Archive for the Research Category

Jul 10 2018

NOAA launches drones to sail the West Coast, survey anchovies, sardines and other fish

(Photo: Courtesy of John Gussman)

A bright orange and yellow drone boat will set sail in August, skimming down the West Coast as it collects data on fish and possibly changes the way experts study the ocean.

It’s one of five on a summer-long expedition to test the drones’ accuracy in assessing West Coast fish stocks. Those surveys help set limits on just how much fish can be caught each year.

“You want to use the best available science to come up with the best estimate of what the stock is, so that you can give a fair shake to the fishermen,” said Toby Garfield, director of environmental research division at Southwest Fisheries Science Center.

Typically, the surveys are done by ship. But the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration teamed up with Oceans Canada and Saildrone Inc. to test out the drones.

This is one alternative to collecting the data – one that may be able to go places ships can’t or to better estimate how many fish are out there, Garfield said.

Satellite imagery changed the way researchers looked at the ocean, he said, and “tools like Saildrone will give us another way to actually sample” it.

Two drones were launched last week from Neah Bay, Washington, and a second pair will be launched shortly. All four of those will follow the route of the NOAA ship Reuben Lasker.

Operators control the unmanned watercraft remotely from Saildrone’s headquarters in Alameda, California. Plans call for the drones to collect acoustic data on hake and pelagic fish, like sardines and anchovy, for up to 100 days.

 

Five Saildrones will be launched on the West Coast this summer. (Photo: Courtesy of John Gussman)

 

“Our ship is out there now. It’s out doing an 80-day survey from Vancouver Island down to the Mexican border,” Garfield said. “The two pairs are going to replicate that tract.”

Researchers will then compare the ship’s information to what’s collected by the drones to see if the new technology could be used to replicate some of the ship’s surveys.

They already know there will be differences, including that the drones will move slowly, about 1 or 2 knots.

There’s also a chance the drones could come closer to shore than the ships, which could help expand the surveys. Whether that’s possible depends on a lot of variables from the abundance of kelp to the number of recreational boats on the water.

That’s where the fifth drone comes in.

“That’s the one we’re going to try to use to explore whether we can come farther into shore,” Garfield said.

They’ll also want to use that drone to test whether it could sail in front of the ship to pinpoint the best spots to sample and, if instead of chasing the fish, they could use the drone in one area to track them as they swim by.

The fifth drone is scheduled to launch off Alameda on Aug. 13 and will be sailing for about six months. But it may not reach Ventura County.

“Originally, we were going to have the Saildrone operate all the way down to San Diego,” Garfield said Tuesday.

But the company had concerns about the traffic in the Santa Barbara Channel, as well as light winds in the summertime.

They’re going to make a decision closer to the date of the launch, he said. “It’s really going to depend on conditions.”

To follow the drones’ progress, go to NOAA’s blog at https://www.nwfsc.noaa.gov/news/blogs.


Original post and video: https://www.vcstar.com/

Jun 28 2018

Saildrone launch begins test to improve West Coast fisheries surveys

June 2018

Contributed by Michael Milstein

Two autonomous Saildrones launched from Neah Bay, Wash., Tuesday on a summer-long partnership between Saildrone Inc., NOAA Fisheries and Fisheries and Oceans Canada (DFO) to find out whether the wind and solar-powered vehicles can improve the efficiency and accuracy of fisheries surveys off the West Coast.

The two Saildrones will first head to the northern end of Vancouver Island and will then turn south, following a series of transects along the Coast south to San Francisco. Two other Saildrones will join the project fleet next week from Alameda, Calif., following transects from San Francisco south to the Southern California Bight. (See map.)

They will gather acoustic data on Pacific hake (whiting) and pelagic species such as sardines, anchovy and mackerel that make up many of the West Coast’s most important commercial fisheries. Fishermen unloaded 558 million pounds of hake worth about $47 million in ports such as Astoria, Ore., and Westport, Wash., in 2016.

The NOAA ship Reuben Lasker will also follow the transects and gather similar acoustic data for comparison. The Lasker is specially equipped with advanced echosounders for accurately surveying fish populations.

Technicians prepare the first two Saildrones for launch from Neah Bay, Wash. NOAA Fisheries/NWFSC

A fifth Saildrone launching from Alameda in August will test its value for conducting focused fisheries surveys, such gathering data in near-shore areas that large NOAA research ships cannot safely reach. The fifth vehicle will focus particularly on historically important areas for fisheries, such as Monterey Bay and off the San Francisco Bay Area.

“This partnership is putting some of the most important new marine technology to work for the West Coast,” said Toby Garfield, Acting Deputy Director of NOAA Fisheries’ Southwest Fisheries Science Center in La Jolla, Calif., and part of the team directing the fifth Saildrone. “The more complete and accurate data we have, the better decisions our fisheries managers can make in real terms of catch levels and seasons.”

The first two Saildrones left Neah Bay about 1 p.m. Tuesday. The vehicles were operating normally, scientists said, but must travel to Canadian waters before they begin collecting data on their transects heading south. The Saildrone team extended its thanks to the Makah Tribe, which authorized the launch from its marina in Neah Bay.

The northernmost surveys are particularly important for hake, a deep-water fish that supports an international fishery that the United States and Canada manage jointly under the Pacific Whiting Treaty. DFO scientists are assisting in management of the mission.

Please follow the progress of the West Coast Saildrone fisheries mission on the blog “Unmanned! Saildrone Expedition 2018.”

NOAA Fisheries’ Alaska Fisheries Science Center has been testing Saildrone technology, along with NOAA Research’s Pacific Marine Environmental Laboratory in Alaska for the past three years to gather oceanographic data, acoustic data on endangered North Pacific right whales, information on walleye pollock, and for prey surveys within the foraging range of a declining population of northern fur seals. This year, the focus in Alaska will be on studying abundance and distribution of Arctic cod in the Chukchi Sea.

The launch of Saildrones along the West Coast demonstrates NOAA Fisheries’ continued commitment to embrace new technologies to maximize efficiencies and advance its mission.

Teams ready a Saildrone for launch from Neah Bay, Wash. NOAA Fisheries/NWFSC


Originally posted: https://www.nwfsc.noaa.gov/

Jun 6 2018

Fish will migrate as temperatures warm, putting fisheries at risk

A new paper projects how warming ocean temperatures will affect the geographic distribution of 686 commercially important species around North America. Species migration and shifting home ranges have serious implications for natural resource management, particularly fisheries.

Read about it here:
http://sustainablefisheries-uw.org/fish-will-migrate-as-temperatures-warm/

Research Article:

Projecting shifts in thermal habitat for 686 species on the North American continental shelf

Jun 3 2018

Marine heatwaves are getting hotter, lasting longer and doing more damage

Marine heatwaves occur everywhere in the ocean. Credit: Eric Oliver/Dalhousie University

On land, heatwaves can be deadly for humans and wildlife and can devastate crops and forests.

Unusually warm periods can also occur in the ocean. These can last for weeks or months, killing off kelp forests and corals, and producing other significant impacts on marine ecosystems, fishing and aquaculture industries.

Yet until recently, the formation, distribution and frequency of marine heatwaves had received little research attention.

Long-term change

Climate change is warming ocean waters and causing shifts in the distribution and abundance of seaweeds, corals, fish and other marine species. For example, tropical fish species are now commonly found in Sydney Harbour.

But these changes in ocean temperatures are not steady or even, and scientists have lacked the tools to define, synthesize and understand the global patterns of marine heatwaves and their biological impacts.

At a meeting in early 2015, we convened a group of scientists with expertise in atmospheric climatology, oceanography and ecology to form a marine heatwaves working group to develop a definition for the phenomenon: A prolonged period of unusually warm water at a particular location for that time of the year. Importantly, marine heatwaves can occur at any time of the year, summer or winter.

With the definition in hand, we were finally able to analyze historical data to determine patterns in their occurrence.

Analysis of marine heatwave trends

Over the past century, marine heatwaves have become longer and more frequent around the world. The number of marine heatwave days increased by 54 per cent from 1925 to 2016, with an accelerating trend since 1982.

We collated more than 100 years of sea surface temperature data around the world from ship-based measurements, shore station records and satellite observations, and looked for changes in how often marine heatwaves occurred and how long they lasted.

We found that from 1925 to 1954 and 1987 to 2016, the frequency of heatwaves increased 34 per cent and their duration grew by 17 per cent.

These long-term trends can be explained by ongoing increases in ocean temperatures. Given the likelihood of continued ocean surface warming throughout the 21st century, we can expect to see more marine heatwaves globally in the future, with implications for marine biodiversity.

‘The Blob’ effect

Numbers and statistics are informative, but here’s what that means underwater.

 

Yearly count of marine heatwave days from 1900 to 2016, as a global average. Credit: Eric Oliver/Dalhousie University

A marine ecosystem that had 30 days of extreme heat in the early 20th century might now experience 45 days of extreme heat. That extra exposure can have detrimental effects on the health of the ecosystem and the economic benefits, such as fisheries and aquaculture, derived from it.

A number of recent marine heatwaves have done just that.

In 2011, a marine heatwave off western Australia killed off a kelp forest and replaced it with turf seaweed. The ecosystem shift remained even after water temperatures returned to normal, signalling a long-lasting or maybe even permanent change.

That same event led to widespread loss of seagrass meadows from the iconic Shark Bay area, with consequences for biodiversity including increased bacterial blooms, declines in blue crabs, scallops and the health of green turtles, and reductions in the long-term carbon storage of these important habitats.

Similarly, a marine heatwave in the Gulf of Maine disrupted the lucrative lobster fishery in 2012. The warm water in late spring allowed lobsters to move inshore earlier in the year than usual, which led to early landings, and an unexpected and significant price drop.

More recently, a persistent area of warm water in the North Pacific, nicknamed “The Blob”, stayed put for years (2014-2016), and caused fishery closures, mass strandings of marine mammals and harmful algal bloom outbreaks along the coast. It even changed large-scale weather patterns in the Pacific Northwest.

As global ocean temperatures continue to rise and marine heatwaves become more widespread, the marine ecosystems many rely upon for food, livelihoods and recreation will become increasingly less stable and predictable.

The climate change link

Anthropogenic, that is human-caused, climate change is linked to some of these recent marine heatwaves.

For example, human emissions of greenhouse gases made the 2016 marine heatwave in tropical Australia, which led to massive bleaching of the Great Barrier Reef, 53 times more likely to occur.

Even more dramatically, the 2015-16 marine heatwave in the Tasman Sea that persisted for more than eight months and disrupted Tasmanian fisheries and aquaculture industries was over 300 times more likely, thanks to anthropogenic climate change.

For scientists, the next step is to quantify future changes under different warming scenarios. How much more often will they occur? How much warmer will they be? And how much longer will they last?

Ultimately, scientists should develop forecasts for policy makers, managers and industry that could predict the future impacts of marine heatwaves for weeks or months ahead. Having that information would help fishery managers know when to open or close a fishery, aquaculture businesses to plan harvest dates and conservation managers to implement additional monitoring efforts.

Forecasts can help manage the risks, but in the end, we still need urgent action to curb greenhouse gas emissions and limit global warming. If not, marine ecosystems are set for an ever-increasing hammering from extreme ocean heat.

More information on this and related studies can be found on www.marineheatwaves.org.

May 31 2018

New Tool Helps Fisheries Avoid Protected Species In Near Real Time

EcoCast is a dynamic ocean management tool that aims to minimize fisheries bycatch and maximize fisheries target catch in near real time. Map shows daily relative bycatch target catch probabilities. Species weightings reflect management priorities and recent catch events. Environmental data are used to predict where species are likely to be each day.

 

New computer-generated daily maps will help fishermen locate the most productive fishing spots in near real time while warning them where they face the greatest risk of entangling sea turtles, marine mammals, and other protected species. Scientists developed the maps, the products of a system called EcoCast, to help reduce accidental catches of protected species in fishing nets.

Funded primarily by NASA with support from NOAA, California Sea Grant, and Stanford University, Ecocast was developed by NOAA Fisheries scientists and academic partners with input from fishermen and managers.

Using the swordfish fishery as an example, EcoCast incorporates data from tracking of tagged animals, remote sensing satellites and fisheries observers to help predict concentrations of the target species (broadbill swordfish) and three protected species (leatherback turtle, blue shark and California sea lion).

EcoCast will help fishermen, managers, scientists, and others understand in near real time where fishing vessels have the highest probability of catching targeted species and where there is risk of catching protected species. In doing so, EcoCast aims to improve the economic and environmental sustainability of fisheries that sometimes inadvertently catch and kill sensitive species. The first peer-reviewed description of the science behind the system appears this week in Science Advances.

“We’re harnessing the field of big data so that information on ocean conditions can be of most use – so fishermen can go where they’re likely to find the swordfish they want to catch but avoid the species that they do not want to catch,” said Elliott Hazen, a research ecologist at NOAA Fisheries’ Southwest Fisheries Science Center and lead author of the new paper.

Currently NOAA Fisheries closes a large area off the West Coast to the swordfish fishery seasonally to protect leatherback turtles, which travel widely, and can be caught incidentally in the nets. Fisheries managers could use EcoCast to outline small, “dynamic closures,” that shift according to the likely locations of the species they are trying to protect. Since they concentrate protection where it’s needed most, dynamic closures for leatherback sea turtles could be two to 10 times smaller than the current static closures while still safeguarding the species that need it, the scientists found.

“EcoCast pioneers a way of evaluating both conservation objectives and economic profitability for sustainable U.S. fisheries,” said Rebecca Lewison, a senior scientist on the project from San Diego State University and a co-author of the new paper. “By meeting both conservation and economic objectives, EcoCast is an important step forward in supporting species, their ecosystems and our local and state economies.” Dynamic closures could also support more “climate-ready” fisheries management approaches that adjust to changing ocean conditions as the climate shifts and changes over time. For instance, unusually warm conditions off the West Coast in 2014 and 2015 have driven shifts in fish and marine mammal species, forcing fishermen to adjust their efforts.

“EcoCast directly addresses both scientific priorities and fisheries management needs,” said Heidi Taylor of NOAA Fisheries’ West Coast Region. “The use of real-time environmental data to support dynamic ocean management provides an innovative approach to balance viable fisheries and protecting the ecosystem.”

She noted that fishermen participated throughout the development of EcoCast, which should help boost its usefulness to the fishing fleet. .

The EcoCast system is up and running now, producing color-coded maps posted online each day hosted via NOAA’s CoastWatch West Coast Regional Node. Managers can adjust the system to support additional fisheries, but this paper focused on reducing bycatch of leatherback turtles, blue sharks, and California sea lions in the West Coast drift gillnet fishery that targets swordfish.

EcoCast maps fishing areas in a blue-to-red scale that predicts the best waters to catch swordfish with little to no bycatch in darker shades of blue, with the greatest risk of encountering sea turtles, sea lions, and sharks shown in red. As the ocean conditions change, the dynamic map also changes. Managers can adjust the weighting of each species as risks change and the fishing season progresses.

“The fishermen will be willing to try this because they’re always looking for ways to do things differently, and better,” said Gary Burke, a drift gillnet fisherman in Southern California. “It’s not going to be perfect, because it’s a prediction, but it may give us access to information we haven’t had before.”

He said that fishermen have long watched ocean conditions such as sea surface temperatures as indicators of where the best fishing might be. The added information that EcoCast provides, such as the predicted concentrations of sea turtles, sea lions, and sharks, makes it a more powerful tool to help fishermen decide where – and where not – to fish.

“EcoCast simply would not have been possible a decade ago,” Hazen said. The increasing availability of satellite ocean data, the miniaturization of satellite tags for turtles and fish combined with faster and more powerful computers helped make it happen. Researchers are working to add data on additional species such as marine mammals to best reflect bycatch concerns.

“Now we can integrate all this information through complex statistical models that turn tens of thousands of data points into something more useful,” he said. “We’re putting the information directly in the hands of the fishers and managers.”

EcoCast is supported by a partnership that includes NOAA Fisheries, The University of California Santa Cruz, San Diego State University, Stanford University, Old Dominion University, The University of Maryland, drift gillnet fishermen, fisheries managers and other stakeholders.

“EcoCast is leading the way toward more dynamic management of marine resources,” said Woody Turner, program manager for ecological forecasting in NASA’s Applied Sciences Program.

Swordfish, Shutterstock/Joe Fish Flynn; Leatherback turtle with satellite tag, NOAA Fisheries/H. Harris (NMFS permit #1596-03); California sea lion with satellite tag, Dan Costa; Blue shark, NOAA Fisheries/Mark Conlin; Fishing vessel off the coast of southern California, NOAA Fisheries.

For more information:

Southwest Fisheries Science Center’s Environmental Research Division (ERD)

Related websites:

TurtleWatch – A product produced by NOAA’s Pacific Islands Fisheries Science Center to provides up-to-date information about the thermal habitat of loggerhead sea turtles in the Pacific Ocean north of the Hawaiian Islands.

WhaleWatch – A project coordinated by NOAA Fisheries’ West Coast Region to help reduce human impacts on whales.


Original post: https://swfsc.noaa.gov/

May 30 2018

Consequences of spatially variable ocean acidification in the California Current: Lower pH drives strongest declines in benthic species in southern regions while greatest economic impacts occur in northern regions

 

Emma E. Hodgsona, Isaac C. Kaplanb, Kristin N. Marshallc, Jerry Leonardc, Timothy E. Essingtona, D. Shallin Buschd, Elizabeth A. Fultone, f, Chris J. Harveyb, Albert Hermanng, h, Paul McElhanyb

  • a School of Aquatic and Fishery Sciences, University of Washington, Seattle, WA 98195-5020, USA
  • b Conservation Biology Division, Northwest Fisheries Science Center, National Marine Fisheries Service, NOAA, 2725 Montlake Blvd E, Seattle WA 98112, USA
  • c Fishery Resource Analysis and Monitoring Division, Northwest Fisheries Science Center, National Marine Fisheries Service, NOAA, 2725 Montlake Blvd E, Seattle WA 98112, USA
  • d Ocean Acidification Program, Office of Oceanic and Atmospheric Research and Northwest Fisheries Science Center, National Marine Fisheries Service, NOAA, 2725 Montlake Blvd E, Seattle WA 98112, USA
  • e CSIRO Oceans and Atmosphere, GPO Box 1538, Hobart, Tasmania 7001, Australia
  • f Centre for Marine Socioecology, University of Tasmania, 20 Castray Esplanade, Hobart, Tasmania 7004, Australia
  • g NOAA Pacific Marine Environmental Laboratory, 7600 Sand Point Way NE, Seattle WA 98115, USA
  • h Joint Institute for the Study of the Atmosphere and Ocean, University of Washington, 3737 Brooklyn Ave NE, Seattle, WA 98105, USA

Abstract

Marine ecosystems are experiencing rapid changes driven by anthropogenic stressors which, in turn, are affecting human communities. One such stressor is ocean acidification, a result of increasing carbon emissions. Most research on biological impacts of ocean acidification has focused on the responses of an individual species or life stage. Yet, understanding how changes scale from species to ecosystems, and the services they provide, is critical to managing fisheries and setting research priorities. Here we use an ecosystem model, which is forced by oceanographic projections and also coupled to an economic input-output model, to quantify biological responses to ocean acidification in six coastal regions from Vancouver Island, Canada to Baja California, Mexico and economic responses at 17 ports on the US west coast. This model is intended to explore one possible future of how ocean acidification may influence this coastline. Outputs show that declines in species biomass tend to be larger in the southern region of the model, but the largest economic impacts on revenue, income and employment occur from northern California to northern Washington State. The economic consequences are primarily driven by declines in Dungeness crab from loss of prey. Given the substantive revenue generated by the fishing industry on the west coast, the model suggests that long-term planning for communities, researchers and managers in the northern region of the California Current would benefit from tracking Dungeness crab productivity and potential declines related to pH.

 

Access to full article can be found here: https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0304380018301856

Mar 12 2018

West Coast waters returning to normal but salmon catches lagging

Fish school around a drill rig off Southern California. A new report says West Coast waters are returning to normal after warm temperatures shook up the food web. Credit: Adam Obaza/West Coast Region/NOAA Fisheries

Ocean conditions off most of the U.S. West Coast are returning roughly to average, after an extreme marine heat wave from about 2014 to 2016 disrupted the California Current Ecosystem and shifted many species beyond their traditional range, according to a new report from NOAA Fisheries’ two marine laboratories on the West Coast. Some warm waters remain off the Pacific Northwest, however.

The Southwest Fisheries Science Center and Northwest Fisheries Science Center presented their annual “California Current Ecosystem Status Report” to the Pacific Fishery Management Council at the Council’s meeting in Rohnert Park, Calif., on Friday, March 9. The California Current encompasses the entire West Coast marine ecosystem, and the report informs the Council about and trends in the ecosystem that may affect marine species and fishing in the coming year.

“The report gives us an important glimpse at what the science is saying about the species and resources that we manage and rely on in terms of our West Coast economy,” said Phil Anderson of Westport, Wash., the Council Chair. “The point is that we want to be as informed as we can be when we make decisions that affect those species, and this report helps us do that.”

Unusually warm temperatures, referred to as “the Blob,” encompassed much of the West Coast beginning about 2014, combining with an especially strong El Nino pattern in 2015. The warm conditions have now waned, although some after-effects remain.

Salmon catches off the West Coast are likely to remain low in the next few years, until new generations of salmon can benefit from improving conditions Credit: NOAA Fisheries/West Coast Region

  • Feeding conditions have improved for California sea lions and seabirds that experienced mass die-offs caused by shifts in their prey during the Blob.
  • Plankton species, the foundation of the marine food web, have shifted back slightly toward fat-rich, cool-water species that improve the growth and survival of and other fish.
  • Recent research surveys have found fewer , and consequently adult salmon returns will likely remain depressed for a few years until successive generations benefit from improving ocean conditions.
  • Reports of whale entanglements in fishing gear have remained very high for the fourth straight year, as whales followed prey to inshore areas and ran into fishing gear such as pots and traps.
  • Severe low-oxygen conditions in the ocean water spanned the Oregon Coast from July to September 2017, causing die-offs of crabs and other species.

Even as the effects of the Blob and El Nino dissipate, the central and southern parts of the West Coast face low snow pack and potential drought in 2018 that could put salmon at continued risk as they migrate back up rivers to spawn.

“Overall we’re seeing some positive signs, as the ocean returns to a cooler and generally more productive state,” said Toby Garfield, a research scientist and Acting Director of the Southwest Fisheries Science Center. “We’re fortunate that we have the data from previous years to help us understand what the trends are, and how that matters to West Coast fishermen and communities.”

NOAA Fisheries’ scientists compile the California Current Ecosystem Status Report from ocean surveys and other monitoring efforts along the West Coast. The tracking revealed “a climate system still in transition in 2017,” as surface ocean conditions return to near normal. Deeper water remained unusually warm, especially in the northern part of the California Current. Warm-water species, such as leaner plankton often associated with subtropical waters, have lingered in these more-northern zones.

Feeding conditions for California sea lions have improved off the West Coast, following several lean years that led to unusually high losses of sea lion pups. Credit: Sharon Melin/Alaska Fisheries Science Center/NOAA Fisheries

 

One of the largest and most extensive low-oxygen zones ever recorded off the West Coast prevailed off the Oregon Coast last summer, probably driven by low-oxygen water upwelled from the deep ocean, the report said.

While the cooling conditions off the West Coast began to support more cold-water plankton rich in the fatty acids that salmon need to grow, salmon may need more time to show the benefits, the report said. Juvenile salmon sampled off the Northwest Coast in 2017 were especially small and scarce, suggesting that poor feeding conditions off the Columbia River Estuary may remain.

Juvenile salmon that enter the ocean this year amid the gradually improving conditions will not return from the ocean to spawn in the Columbia and other rivers for another two years or more, so fishermen should not expect adult salmon numbers to improve much until then.

“These changes occur gradually, and the effects appear only with time,” said Chris Harvey, a fisheries biologist at the Northwest Fisheries Science Center and coauthor of the . “The advantage of doing this monitoring and watching these indicators is that we can get a sense of what is likely to happen in the ecosystem and how that is likely to affect communities and economies that are closely tied to these waters.”


Originally posted: https://phys.org/news/2018-03-west-coast-salmon-lagging.html

Nov 25 2017

Pacific Council Gives Preliminary Nod to Two Coastal Sardine and Other Pelagic Species Projects

November 22, 2017 — SEAFOOD NEWS — The Pacific Fishery Management Council last week approved for public review two exempted fishing permits that should help improve coastal pelagic species stock assessments.

Both projects would add more survey work to nearshore areas. Fishermen have identified schools of sardines, in particular, close to shore but accessing them for survey work has been a problem because the sardine season has been closed and NOAA ships cannot access shallow areas. Additionally, both proposals would build on the use of industry knowledge.

The California Wetfish Producers Association research project intends to sample CPS schools in the southern California Bight using aerial spotter pilots with camera systems to fly surveys close to shore and photo-document schools. At the same time, qualified purse seine vessels would capture a subset of the schools identified in the photographs as “point sets.” This would provide a way to address issues identified in the aerial survey methodology review. The survey period is scheduled for late August 2018.

According to the CWPA application, all fish captured, including sardines, would be processed and sold by participating processors, and fishermen will be paid for their catches at the usual rates. Aside from the sale of fish, processors would not be compensated for the extra labor they will incur in weighing and fully sorting each school individually and documenting species composition by school, rather than the normal procedure of offloading the entire catch and documenting by load.

“We strongly support these EFP projects to improve the accuracy of stock assessments. It should be noted that 70 percent or more of the CPS harvest in California occurs in the area inshore of NOAA acoustic surveys,” CWPA Executive Director Diane Pleschner-Steele said. “We are grateful to the California Department of Fish and Wildlife and Southwest Fishery Science Center for their help and recognition that surveying the nearshore is a high priority research and data need.”

Pacific Seafood’s Mike Okoniewski presented the Westport, Wash.-based West Coast Pelagic Conservation Group project to both the Council and the Scientific and Statistical Committee. The project is designed to provide supplementary data collection and additional sampling techniques for areas nearshore of the proposed 2018 NOAA/Southwest Fisheries Science Center acoustic-trawl survey, according to the group’s application. This research off of Washington and Oregon would continue and expand the 2017 collaborative effort in 2018 so that samples of CPS for species composition and individual fish metrics may be obtained through purse seine operations, according to Council documents.

Sampling would be done at the same general time and nearshore areas as the NOAA survey, the applicants stated. The coastal pelagic species (CPS) that will be retained in small amounts (e.g. 5kg to 25kg) for sampling will be dip-netted sardines, anchovies, and mackerel(s). The sample fish will be frozen and retained for identification and biological measurements to be performed by NOAA.

But unlike the southern EFP, no fish will be harvested for commercial purposes. Wrapped schools would be released alive, the applicants said.

“This collaboration will continue to support the already commendable efforts of the scientists, balancing it with industry knowledge of the fishing grounds,” Okoniewski said.

Both EFPs will add to current survey and stock assessment work, providing more robust data for the fisheries in the future. The Council’s Scientific and Statistical Committee and Coastal Pelagics Species Management Team supported the EFPs and suggested minor technical changes to each; both applicants plan to incorporate those suggestions prior to the Council’s and NMFS’ final approval in early 2018.

“The CPSMT recognizes the value of the EFP research proposed by both groups to improve CPS stock assessments by obtaining data that has not been attainable by other means,” the CPS Management Team said in its statement.

The Coastal Pelagic Species Advisory Subpanel also supported the projects. “[We are] encouraged that forward progress is now being made to develop effective survey methods for the nearshore area,” the panel said in its statement. “The CPSAS thanks CWPA, WCPCG and especially the SWFSC for acknowledging the data gaps in current surveys and helping to provide support and funding for cooperative surveys that will hopefully improve the accuracy of future CPS stock assessments.”


This story originally appeared on Seafoodnews.com, a subscription site. It is reprinted with permission.

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.