Posts Tagged ocean protection

Jan 28 2015

Hitch in North Coast marine sanctuary plans delays unveiling

ncmsKamilah Motley of Washington, D.C., takes in the sweeping view of the Sonoma Coast, north of Bodega Bay, Monday Jan. 20, 2015. (Kent Porter / Press Democrat)

Last-minute details related to expansion plans for two adjoining marine sanctuaries off the North Coast were still being hammered out between federal agencies Tuesday, delaying publication of a final rule, officials said.

There was no indication of a hitch significant enough to derail the expansion proposal, which was developed over the past two years under the direction of President Barack Obama.

It was unclear, however, just what was holding up the process, representatives with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration said.

A spokesman for the National Marine Sanctuaries program said last week that the legal consultations underway between various agencies are typically privileged, though there have been reports that some of the delay, at least, relates to discussions over U.S. Coast Guard operations within sanctuary boundaries.

But most parties following developments said they doubted there was any cause for alarm.

“I’m hearing that the very top brass at the Coast Guard and the NOAA are working on this, and there will be a good solution,” said retired Congresswoman Lynn Woolsey, who championed coastal protections and sanctuary expansion legislation for two decades before her 2013 retirement.

The current expansion proposal developed by the Obama administration would more than double the combined area of the two sanctuaries, putting an additional 2,769 square miles of ocean off-limits to oil, energy and mineral exploration or extraction. It would also extend wildlife protections and conservation efforts across a vast stretch of nutrient-rich habitat, from Bodega Head to Manchester Beach on the southwest Mendocino Coast.

The additions would create a 350-mile band of protected coastal waters reaching north from the Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary on the Central Coast.

“We’re enthusiastic about expanding the Gulf of the Farallones and Cordell Bank (National Marine Sanctuaries) so we’re just trying to make sure we check everything off the list and make sure it can happen as quickly as we can,” NOAA spokeswoman Keeley Belva said.

The final management plan was released in December, triggering its circulation among federal agencies for a 30-day period. That period has been extended by continued talks.

Richard Charter, senior fellow with the Ocean Foundation and a member of the advisory council for the Gulf of the Farallones sanctuary, said Washington sources suggested the timing “is still within the window of typical.”

“It’s a huge pile of paper,” Charter said, referring to the final environmental impact statement and associated regulations connected to the plan. “It has to go through a lot of in-baskets and out-baskets.”

The next step is for the final rule to be published in the Federal Register, initiating a 45-day period of review by Congress and California Gov. Jerry Brown before the expansion takes effect.

National Marine Sanctuaries spokesman Matt Stout said last week that solid congressional support for the project up to this point suggests there should be no problem, despite new Republican strength in Congress.

Gulf of the Farallones National Marine Sanctuary Superintendent Maria Brown said arrangements for a celebration in late April were still being made in anticipation the expansion would take effect as expected.

“We’re actively planning on it,” she said.


Read original post: Press Democrat  |  You can reach Staff Writer Mary Callahan at 521-5249 or mary.callahan@press​democrat.com. On Twitter @MaryCallahanB.

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

Dec 24 2013

California fishers say quota system is all wet

editorial_sacramento3
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.

Oct 24 2013

Eastern Steller sea lions removed from Endangered Species Act list

Seafood News

SEAFOOD.COM NEWS [Cordova Times] By Margarate Bauman – October 24, 2013 – Steller sea lions within the eastern distinct population segment, east of Prince William Sound, will be removed from the Endangered Species Act list, Jim Balsiger, administrator for NOAA Fisheries’ Alaska region said Oct. 23.

This is the first species NOAA has delisted, citing recovery, since the eastern North Pacific gray whale was taken off the list of threatened and endangered species in 1994.

The delisting will take effect 30 days after publication of the final rule in the Federal Register.

Balsiger said the agency is delighted to see the recover of this population segment of Steller sea lions, and that they would work with the states and other partners to monitor the population to ensure its continued health.

NOAA officials said delisting is warranted because the species has met the recovery criteria outlined in its 2008 recovery plan and no longer meets the definition of a threatened or endangered species under the act.

Best available scientific information indicates the eastern Steller sea lion population has increased from an estimated 18.040 animals in 1979 to an estimated 70,174 animals in 2010, the most recent year for which data are available.

Eastern Steller sea lions will continue to be protected under the Marine Mammal Protection Act. With delisting, federal agencies proposing actions that may affect the eastern Steller sea lions are no longer required to consult with NOAA Fisheries under Section 7 of the ESA. NOAA Fisheries will continue to monitor the effects of proposed projects on the eastern population to ensure existing measures under the Marine Mammals Protection Act provide necessary protection to maintain recovery status, Balsiger said.

NOAA has developed a post-delisting monitoring plan for this population. As a precautionary measure, the plan will be in effect for a decade, twice the required five year time period under the ESA.

Read the full story here.

Sep 17 2013

Ocean acidification, the lesser-known twin of climate change, threatens to scramble marine life on a scale almost too big to fathom.

Seattle Times Sea Change

NORMANBY ISLAND, Papua New Guinea — Katharina Fabricius plunged from a dive boat into the Pacific Ocean of tomorrow.

She kicked through blue water until she spotted a ceramic tile attached to the bottom of a reef.

A year earlier, the ecologist from the Australian Institute of Marine Science had placed this small square near a fissure in the sea floor where gas bubbles up from the earth. She hoped the next generation of baby corals would settle on it and take root.

Fabricius yanked a knife from her ankle holster, unscrewed the plate and pulled it close. Even underwater the problem was clear. Tiles from healthy reefs nearby were covered with budding coral colonies in starbursts of red, yellow, pink and blue. This plate was coated with a filthy film of algae and fringed with hairy sprigs of seaweed.

Instead of a brilliant new coral reef, what sprouted here resembled a slimy lake bottom.

Isolating the cause was easy. Only one thing separated this spot from the lush tropical reefs a few hundred yards away.

Carbon dioxide.

In this volcanic region, pure CO2 escapes naturally through cracks in the ocean floor. The gas bubbles alter the water’s chemistry the same way rising CO2 from cars and power plants is quickly changing the marine world.

In fact, the water chemistry here is exactly what scientists predict most of the seas will be like in 60 to 80 years.

That makes this isolated splash of coral reef a chilling vision of our future oceans.

Watch the introduction video.

Read the complete article, watch the videos and look at the images here.

Ocean acidification Images 1

 

 

Sep 17 2013

Movement of marine life follows speed and direction of climate change

Science Daily

Scientists expect climate change and warmer oceans to push the fish that people rely on for food and income into new territory. Predictions of where and when species will relocate, however, are based on broad expectations about how animals will move and have often not played out in nature. New research based at Princeton University shows that the trick to more precise forecasts is to follow local temperature changes.

The researchers report in the journal Science the first evidence that sea creatures consistently keep pace with “climate velocity,” or the speed and direction in which changes such as ocean temperature move. They compiled 43 years of data related to the movement of 128 million animals from 360 species living around North America, including commercial staples such as lobster, shrimp and cod. They found that 70 percent of shifts in animals’ depth and 74 percent of changes in latitude correlated with regional-scale fluctuations in ocean temperature.

“If we follow the temperature, which is easier to predict, that provides a method to predict where the species will be, too,” said first author Malin Pinsky, a former Princeton postdoctoral researcher in ecology and evolutionary biology who is now an assistant professor of ecology and evolution at Rutgers University.

“Climate changes at different rates and in different directions in different places,” he said. “Animals are basically being exposed to different changes in temperature.”

The researchers compiled survey data collected from 1968 to 2011 by American and Canadian fishery-research centers and government panels. The surveys recorded surface and bottom temperatures, as well as the complete mass of animals in nine areas central to North American fisheries: the Aleutian Islands; the eastern Bering Sea; the Gulf of Alaska; the West Coast from Washington to California; the Gulf Coast from Louisiana to Mexico; the Northeast coast from North Carolina to Maine; the coast of Nova Scotia; the southern Gulf of St. Lawrence; and the Atlantic Ocean east of Newfoundland.

Details of the surveys revealed that sea creatures adhere to a “complex mosaic of local climate velocities,” the researchers reported. On average, changes in temperature for North America moved north a mere 4.5 miles per decade, but in parts of Newfoundland that pace was a speedier 38 miles north per decade. In areas off the U.S. West Coast, temperatures shifted south at 30 miles per decade, while in the Gulf of Mexico velocities varied from 19 miles south to 11 miles north per decade.

Animal movements were just as motley. As a whole, species shifted an average of 5 miles north per decade, but 45 percent of animal specific populations swam south. Cod off Newfoundland moved 37 miles north per decade, while lobster in the northeastern United States went the same direction at 43 miles per decade. On the other hand, pink shrimp, a staple of Gulf Coast fisheries, migrated south 41 miles per decade, the researchers found.

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 20 2013

Monterey Bay trawling deal hailed as a breakthrough: Fishermen, environmentalists long at odds

A “lava-in-water” effort to redefine trawling boundaries off the Central Coast may prove a turning point in the long-simmering relationship among commercial fishermen, environmentalists and the Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary.

The groups spent nearly a year negotiating a proposal that identifies areas the Pacific Fisheries Management Council should reopen and close to bottom fishing in the sanctuary. It was a task, participants said, that took its toll and tested the mettle of individual patience.

“There were times in it where everybody was pretty much fed up and ready to walk away, especially when the environmental groups got involved,” said Monterey fisherman Giuseppe Pennisi II.

“This was like mixing lava with water,” he said. “We had stuff boiling everywhere. We had to stop meetings and everybody go out and cool off.”

In the end, they came up with the hallmark of a good compromise: nobody got everything he wanted.

Sanctuary Superintendent Paul Michel described the outcome as a “precedent-setting, historic accomplishment.”

The “Essential Fish Habitat” boundaries were last set in 2006. Research since then identified new areas of coral and sponge that needed critical protection, said Michel.

At the same time, fishermen were unhappy with the hop-scotch effect of the boundaries. They were spending less time fishing than they were picking up and putting back nets to avoid protected areas.

“We just wanted to get some of our traditional places back that were just sand and mud,” said Pennisi. “Oceana just wanted real estate. They got back a lot more than what they gave up.”

Still, the third-generation fisherman credited the sanctuary’s Karen Grimmer, Monterey Harbormaster Steve Scheiblauer and Huff McGonigal of the Environmental Defense Fund for guiding the combatants to a “common goal” — more fish.

The proposal was submitted to the fisheries council July 31. That agency will submit its recommendation to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration for final approval, a process that could take two years.

Geoff Shester of Oceana said the process was so encouraging that his group, historically at odds with fishermen, is hoping to reach a future consensus that would open trawling to prized parts of Monterey Bay, which sits in state waters, in exchange for additional closures in federal waters.

Read the full article here.

Two 70-foot trawling-style boats are docked in Moss Landing. (VERN FISHER/Herald file)

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.