Posts Tagged conservation

Sep 3 2014

In massive nod to success of West Coast industry and managers, Monterey Aquarium upgrades 21 species

Copyright © 2014 Seafoodnews.com – Posted with permission from SEAFOODNEWS.COM

SEAFOODNEWS.COM by John Sackton – Sept 3, 2014

In a massive nod to the success of US fishery managers, Monterey Bay Aquarium has upgraded its consumer guide on 21 west coast groundfish and rockfish species.

It now says all of these species – including sable fish, many species of rockfish sold as snapper in California, the various species of flatfish and other bottom trawl fish including Dover sole, petrale sole, starry flounder and sand dabs,  are rated either ‘best choice’ or ‘good alternative’.
“This is one of the great success stories about ecological and economic recovery of a commercially important fishery,” said Margaret Spring, vice president of conservation and science, and chief conservation officer for the Monterey Bay Aquarium.
Although Monterey Bay calls this “the most dramatic turnaround to date’, it actually reflects business as usual for the US fishery management system.
The West Coast groundfish fisheries were declared an economic disaster early in 2000, when landings and fishing income plummeted.  Many species were listed as being overfished, and in some cases bycatch limits on types of rockfish came down to virtually single fish.
“The turnaround in such a short time is unprecedented,” said Jennifer Dianto Kemmerly, director of the Seafood Watch program. “Fishermen, federal agencies and our environmental colleagues have put so much effort into groundfish recovery, and now we’re seeing the results of their work.”

In fact, the credit should go to the Pacific Fisheries Management Council, the Pacific States Marine Fisheries Commission, NMFS, and the industry that worked with them, along with the rationalization program that allowed for effort reductions to make the fishery more economically viable.
Although the Aquarium as an NGO credits the changes to the Magnuson act in 2006, actually the seeds of the recovery were planted much earlier.  The West coast and Alaska fisheries operated with hard TAC’s long before they became mandatory across the entire U.S.

Like other US fisheries management success stories, the recovery of West Coast groundfish and rockfish species relies on two primary principles that have been fully embraced by the seafood industry:
*scientifically set quotas for the total allowable catch, and
*comprehensive bycatch management based on industry formed cooperatives and real time bycatch reporting.

A third factor, beyond anyone’s control, has been the favorable environmental conditions on the West Coast that have allowed for stock recovery once the other two actions were in place.

Unfortunately, where the environmental conditions move against a fishery – as is happening in New England cod, the best fisheries science in the world cannot speed up a recovery.  However, fish history is replete with many species suffering declines to near zero abundance, and then recovering sharply as conditions improve.   Haddock in New England is a prime example, with the biomass recovering to levels not seen seen in 40 years.

In future articles we will document more about how this recovery took place, and the hard work that went into it.  But like the rooster who thought he caused the sun to rise, it is important for buyers to recognize that the rooster – in this case the Aquarium’s Seafood Watch – is announcing an event that was brought about through scientific management  and industry cooperation and discipline.

That is why for the seafood industry, it is great to have the recognition, whether it be MSC or the Aquarium or other recommend lists, but just like the rooster and the sunrise, the accolades are for the work we’ve already done, they are not the cause of the success.


John Sackton, Editor And Publisher
SeafoodNews.com 1-781-861-1441
Email comments to jsackton@seafood.com

Copyright © 2014 Seafoodnews.com

Aug 29 2014

Bigger marine reserve isn’t better

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By Jerry Fraser, publisher, National Fisherman

The proposal that would create the world’s largest marine reserve is a poor idea whose time, sadly, has likely come.

President Obama wants to expand the Pacific Remote Islands Marine National Monument, so designated by his predecessor, from about 80,000 square miles to upward of 750,000.

Leaders in the U.S. Pacific Territories have spoken out against the plan, which would ban fishing, resource exploration, and other economic activities. So have the chair and co-chair of the Western Pacific Regional Fishery Management Council, among others, as seen in the video below, but I expect their entreaties will fall on deaf ears.

Marine reserves are not inherently bad, but they must be justified by — and measured against — specific conservation objectives. “Greater protections of our beloved ocean,” as cited by petitioners in favor of expanding the monument, is not an especially rigorous standard.

Indeed, in this case the precautions offered by a reserve are dubious. Conservationists describe the waters as pristine, which implies that any human activity that has taken place over the years has had no deleterious effect. And you’re banning fishing… why?

The impacts on local fishermen as well as our distant water tuna fleet will be real and adverse. Islanders who oppose an expanded monument know very well it will mean economic losses to local fisheries and the stifling of the traditional Pacific Islands fishing culture that has sustained local communities for centuries.

Yet their voices are countered not with data, but with sentiment: “Together we can push for the fullest expansion and the fullest protection of one of America’s natural wonders,” writes Frances Beinecke of the Natural Resources Defense Council.

George W. Bush erred when his administration fashioned the monument, and Obama has erred in proportion. Unfortunately, the times and the tides are against us.

Watch the WPRFMC Press Conference video: http://vimeo.com/99262265

 

Dec 24 2013

California fishers say quota system is all wet

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The skipper of a fishing boat that has trawled Monterey Harbor for decades says he’s been docked since spring, unable to earn a living.

Jiri Nozicka says a federal quota system enacted to protect both fish and the commercial fishing industry has problems that he can’t navigate.

“How do I plan anything?” he asked, recently standing on the deck of the San Giovanni. “I can’t. It’s impossible.”

He’s not alone in criticizing the “catch shares” system and calling for changes. Commercial fishers, industry experts and government officials are among those who say that while fish populations are recovering, too few people in California are benefiting from that rebound in part because there aren’t enough qualified monitors to oversee the program.

“Financially, I can only say that multiple trips have been cancelled due to a lack of availability of these monitors, millions of pounds of fish have not been caught, processed and sold to markets and this is a loss of millions of dollars,” said Michael Lucas, president of North Coast Fisheries Inc., in a letter to federal regulators.

After Pacific Coast groundfish populations dropped dramatically in 2000 a federal economic disaster was declared, leading to the strict new quota system. The goal was to boost populations of black cod and dover sole and to revive the flagging industry.

Read the full article here.

Oct 25 2013

Sustainable Seafood – A U.S. Success Story

NOAA   FishWatch

The United States is a recognized global leader in responsibly managed fisheries and sustainable seafood. And you can help too!

This video introduces consumers to FishWatch.gov, which provides easy-to-understand, science-based facts to help users make smart, sustainable seafood choices.

Through this video, you’ll learn more about “sustainability” and what NOAA is doing to ensure that our seafood is caught and farmed responsibly with consideration for the health of a species, the environment, and the livelihoods of the people that depend on them.

Have you ever thought about where that piece of salmon on your plate came from? It could have been caught in a wild fishery or harvested from an aquaculture operation. Maybe it’s from the United States, or maybe it was imported from another country, like Canada or Chile?

Read the full story here.

Sep 19 2013

Fishermen now the “right hand” of marine research

Sea Grant CA
Bycatch reduction, gear recovery and direct-seafood marketing are among the topics currently addressed through collaborative research with commercial and recreational fishermen.

Other projects examine rockfish populations within the Rockfish Conservation Areas; yellowtail movement patterns in Southern California, and spawning populations of night smelt along the North Coast.

All of the projects are unique in that fishermen are in some way directly involved with the research. They may have initiated the project’s basic concept, or they may be helping to collect data. In some cases, they are also helping analyze it. The unifying theme is that both anglers and commercial fishermen are engaged in work that often, previously has been isolated within academic or management circles.

California Sea Grant supports this innovative research through our partnership with the non-profit Collaborative Fisheries Research West, funded by the California Ocean Protection Council. California Sea Grant Extension specialists are lead investigators on several of the projects, as well.

The 12 projects listed below include both large, multi-year grants, with awards ranging from $206,000 to $242,000 plus matching funds, and mini grants, with awards at or below $25,000 plus matching funds.

Read the full article here.

Sep 10 2013

In the U.S., Good News on Fisheries

Discovery News
Around the world, the status of fish and fisheries is grim indeed. Approximately 85 percent of global fish stocks are either over-exploited, fully-exploited, depleted or recovering from depletion. But rigorous management efforts have resulted in some American fisheries making a comeback.

The new report by the National Research Council assessed 55 fisheries and found 10 that have been rebuilt and five that showed good progress toward rebuilding; only nine continue to experience overfishing. What about the rest? Eleven have not shown strong progress in rebuilding but are expected to rebuild if fishing levels remain reduced and a whopping 20 were not actually over-fished despite having been initially classified as such.

The report comes with a neat interactive online graphic to track the fate of fish populations in different regions over the years. By selecting particular species or geographic areas, users can watch, as for example, yelloweye rockfish becomes steadily overfished, as chinook salmon numbers – especially susceptible to changing environmental conditions – swing wildly back and forth, and the likes of lingcod, George’s Bank haddock, king mackerel and Bering Sea snow crab stage their marches toward recovery.

The report is fairly technical, so for a summary – and an explanation of what it means in practical terms for U.S. fish consumers – Discovery News turned to Chris Dorsett, Director of Ecosystem Conservation Programs for the Ocean Conservancy.

“If you look at a map of the United States and where overfishing is still occurring, it’s almost exclusively an east coast problem,” he points out. “And when I say east coast, I mean Gulf of Mexico as well. Where we have not seen success in terms of species recovering based on management actions, that could be due to climatic factors, which aren’t particularly good for productivity. It could be due to management regimes that aren’t particularly effective. But what exacerbates the issue is that, when you drive a population to an extremely low abundance level, environmental variability plays an even more meaningful role in the recovery of that population, so recovery is a little less predictable.”

As the classic case in point, Dorsett points to cod fisheries off Canada, which collapsed in the 1990s and subsequently saw catches slashed essentially to zero. Despite such drastic measures, neither the fish population nor the fishery has shown signs of recovery.

As the NRC report notes, however, there remains some variation: fishing pressure is still too high for some fish stocks, and others have not rebounded as quickly as plans projected. To a large extent, argues Dorsett, that’s a function of natural variability in fish populations and their environments, as well as differences in the ways fisheries have been managed over the years.

In general, though, the news remains positive, increasingly so, and is reflected in the choices available to consumers.

Read the full article here.

Aug 19 2013

California Wetfish Producers Association

CWPA Logo - June 2013California’s fishing industry was built largely on ‘wetfish’, so called because historically these fish were canned ‘wet from the sea’, with minimal preprocessing. Sardines, mackerel, anchovy and market squid (now called coastal pelagic species) have contributed the lion’s share of California’s commercial seafood harvest since the turn of the 20th century.

The enterprise of immigrant fishermen founded California’s wetfish industry, building up the ports of Monterey and San Pedro, San Diego and San Francisco. Today’s wetfish industry is a traditional industry with a contemporary outlook: streamlined and efficient, but still peopled by fourth and fifth-generation fishing families. Today the sons and daughters continue the enterprise begun by their fathers and grandfathers 100 years ago.

Transformed from its storied beginning, California’s wetfish industry remains an essential part of the state’s fishing culture, as well as a key contributor to our fishing economy, producing more than 80 percent of the volume and 40 percent of dockside value of all commercial fishery landings statewide.

Coastal pelagic species are also among the Golden State’s most important seafood exports. In a state that imports more than 86 percent of its seafood, the wetfish complex contributes close to 80 percent of all seafood exports, helping to offset the seafood trade imbalance.

This industry has invested in cooperative research since the beginning of the California Cooperative Fishery Investigations (CalCOFI) in the 1940s, when wetfish fishermen assessed their harvest to help fund the research partnership developed among the California Department of Fish and Game, Scripps Institution of Oceanography and the Southwest Fisheries Science Center (SWFSC).

Wetfish industry leadership established the nonprofit California Wetfish Producers Association (CWPA) in 2004, including fishermen and processors who produce most of the harvest statewide. CWPA’s mission promotes education, communication, and cooperative research to ensure sustainable fisheries.

Today CWPA’s research program continues the CalCOFI tradition, collaborating with the California Department of Fish and Wildlife and Southwest Fishery Science Center to expand knowledge of coastal pelagic species.

Read the full story here.

Aug 13 2013

New grant to “fill gap” in sardine stock assessment

New aerial surveys of sardines off Southern California will address fishermen’s concerns that sardine abundance estimates are effectively “missing California fish.”

Collaborative Fisheries Research West has awarded a $16,000 grant to a California sardine industry group to help pay for two spotter-pilot surveys. The first survey is being flown this summer and the second will occur in the spring of 2014.

The project’s leaders hope to use digitally enhanced photos of fish schools taken during the flights to develop a scientifically rigorous method for calculating sardine abundances. If this can be done, they will ask the Pacific Fishery Management Council, which manages the Pacific sardine fishery with NOAA Fisheries, to consider including California aerial survey data into its future stock assessments, from which harvesting limits are set.

Read the full article here.

California Department of Fish and Wildlife pilot Tom Evans (left) flies transects while spotter Devin Reed (right) identifies sardine schools, which are then photographed. Credit: K. Lynn/CDFW

California Department of Fish and Wildlife pilot Tom Evans (left) flies transects while spotter Devin Reed (right) identifies sardine schools, which are then photographed. Credit: K. Lynn/CDFW

Aug 12 2013

Environmental cost of conservation victories

PNAS Logo

In recent years, Marine Protected Areas (MPA), where fishing is severely restricted or not allowed, have become the Holy Grail of marine conservation for both nongovernmental organizations and governments. In the United States, the Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument in the NW Hawaiian Islands became the first large-scale reserve closed to fishing in 2006 (1). This reserve is 90% the size of California and was followed by the Pacific Remote Islands Marine National Monument, about half the size of California, in 2009 (2). In total, the United States has established MPAs 19-times the size of California or roughly the area of the Continental United States.

The United States is not alone. The South Georgia and South Sandwich Islands Marine Protected Area in British sub-Antarctic waters is roughly 2.5-times the area of California, and most recently Australia has declared its economic zone in the Coral Sea a no-take area of 3.1 million square kilometers, an area eight times the size of California. All of these areas are heralded as great conservation victories and the Convention on Biodiversity has set a target of 10% of the ocean protected by 2020.

Are these indeed victories? Not necessarily. I suggest it is likely that the world’s environment is actually worse off once such victories are evaluated globally.

Read the full article here.

Aug 2 2013

A convenient truth: 90% of the tunas are gone!

ISSF Logo

Last week, I had the privilege of presiding over the defense of the Ph.D. dissertation of Maria José Juan-Jordá in La Coruña, Spain. Maria José is a bright young researcher and has already published several chapters of her dissertation in the peer-reviewed literature.

The first chapter in her dissertation(1) is the last in a series of peer-reviewed scientific papers that demonstrate that the combined biomass of large oceanic predators (mostly tunas) has not declined by 90% as stated in another scientific paper ten years ago.

The 90% decline figure came from an analysis published in 2003 which concluded that “large predatory fish biomass today is only about 10% of pre-industrial levels” [Myers and Worm, 2003(2)].  Those analyses relied heavily upon catch rates from a single fishing gear type (longline) and aggregated catch across species to estimate trends in “community biomass”. The paper quickly became high-profile in the tuna world. Many environmental groups embraced it as proof that all tunas, not just the bluefins, were in serious trouble. On the other hand, tuna scientists who were actually conducting stock assessments, especially for tropical tunas knew immediately that the 90% number was totally wrong.

Over the next few years, a number of peer reviewed publications(3,4,5,6,7,8) showed that the conclusions in Myers and Worm (2003) were fundamentally flawed. Two of the most important reasons for this are: The aggregation of data, and the use of data from a single fishing method. The end result is that the 90% decline is an overestimate. This process of rebuttal is a natural part of the way science develops. Sometimes scientists reach conclusions that are wrong, for whatever reason, and other scientists discover flaws and point to them. A paper, once published, is not necessarily immortal.

Nevertheless, the notion of 90% global demise of tuna populations is still out there. It is repeated in many consumer guides published by various environmental groups that want to influence market preferences. It also pops up elsewhere: Earlier this year, I visited the web site of a newly-formed commission that aims to improve governance of ocean resources, and I was surprised to see the 90% number mentioned there. A colleague of mine who also noticed it said he was “disappointed that one of the most rebutted fisheries paper of all time continues to raise its head.”

Read the full story here.