Posts Tagged Oceana

Mar 7 2016

California Sardine Numbers are Low – Why is Oceana Blaming Fishing?

Last week Dr. Geoff Shester, California campaign director for the nonprofit advocacy group Oceana criticized the Pacific Fishery Management Council for the persistence of low numbers of California Sardines. The lack of a population recovery may cause the commercial moratorium to last until 2017.

The author explained this sardine population decline as being 93 percent less than it was in 2007. Dr. Shester does not believe this is because of environmental causes like climate change, El Nino, or natural fluctuations in forage fish species however – instead he blames the management body. “They warned of a population collapse and the fishery management body basically turned a blind eye and continued moving forward with business as usual.”

Shester also cited recent sea lion deaths, specifically 3,000 that washed ashore in California in 2015.

“When fishing pressure occurs during a decline, which is exactly what happened here,” said Dr. Shester. “It puts the stock at such dramatically low levels it impedes any recovery potentially for decades.”

Comment by Ray Hilborn, University of Washington, @hilbornr

Dr. Shester’s comments are some of the most dishonest commentary I have seen in the fisheries world.

He knows that the NOAA Scientists and Prof Tim Essington, in work funded by the Pew Foundation, have stated clearly that the decline in sardine abundance is due to natural causes. He also knows that sea lions are not dependent upon sardines; the die off of sea lions is caused by the oceanographic conditions – not the result of fishing. In fact, reproductive failures of sea lions have occurred repeatedly in the past at times of high sardine abundance.

If he has read Dr. Essington’s paper in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences he would also know that there is no relationship between fishing and the duration of periods of low abundance of sardines and other forage fish.

The harvest rule for sardines is highly precautionary, even when sardines are at high abundance the harvest rate is low. Indeed the harvest control rule for sardines matches very well the recommended harvest rule for forage fish that emerged from the LENFEST report – that is a low target harvest rate at high abundance with the fishery closed when the stock reaches low abundance.

Members of the Science and Statistics Committee of the Pacific Fisheries Management Council have explained all this to Dr. Shester before – he simply continues to ignore science and pursue his own agenda.

Ray Hilborn is a Professor in the School of Aquatic and Fishery Sciences at the University of Washington. Find him on twitter here: @hilbornr

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Nov 23 2015

Ocean activists, fishers and scientists differ on heavy anchovy declines

Longtime bait fisherman, Mike Spears near the net aboard the In-Seine off the shores of Marina del Rey.

A new, beautifully produced but troubling public service announcement from Oceana features “Glee” television actress and singer Jenna Ushkowitz diving with sea lions off Santa Barbara.

Fishing, she says, decimated Southern California’s historically booming stocks of Pacific sardine and Northern anchovy, a major food source for top ocean predators. Those stocks have dropped dramatically in the past decade, prompting reduced fishing quotas as starved sea lion pups and California brown pelican chicks die in record numbers.

“Sea lions rely on forage fish for survival. But years of overfishing have put this important food source in jeopardy,” Ushkowitz narrates while underwater footage shows her swimming through kelp. “Join Oceana and help protect forage fish in the Pacific. … We need to stop this and replenish.”

The West Coast’s leading fishery scientists, however, disagree. They believe the fish are most likely enduring natural population fluctuations and are on the cusp of making a big comeback.

Oceana, a nonprofit advocacy organization favored by celebrities such as Leonardo DiCaprio, insists that fishing is the primary problem. The group lobbied aggressively to close the West Coast anchovy fishery, delivering nearly 40,000 letters from concerned citizens nationwide to the Pacific Fishery Management Council, a 14-member body that sets fishing policy for California, Oregon and Washington, before its meeting last week.

“We are greatly concerned that management of the commercial forage fisheries off California, Oregon and Washington is leaving ocean wildlife without enough fish to eat,” said Oceana’s form letter to the council, signed by thousands of citizens. “Approximately three times as many sea lions washed ashore in 2015 compared to 2013. Similarly, California brown pelicans have been abandoning their nests due to lack of forage fish.”

Oceana helped to close the Pacific sardine fishery earlier than usual this year by stoking public concern about declining stocks of the important food source. They hoped to do the same for Northern anchovies, but the council decided to allow anchovy fishing to continue this season until the current, relatively low quota of 25,000 metric tons is reached.

Sardine fishing will not resume until researchers complete another assessment of their population numbers, though fishers report seeing tons of them in the water.

Corbin Hanson, a fisherman who supplies Tri Marine Fish Co. on Terminal Island with catch from his family-run fishing boat, the Eileen, said anchovies and sardines are plentiful.

“Anchovies are still here in large volumes,” Hanson said. “I was just driving through them (Thursday) night. To say there are no anchovies in this water is absurd. It comes from such an obtuse perspective on our ecosystem.

“The anchovy population ebbs and flows a lot and, as fishermen, we know that it’s going to come back. The volatility in the anchovy stocks is present with or without commercial fishing.

“I don’t find it comforting that organizations (like Oceana) can make knee-jerk decisions about our coastal ecosystem when they’re not even on the water. The research they’re using to formulate their opinion isn’t even recent.”

Researchers agree environmental changes, not fishers, caused the population crash. New evidence points to a record-breaking boom in young anchovies and sardines farther north this year in Central and Northern California, and on the Oregon border, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Southwest Fisheries Science Center. Researchers say that they appear to have eluded study because the fish changed their spawning times and locations with the sustained warmer ocean temperatures.

But the intense public scrutiny prompted fishery managers last week to re-evaluate how they count the fish in an effort to find out whether overfishing is truly a problem. They will hold a spring workshop to determine the best, most accurate way to estimate their numbers. They’re hoping to strengthen partnerships with Canadian and Mexican fishery managers to best estimate how many fish are out there. These fish are difficult to track because they often don’t travel in schools, and they move quickly with changing environmental conditions, researchers say.

Historically, they’ve relied on landing data, and the acoustic-trawl method of using echo-sounding and sonar beams to develop underwater maps of fish densities. They also collect egg samples to determine how many fish are likely to be born in a season, and take aerial and ship surveys.

“The fish move north, south, onshore, offshore, up and down in the water column. They’re here one day and gone the next. And they’re subject to big population swings, so it’s hard to get a true picture of the biomass at any time,” said Kerry Griffin, a staff officer for the council.

“There are weird things going on in the ocean right now, with the ‘warm blob,’ El Niño, ocean acidification and toxic algae up and down the coast,” Griffin said. “We are gradually incorporating ecosystem-based management into our fishery-management plans.

“And paying more attention to environmental and oceanic patterns is the first step to getting a better understanding of relationships between species and the environment.”

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Apr 24 2015

Another View: Sardine population isn’t crashing

Sardine CollapseFreshly caught sardines awaiting sorting at West Bay Marketing in Astoria, Ore. On April 15, federal regulators approved an early closure of commercial sardine fishing off Oregon, Washington and California to prevent overfishing. Alex Pajunas Associated Press file

By D.B. Pleschner | Special to The Bee

Environmental groups such as Oceana complain that the sardine population is collapsing just as it did in the mid-1940s. They blame “overfishing” as the reason and maintain that the fishery should be shut down completely (“Starving sea lions spotlight overfishing,” Viewpoints, April 14).

In truth, Pacific sardines are perhaps the best-managed fishery in the world. The current rule – established in 2000 and updated last year with more accurate science – sets a strict harvest guideline. If the water temperature is cold, the harvest rate is low. And if the population size decreases, both the harvest rate and the allowable catch automatically decrease.

It’s inaccurate and disingenuous to compare today’s fishery management with the historic sardine fishery collapse that devastated Monterey’s Cannery Row. During 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.

Since the return of federal management in 2000, the harvest rate has averaged about 11 percent, ranging as low as 6 percent. Scientists recognize two sardine stocks on the West Coast: the northern 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 a quarter of the rate during the historical sardine collapse. The so-called “sardine crash due to overfishing” mantra now peddled by Oceana isn’t anything of the sort. It’s simply natural fluctuations that follow the changing conditions of the ocean, reflected in part by water temperature.

California’s wetfish industry relies on a complex of coastal species including mackerel, anchovy and 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. This industry produces on average 80 percent of total fishery catches, and close to 40 percent of dockside value. A total prohibition on sardine harvests could curtail the wetfish industry and seriously harm California’s fishing economy.

D.B. Pleschner is executive director of the California Wetfish Producers Association.

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Mar 19 2015

Oceana Encouraging Chefs to Serve More Small Fish as Conservation Measure

SEAFOODNEWS.COM [Reuters] By Jorge Murcia – March 18, 2015 –
Copyright © 2015 | Published with permission

Seafood News
SAN SEBASTIAN, Spain, Top chefs from around the world gathered in the north of Spain on Tuesday to launch a campaign to eat more small fish such as anchovies in the interests of feeding more people and reducing pressure on the world’s oceans.

Eating fish such as sardines and herring directly rather than processing them as fish meal to feed farmed salmon, pigs and chickens is a more efficient way of using protein, says non-profit ocean conservation organization Oceana, which started the campaign.

Chefs including Brett Graham of two-Michelin-starred The Ledbury in London and Peruvian celebrity chef Gaston Acurio attended the event in San Sebastian, the capital of the northeast Basque region and one of the cities in the world with the most Michelin stars.

The chefs have committed to serve anchovies and other small fish at their restaurants starting on World Oceans’ Day on June 8.

“We can feed tens of millions more people if we simply eat anchovies and other forage fish directly rather than in form of a farmed salmon or other animals raised on fish meal and fish oil,” said Andy Sharpless, chief executive officer of Oceana.

The United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization estimates 37 percent of all marine fish caught worldwide are processed into fish mean and fish oil.

Subscribe to | Copyright © 2015

Jun 22 2014

Regional Fishery Management Councils call on Oceana to retract bycatch report; Cite “substantial errors, omissions”



WASHINGTON (Saving Seafood) — June 18, 2014  — The Regional Fishery Management Council Coordination Committee, representing all eight U.S. regional Fishery Management Councils, has recommended that environmental group Oceana retract its March 2014 report on fisheries bycatch, “Wasted Catch,” that was widely reported in the press without independent verification of its allegations.

Saving Seafood reported on problems in Oceana’s report in brief on the day of its release and in-depth last month.

BRIEF: Oceana Report on Bycatch Ignores Examples of Environmental Stewardship in Commercial Fishing

IN-DEPTH: Oceana’s Bycatch Report and Media Coverage Ignores Key Successes in U.S. Fisheries

After an exhaustive analysis of the report, the Councils found “a variety of substantial errors, omissions, and organizational approaches” in the Oceana report that “may seriously miscommunicate bycatch information.” The Councils have recommended that Oceana retract the report “until [they] have the time and/or resources to develop a better understanding of the data summarized in the report.”

The Councils contend that “misinformation in reports like Wasted Catch undermines those productive relationships between industry, management, and NGOs that have been effective in reducing bycatch.” They are especially critical of the fact that Oceana relied heavily on only one document, the National Marine Fishery Service’s “National Bycatch Report,” and in doing so has left the report “unlikely to result in a full representation of the best available science.”

The Councils recommended that for future reports, Oceana should adopt “a standardized peer review process to ensure that reports like this accurately and objectively represent the best available science.”

The analysis by the Councils lists general issues with and critiques of the report, followed by a region-by-region analysis of errors and omissions identified by Council staffs.

The Councils conclude by acknowledging, “there are no laws requiring Oceana reports to accurately represent the best available scientific information or to undergo peer review.” But they urge that “to do so would be in the best interest of all involved parties.”

Read the full letter from the Regional Fishery Management Council Coordination Committee here

Mar 21 2014

Oceana bycatch report first salvo in next NGO campaign to restrict fisheries

Seafood News

Oceana has released a report on the nine dirties US fisheries in terms of bycatch to great media fanfare. “Anything can be bycatch,” said Dominique Cano-Stocco, campaign director at Oceana. “Whether it’s the thousands of sea turtles that are caught to bring you shrimp or the millions of pounds of cod and halibut that are thrown overboard after fishermen have reached their quota, bycatch is a waste of our ocean’s resources. Bycatch also represents a real economic loss when one fisherman trashes another fisherman’s catch.”

“Hundreds of thousands of dolphins, whales, sharks, sea birds, sea turtles and fish needlessly die each year as a result of indiscriminate fishing gear,” said Amanda Keledjian, report author and marine scientist at Oceana. “It’s no wonder that bycatch is such a significant problem, with trawls as wide as football fields, longlines extending up to 50 miles with thousands of baited hooks and gillnets up to two miles long. The good news is that there are solutions – bycatch is avoidable.”

This is not the language of scientists seeking to lower bycatch. It is a call to arms to shut down fisheries.

Bycatch issues in fisheries are not new. US fishery managers have spent huge amounts of time addressing bycatch.

For example, one of the key functions of fisheries observers is to accurately record and document bycatch, so that impacts on stock are understood and included in fishery management decisions.

Read the full article here.

Mar 6 2014

Has There Really Been A Sardine Crash?

Sardines have been a hot news topic in recent weeks. Environmental groups and others have claimed that the sardine population is collapsing like it did in the mid-1940s.

The environmental group Oceana has been arguing this point loudly in order to shut down the sardine fishery. That’s why they filed suit in federal court, which is now under appeal, challenging the current sardine management.

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

Read the full story here.

Mar 6 2014

Viewpoints: The state of sardine populations


Sardines have been a hot news topic in recent weeks. Environmental groups and others have trumpeted that the sardine population is collapsing like it did in the mid-1940s.

The environmental group Oceana has been arguing this point loudly in order to shut down the sardine fishery. That’s why it filed suit in federal court, in a case now under appeal, challenging the current sardine management.

So what is the truth about the state of sardines? It’s much more complicated than environmentalists would lead you to believe.

In fact, 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 43 percent or more of the standing sardine stock. Plus, there was little regulatory oversight and no limit on the annual catch.

Today, the allowed annual U.S. catch totals roughly 5 percent and coastal sardine exploitation averages less than 15 percent of the northern stock.

Read the full story 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)

Apr 25 2013

Lower fishing limits rejected by judge

A federal judge has rejected an environmental group’s attempt to require the government to lower its catch limits on sardines, mackerel and other forage fish off the California coast.

The organization, Oceana, claimed that the plan approved by the National Marine Fisheries Service in 2010 was based on flawed data and allowed fishing at levels that would deplete offshore populations of several species. Those fish are part of the food chain for other fish, seabirds and whales.

But U.S. District Judge Edward Chen of San Francisco said Friday that the federal agency had simply reaffirmed, or in some cases tightened, the harvesting limits it had set for the same forage species in 2000.

Chen ordered the fisheries service to reconsider its catch levels for one species, the northern anchovy, saying the agency had reopened that subject in 2010 but failed to determine the limits needed to protect the fish. That decision is required, he said, by a 1976 conservation law designed to prevent overfishing.

But Chen said it was too late to challenge the rules the agency had established in 2000 – and reaffirmed in 2010 – for the Pacific sardine, the Pacific mackerel, the jack mackerel and the market squid. Oceana also challenged the fisheries service’s conclusion that its 2010 plan would cause no ecological harm and that a full environmental study was therefore not required. But the judge said the 2010 plan “by its very terms has no negative impact.”

Read the full San Francisco Chronicle article here.