Posts Tagged California

Apr 8 2015

D.B. Pleschner: Sardines are not being overfished

 

In recent weeks, sardines have been a hot news topic again. Environmental groups like Oceana complain that the sardine population is collapsing just like it did in the mid-1940s. They blame “overfishing” as the reason and maintain that the fishery should be shut down completely.

Today, in truth, Pacific sardines are perhaps the best-managed fishery in the world — the poster fish for effective ecosystem-based management. The current harvest control rule — established in 2000 and updated last year with more accurate science — sets a strict harvest guideline that considers ocean conditions and automatically reduces the catch limit as the biomass declines.

If the temperature is cold — which hampers sardine recruitment — the harvest rate is low. And if the population size decreases, both the harvest rate and the allowable catch automatically decrease.

Current management sets aside a 150,000 metric ton reserve off the top of the stock assessment and automatically closes the directed fishery when the biomass estimate falls below that level, which it did in the latest stock assessment, after four years of abnormally cold La Niña ocean conditions.

In fact, the truth is much more complicated than environmentalists would lead you to believe. It’s inaccurate and disingenuous to compare today’s fishery management with the historic sardine fishery collapse that devastated Monterey’s Cannery Row.

In the 1940s and ‘50s, the fishery harvest averaged more than 43 percent of the standing sardine stock. Plus, there was little regulatory oversight and no limit on the annual catch.

Today, based on the latest stock assessment, the U.S. exploitation rate has averaged about 11 percent, ranging as low as 6 percent, since the return of federal management in 2000.

Here’s where complications begin because scientists recognize two stocks on the West Coast: the northern or “cold” stock ranges from northern Baja California to Canada during warm-water oceanic cycles and retracts during cold-water cycles.

A southern or “temperate” stock ranges from southern Baja to San Pedro, in Southern California. The federal Pacific Fishery Management Council manages only the northern stock.

Doing the math, our current fishery harvest is less than one-quarter of the rate observed during the historical sardine collapse.

In fact, the current sardine harvest rule is actually more precautionary than the original rule it replaced. It does this by producing an average long-term population size at 75 percent of the unfished size, leaving even more fish in the water, vs. 67 percent in the original rule. The original harvest rule reduced the minimum harvest rate to 5 percent during cold periods. The present has a minimum rate of 0 percent during cold periods.

The so-called “sardine crash due to overfishing” mantra now peddled by Oceana isn’t anything of the sort. It’s simply natural fluctuations in biomass that follow the changing conditions of the ocean, reflected in part by sea temperature.

In April, the council will discuss the most recent sardine assessment report and decide on future management measures. It is important to understand that the sardine stock assessment is a conservative estimate based on acoustic surveys that miss sardines in the upper 10 meters of the water column, above the down-looking acoustic transducer, and in shallow near-shore waters where survey vessels cannot go. It’s really a question of scale, fishermen say. While they acknowledge sardines’ downward trend, fishermen question the accuracy of the total number of sardines that the stock assessment estimates.

California’s wetfish industry relies on a complex of coastal pelagic species including mackerels, anchovy and market squid as well as sardines. Sardines typically school with all these species, so a small allowance of sardine caught incidentally in these other fisheries will be necessary to keep wetfish boats fishing and processors’ doors open.

Sardines are critically important to California’s historic wetfish industry as well as the Golden State. This industry produces on average 80 percent of total fishery landings, and close to 40 percent of dockside value. A total prohibition on sardine landings could curtail the wetfish industry and seriously harm California’s fishing economy.

D.B. Pleschner is executive director of the California Wetfish Producers Association, a nonprofit dedicated to research and to promote sustainable wetfish resources.


 

Posted in http://www.montereyherald.com 04/04/15

Mar 13 2015

Trawling has “negligible” effect on soft-bottom

petralesolePetrale sole, a flatfish caught by trawling on soft-bottom seafloor. Credit: The Nature Conservancy

A groundbreaking new study recently conducted by California fishermen, The Nature Conservancy and CSU Monterey Bay indicates that bottom trawling only has a “negligible effect” on the seafloor and fish habitat in certain types of soft sea bottom.

Trawling is continually criticised by environmental advocates for the damage it causes to rocky marine habitats and the long-lived animals that occur in them. However, important questions remain about the extent of any damage to sandy and muddy environments.

During the three-year study, fishermen trawled patches of the ocean floor off Morro Bay. Those areas were analysed by underwater photos and video and compared with nearby areas that were untouched.

Their peer-reviewed work, published in the Fishery Bulletin, found that California’s largely soft-bottom seafloor saw little lasting impacts from trawling with a small-footrope trawl.

The researchers say that their study adds to a growing body of literature from around the world showing trawling impacts are context-dependent – the impacts depend on the type of gear used, the types of habitats trawled and how often trawling occurs.

The scientists point out that their study does not imply that all soft-bottom habitats should be open to trawling; but, with new research and technology, “we can fine-tune our fishery regulations to protect truly vulnerable habitats.”

One of the researchers, Dr. James Lindholm has been studying marine ecosystems for 20 years and this autumn he will conduct a similar experiment off Half Moon Bay using trawling nets of different sizes. Commercial fishermen will also be involved.


Read the original post: www.worldfishing.net

Mar 12 2015

OSU and NOAA Researchers Expect Low Oxygen Waters to Expand off West Coast Affecting Fisheries

Copyright © 2015 Seafoodnews.com | Posted with permission

Seafood News

SEAFOODNEWS.COM [SeafoodNews] – March 12, 2015

When low-oxygen “dead zones” began appearing off the Oregon Coast in the early 2000’s, photos of the ocean floor revealed bottom-dwelling crabs that could not escape the suffocating conditions and died by the thousands.

But the question everyone asked was, “What about the fish?” recalls Oregon State University oceanographer Jack Barth. “We didn’t really know the impacts on fish. We couldn’t see them.”

Scientists from NOAA Fisheries’ Northwest Fisheries Science Center and Oregon State have begun to answer that question with a new paper published in the journal Fisheries Oceanography. The paper finds that low-oxygen waters projected to expand with climate change create winners and losers among fish, with some adapted to handle low-oxygen conditions that drive other species away.

Generally the number of fish species declines with oxygen levels as sensitive species leave the area, said Aimee Keller, a fisheries biologist at the Northwest Fisheries Science Center and lead author of the new paper. But a few species such as Dover sole and greenstriped rockfish appear largely unaffected.

“One of our main questions was, ‘Are there fewer species present in an area when the oxygen drops?’ and yes, we definitely see that,” Keller said. “As it goes lower and lower you see more and more correlation between species and oxygen levels.”

Deep waters off the West Coast have long been known to be naturally low in oxygen. But the new findings show that the spread of lower oxygen conditions, which have been documented closer to shore and off Washington and California, could redistribute fish in ways that affect fishing fleets as well as the marine food chain.

The lower the oxygen levels, for example, the more effort fishing boats will have to invest to find enough fish.

“We may see fish sensitive to oxygen levels may be pushed into habitat that’s less desirable and they may grow more slowly in those areas,” Keller said.

Researchers examined the effect of low-oxygen waters with the help of West Coast trawl surveys conducted every year by the Northwest Fisheries Science Center to assess the status of groundfish stocks. They developed a sturdy, protective housing for oxygen sensors that could be attached to the trawl nets to determine what species the nets swept up in areas of different oxygen concentrations.


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Jan 16 2015

The Pacific Sardine Fishery: Then and Now

giantkelpSardines and giant kelp, Channel Islands

The Pacific sardine (Sardinops sagax caerulea) is a small pelagic fish found throughout the Pacific Ocean. In California, the Pacific sardine fishery has historically been one of the largest commercial fisheries in the state. The fishery began in the early 1900s, peaked in the late 1930s, and then declined rapidly in the 1940s during a well-known population downturn fueled by oceanic regime changes and fishing pressure. A moratorium was placed on the Pacific sardine fishery from 1967 to 1986. Then, beginning in the 1990s, Pacific sardine landings increased as the population recovered.

Today, the Pacific sardine fishery continues to contribute to California’s economy. In 2013, the fishery for Pacific sardine was the fourth largest commercial fishery in the state of California by volume. These landings were valued at over $1.5 million dollars.

pacificsardinePacific sardine

Since 2000, the commercial fishery off California, Oregon, and Washington has been managed by the Pacific Fishery Management Council under the Coastal Pelagic Species Fishery Management Plan. The commercial fishing season for Pacific sardine runs from July 1 through June 30 of the following year. The season is split up into three periods: July 1 – September 14, September 15 – December 31, and January 1 – June 30, each with an assigned harvest limit. Based on 2014 landings information to date from the second period (September 15- December 31), the preliminary harvest amount for the third period (January 1 – June 30, 2015) will be 5,084 metric tons.

For more information about coastwide Pacific sardine landings, please visit the NOAA Fisheries Pacific sardine landings web page. For more information about Pacific sardine history, research, and management, please visit CDFW’s Pacific sardine web page.


Original post by Anna Holder, CDFW Environmental Scientist  — CDFW file photos

Dec 12 2014

Dungeness landings likely down 50% in California, 40% in Oregon; lowest volumes in 8 years

Posted with permission of SEAFOODNEWS.COM | by John Sackton December 11, 2014

 

The crabs are great.  Its just that there aren’t that many of them.

The Oregon Dungeness fishery opened on time on December 1st, after a short season in the San Francisco Bay area, called district 10.

But boats are simply not finding many crabs.

dungeness-estimateGraph: Seafood Datasearch, based on state and federal data

One fishermen, describing the northern California / Oregon fishery which opened December 1st, said “North of District 10 was the worst opener I can remember.  We knew it would be bad, but not this bad.”

Larger vessels that have the ability to move to other fisheries are now leaving the crab fishery, as the catch rates can no longer support their operations.

Meanwhile, the price at the dock has risen to $3.50, and most packers have extended that retroactively back to December 1st, when the fishery opened with an initial price of $3.10.

The upshot is that harvesters are now predicting the Oregon fishery to be down about 40% from last years 14.3 million pounds, and California is likely to be down 50%.

This means that coast wide, certainly for December and Janaury, it is looking like the lowest total landings for dungeness in the last eight years.

Hugh Link, Executive Director of the Oregon Dungeness Crab Commission, said fishermen keep records and know if they are up or down year over year, and that he definitely has the sense that there are fewer Dungeness crabs coming into pots this year, even though fish tickets are still being tallied from the first few days of the season.

Meat fill has been excellent, the fishery opened on time, and there was agreement on price. Only the crabs have not shown up.

The fishery is highly cyclical, so it is quite likely in a few years we will again be talking about heavy supplies of Dungeness.  But for this year, the section and crabmeat supplies will be very tight, and what crab is landed later in the year should be going mainly to the live market.


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Dec 9 2014

NGO critics of California’s sardine rules miss that better science mean conservative management

Seafood NewsPublished with permission of SEAFOODNEWS.COM

By D. B. Pleschner [Opinion]  Dec 8, 2014

Recently the Pacific Fishery Management Council voted to change the sardine harvest control rule, increasing the upper limit of the sardine harvest fraction from 15 to 20 percent. The decision came after an exhaustive set of scientific workshops and analysis involving more than 60 people, held over the past two years to respond to a research paper that suggested that sea surface temperature (SST) measured at Scripps Pier in southern California, which had been employed as a proxy for sardine recruitment, was no longer correlated with recruitment success.

But apparently this fact was lost on environmental activists, who cried foul to the media, claiming that sardines are crashing, and the management response to the crisis is to just fish harder.

Claims that the Council voted for a more aggressive fishing rate miss the point: nothing could be further from the truth. But the truth is complicated.

We know that California’s sardine population is strongly influenced by ocean temperatures: warmer waters tend to increase sardine productivity, while colder waters tend to decrease it.

“The northern sardine stock has been declining for several years due to poor recruitment, and there is concern that it will decline further in the next couple of years, ” says Dr. Richard Parrish, one of the authors of the original sardine control rule. “Although no one can predict the environmental conditions that will occur in the future, the pessimistic view is that the northern stock will continue to decline and the optimistic view is that the present warm water conditions will herald increased recruitment. “

“Whichever occurs first, ” he adds, “the past, present and management team-­‐ recommended sardine harvest control rules were all designed to automatically regulate the exploitation rates both by reducing the quota and reducing the harvest rates as the stock declines, and by shutting down the fishery if the biomass falls below 150,000 mt. ”

The original sardine analysis, made in 1998, was updated by a new analysis that found offshore sea temperatures slightly better correlated with sardine productivity than the measurements made at Scripps Pier. Population simulations made with the updated information that included the population increase in recent decades show that the sardine stock is about 50% more productive than thought in 1998. The management team therefore recommended raising the upper bound of fishing fraction from 15 to 20 percent to account for the new best available science.

But that doesn’t mean that the catch quota for the coming year will be raised. This is a long-­‐term harvest control rule that simply follows better scientific modeling efforts.

The new rules will determine fishing rate just as before: If the temperature is cold, the harvest will be kept low; if the population size decreases both the harvest rate and the allowable catch will automatically decrease. In fact the new sardine harvest rule proposed by the sardine management team and enacted by the Council is actually more precautionary than the original rule it is replacing. It does this by producing an average long-­‐term population size at 75 percent of the unfished size, leaving even more fish in the water, vs. 67 percent in the original rule.

The original harvest rule reduced the minimum harvest rate to 5 percent during cold periods. The present, very complicated rule, has a minimum rate of 0 percent during cold periods.

What’s more, the harvest fraction will only be applied after subtracting 150,000 mt from the sardine biomass estimated in the next year’s stock assessment. The new harvest rule will still keep fishing limits low in cold-­‐water, low-­‐biomass conditions. The fraction won’t increase unless and until field surveys demonstrate more sardines and the ocean temperature increases substantially above recent levels.

Bottom line: The California sardine may be the best-­‐managed fishery of its type in the world -­‐ the poster fish for effective ecosystem-­‐based management.

D. B. Pleschner is Executive Director of the California Wetfish Producers Association, a nonprofit dedicated to research and to promote sustainable wetfish resources.


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Dec 8 2014

Squid harvest has been bountiful in Monterey Bay

logo-extra-large

Fans of calamari have much to be thankful for this holiday season.

The squid fishery in California remains robust, and this year’s catch has been unusually strong in Monterey Bay. In a typical season only about 20 percent of market squid are caught off Northern California. But this squid season – which runs from April to March – more than half of the state’s catch have come from north and central coast waters.

“We really had quite a banner year,” said Monterey harbormaster Stephen Scheiblauer.

By initial estimates, at least 75 percent of the northern California squid catch came from waters in and around Monterey Bay. Scientists and squid fishermen do not fully understand the reason for this flip.

“For Monterey, it was amazing,” said Diane Pleschner-Steele, executive director of the California Wetfish Producers Association.

There have been other seasons where northern California outshone southern California in squid hauls. But, since 1980, all of those years have preceded or fallen during El Nino climate shifts, which bring warm water to the California coast, starting with southern California and moving north. It’s believed squid follow the cooler water.

“These squid really respond to ocean conditions,” said Pleschner-Steele.

The state is not currently in an El Nino pattern. But, it is possible that recent El Nino-like shifts in ocean conditions drove market squid further north.

“The last couple of years, especially in northern California, have been good for squid,” said Neil Guglielmo, captain of the 70-foot fishing vessel Triumphal.

Since squid season began April 1, commercial boats have hauled nearly 60,000 tons of market squid through northern California ports, with a dock value of approximately $38.3 million. This is the largest squid season north of Point Conception in history and more than double the previous record set in the 2002-2003 season. This year, Eureka reported its first squid landings.

“We fished squid this year where we never fished before,” said Guglielmo.

For much of this season, Guglielmo took the Triumphal from its home port near Ventura up the coast to Monterey and points further north to haul in squid. He reported squid as far north as Crescent City.

“We just followed them up there,” said Guglielmo. “There was so much squid.”

This season was also a record for Monterey Bay, with an estimated 45,000 tons of squid caught in its waters, according to marine biologist Briana Brady with the California Department of Fish and Wildlife.

These record hauls also bring welcome economic benefits to ports. The local squid industry supports approximately 1,500 seasonal and full-time jobs, according to Scheiblauer. Ten squid fishing boats are based in Moss Landing and Monterey. In addition to landing fees at wharfs and the dock value of catches, the squid season brings economic benefits in the form of room and board for crew, fuel for boats, ice, cold storage facilities, transportation and processing for each boat’s catch. The Monterey area includes three resident buyers for squid.

“They’re still a big part of our culture and economy,” Scheiblauer said.

Ample food supplies and undisturbed spawning grounds help sustain market squid along the California coast. But, based on past squid fishing seasons, their numbers can still fluctuate along 10-15 year cycles, according to Brady.

Market squid are relatively small, often measuring about a foot in length, and prefer to eat small invertebrates, plankton or each other. Their short 6-10 month lifespan makes it difficult for biologists to estimate the size of the entire market squid population off of California to manage the fishery sustainably.

Instead, beginning in the last decade, regulators crafted a squid fishery management policy around a handful of core regulations. No more than 118,000 tons of squid can be harvested in California waters during the annual season. This limit was based off of annual squid harvests in the late 1990s and early 2000s.

“We’re happy with that maximum cap,” said Pleschner-Steele. “It’s a good, conservative number.”

The state also uses a limited-entry permit system for squid fishing to control the number of fishing boats in California waters. In addition, marine protected areas in southern California and Monterey Bay keep approximately one-third of squid spawning grounds along the coast off limits to fishing. Finally, no commercial vessel may fish for squid between noon Friday and noon Sunday. This weekly moratorium gives squid in non-protected areas opportunities to spawn, according to Scheiblauer.

As of Nov. 20, the statewide catch for market squid is nearly 115,000 tons. Since the maximum squid harvest cannot exceed 118,000 tons, this season is drawing to an early close. Under a voluntary co-management agreement between the squid fishing industry and Fish and Wildlife, larger fishing vessels ceased harvesting squid last month so smaller boats can “mop up” the remaining allotment of squid.

Based on reports from squid fishermen, this year there will still be plenty of squid left behind. But, in the wake of this season’s unusual squid bounty for northern California, no one is willing to predict what might be in store for next year. In two previous El Nino cycles, desolate squid harvests in northern California followed one or two years of largesse.

“You could have a boom year like this year and next year there’ll be nothing,” said Scheiblauer.

But, even after those turbulent oscillations, the squid fishery stabilized around a sustainable mean. That long-term trend gives others cause for cautious optimism.

“If the water doesn’t go crazy,” said Guglielmo, “I think we’ll be fine.”

James Urton can be reached at 726-4453.


Read original article here.

Dec 8 2014

NOAA: Don’t Count On El Niño To Bring Drought Relief In California

temps

It’s less likely an El Niño event will bring rain to parched California farms next fall or winter.

The forecast released Thursday from the Climate Prediction Center (National National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration) said the chance of El Niño is about 70 percent during the Northern Hemisphere this summer and is close to 80 percent during the fall and early winter.

But Michelle Mead, Warning Coordination Meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Sacramento said the chance of a strong El Niño is not favored and forecasters anticipate El Niño will peak at weak-to-moderate strength during the late fall and early winter.

She said for Northern California and the San Joaquin Valley, the best estimate is for a weak to moderate event. Mead said there is little correlation between weak-to-moderate El Niño events and above-normal rainfall.

“El Niño right now is not looking like a slam dunk as far as helping us with our drought scenario,” said Mead.

Mead said if there is a strong El Niño it would means an increased chance of rain for California, but mostly for Southern California. But she said, even that is unlikely.

“The latest forecast ensemble models are actually indicating that the type of El Niño that could develop would be weak to slightly moderate and there’s no guarantee that Southern California will see increased precipitation,” said Mead.

model

 UC Davis researchers say “the drought is likely to stretch to a fourth straight year, through 2015, if not longer – regardless of El Niño conditions.”

“El Niño only means potential for at or above normal precipitation and we are so far behind in precipitation that even if we get normal amounts for next year it would not end the drought,” said Mead.

But she said flooding can happen very quickly, even during drought.

“You can actually have a drought scenario where one or two strong Pacific storms move in and small creeks and streams can rise quickly,” said Mead. “There won’t be a big influx of moisture and people should continue to conserve water.”

The term El Niño refers to the large-scale ocean-atmosphere climate phenomenon linked to a periodic warming in sea-surface temperatures across the central and east-central equatorial Pacific (between approximately the date line and 120oW), according to NOAA.

El Niño represents the warm phase of the El Niño/Southern Oscillation (ENSO) cycle, and is sometimes referred to as a Pacific warm episode.

NOAA said the term originally referred to an annual warming of sea-surface temperatures along the west coast of tropical South America.

El Niño events can bring flooding to some countries and drought to other countries.


 

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Dec 5 2014

Study: California Drought Most Severe Dry Spell in at least 1,200 Years

Almaden

A car sits in dried and cracked earth of what was the bottom of the Almaden Reservoir south of San Jose on Jan. 28. (Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

California’s current drought is pretty exceptional — like the driest in about a millennium — according to an article published today in the journal Geophysical Research Letters by scientists with the University of Minnesota and Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution in Massachusetts.

But how could they know that? There weren’t a lot of rain gauges in California in 800 A.D. — at least, not the plastic kind.

So authors Daniel Griffin and Kevin Anchukaitis looked to tree-ring samples from California blue oaks.

“California’s old blue oaks are as close to nature’s rain gauges as we get,” said Griffin, a NOAA Climate and Global Change Fellow with Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution. “They thrive in some of California’s driest environments.”

The researchers collected their own blue oak tree-ring samples from south and central California, giving them a pretty good idea of yearly precipitation in the area back to 1293. They then augmented their samples with data from the North American Drought Atlas and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Palmer Drought Severity Index.

The result: The study estimates that in the past 1,200 years, there have been 66 dry periods lasting three-to-nine years and 37 more-severe, three-year droughts. But not one of them has been as extreme as the one beginning in 2012, despite some years in the past seeing similarly low precipitation.

It’s not only lack of rain that makes a drought, though. Record-high temperatures added to California’s strife to make this dry spell the worst in more than 1,000 years, according to the study. The researchers estimate high temperatures have intensified the drought by about 36 percent.

UC Berkeley geology professor and researcher Lynn Ingram said the study’s findings appear solid.

“The tree-ring records provide the highest resolution as they have annual growth layers,” she said, adding the study provides a “cautionary lesson” about how human-caused warming “may already be impacting climate and water in California.”

Watch the California drought progress from the beginning of 2011 to the end of 2014 below. The NOAA U.S. Drought Monitor released the latest outlook today, up-to-date as of Dec. 2. More than half the state is now in “exceptional drought,” defined as “exceptional and widespread crop/pasture losses; shortages of water in reservoirs, streams, and wells creating water emergencies.”


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Nov 25 2014

Commercial Dungeness Crab Season Opens Dec. 1 in Northern California

cdfw

The northern California Dungeness crab season will open at 12:01 a.m. on Monday, Dec. 1, 2014 north of the Sonoma-Mendocino county line.

Prior to the season opening, commercial fishermen are allowed a 64-hour gear setting period. This year, crab trap gear can be set no earlier than 8 a.m. on Friday, Nov. 28.

Quality tests conducted in northern California in November indicate that California Dungeness crabs are ready for harvest. For the results from the pre-season quality tests, please visit the PSMFC website.

Oregon and Washington Dungeness crab seasons will also open on Dec. 1. The central California Dungeness crab season (Sonoma-Mendocino county line to Mexico border) opened on Nov. 15.

For more information on Dungeness crab, please visit the Invertebrate Management Project web page.