Saving Seafood has covered issues related to the various “forage fish” campaigns of the past several years, which have been organized by interest groups in the wake of the Lenfest Report, “Little Fish, Big Impact.” In today’s Santa Cruz Sentinal, Diane Pleschner, executive director of the California Wetfish Producers Association, addresses a recent campaign regarding anchovy fishing in the Monterey Bay area. In her essay, Ms. Pleschner argues that a controversial recent study is based on outdated samples, ignoring the latest observations. The Pacific Fishery Management Council votes on the issue later today.The California Wetfish Producers Association is a nonprofit dedicated to research and to promote sustainable wetfish resources.
SANTA CRUZ, California (November 15, 2015) — If you follow news about the Monterey Bay, you’ve undoubtedly heard the recent outcry by environmentalists in the media claiming the anchovy population in California has collapsed and the fishery must be closed immediately.
The current controversy stems largely from a study funded by environmental interests that claims an apocalyptic decline of 99 percent of the anchovy population from 1951 to 2011.
However, fishermen have seen a surge in anchovies in recent years. Data collected at the near shore Southern California Coastal Ocean Observing System stations and other recent surveys also document a big upswing in anchovy numbers. For example, a 2015 NOAA rockfish cruise report found that “catches of [Pacific sardine and northern anchovy] larvae and pelagic juveniles were the highest ever in the core [Monterey Bay to Point Reyes] and north and still relatively high in the south.” Yet the recent study bases its conclusion on outdated historic anchovy egg and larval samples, not recent observation.
Outdated data didn’t stop extremists from seizing on the study to manufacture an anti-fishing crisis for anchovy where none exists. They’re now lobbying the Pacific Fishery Management Council for an emergency closure of the small anchovy fishery in Monterey Bay, saying the current anchovy catch limit of 25,000 metric tons is dangerously high.
In reality, anchovy management employs an extremely precautionary approach, capping the allowed harvest at 25 percent of the estimated population. Josh Lindsay, policy analyst for the National Marine Fisheries Service, which enforces the fishing cap, says, “We took the overfishing limit and told the fishing fleet that they could only catch 25,000 metric tons. That’s a pretty large buffer built into our management.”
Wetfish fishermen fish on a complex of species including sardine, mackerel and squid. Anchovy is a small – but important – part of the complex, a fill-in for Monterey fishermen when other species are not available. Environmental extremists ignore the fact the anchovy harvest has totaled less than half the allowed limit in the past two decades. The light effort is one reason why the fisheries service has not formally assessed the species since 1995, focusing limited research dollars on more active fisheries.
The big increase in anchovy abundance in nearshore waters in recent years has precipitated a record whale-watching spectacle in Monterey and along the Central Coast. Despite allegations to the contrary, whales and other marine life gorging on anchovies are oblivious to the fishery. In October 2013, for example, Monterrey Bay had record sightings of humpback whales, while fishing vessels caught more than 3,000 tons of anchovy.
Consider reports from fishermen:
When the Pacific Fishery Management Council convenes Nov. 15, to discuss anchovy, we hope sanity and best available common sense will prevail, in addition to “best available science.” Council members need to incorporate evidence of recent anchovy (and sardine) recruitment into future management decisions.
Posts Tagged CWPA
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
California’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.
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.
Fish is a significant source of protein in the human diet; around 90 million tons are caught every year. Are some fisheries in danger of collapse? What species are being managed the right way? UW professor and fisheries expert Ray Hilborn talks to David Hyde about his new book “Overfishing: What Everyone Needs To Know.”
Listen to the full interview here via KUOW NPR – 94.9 FM (Seattle).
Ray Hilborn is a professor of fisheries at the University of Washington. Reporter Ross Reynolds hosts this fast–paced news call–in program. Engaging, stimulating and informative – a forum where listeners have the chance to speak directly with experts on news–oriented topics. The Conversation covers the very current topics and issues of the day.
Collaborations between La Jolla institutions began more than 70 years ago and flourish today with a mix of strategic relationships Scripps Institution of Oceanography/University of California, San Diego
NOAA anticipates bringing the Reuben Lasker to the West Coast in 2013 and beginning operations in 2014. The ship will support scientific assessments of fish stocks and other marine life on the U.S. West Coast.
“Reuben Lasker represents an important investment by the American people in our ability to monitor the health of our ocean ecosystems,” said Bruce Appelgate, associate director of ship operations and marine technical support at Scripps. “This process of investment must continue in order to revitalize the United States research fleet, so that societally important issues can be properly understood.”
The new vessel honors the late Reuben Lasker, a pioneering fisheries biologist who served as director of SWFSC’s coastal fisheries division and worked in a key position as an adjunct professor at Scripps. Lasker fostered fundamental collaborations that formed a scientific bridge between Scripps and SWFSC.
“Reuben Lasker was arguably the father of West Coast fisheries oceanography,” said Dave Checkley, a Scripps professor of oceanography and director of the Cooperative Institute on Marine Ecosystems and Climate (CIMEC), a Scripps-led NOAA program established to study climate change and coastal ecosystems. “He brought his basic knowledge of insect biology to bear on plankton and fish, and combined this with oceanography to lead the Southwest Fisheries Science Center’s program on small pelagic fish, particularly anchovy and sardine.”
“He and his colleagues are renowned worldwide for their contributions to the biology of these fish and their ecology and fisheries oceanography. He, as much as anyone, fostered the close and productive collaboration between academia and fisheries.”
Checkley, who noted that Reuben Lasker served on his Ph.D. committee, said the namesake vessel furthers the close collaborations between Scripps and NOAA in fisheries oceanography that was formalized in 1949, following the collapse of California’s sardine fishery and the inception of the California Cooperative Oceanic Fisheries Investigations (CalCOFI) program, a unique partnership of the California Department of Fish and Game, NOAA Fisheries Service, and Scripps. CalCOFI stands as one of the world’s longest and most important marine monitoring programs and has provided valuable insights about various aspects of the waters off California and its inhabitants for more than 50 years.
“The Reuben Lasker will be one of NOAA’s state-of-the-art fisheries vessels and will not only enable the continuation of CalCOFI but enhance it with its superior capabilities,” said Checkley.
Read the full announcement via the Scripps Institution of Oceanography.
“The Klamath River expects a record chinook salmon run this year, the most since 1978. Much like the abundant forage – such as sardines and squid – that live off California’s coast, the high numbers of salmon reflect both strong precautionary fishery management practices and good ocean conditions.
– California Wetfish Producers Association (CWPA)
Epic forecast for fall run on Klamath River
Written by Adam Spencer, The Triplicate
The largest projected return of fall-run chinook salmon since 1978 is looming over the Klamath River.
Fishery managers project that roughly 380,000 adult chinook salmon will migrate up the Klamath this fall to spawn — three times the estimated run of 2011 adult chinook and 50 percent greater than the highest run on record (245,242 total fish in 1995).
Starting Wednesday, sport fishermen will be allowed to keep four adult chinooks per day, with a possession limit of eight adult chinooks.
The abundant forecast is a boon for sport anglers, tribal fishermen and the guides, hotels and restaurants that benefit from tourism dollars.
“I think it’s going to be the best season I’ve ever seen,” said fishing guide Gary Hix, who has already booked up much of his season on the Klamath.
“We haven’t had a four-fish quota since the quota era started,” said Wade Sinnen, senior environmental scientist with the California Department of Fish and Game.
Sinnen said it was a “tough sell” to convince the California Fish and Game Commission to adopt the four-fish limit, but the projections warrant it. “Even with a four-fish adult bag, it’s very unlikely we will obtain our quota,” he said. “This is a test year to evaluate the capacity of the sport fishery.”
It’s important to get as close as possible to the sport-fishing quota of 67,600 chinooks, because conditions are ripe for another event like the 2002 fish kill when tens of thousands of salmon died from diseases before spawning — partly due to more fish than usual.
An estimated 34,000 to 78,000 salmon died primarily from a gill-rotting disease known as “ich” (Ichthyopthirius multifilis).
“I was out there counting those dead fish; it was a smelly, disgusting mess — it was sad really,” Sinnen said. “People are nervous this year that the same thing could occur due to the record forecast of salmon and dry to average water conditions in the Klamath basin.”
To prevent a repeat fish kill, the Bureau of Reclamation started releasing additional water from the Lewiston Dam on the Trinity River to keep the flow of the lower Klamath River at 3,200 cubic feet per second throughout the peak of the fall run.
Mike Belchik, senior fisheries biologist for the Yurok Tribe, presented a case for higher flows for the fall-run chinook to the multi-agency Trinity River Fall Flows Workgroup, which was well received.
Maintaining a minimum flow of 2,800 cfs for an above-average run had already been established, but this run’s bigger than that.
Belchik emphasized to the group that excellent salmon fishing on the ocean provided reason to trust the predictions, and “in order to decrease the odds of fish kill happening we would like to increase the flow from 2,800 to 3,200,” he said.
Read the full article on Triplicate.com.
Letters to the Editor
Re “Fisherman agree: Big fish need little fish” (Viewpoints, June 22):
The article omitted key facts the public should understand about California’s fisheries. Appealing to the Pacific Fishery Management Council to “forestall the harvest of forage species that aren’t currently being fished,” the authors cited a Lenfest Forage Fish Task Force study finding that worldwide, forage fish are mostly ground into meal to feed livestock and farmed fish. This is untrue in California. They didn’t point out that according to the same report, we already leave plenty of forage fish in the sea. West Coast forage fisheries harvest only 2 percent of the total forage pool, leaving 98 percent in the ocean. The most important forage species on the West Coast are already well managed. The PFMC recently approved deliberative action, allowing more time for scientific analysis and the development of the most practical, effective management tools. This is a win for all, providing the most cost-effective and timely response to concerns that new fisheries might over-exploit forage species.
— Diane Pleschner-Steele, executive director, California Wetfish Producers Association
Note: A shorter version is scheduled to appear in the Monterey Herald.
By Steve Scheiblauer, Harbormaster for the city of Monterey
More than 150 years ago, immigrant Chinese fishermen launched sampans into the chilly waters of Monterey Bay to capture squid. The Bay also lured fishermen from Sicily and other Mediterranean countries, who brought round-haul nets to fish for sardines.
This was the beginning of the largest fishery in the western hemisphere — California’s famed “wetfish” industry, imprinted on our collective conscience by writers like John Steinbeck.
Who doesn’t remember Cannery Row?
It was the plentiful schools of fish — especially sardines that stretch from the Gulf of California to Alaska during cycles of abundance — that provided the opportunity for generations of enterprising fishing families to prosper. These families helped build not only Monterey, but the ports of many other California cities, like San Diego, San Francisco and San Pedro — the fishing hub of Los Angeles.
But now, this historic industry ì named for the fish that were canned wet from the sea — is under attack by extremist groups who claim overfishing is occurring. That allegation is false; fishermen have long recognized that a sustainable fishery was good for both people and fish.
When the sardine resource began its storied decline in the late 1940s, wetfish fishermen levied an assessment on their catch and contributed to the beginning of the California Cooperative Fisheries Investigations (CalCOFI).
A cooperative effort between the National Marine Fisheries Service, Scripps Institution of Oceanography and the Department of Fish and Game, CalCOFI now is one of the preeminent research efforts worldwide.
Research has since documented the dynamic fluctuations in coastal pelagic “wetfish” stocks, including sardine and anchovy, which alternate their cycles of abundance — sardines favoring warm water epochs and anchovy preferring cold.
Core samples from an anaerobic trench in the Southern California Bight found alternating layers of sardine and anchovy scales over a period of 1,400 years. Turns out, sardine stocks would have declined naturally even without fishing pressure.
Today the wetfish industry maintains its commitment to research with cooperative efforts ongoing for both sardine and squid.
Even though the canneries are gone due to their inability to compete on a now-global marketing stage, our wetfish industry is still the backbone of California’s fishing economy — responsible for more than 80 percent of the volume and more than 40 percent of dockside value in 2010.
Fast forward to earlier this month, when an in-depth study by a panel of 13 hand-picked scientists provided recommendations on policies to protect forage fish — like anchovy, sardines and market squid — that larger species feed on. The study by the Lenfest Forage Fish Task Force concluded that overfishing of forage species is unfortunately occurring on a global scale.
But interestingly, these scientists also identified the West Coast as different, noting that California is “ahead of other parts of the world in how it manages some forage fish.” The region has “stricter monitoring and more conservative limits that could serve as a buffer against future crashes.”
The Lenfest Report provides a strong case that forage fish are managed better in California and the Northern California Current than anywhere else in the world. Overall, forage fisheries here account for less than two percent of total forage production (including both fished and unfished stocks), leaving 98 percent for other marine life.
Knowledgeable people understand that this is no accident. Fishing families have worked and are working with regulators to conserve California’s fisheries and coastal waters.
In fact, after a 20-year moratorium on sardine fishing, California adopted strict fishing regulations when the sardine resource rebounded. The federal government assumed management of coastal pelagic species in 1999 and approved a visionary management strategy for the west coast “forage” fish harvest, maintaining at least 75 percent of the fish in the ocean to ensure a resilient core biomass. The sardine protection rate is even higher at about 90 percent.
Even so, some environmental groups are calling for deep and unnecessary cutbacks in sardine fishing in California, as well as substantial harvest reductions in other forage fish fisheries, including herring, anchovies and squid.
Touting studies with faulty calculations, activists are lobbying federal regulators to massively limit fishing, if not ban these fisheries outright.
Apparently the facts don’t matter to groups with an anti-fishing agenda. Their rhetoric leaves those not familiar with the fishing industry with the impression that overfishing is a huge problem in California.
We hope decision-makers will see through the rhetoric when developing harvest policy for California’s historic, and still important, wetfish fisheries.
Note: The opinion piece above was written to counterpoint an editorial that was also published in The Salinas Californian. You can access the debate online via TheCalifornian.
The 15th Annual Report to Congress on the Status of Stocks for 2011: A record number of rebuilt fisheries
Annual Report to Congress on the Status of U.S. Fisheries
NOAA’s Fisheries Service has released the 15th annual report to Congress on the nation’s Status of Stocks. More than any a previous year, the Status of Stocks report for 2011 underscores the strength of the science-based management process and demonstrates we are actively turning the corner on ending overfishing and rebuilding our nation’s fisheries. A record number of stocks were declared rebuilt in 2011, with a decrease in both categories of overfishing and overfished determinations.
To read the full report, visit the NOAA’s website and download the report titled, “Status of Stocks 2011“.