Archive for the View from the Ocean Category

Jul 12 2018

House Passes MSA Reauthorization with Support of NCFC Members

 

WASHINGTON — July 12, 2018 — The following was released by Saving Seafood’s National Coalition for Fishing Communities:

Yesterday the House passed H.R. 200, the Strengthening Fishing Communities and Increasing Flexibility in Fisheries Management Act, which modifies and reauthorizes the Magnuson-Stevens Act.

Members of Saving Seafood’s National Coalition for Fishing Communities from around the country have been invested in improving MSA for years, and weighed in with their comments and concerns at various points in this process.

Many of these concerns were addressed during the committee process and in the discussion of amendments. Several Members of Congress cited support from NCFC members for the bill during the debate on the House floor.

From Rep. Bradley Byrne of Alabama:


Let me tell you, there are over 170 groups that have signed on to being supportive of this bill. I do not have time to read all the names to you, but let me just read a few: the Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation…the National Coalition for Fishing Communities…and the Guy Harvey Foundation. This is a very broadly, deeply supported bill among people who are actually fishing. Now, it may not be supported by people who don’t fish and who don’t know anything about fishing, but for those of us who do fish…we like it.

From Rep. Garret Graves of Louisiana:

…Mr. Chairman, this bill is bipartisan. It’s why we have bipartisan support for this legislation. We have co-sponsors. It’s why the Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation, the National Coalition for Fishing Communities…American Scallop Association, Garden State Seafood Association, West Coast Seafood Processors Association, North Carolina Fisheries Association, Florida Keys Commercial Fishing Association, Gulf Coast Seafood Alliance, Southeastern Fisheries Association and many, many others that have a genuine stake in the sustainability of our fisheries [support this legislation].

In the debate over a proposed amendment from Reps. Jared Huffman of California and Alcee Hastings of Florida that would be detrimental to commercial fishing, Rep. Don Young of Alaska, author of the bill, quoted from a letter signed by several of our members and submitted the day before the vote. The amendment was ultimately defeated.

According to a letter authorized by the National Coalition for Fishing Communities…I want to submit for the record, if I could, the letter to the leadership of the House and to myself where they say… “We believe it will undermine the MSA, impede reforms that are desperately needed, and attack jobs in coastal communities around the country, including California and Florida,” the home states of Mr. Huffman and Mr. Hastings. I suggest this amendment is uncalled for and frankly will gut the bill and the MSA, period.


Original post: savingseafood.org

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 29 2018

Stuck on imports: U.S. seafood trade deficit increased in 2017

The U.S. imported more than 6 billion pounds of seafood valued at more than $21.5 billion in 2017. NOAA photo.

Samuel Hill  June 26, 2018

The United States imported more foreign seafood than ever in 2017, according to NOAA.

The U.S. imported more than 6 billion pounds of seafood valued at more than $21.5 billion in 2017. U.S. exports paled in comparison — more than 3.6 billion pounds of seafood were exported, valued at $5.4 billion.

According to NOAA, the United States imports more than 90 percent of the seafood the public consumes, despite its own active industry. The amount of seafood exported for processing and reimported is unknown, but considered “significant” by NOAA.

Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross has identified reducing this deficit as a priority for the government. One prominent strategy would be increasing the amount of aquaculture-based farming Jennie Lyons, a NOAA spokeswoman, told the Associated Press.

The United States trades in seafood with countries all over the world, and the countries it buys the most from include Canada, China and Chile. Major buyers of U.S. seafood include China, Japan and South Korea.

While markets in China have been growing, those markets are at risk as an all-out trade war seems plausible between China and the United States. On June 15, U.S. and Chinese officials announced a bundle of tariffs, each targeting the other nation’s exports.

President Donald Trump announced a 35 percent tariff on all Chinese goods containing “industrially significant technologies,” an estimated $50 billion worth of Chinese goods. China responded with retaliatory 25 percent tariff on various U.S. exports, including many seafood products. Roughly 170 seafood products have been targeted, including salmon, lobster, shrimp, cod, tuna, pollock, oysters, scallops, Dungeness and snow crab, blackcod and geoduck.

Seafood and fishing industry leaders from all U.S. coasts spoke out against the latest tariffs soon afterward, saying the policy will cost American jobs.


Original post: https://www.nationalfisherman.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 20 2018

Judge rules for Oceana in California anchovy dispute

Just how many anchovies are there off the northern coast of California and are there enough to fish commercially?

Environmental activist group Oceana and the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) have different answers to those questions, and a federal judge’s ruling recently favored Oceana’s view, reducing opportunities for California fishermen.

At issue is the science that NMFS relied on in reaching a 2016 decision to set the total allowable catch (TAC) for northern California anchovy at 25,000 metric tons. The agency set that limit — even though landings typically only total less than a third of that, 7,300t — judging the stock’s maximum sustainable yield to be 123,000t, and calculating an acceptable biological catch of 100,000t. The TAC was set, conservatively, the agency said, at a fourth of that level.

However, after the 2016 rule was adopted, Oceana sued NMFS in federal court arguing that the rule violated principles established in the the Magnuson-Stevens Act because the agency failed “to articulate the scientific basis for this catch limit”.

In January, judge Lucy Koh approved Oceana’s motion for summary judgment vacating the 25,000t TAC rule. NMFS had asked judge Koh to amend that judgement but last week, she declined to do so. When contacted by Undercurrent News, representatives of NMFS’ parent agency, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), said that its lawyers were reviewing the judgment. It has not decided if it will appeal.

NMFS is currently working on new assessments of the stock to inform future TAC decisions.

Precipitous decline?

In its lawsuit, Oceana, claiming that the anchovy stock had “declined precipitously”, argued that NMFS hadn’t conducted a stock assessment for the species since 1995 and that the true size of the northern anchovy biomass averaged between 10,000t to 15,000t from the 2009 to 2011 period.

It made this claim in part due to a piece of independent research authored by Alec MacCall, which looked at densities of anchovy eggs and larvae.

NMFS argued that that the MacCall study had shortcomings.

“These egg/larval data were collected by the California Cooperative Oceanic Fisheries in a fairly small portion of the range of the stock between San Diego and Point Conception, California,” NMFS lawyers argued, adding that the model used in the study did not take into account anchovies that didn’t spawn during the period studied or laid their eggs elsewhere.

But the judge wrote that “defendants’ arguments fail to discredit the MacCall Study”, and said that because the 25,000t TAC wasn’t based on “best available science”, it would be vacated.

Wetfish worries

Speaking to Undercurrent about the ruling, Diane Pleschner-Steele, the executive director of the California Wetfish Producers Association, also characterized the MacCall study as flawed. Her group’s members have seen a “huge abundance” of anchovy despite concerns that the stock has collapsed.

Pleschner-Steele said that her group worked last year with the California Department of Fish and Wildlife to perform an aerial survey of anchovy stocks.

“The department’s plane flew along the coast inside the area that the NOAA acoustic trawl survey was transecting at the same time, and our spotter pilot estimated tonnage of the schools he observed,” she wrote.   “We documented tens of thousands of tons of coastal pelagic species — both sardine and anchovy —  that the NOAA cruise did not see or factor into its assessment because they survey largely offshore and don’t come into nearshore waters.   This is now recognized as a problem, and we’re hopeful that we can improve stock assessments over time.”

The California ‘wetfish’ industry that traditionally relied on squid harvesting but supplements that fishery with anchovy, sardines and mackerel. Unfortunately for the fishermen, the sardine fishery has been closed to directed commercial fishing — although an incidental fishery is allowed — and mackerel landings have been low in recent years.

“Things are still pretty tenuous. Right now the only fishery we have is squid,” she said.

Original article:  https://www.undercurrentnews.com/ | Contact the author jason.smith@undercurrentnews.com

Jun 11 2018

Choice matters: The environmental costs of producing meat, seafood

Three beef heifers looking into the sun with blue sky background

Which food type is more environmentally costly to produce — livestock, farmed seafood, or wild-caught fish?

The answer is, it depends. But in general, industrial beef production and farmed catfish are the most taxing on the environment, while small, wild-caught fish and farmed mollusks like oysters, mussels and scallops have the lowest environmental impact, according to a new analysis.

Growing oysters at a farm in Thailand. jomkwan/Istock/Thinkstock

The study appears online June 11 in the journal Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment, and its authors believe it is the most comprehensive look at the environmental impacts of different types of animal protein production.

“From the consumer’s standpoint, choice matters,” said lead author Ray Hilborn, a University of Washington professor in the School of Aquatic and Fishery Sciences. “If you’re an environmentalist, what you eat makes a difference. We found there are obvious good choices, and really obvious bad choices.”

The study is based on nearly a decade of analysis, in which the co-authors reviewed hundreds of published life-cycle assessments for various types of animal protein production. Also called a “cradle-to-grave” analysis, these assessments look at environmental impacts associated with all stages of a product’s life.

Of the more than 300 such assessments that exist for animal food production, the authors selected 148 that were comprehensive and not considered too “boutique,” or specialized, to inform their new study.

As decisions are made about how food production expands through agricultural policies, trade agreements and environmental regulations, the authors note a “pressing need” for systematic comparisons of environmental costs across animal food types.

“I think this is one of the most important things I’ve ever done,” Hilborn said. “Policymakers need to be able to say, ‘There are certain food production types we need to encourage, and others we should discourage.’”

Broadly, the study uses four metrics as a way to compare environmental impacts across the many different types of animal food production, including farm-raised seafood (called aquaculture), livestock farming and seafood caught in the wild. The four measures are: energy use, greenhouse gas emissions, potential to contribute excess nutrients — such as fertilizer — to the environment, and the potential to emit substances that contribute to acid rain.

A fishing boat off the coast of Ireland.FrankMirgach/Istock/Thinkstock

The researchers compared environmental impacts across food types by using a standard amount of 40 grams of protein — roughly the size of an average hamburger patty, and the daily recommended protein serving. For example, they calculated how much greenhouse gas was produced per 40 grams of protein across all food types, where data were available.

“This method gives us a really consistent measurement people can relate to,” Hilborn said.

The analysis showed clear winners that had low environmental impacts across all measures, including farmed shellfish and mollusks, and capture fisheries such as sardines, mackerel and herring. Other capture fish choices with relatively low impact are whitefish like pollock, hake and the cod family. Farmed salmon also performed well. But the study also illuminated striking differences across animal proteins, and the researchers advise that consumers must decide what environmental impacts are most important to them when selecting their food choices.

Some of the additional findings include:

  • Overall, livestock production used less energy than most forms of seafood aquaculture. Farmed catfish, shrimp and tilapia used the most energy, mainly because constant water circulation must be powered by electricity.
  • Catfish aquaculture and beef produce about 20 times more greenhouse gases than farmed mollusks, small capture fisheries, farmed salmon and chicken.
  • Mollusk aquaculture — such as oysters, mussels and scallops — actually absorb excess nutrients that are harmful to ecosystems. In contrast, livestock beef production rated poorly in this measure, and capture fisheries consistently scored better than aquaculture and livestock because no fertilizer is used.
  • Because livestock emit methane in their manure, they performed poorly in the acid rain category. Farmed mollusks again performed the best, with small capture fisheries and salmon aquaculture close behind.
  • For capture fisheries, fuel to power fishing boats is the biggest factor, and differences in fuel use created a large range of performance in the greenhouse gas category. Using a purse sein net to catch small schooling fish like herring and anchovy uses the least fuel and, perhaps surprisingly, pot fisheries for lobster use a great deal of fuel and thus have a high impact per unit of protein produced. Dragging nets through water, known as trawling, is quite variable and the impact appears to be related to the abundance of the fish. Healthy stocks take less fuel to capture.
  • When compared to other studies of vegetarian and vegan diets, a selective diet of aquaculture and wild capture fisheries has a lower environmental impact than either of the plant-based diets.

In the future, the researchers plan to look at biodiversity impacts as another way to measure environmental costs. The analysis also mentions a range of other environmental impacts such as water demand, pesticide use, antibiotic use and soil erosion that were addressed in some of the studies they reviewed, but not consistently enough to summarize in the study.

Co-authors are Jeannette Banobi, a former UW research assistant in aquatic and fishery sciences; Teresa Pucylowski and Tim Walsworth, former UW graduate students; and Stephen Hall of Avalerion Capital.

The study was partially funded by the Seafood Industry Research Fund.

###

For more information, contact Hilborn at rayh@uw.edu.

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 18 2018

Status of Stocks 2017 Report to Congress–Number of overfished stocks hit all time low

 

NOAA Fisheries is pleased to release the annual report to congress on the Status of U.S. Fisheries, which summarizes the progress the nation has made in ending overfishing, rebuilding historically overfished stocks, and helping our fishing communities succeed. The report and supporting materials are available online on the NOAA Fisheries’ website, along with a message from Chris Oliver, Assistant Administrator for Fisheries.

Briefly, the 2017 Status of U.S. Fisheries reflects the collective and continuing progress in rebuilding stocks. It also finds that the number of stocks on the overfished list is at an all-time low, and stocks on the overfishing list remain near all-time lows. In 2017, 91 percent of stocks were not subject to overfishing and 87 percent of stocks were not overfished. We are also pleased to report that last year, three additional stocks were rebuilt: bocaccio (Southern Pacific Coast), darkblotched rockfish (Pacific Coast), and Pacific ocean perch (Pacific Coast). This brings the total stocks rebuilt since 2000 to 44. 

This report continues to highlight the success that can be achieved using sound science, innovative management approaches, effective enforcement, meaningful partnerships, and robust public participation. Under the Magnuson-Stevens Act, the United States has become an international leader in fisheries management. Our dynamic, science-based management process is proving successful in ending overfishing and rebuilding stocks, and in helping us attain significant benefits to the U.S. economy.