assessments are that fish stocks are actually stable and probably increasing on average now,” Hilborn said.

The RAM Legacy Database collects information on all the stocks in the world that have been scientifically assessed, which is a little more than half of the world’s catch.

“What we don’t really know about is the big fisheries in Asia, in the sense that we don’t have scientific assessments of the trends in abundance,” Hilborn said.

He added that the general consensus is that the status of those stocks is poor, a result of, among other things, poor fisheries management, reinforcing surveys that have shown a direct correlation between high stock abundance and high intensity of management.

“For most of the developed world fisheries’ management is quite intense, and South and Southeast Asia stand out as really not having much in the way of fisheries’ management systems, particularly any form a enforcement of regulations, if regulations exists,” he said.

But in much of the developed world, Hilborn said fish stocks are robust, even when they sometimes get labeled as overfished.

“Overfished is a definition with respect to potential yield, and a stock that is overfished is not necessarily a stock that is going extinct or a stock that has in any sense collapsed. It simply means you’re getting less yield from that stock than you could get if was well-managed,” Hilborn added.

Hilborn generally recommends lower fishing pressure that does not try to maximize sustainable yield, with a potential of up to 20 percent loss on yield. But he added that even this level of fishing will lead to overfished stocks.

“If you really want to have no overfished stocks, you’re going to have to reduce fishing pressure so far that we would probably lose half of the global food production,” Hilborn said.


Originally posted at Seafood Source

Apr 11 2017

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

Apr 4 2017

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Read the full study here

Watch a video about the study here

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

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