Apr 13 2021

PFMC Approves Pacific Sardine Fishing Levels for 2021

Conducting its April meeting via webinar, the Pacific Fishery Management Council (PFMC) approved management measures for the ‘northern’ stock of Pacific sardines for the season July 1, 2021 through June 30, 2022. The conflict over sardine fishery management became painfully apparent after the Scientific and Statistical Committee (SSC) rejected the catch-only sardine biomass projection, which was the only estimate available because NOAA field surveys were cancelled in 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The catch for the Mex-Cal fishery (33,000 tons with only about 700 tons from California) was nearly three times larger than the sardine model’s northern sardine catch estimate for the Mex-Cal fishery in 2020. The Mexican catch was actually higher than the entire 2020 biomass estimate. This discrepancy illuminated serious problems with current assessment methods and assumptions.

The SSC recommended several urgent research priorities, including reconsideration of the model and assumptions used to assign sardines to northern vs. southern stocks. The CPS Management Team and Advisory Subpanel also supported the SSC’s recommendation to fall back to the 2020 assessment, and add another layer of precaution to account for the uncertainty, until problems can be addressed in a full stock assessment with independent scientific review. The approved management measures reduced the already low allowable catch by another 25 percent.

“We greatly appreciate the expressions of concern from the SSC, management team and advisory subpanel, and the Council’s action based on those concerns,” said Diane Pleschner-Steele, Executive Director of the California Wetfish Producers Association (CWPA). “This conflict is between what fishermen say is out there, based on what they see, and what biologists say, based on insufficient science.”

Both fishermen and independent scientific surveys have documented sardine recruitment and increasing abundance. But assumptions of continued decline and low recruitment caused the directed sardine fishery to be closed in 2015, and ‘northern’ sardines to be declared ‘overfished’ in 2019, which reduced the incidental take of sardine in other fisheries to 20 percent. The Council also was required to develop a rebuilding plan.

The directed fishery has been closed for nearly 7 years, and the model used to predict biomass has not updated the age data from the fishery since 2015. Stock assessment scientists prefer only age data from ‘directed’ fishing, and have not used age data from incidental catches or the live bait fishery, which have both seen an increase in small fish in recent years. The problem is that NOAA’s sardine acoustic trawl surveys, conducted primarily offshore, have not seen it, and those surveys, coupled with assumptions made regarding ‘northern’ and ‘southern’ sardines, have largely driven stock assessments in recent years.

To resolve this Catch-22, CWPA requested and received an Exempted Fishing Permit (EFP) in 2020 and coordinated a closely-controlled directed fishing effort to capture sardine schools throughout the year. The California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) sampled and aged all the landings. Age data shared with the Council during the meeting showed a spike in young sardines, virtually all captured in water temperatures under about 62 degrees F, assumed to be ‘northern’ sardines.

CWPA is also conducting a nearshore acoustic survey in California this year, in cooperation with the Southwest Fisheries Science Center (SWFSC), and has been cooperating with CDFW since 2012 in the Department’s nearshore aerial survey. “There’s a substantial body of sardines (and anchovy) in nearshore waters inshore of NOAA surveys in California. These fish need to be included in stock assessments, and we’re cooperating with the SWFSC and Department to collect the data needed,” Pleschner-Steele commented.

Another frustrating problem that California fishermen continue to face is the current scientific assumption that all sardines above 62 degrees F are assumed to be ‘southern’ stock sardines that have migrated up from Mexico. Those fish are subtracted from the ‘northern’ sardine stock assessment. But for management, all catches are deducted from the ‘northern’ sardine harvest limit, regardless of water temperature. This is a big problem, particularly in summertime in southern California, when the live bait fishery is active. All California coastal pelagic (CPS) fisheries have been impacted by current sardine management policies that restrict the incidental catch of sardine to only 20 percent. This has sharply reduced landings for CPS finfish like anchovy and mackerel, because fishermen must try to find pure schools with no or few sardines. Even the squid fishery has had problems avoiding sardines.

“We strongly support the SSC’s urgent research priorities,” Diane Pleschner-Steele said. “We need to fix the problems with sardine assessments and management as soon as possible.” She added, “we are committed to conduct the research necessary to improve the sardine stock assessment. If the ‘northern’ sardine stock assessment accurately reflected the abundance of sardines reported by fishermen virtually yearlong (in water temperatures below 62 degrees F), northern sardines would not be considered ‘overfished.’”

California fishermen and processors are grateful that the Council considered the issues and uncertainties raised and combined scientific underpinning with practicality and common sense. Balance is a key mandate of the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act. The Council and NMFS are required to consider the needs of fishing communities, not just biology, in developing rebuilding plans. The future of California’s historic wetfish industry hangs in the balance.


Mar 21 2021

One Of Biden’s Biggest Climate Change Challenges? The Oceans

A few years ago, marine biologist Kyle Van Houtan spotted an online video that he couldn’t quite believe. It showed a young great white shark, about five-feet long, swimming just off a pier in Central California.

“Our initial reaction was that it can’t be true,” Van Houtan says. “We know that they’re in Southern California and Mexico, not in Monterey.”

Juvenile white sharks, like this one near Aptos, Calif., are moving into new ecosystems as water warms.  Eric Mailander

When they’re young, white sharks typically live in the warm waters of Southern California, hundreds of miles from the cold, rough surf up north off Monterey.

Still, the shark in the video wouldn’t be the only one to appear. Since 2014, young white sharks have been arriving off Monterey in greater numbers.

The sharks were simply following the water temperatures they’re adapted to. The ocean was warmer, shifting the sharks’ habitat from where it’s normally found. Similar shifts are being seen around the world, just one of the ways that climate change is hitting the oceans hard.

Ocean scientists say the Biden Administration is taking office at a critical time. Sea levels are rising, fish are migrating away from where they’re normally caught, and the water itself is becoming more acidic as it absorbs carbon dioxide that humans emit.

While the administration has appointed climate change advisors throughout the federal government, a key role remains unfilled: the head of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, an agency that oversees everything from fisheries policy to marine sanctuaries.

Environmental advocates are hoping the oceans play a central role in Biden’s climate agenda, including post-pandemic recovery plans. Restoring coastal marshes and mangroves creates jobs, as well as brings back crucial habitat for marine life and buffers coastal communities against rising seas and storm surges.

“The ocean is not just a victim,” says Miriam Goldstein, director of ocean policy at the Center fo American Progress. “The ocean can also be a hero. The ocean can protect us from the climate change that’s already underway.”

As waters off California warmed during a marine heat wave in 2014, young white sharks moved north, outside their normal habitat.  Eric Mailander

White sharks move in

The arrival of the young white sharks in Central California coincided with another unusual event, known as the “blob.” A marine heat wave was spreading across the waters of the north Pacific Ocean.

“That was some of the warmest water we’ve ever had in recorded history off the West Coast of the U.S.,” Van Houtan says, who is the chief scientist at the Monterey Bay Aquarium. In Monterey, water temperatures were as much as 10 degrees above average.

Thus far, the oceans have literally been taking the heat from climate change. Over the last 50 years, they’ve absorbed more than 90% of the excess heat in the atmosphere from human-caused warming.

Young white sharks congregate in Southern California for its warmer water. Only later, when they bulk up considerably, do they move into cooler waters, eventually growing to 15 feet. As the marine heat wave spread, the sharks followed their patch of warm water as it moved north up the coast, according to a new study. Overall their available habitat shrank, since the temperatures to the south and west were no longer tolerable.

Scientists John O’Sullivan of the Monterey Bay Aquarium and Chris Lowe of California State University release a tagged juvenile white shark off Southern California, part of an effort to track their movement. Monterey Bay Aquarium

While the water has cooled a bit recently, the white sharks have stuck around. Scientists still aren’t sure how it could affect the overall ecosystem as new species come into contact with the established native species.

“Predators and prey are now crowded into smaller spaces,” Van Houtan says. “If I’m a prey species, there’s just fewer places to hide. And that is a big concern when you’re thinking of the overall picture and you’re thinking of commercial fisheries and sardines and salmon.”

But Van Houtan cautions that the sharks themselves are not the problem. Marine heat waves are expected to become hotter and last longer due to climate change.

“This is not a story about sharks,” he says. “This is a story about climate. The sharks are following their temperatures and their habitat. They’re following their home as it moves up the coast. Our emissions are the problem.”

Oceans in crisis

Similar shifts are happening across the oceans. On the East Coast, lobsters are moving north, one of the reasons that fishermen in southern New England are increasingly finding their traps empty. The fishing fleet in North Carolina is having to travel farther and farther north to find their catch.

Most fishery regulations weren’t written with these dynamic changes in mind. Some rules are controlled by states, even though fish move across state lines. Others limit fishing to fixed areas, governed by lines on a map that may mean little as species move elsewhere.

Climate change is also making ocean waters more acidic, potentially harming shellfish like oysters.
Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

“Our management system has not caught up,” Goldstein says. “So we need to look at what it will take to help these fishing communities, fishermen, processors adapt to what unfortunately is the new reality.”

In addition to warming, the ocean is also becoming more acidic because it’s absorbing carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, posing a significant threat to oysters and other shellfish.

As a result, scientists say that cutting overall heat-trapping emissions will be crucial for ocean health, a policy the Trump Administration rolled back. Trump also sought to expand offshore oil and gas leasing in the oceans and removed protections for the Northeast Canyons and Seamounts Marine National Monument, a unique underwater canyon ecosystem off the coast of New England.

“I think it’s fair to say that the last four years were pretty rough for the environment and they were certainly rough for the ocean,” says George Leonard, chief scientist at Ocean Conservancy.

Without a new leader appointed at NOAA so far, the Biden Administration’s ocean agenda hasn’t been spelled out yet, aside from the agency’s recent request for feedback about how to make ocean policy resilient to climate change. The goal with the biggest potential impact is Biden’s 30×30 commitment, which aims to conserve 30% of the land and oceans by 2030.

“The ocean needs a lot more protection,” Leonard says. “We have a biodiversity crisis in the ocean and that’s being driven by climate change and overexploitation. Process really matters with 30×30. This isn’t just about fish. It’s about people too. There are a lot of people and communities who can get hurt if establishing protected areas isn’t done in a just and equitable way.”

Traditionally, fishing groups have largely fought ocean conservation, since it can limit access to valuable fishing grounds. But some say the effects of climate change mean the conversations need to start now.

Fishing fleets, like lobster boats in New England, are beginning to find their catch is migrating in a warming climate.  Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

“Everybody I talk to, everybody I work with is seeing things change,” says Eric Brazer, deputy director of the Gulf of Mexico Reef Fish Shareholders’ Alliance, an association of Gulf Coast fishermen. “They are the ones who often see and experience these changes before anybody else does.”

Brazer says if the Biden Administration wants to be successful, it will need to work with local groups from the outset. Recently, NOAA tripled the size of Flower Garden Banks National Marine Sanctuary off the coast of Texas and New Orleans. Even though it limited fishing, Brazer says his colleagues were ultimately supportive since they had been involved in the conversations from the beginning.

“Fishermen’s businesses are going to be impacted by this,” Brazer says. “That’s why it’s especially critical for us to be at the table, be at the podium, have access to the managers and start to answer these questions that are unanswered at this point.”


Original post: https://www.npr.org/2021/03/18/975782053/

Feb 26 2021

Pacific Sardine Landings May Shift North as Ocean Warms, New Projections Show

Pacific sardines are a small but sometimes numerous fish closely intertwined with California’s fishing history. A new study linking climate change and the northern sardine stock fishery shows that they may shift north along the West Coast as the ocean warms.

A climate-driven northward shift by sardines could cause a decline in landings of the northern sardine stock by 20 to 50 percent in the next 60 years. These changes would affect historic California fishing ports such as San Pedro and Moss Landing, according to the new research published in Fisheries Oceanography. The study did not examine whether southern sardine stock would also shift northward, potentially offsetting this decline in landings. In turn, landings at northern port cities such as Astoria, Oregon, and Westport, Washington, are projected to benefit.

Researchers examined three possible “climate futures.” The warmest had the most pessimistic outcomes, with total sardine landings in all West Coast states declining 20 percent by 2080.

Understanding climate-driven shifts in habitat helps predict impacts on landings

The study translates environmental shifts into possible impacts on fishing communities and coastal economies. Sardines have historically gone through “boom and bust” changes in their population. Their numbers off the West Coast have remained low in recent years, with the West Coast sardine fishery closed since 2015. This research does not project changes in the abundance of sardines. Instead, it shows that climate-driven shifts in their habitat may have a significant impact on landings at historically important ports.

“As the marine environment changes, so too will the distribution of marine species,” said James Smith, a research scientist with the University of Santa Cruz affiliated with NOAA Fisheries’ Southwest Fisheries Science Center. “But linking future changes in the distribution of species with impacts on the fishing fleet has been challenging. Hopefully our study can provide information about potential impacts in coming decades, and thereby inform strategies to mitigate these impacts.”

Maps illustrate projections of how sardine habitat off the West Coast will shift as climate change warms the ocean. Blue shading illustrates where habitat will improve for sardines over coming decades, while red shows where habitat will grow worse. Credit: Fisheries Oceanography.

Looking to the Past to Predict the Future

The estimated shifts illustrate how climate change may alter the traditional fishing economies of the West Coast, as once depicted in John Steinbeck’s “Cannery Row.” The 1945 novel featured historic canneries in Monterey, once supplied by sardine catches delivered to nearby Moss Landing. Sardines helped make Monterey one of the busiest fishing ports in the world until their collapse in the 1950s. Sardines are well known to undergo boom and bust cycles. Their numbers, and landings with them, increased again in the 1990s, but have declined more recently. The new research does not attempt to project changes in sardine numbers, but uses recent numbers as a baseline. It demonstrates how average landings by port may change due to future shifts in sardine habitat.

“We can’t predict how many sardines there will be in 50 to 60 years,” says James Smith, “but we have a much better idea where they will be. And their northward shift [of the northern sardine stock] promises to have a significant impact on the fishery, regardless of how many sardine there are.”

The study aligns with earlier research indicating that many marine species, including sardines, will follow their preferred temperatures north as climate change warms the Pacific Ocean. The new research estimates the northward shift in sardine, and its potential impact on the fishing fleet. These findings emerged from newly developed and very fine-scale projections by climate and ocean models of changes in ocean conditions along the West Coast.

There are three stocks of sardine: northern, southern and Gulf of California. The research examined the northern stock, which can range from southeast Alaska to the northern portion of the Baja Peninsula, not the Gulf of California stock or the southern stock typically found mostly in Mexican waters off the west coast of Baja California but sometimes ranging into Southern California. Researchers noted that a northward shift by the southern stock may help offset the projected declines in landings at southern ports.

 

The potential impact of a shifting Pacific sardine distribution on U.S. West Coast landings.

 


Original post: https://www.fisheries.noaa.gov/feature-story/pacific-sardine-landings-may-shift-north-ocean-warms-new-projections-show

Feb 25 2021

From science to fake news: How ocean misinformation evolves

We have seen this cycle play out in fisheries with the headline that there won’t be any fish in the ocean by the year 2048. It started in 2006 when a group of scientists published a paper with the fun fact that at the rate of fisheries decline from decades ago, there would be no fish by 2048. It was a small part of the paper, meant to highlight a broader point that past fisheries management had been poor. However, the press release that accompanied the paper touted it as a significant finding leading to context-lacking news stories, hyperbolic headlines, and a pervasive notion that there won’t be any fish in the ocean by 2048. The paper’s original authors have stated that their findings are misconstrued and have worked to publish papers correcting them.

Brandolini’s law states that, “The amount of energy needed to refute bullshit is an order of magnitude larger than to produce it.” Fifteen years later, the 2048 myth continues to appear in articles across the internet.

The evolution of a bycatch myth

Now a new myth is rising to prominence: that global bycatch rates are as high as 40%.

Some background: The global authority on world fisheries, the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), defines bycatch as, “the total catch of non-target animals.” This is the widely accepted definition.

Bycatch can be a useful indicator of fishery impacts on the broader ecosystem and provides important data that fishermen and fishery managers use to improve sustainability. Different fisheries have different rates of bycatch with varying degrees of impact. However, an important nuance is that bycatch is used or discarded. Used bycatch is generally accepted as sustainable so long as the non-target species isn’t a threatened species. Discards are wasteful and an unfortunate reality of food production. The most recent research showed that about 10% of fish have been discarded at sea over the past decade.

So how did 10% get inflated to 40%?

In 2009, three people working for NGOs (World Wildlife Fund & Dorset Wildlife Trust) and one unaffiliated person decided to write a paper arguing that the definition of “bycatch” needed to be redefined to include ALL catch from unmanaged fisheries. From their paper:

“The new bycatch definition is therefore defined in its simplest form as: Bycatch is catch that is either unused or unmanaged.”

The authors define “unmanaged” as catch that “does not have specific management to ensure the take is sustainable;” in contrast, a managed fishery will have “clearly defined measures specifically intended to ensure the sustainable capture of any species or groups of species within any fishing operation.” An example they gave in the paper is that, because a 1993 study showed that members of the Indian bottom trawling fleet used nets with illegal mesh, “such a fishery cannot be considered managed, as defined in this paper, [thus] the entire catch of the Indian bottom trawl fleet is considered bycatch.” By their definition, they calculated 56.3% of India’s total catch as bycatch.

Adding up all this calculation for each country brought them to declare 40.4% of the world’s catch as bycatch.

Researchers making arguments in the scientific literature is nothing new. Still, it is surprising to see peer-reviewers and editors accept a paper arguing for redefining a widely accepted and common term that would necessitate a paradigm shift in fishery management. Especially with assumptions that a 1993 finding applied to a 2009 definition.

Regardless, their new definition has not been adopted. FAO still uses the widely accepted definition of bycatch, and I could not find a single authoritative body that uses the WWF & Dorset definition.

However, if you thought the redefined, inflated numbers would lose the nuance of “unused or unmanaged” and would be used as a call to action by advocacy groups, you are correct.

Read the full article here


Original post: https://sustainablefisheries-uw.org/fisheries-misinformation/

Feb 17 2021

Setting Biden’s seafood policy table

© Getty Images

Fishermen have been invited to be partners with the Biden administration on ocean policy and we are prepared to engage. Hard work, honest dialog and commitments to justice and equity will ensure that we remain at the table and not on the menu.

January’s executive order tackling climate change includes ambitious provisions that set agencies on a course to climate mitigation. Most importantly for America’s commercial fishing families, the order established two parallel processes to secure direct input from fishermen on, respectively the appropriate ways to conserve 30 percent of U.S. lands and waters by 2030, an initiative known as 30×30, and ways to make our fisheries more resilient to climate change.

Fishing communities are precisely where policymakers should look for durable ocean-based climate solutions. Here are some starting points.

Expand place-based fisheries protections

Today’s ocean is increasingly industrialized and our coasts are more densely occupied than ever. The historic pattern of ocean and coastal development exacerbated by climate change has resulted in reduced protections for fish habitat and serial declines of functional working waterfront. The administration has the ability to reverse both trends.

The U.S. should strengthen existing fisheries habitat protection processes by requiring federal agencies to avoid, minimize and mitigate impacts to Essential Fish Habitat (EFH). EFH consultations are regularly conducted by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), yet NOAA’s recommendations are routinely ignored by other agencies. Executive action requiring permitting agencies to incorporate NOAA’s EFH conservation recommendations into their decisions would significantly benefit fish habitat, fisheries and biodiversity.

The U.S. can also promote the resilience of our working waterfront through infrastructure investments and policy action that secure fishing community access. National infrastructure investments should support climate resilient working waterfronts that meet the needs of community-based fishermen. National Standard 8, a key community protection provision of the Magnuson-Stevens Act, should be strengthened and its implementing guidelines updated.

Decarbonize U.S. seafood systems

Domestic wild-caught fish has the lowest associated carbon emissions on average of any animal protein. Americans should be eating more wild domestic seafood to mitigate climate change and improve their health. With proper incentives and support, U.S. fishermen can secure new markets while increasing food security and reducing the carbon footprint of America’s food supply.

The Biden administration should take this opportunity to invest in local seafood systems, which can decrease emissions from this already low-emissions food source. Strengthening NOAA and USDA programs that support and promote sustainable wild-capture seafood consumption at home is a win-win. Simultaneously, the U.S. must strengthen policies and programs to eliminate Illegal, Unreported, and Unregulated fishing, which undermines international conservation efforts, harms domestic fisheries and increases seafood-associated emissions.

The administration can also partner with fishermen on direct emission reductions. Diesel engines remain the only widely available marine propulsion option for fishing vessels, but innovations in hybrid power and alternative fuels are advancing. New programs to accelerate development and acquisition of next-generation marine propulsion technology will set the course to low- or zero-emission fisheries.

Give 30×30 a dose of ocean reality

The fishing industry is united in insisting that 30×30 policies recognize our world-leading fisheries management and avoid walling off areas of the ocean to all commercial fisheries. This call was echoed by two dozen of the country’s leading fisheries scientists. Fishermen objected primarily to mandates for no-take marine protected areas, including those that would set aside large parts of the ocean for recreational exploitation while disenfranchising fishing families.

Implementing 30×30 equitably should start at the inventory stage. According to the United Nations World Database of Protected Areas and by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature’s definition of marine protection, existing marine protected areas already cover over 37 percent of U.S. ocean waters. Over the past 40 years the U.S. has developed a visionary system for fisheries governance and conservation and through it implemented sweeping science and process-based conservation measures. Rather than circumventing existing processes, arguing over semantics and disqualifying our sustainable fisheries, the 30×30 process in the ocean should focus on investing resources in comprehensive climate-focused stock assessments, strengthening participatory fisheries management and integrating climate change into existing management processes.

In his inaugural address, President Biden issued a clarion call for the new administration: “Let’s begin to listen to one another again, to hear one another, see one another, show respect to one another.”

Fishermen’s appeals for equitable participation have been heard. We are optimistic the administration is setting a collaborative course for ocean climate action that will result in just and durable solutions and we are ready to get to work.


Original post: https://thehill.com/opinion/energy-environment/538931-setting-bidens-seafood-policy-table

Linda Behnken is a commercial fisherman and executive director of the Alaska Longline Fishermen’s Association, an association of small-scale fishermen based in Sitka, Alaska. Mike Conroy is an attorney and executive director of the Pacific Coast Federation of Fishermen’s Associations based in San Francisco.

Jan 29 2021

PCFFA Statement on President Biden’s Executive Order on Tackling the Climate Crisis at Home and Abroad

San Francisco, Calif. — January 28, 2021 –

On January 27, President Biden announced executive action to address the climate crisis.  The Executive Order on Tackling the Climate Crisis at Home and Abroad (E.O.) is wide ranging and includes many beneficial programs and policies.  Two policies, however, are of concern as they have the ability to unnecessarily impact the U.S. fishing industry unless implemented in a collaborative, inclusive, and equitable manner.

30 x 30 initiative

The Ocean-Based Climate Solutions Act, introduced during the last months of the 116th Congress, proposed to “prohibit any commercial extractive or destructive human activity in at least 30 percent of the ocean under United States jurisdiction by 2030”. In the preceding and ensuing weeks, the fishing industry united in its opposition to no-take marine protected areas as a component of national ocean conservation campaigns and insisted on being part of the process.

Yesterday’s order indicates that the Administration has accepted these terms and is inviting fishing communities to the table. We applaud President Biden’s acknowledgement of the contributions and importance of the nation’s fishing industry.  Rather than a prescriptive top-down mandate, the E.O. calls for a process designed to achieve the goal of “conserving at least 30 percent of our lands and waters by 2030.”  Notably, this process requires engagement with fishermen throughout. We thank the Administration for listening to our concerns and agreeing that we have valuable contributions and insights.  We are on the water every day, we are seeing, experiencing, and adapting to a changing climate – in real time, and we have valuable insight to share.

“Conservation” is a value that U.S. fishermen have cherished for generations and depend on looking towards the future.  U.S. fishermen fight harder for fishery conservation than virtually any other group, without compromise: without it, we have no fishing communities.  For us, it is personal, and our livelihoods and the food security of all Americans depend on it.

Our industry’s future is wholly dependent on the conservation of our marine resources and the health of our ocean ecosystems.  The Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act (MSA) is the primary law governing marine fisheries management in the U.S; and a worldwide model for a public, science-driven ocean governance process.  Principles of resource, habitat and ecosystem conservation are deeply embedded in the MSA and have resulted in stakeholder-driven Fishery Management Councils establishing numerous protections and conservation measures in the oceans under U.S. jurisdiction. For example, under Council leadership, we have already prohibited bottom trawling in over 76% of US waters, the most comprehensive ocean conservation program in the country by far. Through hard work, strong science, and meaningful stakeholder participation we have achieved healthy, sustainable fisheries that all Americans can be proud of, managed using regulatory systems that result in meaningful and lasting ocean conservation. We should use these tools and integrate the achievements we’ve already made using them, rather than cast them aside.

Renewable Energy in Offshore Waters

We, and others similarly situated, have been vocal critics of how offshore energy siting and permitting decisions have been made and the absence of any planned actions to improve them.  Section 207 requires the Secretary of the Interior to “review siting and permitting processes * * * in offshore waters to identify * * * steps that can be taken * * * to increase renewable energy production * * * in those waters, with the goal of doubling offshore wind by 2030 while ensuring robust protection for our lands, waters, and biodiversity and creating good jobs.”  This review requires consultation with “other interested parties”.  Through, and with, our partners we expect to be granted “other interested party” status to inform this important process.  To date, the fishing industry has not been invited to the table in offshore energy siting discussions. In effect, we are on the menu. The fishing industry is still coming to terms with being forced to share its beating heart/workplace with a new activity – especially one that has not reached out to industry in an effort to determine locations which would have minimal impacts; one that has unknown impacts on fish stocks, protected species, sea birds and the larger marine ecosystem and environment; and one that promises jobs and economic revitalization, but at what true cost.

We are hopeful the review required by the order will sufficiently detail the potential harms of the industrialization of the ocean by offshore energy developers to the marine environment and biodiversity, and our ability to feed the nation, for which “robust protection[s]” can be discussed, analyzed and applied.  The need is based on offshore renewables being integral to meeting carbon emission goals.  We hope the review will consider whether such facilities are actually necessary to meet those goals; which requires identification of increases in emissions and other negative climate/environment impacts along the planning, construction, installation, maintenance and decommissioning phases of each Project.  The ability to create good jobs is predicated on economic viability of individual projects.  We hope the review will require future applicants to submit detailed documentation on all economic costs and benefits to those harmed by the project(s) and those who will benefit from the project(s).

Environmental and Economic Justice

Section 219 requires consideration of environmental and economic justice while governing.  Access to nature and natural resources is one of the underappreciated issues related to environmental justice.  U.S. harvested seafood is a healthy and affordable source of protein, and supports tens of thousands of jobs, particularly in rural coastal areas where economic options are limited.  For a large percentage of Americans, the only meaningful access to the living marine resources in our oceans is via the seafood we harvest.  We must not lose sight of this as we take actions in furtherance of the E.O.’s goals.

PCFFA is committed to working with the Biden Administration and other Stakeholders in carrying out the visions of the Executive Order.

About PCFFA
The Pacific Coast Federation of Fishermen’s Associations is the largest commercial fishermen’s organization on the West Coast, representing 17 local and regional fishermen’s associations from Santa Barbara to Southeast Alaska. As a major commercial fishing industry trade association, PCFFA represents the interests of commercial fishing families who make their living harvesting and delivering high-quality seafood to America’s tables.
 
Media contacts:
Mike Conroy, PCFFA executive director: (415) 638-9730 • mike@ifrfish.org

Jan 28 2021

Seafood Industry Reacts to Biden’s Climate Crisis Executive Order

January 28, 2021

White House in Washington DC

Photo Credit: YevgeniyM/iStock/Getty Images Plus

On Wednesday, President Joe Biden signed an executive order focused on “Tackling the Climate Crisis at Home and Abroad.

The order’s focus on science and addressing climate change was applauded by many in the industry. However, concerns over being included in some of the decision-making processes that will follow the order was a theme in reactions from industry associations and organizations.

National Fisheries Institute (NFI) President John Connelly wrote in a statement, “[NFI] welcomes the Administration’s early focus on fisheries. We are prepared to work with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and others to ensure the right programs are put in place.”

“Engaging stakeholders and researchers early is essential to ensuring seafood science, not slogans, drives sustainability initiatives. The health of both our nation’s seafood stocks and the communities that rely on them is vital to the success of any initiative. Efforts to implement broad restrictions should take into account the existing restrictions put in place by fisheries management councils,” Connelly concluded.

Overall, the administration’s focus on solving the issue of climate change was met positively.

“We applaud President Biden for recognizing the critical need for meaningful stakeholder engagement in fulfilling his campaign promise to conserve 30 percent of our lands and waters by 2030. Explicitly naming fishermen as a stakeholder group clearly acknowledges our role in ensuring healthy oceans systems and providing the lowest carbon footprint protein to the American people,” Leigh Habegger, Executive Director, Seafood Harvesters of America said in a statement.

“Alaskan fishermen expressed a combination of relief and optimism as the Biden Administration released its federal plan to address climate change. Having long been aware of the need to address a rapidly changing climate. Climate change is among Alaskan fishermen’s top concerns according to a 2020 survey of more than 750 fishermen,” a press release from the Salmon Habitat Information Program read.

Many organizations are questioning the ‘30×30’ provision, which calls for at least 30% of the country’s lands and waters be preserved.

“The order commits to the goal of conserving at least 30 percent of our lands and oceans by 2030 and launches a process for stakeholder engagement from agricultural and forest landowners, fishermen, Tribes, States, Territories, local officials, and others to identify strategies that will result in broad participation,” the statement from the White House reads.

The provision, which was included in the “Ocean-Based Climate Solutions Act,” introduced by Representative Raul Grijalva (D-AZ) last October was met with swift reaction from the seafood industry with 800 members sending a letter to Grijalva citing concerns about the plan.

“Conserving 30 percent of our lands and waters by 2030 is a big deal and we must get it right if it is to be effective. If this initiative is guided by no more than simply what feels good or sounds catchy, we will not get it right. Much like the Magnuson-Stevens Act, so too must this initiative be rooted in science if it is to be a global gold standard. ‘30×30’ must be science-based, transparent, and stakeholder-driven, while having a watchful eye for fairness, equity, and societal betterment. Our oceans are changing rapidly and we must confront that head on. However, we must allow for science to guide us, not politics,” Christopher Brown, President, Seafood Harvesters of America and 2016 White House Champion of Change for Sustainable Fisheries said in a statement.

In regard to the ‘30×30’ provision, the Alaska Longline Fishermen’s Association (ALFA) wrote:

“Unlike emissions reductions or transitioning to renewable energy, marine protected areas that exclude fishing communities do not address climate change, and in many cases may exacerbate it by weakening local food systems and increasing emissions in the seafood supply chain. Over the past six months, ALFA has been a leading voice as the commercial fishing industry united in calls to be included in decision making around the 30×30 campaign. Today’s actions signal that the administration is listening, and we thank them.”

The Responsible Offshore Development Alliance (RODA) shared its thoughts on the EO’s focus on offshore wind development in the country.

RODA wrote:

“The Administration has made clear its commitment to address climate change, which is a matter of critical importance to seafood harvesters adapting to the effects of ecosystem changes every day. The rapid advancement of large offshore wind energy facilities to meet climate goals places our nation at the dawn of a new era of ocean industrialization. While mitigating carbon emissions is urgent and necessary, so is protecting and prioritizing domestic sourcing of sustainable, affordable, and healthy protein. This necessitates evaluating the most efficient means of reducing atmospheric carbon while minimizing impacts to biodiversity and the economy.

Fishing communities stand ready and willing to incorporate their unique expertise in the country’s transition to renewable energy but there must be meaningful ways for them to do so. Three key topics must be addressed to ensure responsible planning for the unprecedented demands that are anticipated to be placed on our oceans.”

The three key topics RODA highlighted were: (1) Improving regional research efforts and scientific understanding of offshore infrastructure projects; (2) Enhanced interstate coordination and a clear delineation of authorities within federal agencies; (3) Facilitation of industry to industry cooperation.


 Posted with permission of Seafood News. Subscribe to SeafoodNews.com
Jan 28 2021

RODA statement on considerations for the Biden Administration from the fishing industry and coastal communities

January 27, 2021 — The following was released by the Responsible Offshore Development Alliance:

The United States commercial fishing industry is united around the common goals of protecting our traditional fishing communities, maintaining domestic food security, and leading with evidence-based decision making during an era of rapidly changing ocean use. We are encouraged by the new Administration’s commitment to inclusivity and environmental science. We look forward to improving partnerships between lawmakers, policymakers, and fisheries experts to protect and promote this low-environmental impact protein source, which leads the world in sustainability through the rigorous fisheries management and conservation requirements of the Magnuson Stevens Act.

It is imperative that our elected officials support and adopt policies to minimize and mitigate the effects of climate change; the strategies to do so must equally address the pressing issues of food production, ecosystem health, and preserving cultural heritage. As evidenced by his Agency nominations and recent Executive Order on “Tackling the Climate Crisis at Home and Abroad,” we are encouraged that the President is taking a measured approach. We applaud leadership and processes that underscore the value of science-based collaboration with members of small communities who are most impacted by natural resource management decisions.

Offshore Renewable Energy Development 

The Administration has made clear its commitment to address climate change, which is a matter of critical importance to seafood harvesters adapting to the effects of ecosystem changes every day. The rapid advancement of large offshore wind energy facilities to meet climate goals places our nation at the dawn of a new era of ocean industrialization. While mitigating carbon emissions is urgent and necessary, so is protecting and prioritizing domestic sourcing of sustainable, affordable, and healthy protein. This necessitates evaluating the most efficient means of reducing atmospheric carbon while minimizing impacts to biodiversity and the economy.

Fishing communities stand ready and willing to incorporate their unique expertise in the country’s transition to renewable energy but there must be meaningful ways for them to do so. Three key topics must be addressed to ensure responsible planning for the unprecedented demands that are anticipated to be placed on our oceans.

1. Improving regional research efforts and scientific understanding of offshore infrastructure projects

Development of the Outer Continental Shelf should only be done in a purposeful planned manner utilizing the best available science. Our scientific understanding of impacts from offshore wind energy development is improving, but there is far more unknown about how development will alter the physical, biological, economic and social dimensions of the marine environment.

Evidence-based planning is necessary to understand and minimize impacts, and currently that does not exist for the proposed scale of development to proceed responsibly. For commercial fishermen, it is extremely worrisome to see the push for a new industry that jeopardizes a sustainable and historic one without rigorous scientific due diligence. Such diligence must apply to transparent information about the environmental and economic effects associated with the entire offshore renewable energy supply chain, from mining rare earth minerals for battery components to turbine production to maritime traffic to decommissioning.

Currently, there is no balancing of priorities in offshore renewable energy permitting decisions. Promises to achieve production targets for offshore wind energy based solely on climate goals will significantly impact other public needs such as food production, tourism, and national security. Such targets, if adopted, must be accompanied by a comprehensive roadmap for evaluating tradeoffs and should not be pursued before the creation of balanced multi-use ocean plans. These must include funding for environmental research and compensatory mitigation for impacted sectors.

2. Enhanced interstate coordination and a clear delineation of authorities within federal agencies

Some of the biggest challenges around offshore renewable energy development are due to a lack of consistency in the leasing and planning processes, nonexistent or inconsistent engagement opportunities, and poor integration between planning and permitting authorities.

Regional issues associated with environmental and fisheries impacts require appropriate federal oversight. The current approach results in widespread duplication of efforts, inconsistency and inequity, misplaced interstate competition, and overall unpredictability. To help address the lack of coordination of regional research, RODA co-founded the Responsible Offshore Science Alliance with federal and state entities, offshore wind energy developers, and expert fisheries scientists to serve as a trusted regional coordinating entity. The Administration should reward the collaboration on this innovative public-private partnership and utilize it as a resource for improved coordination.

Responsibilities for the various federal agencies involved is often unclear. A clarification of the roles for these entities is urgently needed and regulatory authority should be returned to agencies with most expertise in the relevant aspects of environmental review.

We look forward to an incoming Commerce Secretary who can bring her expertise and knowledge of coordinating numerous federal, state and local agencies, as well as community members and regional partners together through her experience with the Block Island Wind Farm. As governor, Ms. Raimondo witnessed first hand the time and dedication required for effective collaboration and the complex links of offshore wind energy with the U.S. economy.

3. Facilitation of industry to industry cooperation

As users who will inevitably share the ocean space, regulations, and potential workforce, it is paramount that industry to industry cooperation improves between offshore wind energy development and fishing. Currently this is very difficult to achieve and would benefit from regulatory incentives or direct federal involvement.

RODA has worked to bring industries together through its Joint Industry Task Force and fishing industry leaders are committed to direct engagement when assured those efforts can bear fruit. Small collaborative projects and communication have added value to the process, but not enough resources have been committed to truly catalyze the industries working together in a meaningful way. Absent resources and in a regulatory atmosphere that strongly favors one party, progress is difficult. To be effective, support must be directed to fisheries-driven efforts, not just wind-organized ones. Similarly, some wind developers have expended far more effort than others to work with affected communities in good faith. Incentives to do so must be greatly expanded.

“30×30”

The Presidential Memorandum on scientific integrity must extend to implementation of science-based recommendations for conservation and environmental protection. We are encouraged by the Administration’s commitment to collect input from stakeholders in the “30×30” provisions included in the Executive Order on climate change, which implements a goal of conserving at least 30% of U.S. waters by 2030. We echo the concern expressed by fishing communities and scientists across the country that arbitrary closures, or targets for the total area of closures, based on political negotiations rather than science could have greater negative impacts to ocean conservation than no closures at all.

For conservation measures to be beneficial, they must be carefully designed for specific outcomes such as enhancing ecosystem production, protecting sensitive habitat, or preserving fish spawning activity. The public and transparent fishery management council process is the appropriate way to ensure the best available science determines such design.  We must also be mindful that for a vast majority of Americans, the only access they have to the marine resources in U.S. oceans is a direct result of the U.S. fishing industry.  The Executive Order clearly states environmental and economic justice are important considerations in developing programs and policies. Reducing our abilities to provide U.S. seafood to disadvantaged communities would not further environmental and economic justice.

Support for the Buy American Initiative

The Biden Administration should champion the U.S. commercial fishing industry, which complies with a multitude of regulations to provide renewable protein to Americans across the country. U.S. fisheries are among the most sustainable around the world and constitute one of the lowest-carbon methods of food production. Too often we hear public misconceptions that wild harvest fisheries are on the verge of extinction or utilize destructive practices, but that is not true for U.S. based fisheries. Domestic fisheries are the most strictly regulated in the world and have rebounded extraordinarily from overfishing decades ago; failing to recognize their success only pushes consumers toward seafood from other markets with much looser environmental oversight. The coastal communities across the nation that support our fishing heritage must be protected and celebrated.

In light of the Covid-19 pandemic and staggering unemployment rates, efforts to promote jobs should be maximized across all maritime sectors and ensure that any new coastal uses benefit the U.S. economy and Americans. RODA calls on the Biden administration to work with fishing companies and crews, offshore wind supply chains, unions, and workforce development programs to create robust mechanisms that create and maintain jobs across all maritime trades.

Complementary to this, offshore wind energy development should be the poster industry for the President’s “Buy American” initiative. Current infrastructure in the U.S. does not support the manufacturing or installation of offshore wind turbine components and thus energy development companies are poised to purchase from foreign countries. For example, GE Renewable Energy, a main supplier of wind turbines and turbine parts, recently opened a new offshore wind and development center in China. The Administration should support American labor by requiring turbines, monopiles and blades be manufactured here in the U.S., ensuring that they meet our world-class environmental standards.

As small business owners reliant upon a healthy U.S. environment, our members look forward to working with the President’s appointments for the Secretaries of Commerce, Interior, and Labor. Their experience working with small communities, including coastal and fishing communities, will prove vital as we tackle some of the biggest issues facing our nation. We also look forward to working with the entire Administration on protecting and promoting sustainable U.S. seafood. RODA is committed to helping our members stay on the water and will continue to advocate for protecting the important heritage of the fishing industry and coastal communities across the country.

 


Original post: https://www.savingseafood.org/

Jan 18 2021

West Coast Fisheries Impacts from COVID-19

In April 2020, NOAA Fisheries prepared its first national report on the regional impacts of COVID-19 on the commercial, recreational and aquaculture sectors.

This report updates that initial assessment, capturing economic changes experienced by the fishing industry as the country began its phased reopening along with infusion of Federal funding through the CARES Act. NOAA
Fisheries will continue to use this information to identify economic hardship where it exists and identify pathways for enhancing the resilience of the U.S. seafood and fisheries industries.

COVID-19-Impact-Assessment

 

Dec 22 2020

An Open Letter to the 116th Congress from U.S. Marine Fishery Scientists

Concerning:

Marine Protected Areas – Title II of the Ocean-Based Climate Solutions Act (H.R.8632)

 

December 10, 2020

Dear Senators and Representatives:

 

As scientists engaged in the provision of information to support federally managed fisheries, we are concerned that Title II of the proposed Ocean-Based Climate Solutions Act (H.R.8632), which would require the establishment of marine protected areas that ban all commercial fishing activity in 30% of U.S. ocean waters by 2030, is not based on the best scientific information available and would not be the most effective way to protect marine biodiversity. Conservation of marine ecosystems in the U.S. waters is challenged by a rapidly changing climate, but the proposed marine protected areas will not solve climate-related impacts on biodiversity, instead they will decrease flexibility of the fishery management system to adapt to climate change. The most significant impact of marine protected areas is a spatial shift in fishing, which is effectively a fisheries management action. Marine biodiversity is protected by the mandates of the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act, the Endangered Species Act, the Marine Mammal Protection Act, and other legislation. The implementation of those requirements with respect to fisheries impacts is through the regional Fisheries Management Council system to protect target species, bycatch species, protected species, ecosystem components, essential fish habitat and other sensitive habitats.

Although several U.S. fish stocks have been overfished, the fisheries are highly regulated to avoid overfishing and rebuild stocks with a precautionary approach. A large portion of U.S. waters are currently closed to fishing, either seasonally or year-round. A prevalent impact of climate change in the U.S. has been shifting spatial distributions, generally northerly and to deeper habitats. Many fisheries are flexible enough to adapt to such shifts, but the proposed extension of permanent marine protected areas would prohibit many adaptive responses to climate change. Based on our experiences and case studies, marine protected areas that are not based on the best scientific information available, such as the uninformed target of restricting commercial fishing in 30% of U.S. waters, will have unanticipated consequences such as increased bycatch and habitat destruction by shifting the location of fishing effort.

As an example, after over a decade of scientific analysis, the New England Fishery Management Council recently re-designated essential fish habitat for all 28 Council managed species, designated new habitat areas of particular concern, revised habitat and groundfish management areas, and designated deep-sea coral management zones and fishing gear restrictions. We affirm that these management areas are based on the best scientific information available, as required in the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act. By contrast, we are concerned that establishing new marine protected areas to meet the arbitrary 30% objective stated in Title II of the Ocean-Based Climate Solutions Act will not be based on the best scientific information available, will have negative unanticipated consequences, and will decrease the ability of U.S. fisheries to adapt to a changing climate.

Title II of the Ocean-Based Climate Solutions Act is predicated on a view that marine biodiversity in the U.S. EEZ is decreasing but provides no evidence that this is true. It is well established that targeted U.S. fish stocks are rebuilding and on average above target levels. A high proportion of benthic habitat and benthic ecosystems are already protected throughout the U.S. EEZ, and the non-target species of conservation concern are governed by other legislation, including the Endangered Species Act. Title II provides no evidence that biodiversity will be increased by more MPAs and provides no metrics for how the impact of additional MPAs would be evaluated.

Yours sincerely,

The undersigned are all marine scientists who have been involved in providing advice to the Federal or State governments on management of marine biodiversity. These scientists include former NOAA employees, former members of Science and Statistics Committees of Fisheries Management Councils including two chairs of those committees, a director of a NMFS regional center, the Editor in Chief of a major marine science journal and members of government advisory panels including the Ocean Studies Board of the National Research Council.

 

Judith R. Amesbury Micronesian Archaeological Research Services, Guam

David Bethoney, Commercial Fisheries Research Foundation

Debra T. Cabrera, University of Guam

Steven X. Cadrin, University of Massachusetts

Paul Callaghan, University of Guam

Yong Chen, University of Maine

Charles Daxboeck, Biodax Consulting

David Fluharty, University of Washington

Daniel Georgianna, University of Massachusetts Dartmouth

David Itano, Opah Consulting

Brad Harris, Alaska Pacific University

Ray Hilborn, University of Washington

Pierre Kleiber, NOAA retired

Olaf Jensen, University of Wisconsin

Bill Karp, NOAA retired

Kai Lorenzen, University of Florida

Franz Mueter, University of Alaska

Robert D. Murphy, Alaska Pacific University

Catherine E. O’Keefe, Fishery Applications Consulting Team

Richard Parrish, NOAA retired

Eric N. Powell, University of Southern Mississippi

Craig Severance, University of Hawaii Hilo

John Sibert, University of Hawaii (retired)

Robert Skillman, NOAA retired

Kevin Stokesbury, University of Massachusetts Dartmouth

 Robert Trumble, MRAG America (retired)

Vidar G. Wespestad, NOAA retired

Michael Wilberg, University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science

Affiliations are listed for identification purposes only and do not imply institutional support for the views expressed.


Original post: https://sustainablefisheries-uw.org/