Feb 4 2020

Fisheries Management Is Actually Working, Global Analysis Shows

Increasing fish stocks around the world give credibility to strong management and the importance of fisheries data

Story modified from the original press release issued by the University of Washington 

Nearly half of the fish caught worldwide are from stocks that are scientifically monitored and, on average, these stocks are increasing in abundance. According to a new global analysis, effective management appears to be the main reason these stocks are at sustainable levels or rebuilding successfully.

The analysis, which incorporated fisheries data from around the world, was conducted by an international research team supported by the Science for Nature and People Partnership. Their results were published January 13th in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

The results show that fisheries management works when applied, and the solution for sustaining fisheries around the world is implementing effective fisheries management, the authors explained.

“There is a narrative that fish stocks are declining around the world, that fisheries management is failing and we need new solutions — and it’s totally wrong,” said lead author Ray Hilborn, a professor in the University of Washington School of Aquatic and Fishery Sciences. “Fish stocks are increasing in many places, and we already know how to solve problems through effective fisheries management.”

The project builds on a decade-long international collaboration to assemble estimates of the status of fish stocks — or distinct populations of fish — around the world, from Peru to the Mediterranean, and to Japan. This information helps scientists and managers know where overfishing is occurring or where some areas could support even more fishing.

The team’s database includes information on nearly half of the world’s fish catch, or about 880 fish stocks, providing perhaps the most comprehensive picture worldwide of the health and status of fish populations.

“The key is we want to know how well we are doing, where we need to improve, and what the problems are,” Hilborn said.

By pairing information about fish stocks with recently published data on fisheries management activities in about 30 countries, the researchers found that more intense management led to healthy or improving fish stocks, while little to no management led to overfishing and poor stock status.

“With these data, we could test whether fisheries management allows stocks to recover. We found that, emphatically, the answer is yes,” said co-author Christopher Costello, a professor of environmental and resource economics at University of California, Santa Barbara, and a board member with Environmental Defense Fund. “This gives credibility to the fishery managers and governments around the world that are willing to take strong actions.”

To be successful, management should be tailored to fit the characteristics of the different fisheries and the needs of specific countries and regions. The main goal should be to reduce the total fishing pressure when it is too high, and find ways to incentivize fishing fleets to value healthy fish stocks.

“There isn’t really a one-size-fits-all management approach,” Costello said. “We need to design the way we manage fisheries so that fishermen around the world have a long-term stake in the health of the ocean.”

Still, there are data-deficient areas of the world. Scientific estimates of the status of most fish stocks in South Asia and Southeast Asia are not available, and fisheries in India, Indonesia and China alone represent 30% to 40% of the world’s fish catch that is essentially unassessed.

“There are still big gaps in the data and these gaps are more difficult to fill,” said co-author Ana Parma, a principal scientist at Argentina’s National Scientific and Technical Research Council and a member of The Nature Conservancy global board. “This is because the available information on smaller fisheries is more scattered, has not been standardized and is harder to collate, or because fisheries in many regions are not regularly monitored.”

Hilborn and collaborators recently presented this work at the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations’ International Symposium on Fisheries Sustainability in Rome.

Other co-authors are from University of Victoria, University of Cape Town, National Institute of Fisheries Research (Morocco), Rutgers University, Seikai National Fisheries Research Institute Japan, CSIRO Oceans and Atmosphere, Fisheries New Zealand, Wildlife Conservation Society, Marine and Freshwater Research Center (Argentina), European Commission, Galway-Mayo Institute of Technology, Center for the Study of Marine Systems, Sustainable Fisheries Partnership, The Nature Conservancy, and the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations.

The research was funded by the Science for Nature and People Partnership (SNAPP), a collaboration between the National Center for Ecological Analysis and Synthesis at UC Santa Barbara, The Nature Conservancy, and Wildlife Conservation Society. Individual authors received funding from The Nature Conservancy, The Wildlife Conservation Society, the Walton Family Foundation, Environmental Defense Fund, the Richard C. and Lois M. Worthington Endowed Professorship in Fisheries Management and donations from 12 fishing companies.


Original post: https://www.nceas.ucsb.edu/

Jan 29 2020

‘Blob’ research shows ecological effects that halted fishing and hiked whale entanglements

Unprecedented environmental changes inspire new online tools to better spot them next time

NOAA Fisheries West Coast Region

An ecological pileup of unprecedented changes in the ocean off the West Coast beginning about 2014 led to record entanglements of humpback and other whales, putting the region’s most valuable commercial fishery at risk, new research shows.

The findings reflect a new management challenge brought about by a changing climate, recovering whale populations, and fishing pressure, according to the new research published in Nature Communications. The situation calls for new measures to alert fishermen to the risk of entanglements and help managers adjust to more rapid and frequent changes in the marine environment.

“We need to put information in the hands of those who can use it, at a time when it can make a difference,” said Jarrod Santora, a research scientist at NOAA Fisheries’ Southwest Fisheries Science Center (SWFSC) in Santa Cruz, California, and lead author of the research. “We are seeing changes coming at us in ways they never have before.”

Santora and his colleagues are developing a website that will use oceanographic data to forecast the areas where whales are most likely to be feeding off the West Coast. Crab fishermen could then use the information to help decide where–and where not–to set their traps. It may also help managers decide where and when to open–or close–fishing.

The new research teases out the ecological causes and effects that contributed to the spike in reported whale entanglements. Many involved traps set for Dungeness crab, said Nathan Mantua, a research scientist at the SWFSC and coauthor of the research. Reported entanglements have since dropped off but remain higher than before the increase.

“We had all these things that weren’t part of anyone’s experience come together in this remarkable three-year period,” he said.

Conflict Prompts Improved Communication

The entanglements have also prompted environmental lawsuits that threaten to restrict crab fishing. At the same time, though, the focus on entanglements has led to better communication and conversation between fishermen, environmental groups, and managers. Collaborative working groups have also developed tools to better anticipate and avoid entanglement risk.

“If the working group knew then what we know now, it wouldn’t have happened,” said John Mellor, a crab fisherman from San Francisco, referencing the increased entanglements. “The more we understand the whole picture, the better chance we have to mitigate the impacts.”

The driver behind many of the environmental changes was an unprecedented marine heatwave that took hold in 2014. It became known as “the warm Blob,” because of the large expanse of unusually high temperatures that dominated waters off the West Coast. The warm temperatures attracted subtropical species rarely seen in the region. The krill that humpback whales typically feed on grew scarce.

The whales switched to feed instead on high concentrations of anchovy that the warm, less productive waters had squeezed into a narrow band near the coast.

At the same time, the higher temperatures fueled a record bloom of toxic algae. It shut down crabbing on the West Coast from November 2015 through March 2016. When toxin levels eased and the Dungeness season finally opened, fishermen set multitudes of crab traps in that same narrow band where many whales were feeding.

NOAA Fisheries’ West Coast Region confirmed a then-record 53 whale entanglements in 2015 and 55 in 2016.

The scientists developed a new measure for ocean conditions called the Habitat Compression Index. It tracks the width of the productive band and how tightly species are coalescing there.

Whale Numbers Reflect Unprecedented Change

Research Biologist Karin Forney, also from the SWFSC and a coauthor of the research, lives in Moss Landing, California. She has a view of Monterey Bay and has long seen occasional humpback whales feeding just offshore. During the “the Blob” years, she would regularly see 30 to 40 whales from her front windows. Local whale watch boats made two to three trips a day to keep up with the demand.

Some 300 whales were counted at once in Monterey Bay.

“In our lifetimes living here, that was unprecedented,” she said. “We knew something dramatically different was pulling these whales closer to shore.”

She is also part of a NOAA team trained to free entangled whales.

“We were on call every day for weeks, with simultaneous reports of two or three entangled whales, so we could respond if they were sighted again,” she said. The team disentangled a few, while others were never seen again.

The lesson of the research, Forney said, is that scientists and fishermen must share information. They can help each other understand how complex environmental connections affect marine species and fisheries. Communication may be one of their most important tools as environmental changes come ever faster.

“Things are dynamic, and things are changing,” she said. “That is not going away.”

Humpback whales feed on anchovy off the Coast of California. New research shows that warm ocean temperatures pushed whales into the same water as crab fishermen, and whale entanglements increased. CREDIT: John Calambokidis/Cascadia Research Collective

 


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

Jan 25 2020

Dungeness crab larvae already showing effects of coastal acidification

This infographic shows the location of larval Dungeness crab sampling in 2016, examples of impacts from ocean acidification, as well as photos of a larval (left) and adult (right) crab. Credit: Nina Bednarsek, SSCWRP.

 

A new NOAA-funded study has documented for the first time that ocean acidification along the US Pacific Northwest coast is impacting the shells and sensory organs of some young Dungeness crab, a prized crustacean that supports the most valuable fishery on the West Coast.

Analysis of samples collected during a 2016 NOAA research cruise identified examples of damage to the carapace, or upper shell, of numerous larval Dungeness crabs, as well as the loss of hair-like sensory structures crabs use to orient themselves to their surroundings.

The study was published in the journal Science of the Total Environment.

Impacts to wild crab mirror results of laboratory study

Prior to this study, scientists thought that Dungeness crab were not vulnerable to current levels of ocean acidification, although a laboratory study conducted on Dungeness crab larvae by NOAA’s Northwest Fisheries Science Center in 2016 found that their development and survival suffered under pH levels expected in the future.

“This is the first study that demonstrates that larval crabs are already affected by ocean acidification in the natural environment, and builds on previous understanding of ocean acidification impacts on pteropods,” said lead author Nina Bednarsek, senior scientist with the Southern California Coastal Water Research Project. “If the crabs are affected already, we really need to make sure we start to pay much more attention to various components of the food chain before it is too late.”

What is ocean acidification?
Ocean acidification refers to a reduction in the pH of ocean water, primarily caused by the uptake of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere over long time spans. When CO2 is absorbed by seawater, a series of chemical reactions occur resulting in the increased concentration of hydrogen ions. This increase causes the seawater to increase its acidity and causes carbonate ions to be less abundant.

Carbonate ions are an important building block of structures such as sea shells and coral skeletons that rely on using calcium carbonate for structural growth. Decreases in carbonate ions can make building and maintaining shells and other calcium carbonate structures difficult for calcifying organisms such as oysters, clams, sea urchins, crabs, corals, and some kinds of shelled plankton, such as pteropods.

Close examination reveals patterns of damage
In this study, examination under a high-magnification, scanning electron microscope revealed that the corrosive conditions of coastal waters had affected portions of the fragile, still-developing external shell and legs of the tiny, almost translucent post-larval Dungeness crabs, leaving tell-tale features, such as abnormal ridging structures and scarred surfaces. This could, in turn, impair larval survival by altering swimming behaviors and competence, including the ability to regulate buoyancy, maintain vertical position, and avoid predators.

One of the more important findings of this study was that crabs showing signs of carapace dissolution were smaller than other larvae. This was disconcerting, scientists said, because the damage during the crab’s larval stages could cause potential developmental delays that could increase energy demands and interfere with maturation.

Sensory organ damage seen for the first time
In a surprising discovery, the team found that the low pH water in some coastal areas damaged the canals where hair-like bristles called mechanoreceptors stick out from the shell. These receptors transmit important chemical and mechanical sensations to the crab, and may help crabs navigate their environment. Examination showed that carapace dissolution destabilizes the attachment of the mechanoreceptor anchor, resulting in them falling out in some individuals.

This is a new aspect of crustacean sensitivity to ocean acidification that has not been previously reported. The team hypothesize that the absence or damage of mechanoreceptors within their neuritic canals may in part explain potential aberrant behavioral patterns, such as slower movement, less tactile recognition, and prolonged searching time, as well as impaired swimming, that have been observed in various crustacean species exposed to low pH conditions in laboratory settings.

“We found dissolution impacts to the crab larvae that were not expected to occur until much later in this century,” said Richard Feely, Senior Scientist with NOAA’s Pacific Marine Environmental Laboratory and one of the co-authors of the study.

Combining observations and modelling work, the research team, which included scientists from JISAO, NOAA’s cooperative institute at the University of Washington, from the University of Connecticut, and from Quebec, Britain and Slovenia, demonstrated that the impacts of dissolution were the most severe in the coastal habitats, where crabs grow and mature.

Previous research has indicated that Dungeness crab may also be vulnerable to future declines due to lack of availability of prey – including bivalves such as clams and other bottom-dwelling invertebrate species.

More research needed
Bednarsek emphasized that more research will be needed to determine whether the external dissolution seen in crabs at this early life stage could carry over into later life stages, including the reproductively active adult stage, and what the potential consequences may be for the population dynamics.

“If these larval crab need to divert energy to repair their exoskeletons, and are smaller as a result, the percentage that make it to adulthood will be at best variable, and likely go down in the long-term,” she said.

Ocean acidification is a major concern for West Coast fishery managers, said Rich Childers, Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife’s ocean acidification policy lead. “These data and results give state and tribal fishery managers and policy makers information that’s vital for harvest and conservation planning.”

The research was supported by the NOAA’s Ocean Acidification Program and NOAA’s Pacific Marine Environmental Laboratory.

NOAA Research News, 23 January 2020. Article.


Original post: https://news-oceanacidification-icc.org/

Jan 17 2020

Fish populations around the world are improving

Fish populations around the world are improving

January 16, 2020 — The following was released by Sustainable Fisheries UW:

Let’s enjoy some unequivocal, inarguable good news: a paper published today in PNAS, Hilborn et al. 2020, shows that on average, scientifically-assessed fish populations around the world are healthy or improving. And, for fish populations that are not doing well, there is a clear roadmap to sustainability. With Australia on fire and scares of World War III, the start of 2020 and the new decade has been awful; hopefully Hilborn et al. 2020 can kickstart a decade of ocean optimism.

Hilborn et al. 2020 counters the perception that fish populations around the world are declining and the only solution is closing vast swaths of ocean to fishing. Instead, Hilborn et al. 2020 argues that increasing scientific, management, and enforcement capacity will lead to more abundant and sustainable oceans. The major takeaway of the paper is that fishery management works—when fisheries are managed, they are sustained. The key is following the science-to-management blueprint. Scientific data collection and fishery assessment comes first, then fishing regulation and enforcement of fishing policies. With the blueprint in place, most fisheries around the world are sustainable or improving.

The paper uses updates to the RAM Legacy Stock Assessment Database, a decades-long project to assemble data on fish populations that are scientifically assessed. As of 2019, the database contains data on 882 marine fish populations, representing about half of reported wild-caught seafood. In 2009, the database contained data on only 166, representing a much smaller proportion of global seafood. Researchers have spent the last 10 years adding to the database, and with today’s publication, update the global status of fish stocks. They found that, on average, fish populations are above target levels. Not every stock is doing well, but on average, things are much better than they were 2 decades ago. How nice: an environmental story where things are better now than they were in the past!

The paper describes the global status of fish stocks, but it also tells the story of fishery sustainability from the past 50 years.

Read the full story at Sustainable Fisheries UW


Original post: Copyright © 2020 Stove Boat LLC, All rights reserved.
Saving Seafood | 202-595-1212 | savingseafood.org

Jan 15 2020

Release — Fisheries management is actually working, global analysis shows

FROM: Michelle Ma
University of Washington
206-543-2580
mcma@uw.edu
(NOTE: Researcher contact information at end)

EMBARGOED BY THE PROCEEDINGS OF THE NATIONAL ACADEMY OF SCIENCES
For public release at 12 p.m. Pacific / 3 p.m. Eastern on Monday, Jan. 13, 2020

Fisheries management is actually working, global analysis shows

Nearly half of the fish caught worldwide are from stocks that are scientifically monitored and, on average, are increasing in abundance. Effective management appears to be the main reason these stocks are at sustainable levels or successfully rebuilding.

That is the main finding of an international project led by the University of Washington to compile and analyze data from fisheries around the world. The results were published Jan. 13 in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

“There is a narrative that fish stocks are declining around the world, that fisheries management is failing and we need new solutions — and it’s totally wrong,” said lead author Ray Hilborn, a professor in the UW School of Aquatic and Fishery Sciences. “Fish stocks are not all declining around the world. They are increasing in many places, and we already know how to solve problems through effective fisheries management.”

The project builds on a decade-long international collaboration to assemble estimates of the status of fish stocks — or distinct populations of fish — around the world. This information helps scientists and managers know where overfishing is occurring, or where some areas could support even more fishing. Now the team’s database includes information on nearly half of the world’s fish catch, up from about 20% represented in the last compilation in 2009.

“The key is, we want to know how well we are doing, where we need to improve, and what the problems are,” Hilborn said. “Given that most countries are trying to provide long-term sustainable yield of their fisheries, we want to know where we are overfishing, and where there is potential for more yield in places we’re not fully exploiting.”

Over the past decade, the research team built a network of collaborators in countries and regions throughout the world, inputting their data on valuable fish populations in places such as the Mediterranean, Peru, Chile, Russia, Japan and northwest Africa. Now about 880 fish stocks are included in the database, giving a much more comprehensive picture worldwide of the health and status of fish populations.

Still, most of the fish stocks in South Asia and Southeast Asia do not have scientific estimates of health and status available. Fisheries in India, Indonesia and China alone represent 30% to 40% of the world’s fish catch that is essentially unassessed.

“There are still big gaps in the data and these gaps are more difficult to fill,” said co-author Ana Parma, a principal scientist at Argentina’s National Scientific and Technical Research Council and a member of The Nature Conservancy global board. “This is because the available information on smaller fisheries is more scattered, has not been standardized and is harder to collate, or because fisheries in many regions are not regularly monitored.”

The researchers paired information about fish stocks with recently published data on fisheries management activities in about 30 countries. This analysis found that more intense management led to healthy or improving fish stocks, while little to no management led to overfishing and poor stock status.

These results show that fisheries management works when applied, and the solution for sustaining fisheries around the world is implementing effective fisheries management, the authors explained.

“With the data we were able to assemble, we could test whether fisheries management allows stocks to recover. We found that, emphatically, the answer is yes,” said co-author Christopher Costello, a professor of environmental and resource economics at University of California, Santa Barbara, and a board member with Environmental Defense Fund. “This really gives credibility to the fishery managers and governments around the world that are willing to take strong actions.”

Fisheries management should be tailored to fit the characteristics of the different fisheries and the needs of specific countries and regions for it to be successful. Approaches that have been effective in many large-scale industrial fisheries in developed countries cannot be expected to work for small-scale fisheries, especially in regions with limited economic and technical resources and weak governance systems, Parma said.

The main goal should be to reduce the total fishing pressure when it is too high, and find ways to incentivize fishing fleets to value healthy fish stocks.

“There isn’t really a one-size-fits-all management approach,” Costello said. “We need to design the way we manage fisheries so that fishermen around the world have a long-term stake in the health of the ocean.”

Other co-authors are from University of Victoria, University of Cape Town, National Institute of Fisheries Research (Morocco), Rutgers University, Seikai National Fisheries Research Institute Japan, CSIRO Oceans and Atmosphere, Fisheries New Zealand, Wildlife Conservation Society, Marine and Freshwater Research Center (Argentina), European Commission, Galway-Mayo Institute of Technology, Center for the Study of Marine Systems, Sustainable Fisheries Partnership, The Nature Conservancy, and the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations.

Hilborn and collaborators recently presented this work at the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations’ International Symposium on Fisheries Sustainability in Rome.

The research was funded by the National Center for Ecological Analysis and Synthesis Science for Nature and People Partnership. Individual authors received funding from The Nature Conservancy, The Wildlife Conservation Society, the Walton Family Foundation, Environmental Defense Fund, the Richard C. and Lois M. Worthington Endowed Professorship in Fisheries Management and donations from 12 fishing companies.

###

For more information, contact Hilborn at rayh@uw.edu, Parma at anaparma@gmail.com and Costello at costello@bren.ucsb.edu.

More information is available at Sustainable Fisheries UW, an effort to communicate the science, policies and human dimensions of sustainable fisheries.

Jan 15 2020

Earth’s oceans are hotter than ever — and getting warmer faster

The world’s oceans hit their warmest level in recorded history in 2019, according to a study published Monday that provides more evidence that Earth is warming at an accelerated pace.

The analysis, which also found that ocean temperatures in the last decade have been the warmest on record, shows the impact of human-caused warming on the planet’s oceans and suggests that sea-level rise, ocean acidification and extreme weather events could worsen as the oceans continue to absorb so much heat.

“The pace of warming has increased about 500 percent since the late 1980s,” said one of the study’s authors, John Abraham, a professor of thermal sciences at the University of St. Thomas in St. Paul, Minnesota. “The findings, to be honest, were not unexpected. Warming is continuing, it has accelerated, and it is unabated. Unless we do something significant and quickly, it’s really dire news.”

Abraham and his colleagues found that the rate of ocean warming accelerated from 1987 to 2019 to nearly 4½ times the rate of warming from 1955 to 1986.

According to the study, published Monday in the journal Advances in Atmospheric Sciences, average ocean temperatures in 2019 were 0.075 degrees Celsius (0.135 degrees Fahrenheit) above the 1981-2019 average. While that may seem minuscule, it represents an enormous amount of heat spread out across the world’s oceans, according to the study’s lead author, Lijing Cheng, an associate professor at the Institute of Atmospheric Physics in Beijing.

“The amount of heat we have put in the world’s oceans in the past 25 years equals to 3.6 billion Hiroshima atom bomb explosions,” Cheng said in a statement.

The study, conducted by an international team of 14 scientists, found that oceans have absorbed more than 90 percent of the heat trapped on Earth from greenhouse gas emissions since 1970.

“Oceans are the biggest reservoir of heat and therefore the best indicator of climate change,” Abraham said. “If you want to know how fast the Earth is warming, look at the oceans.”

Scientists are worried by the trend because warmer oceans can increase severe weather and intensify storms.

“It’s like putting weather on steroids,” Johnson said. “We did a study a few years ago that showed Hurricane Harvey in Texas passed over a very warm body of water, and that greatly increased the amount of rainfall.”

Harvey unleashed more than 60 inches of rain over southeastern Texas in 2017, and scientists have said climate change will make storms rainier overall.

Warmer oceans also expand and melt ice, speeding the rise in sea levels and increasing the risk to coastal communities and low-lying infrastructure, said Nick Bond, a professor of atmospheric sciences at the University of Washington in Seattle, who wasn’t involved with the new study. According to the U.N. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, average global sea levels could rise by 0.95 feet to 3.61 feet by the end of the century.

“From Miami Beach to Bangladesh — as sea levels continue to creep up, it’s just going to become less viable to live in these places,” Bond said.

He added that there are other significant societal implications, such as the effect that warming oceans may have on the chemistry and biology of the world’s oceans.

When carbon dioxide is absorbed and mixes with ocean water, chemical reactions make the water more acidic. Some sea creatures and ecosystems, such as corals, struggle with this type of acidification, but Bond said scientists don’t yet know the extent of the potential fallout.

“There are going to be winners and losers, but we don’t know how that will all play out,” he said. “It’s a very complicated system, and we don’t fully understand which species will have to shift their range, which ones may go extinct or which ones may prosper.”

Katie Matthews, chief scientist at Oceana, an ocean conservation organization in Washington, D.C., said ocean warming could have enormous impacts on fisheries around the world, particularly in the tropics.

“The tropics are the areas that have the largest number of people reliant on fish for nutrition, food security and livelihood,” she said. “It’s really unfortunate that the most vulnerable and at-risk populations are going to be the ones most affected.”

The study, which incorporated measurements from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, used data on ocean temperatures dating to the 1950s. The measurements included recordings of temperatures extending from the sea surface to depths of more than 6,500 feet.

Average ocean temperatures over the years have followed the warming trend, but Abraham said some of the most pronounced warming has taken place in the South Atlantic Ocean, in the Pacific Ocean off the coast of Japan, and in the waters south of Australia.

Abraham said he hopes the findings will spark climate action around the world.

“This isn’t a political issue,” he said. “This is a science issue, and our measurements are telling us that this is a problem and we need to take action.”


Dec 23 2019

California coastal waters rising in acidity at alarming rate, study finds

A commercial fishing boat heads out of Morro Bay. A study released Monday found that waters off the California coast are acidifying faster than the rest of the ocean. (Al Seib / Los Angeles Times)

 

Waters off the California coast are acidifying twice as fast as the global average, scientists found, threatening major fisheries and sounding the alarm that the ocean can absorb only so much more of the world’s carbon emissions.

A new study led by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration also made an unexpected connection between acidification and a climate cycle known as the Pacific Decadal Oscillation — the same shifting forces that other scientists say have a played a big role in the higher and faster rates of sea level rise hitting California in recent years.

El Niño and La Niña cycles, researchers found, also add stress to these extreme changes in the ocean’s chemistry.

These findings come at a time when record amounts of emissions have already exacerbated the stress on the marine environment. When carbon dioxide mixes with seawater, it undergoes chemical reactions that increase the water’s acidity.

Across the globe, coral reefs are dying, oysters and clams are struggling to build their shells, and fish seem to be losing their sense of smell and direction. Harmful algal blooms are getting more toxic — and occurring more frequently. Researchers are barely keeping up with these new issues while still trying to understand what’s happening under the sea.

Scientists call it the other major, but less talked about, CO2 problem.

The ocean covers more than 70% of the Earth’s surface and has long been the unsung hero of climate change. It has absorbed more than a quarter of the carbon dioxide released by humans since the Industrial Revolution, and about 90% of the resulting heat — helping the air we breathe at the expense of a souring sea.

Here in California’s coastal backyard, some of the nation’s most economically valuable fisheries are also the most vulnerable. Scientists for years have worried that the West Coast would face some of the earliest, most severe changes in ocean carbon chemistry.

Many have noted how West Coast waters seemed to acidify faster, but there was little historical data to turn to. Ocean acidification has become a field of research only in recent decades, so information has been limited to what scientists have since started monitoring and discovering.

This study, published Monday in the journal Nature Geoscience, came up with a creative way to confirm these greater rates of acidification. Researchers collected and analyzed a specific type of shell on the seafloor — and used these data to reconstruct a 100-year history of acidification along the West Coast.

“This is the first time that we have any sort of record that takes it back to the beginning of the [last] century,” said Emily Osborne, a NOAA researcher and lead author of the study. “Prior to this, we didn’t have a time series that was long enough to really reveal the relationship between ocean acidification” and these climate cycles.

The study analyzed almost 2,000 shells of a tiny animal called foraminifera. Every day, these shells — about the size of a grain of sand — rain down onto the seafloor and are eventually covered by sediment.

Scientists took core samples from the Santa Barbara basin — where the seafloor is relatively undisturbed by worms and bottom-feeding fish — and used the pristine layers of sediment to create a vertical snapshot of the ocean’s history.

Seen under a microscope, these colorful spots are foraminifera shells taken from the mud of core samples off the California coast. Scientists studied these shells dating back 100 years to measure acidification rates in the ocean. (NOAA)

 

The more acidic the ocean, the more difficult it is for shellfish to build their shells. So using a microscope and other tools, the research team measured the changes in thickness of these shells and were able to estimate the ocean’s acidity level during the years that the foraminifera were alive.

“We can read the deposits like pages in a book,” said Osborne, a scientist for NOAA’s Ocean Acidification Program. “In Santa Barbara, there are just beautifully preserved laminated records of the seafloor that allow us to generate these high-resolution reconstructions.”

Image of a foraminifera shell magnified 650 times by a scanning electron microscope. (NOAA)

 

Using these modern calibrations, the scientists concluded that the waters off the California coast had a 0.21 decline in pH over a 100-year period dating back to 1895 (the lower the pH, the greater the acidity, according to the logarithmic pH scale of 0 to 14 ). This is more than double the decline — 0.1 pH — that scientists estimate the ocean has experienced on average worldwide.

From these records, Osborne could see clear changes whenever El Niño or other climate cycles shifted the ocean’s chemistry more dramatically. The data revealed an unexpected connection to the Pacific Decadal Oscillation, a warming and cooling cycle involving strong winds that pull warmer surface water on or offshore. The swings in upwelling of more nutrient- and carbon-rich waters alleviated or amplified the acidification.

This climate pattern has already been connected to shifts in sea level rise and other effects along the West Coast. More data and better understanding of these connections will help scientists adjust their models as they project what to expect in the future.

So there’s this bottom-up pressure from the oscillation, as well as the top-down stress of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere getting absorbed by surface water, Osborne said. “This makes the extremes even more extreme. It’s like a double whammy for this region of the world.”

Restoring the ocean’s kelp forests and other marine vegetation will help sequester some of this carbon, but ultimately, how much worse this all gets depends on the choices people make in the next decade. Efforts to rein in human-produced greenhouse gases play a significant role in temperature, wind patterns, acidification and how fast the sea will rise.

“While the ocean has served a very important role in mitigating climate change by absorbing CO2 from the atmosphere, there’s a capacity at which the ocean can’t absorb anymore,” Osborne said. “From this study, and so many other published studies, there’s no question that the answer is to curb our carbon emissions.”


Original post: https://www.latimes.com/california/story/2019-12-16/ocean-acidification-california

Nov 22 2019

California agrees with crabbers to postpone Dungeness season in bid to safeguard whales and fishing fleet

Owner Peter Bjeldanes, left, and deckhand Ethan Snyderman load crab pots onto the fishing boat the “Talisman” at Spud Point Marina in Bodega Bay on Monday, Nov. 18, 2019. (BETH SCHLANKER/ PD)

 

A bid led by Bodega Bay’s commercial fishing fleet succeeded Wednesday in persuading state wildlife officials to postpone the opening of Dungeness crab season to safeguard protected whales species still lingering in the fishing grounds.

In a move at the behest of the crab industry, Chuck Bonham, the state fish and wildlife director, agreed to push back the season opener to Dec. 15. Crab fishing was slated to open Friday along the coast from Sonoma to San Mateo counties.

The decision is subject to two days of public comment ending Friday afternoon.

It’s the second delay in the season because of the heavy presence of threatened and endangered whales in coastal waters off the greater Bay Area, where the commercial Dungeness crab season traditionally opens Nov. 15.

Fresh crab from Washington state should be available at local markets for Thanksgiving, local fishermen said.

Bonham’s move came after commercial crabbers in San Francisco and Half Moon Bay voted to join those in Bodega Bay, who had resolved a day earlier to stand down from the Friday opener to avoid entangling whales. Up to 86  humpbacks were observed in the region during an aerial survey Monday.

The state’s move ensures that fishing boats from out of the area don’t have the fishing grounds to themselves come Friday and risk curtailing the season in any encounter with a whale.

Under the terms of a legal settlement reached in March between the state and an environmental group, even a single marine mammal entanglement could prompt restrictions in the commercial crab fishery, including closure.

“I think all of the guys are on the same page,” Bodega Bay Fishermens’ Association President Lorne Edwards said Wednesday after the other two ports decided to stand with Bodega Bay and forgo the opener. “We don’t want to lose the season.”

Crescent City fisherman Tom Wright, one of about a half-dozen skippers who motored south to crab because northern grounds remained closed, said another crabber who continued past Bodega Bay to San Francisco described whales so dense “it was like traveling through Sea World.”

“This is basically industry suicide if we go out and catch a whale,” Wright said.

The Center for Biological Diversity, in its 2017 lawsuit against the state Department of Fish and Wildlife, accused the agency of insufficient regulation of the commercial crabbing fleet, saying entanglement in fishing gear imperiled listed populations of humpback and blue whales, as well as sea turtles. That year, a record 71 entanglements were reported.

The settlement reached this year with the state, signed also by fishing representatives, included substantial concessions, including shortened seasons and sharp consequences in the event of an entanglement.

It also includes a slate of in-season check-ins that require Bonham to consult with a diverse working group of fishermen, scientists, regulators and environmentalists trying to limit entanglements of marine mammals.

Prior to Wednesday’s decision, Bonham’s first act under the new protocol was to delay the Nov. 15 opener to Friday, hoping to balance the continued presence of whales that eventually will migrate to wintering grounds off the coast of Mexico while allowing commercial crabbers time to land fresh crab for Thanksgiving.

Then the agency sent up a plane to take a look at the number of whales in the area, including Point Reyes, the Gulf of the Farallones and Half Moon Bay. Their findings Monday prompted alarm in the crabbing community.

Entangled whales can drag fishing gear for hundreds of miles and often die from their injuries.

Fisherman Dick Ogg, vice president of the Bodega Bay Fishermens’ Association and a member of the crab gear working group, was on the flyover. He said he immediately saw potential for another spike in harmful encounters with whales.

“This was the potential,” Ogg said, “and, had we not gone to (the Department of Fish and Wildlife), it’s very likely we would have ended up in a similar situation.”


Original post: https://www.pressdemocrat.com/

Nov 21 2019

Rebound in Groundfish Leads to New Flexibility for Fishermen, Protection for Deep-Sea Corals

Rosy rockfish among California hydrocoral. Photo: NOAA

 

Sweeping changes in West Coast groundfish fisheries adopted this week will reopen access for fishermen to productive fishing grounds where fish populations have rebounded. These changes will also protect sensitive deep-water habitat and deep-sea corals from bottom fishing.

The changes come in the form of an amendment to the Fishery Management Plan for groundfish off the West Coast. The Pacific Fishery Management Council (Council) recommended the amendment to NOAA Fisheries, which finalized it this week. The new provisions take effect January 1, 2020, and are widely supported by fishermen and other stakeholders.

The changes affect what is known as Essential Fish Habitat, or EFH, the habitat necessary to support sustainable fisheries. By law, the Council must minimize effects on EFH, and in 2005 did so for groundfish habitat. It established area closures that limited bottom trawling and other types of gear that contact the sea floor.

A review of the latest science and fishing results led the Council to increase protections for EFH in some places. It also reopened some important fishing areas that had been closed.

Years of Talks Led to Collaborative Solution

The new protections put about 13,000 square miles of deep-sea reefs, corals, and sponges off-limits to bottom trawling that can impact sea-floor habitat. The area is larger than the state of Massachusetts, and includes the Southern California Bight between San Diego and Santa Barbara. At the same time, the new action reopens nearly 3,000 square miles that had been closed to bottom trawling for groundfish.

Fishermen worked with conservation groups including the Environmental Defense Fund, The Nature Conservancy, and Natural Resources Defense Council. They refined the details during years of talks in fishing communities up and down the West Coast. “We worked together to come up with a solution, instead of having it done for us,” said Tom Libby, an Astoria, Oregon, seafood processor who helped develop the revisions known as Amendment 28.

Fishermen shared decades of detailed information in the form of logbooks, bathymetric plotters, and old paper charts, said Shems Jud of Environmental Defense Fund. That allowed the coalition to refine new closures to maximize protection for sensitive habitats, while crafting reopened areas to provide better fishing opportunity.

“Without this process and the trust that was built, the end result would likely have been much clunkier closures and openings and significantly less consensus on the final outcome,” Jud said. “This was one of the most gratifying processes I’ve been involved in during my time at the Council. It’s a true win-win outcome that everyone can be incredibly proud of.”

“It’s the first time we really sat down and talked to each other,” said Nick Edwards, a Coos Bay, Oregon, fisherman who joined the talks. “It’s one of those Cinderella stories that never happens—but this one did.”

West Coast groundfish are a key player in the blue economy, contributing $569 million in personal income benefits to West Coast communities. Recreational anglers from Washington to Southern California took nearly 1 million boat trips in pursuit of groundfish from 2012 to 2016, according to the Council.

Expanding Flexibility for the West Coast Trawl Fleet

The amendment recognizes the rebuilding of many West Coast groundfish species that NOAA Fisheries declared overfished around 2000. Many vessels quit the fishery and those that remained switched in 2011 to catch shares management. Through this system, fishermen each get a specific annual quota of fish to catch instead of racing to catch as many fish as possible.

Fishermen can also buy and trade shares of their quota, and all catches are recorded to ensure fishermen are accountable for what they bring in and discard at sea. Catch shares management has helped promote responsible fishing and reduce bycatch, preserving the marine ecosystem, and supplying consumers with a wild and natural food source. Almost all the overfished stocks are now rebuilt, many of them decades ahead of expectations.

The improvements allow NOAA Fisheries to reopen about 2,000 square miles of a large Rockfish Conservation Area off California and Oregon. The area had been off-limits to groundfish bottom trawling since 2002. That will give fishermen more flexibility in how and where they fish, while ensuring that catches remain sustainable.

“There is something here for everyone, and it is possible only because many fishermen sacrificed and participated in the planning to bring the groundfish fishery back,” said Ryan Wulff, Assistant Regional Administrator for Sustainable Fisheries in NOAA Fisheries’ West Coast Region. “This will provide more flexibility for a fishing fleet that has demonstrated its responsibility, and at the same time protect deep-water habitats that we are only beginning to learn about.”

Preserving Deep Sea Ecosystems

The measures also close U.S. waters deeper than 3,500 meters (2.2 miles) to fishing with gear that contacts the bottom. This affects another roughly 123,000 square miles, an area larger than the state of Oregon.

Only in the last 20 years have scientists recognized and documented deep-sea coral ecosystems covering large areas of the sea floor off the West Coast. These ecosystems, which will be protected under the amendment, are home to unusual species—some may hold biomedical value to treat disease, for instance.

The closure to bottom-contact gear will also protect important habitat features. These include submarine canyons, seamounts, and methane seeps that support a variety of unusual marine species.

The deep-water closures are not anticipated to affect fishing because little fishing occurs in the protected areas now. The fishing that does occur there does not contact the bottom. The protections are precautionary, and are authorized under the Magnuson-Stevens Act to safeguard deep sea coral ecosystems.


Original post: https://www.fisheries.noaa.gov/

Oct 16 2019

New Data Makes Case for Anchovy Abundance as Oceana Lawsuit Continues

New, preliminary data from the California Cooperative Oceanic Fisheries Investigations (CalCOFI) have provided further evidence that California’s anchovy population is now at record high levels. The data come amid a renewed lawsuit by the environmental group Oceana that seeks to reduce the already very limited amount of anchovy caught commercially in California.

The preliminary data from the Southwest Fisheries Science Center Larval Lab weekly report on September 16 show that the 2019 spring CalCOFI survey documented the highest abundance of larval anchovy off the coast of California ever recorded — nearly double the record amount from the mid-1960s. It did not even include the tens of thousands of tons of anchovy that fishermen have reported in nearshore waters since 2015. This is the latest piece of evidence that the anchovy population is far more resilient than Oceana alleges, according to the California Wetfish Producers Association.

Scientists have found that anchovy undergo large dynamic population swings naturally, even without fishing, and the precautionary fishing limits allowed have not harmed the ecosystem. But despite the latest evidence of anchovy abundance, Oceana is suing to further limit California’s small anchovy fishery.

Members of the Wetfish Producers Association have long held that massive schools of anchovies, particularly in California’s inshore areas, have not been properly counted. CWPA has worked to confirm the observations of its members in cooperative surveys with the Southwest Fisheries Science Center and the California Department of Fish and Wildlife. These nearshore surveys add evidence to the preliminary CalCOFI data: there are tens of thousands of tons of anchovies in inshore California waters, in addition to record abundance offshore. This explosion occurred in the presence of this small, historical fishery.

“There is an increasingly large body of evidence showing that anchovies are far more abundant than the allegations in Oceana’s lawsuit recognize,” Diane Pleschner-Steele, executive director of CWPA, said in a press release. “It’s why efforts to further restrict anchovy fishing are both unnecessary and harmful to West Coast fishing communities.”

However, Oceana still seeks stricter limits on the allowable catch of the central subpopulation of northern anchovy, which is currently set at 23,573 metric tons annually as a result of prior court rulings. The fishery typically catches less than 10,000 metric tons annually of this legally allowed amount.

” … the new rule would allow 23,573 metric tons of catch regardless of whether the population rapidly declines to very small levels, was at its historic average size, or was in a boom period. This unchanging catch limit ignores the agency’s legal duties to apply the best available science to anchovy management, and its non-discretionary
duty to adjust the catch limits based on best available science to prevent overfishing in the down years,” Oceana said in its most recent lawsuit.

The group said the Council should follow an annual management strategy that “sets annual catch limits based on the current estimates of abundance from acoustic trawl surveys that would prevent overfishing and ensure sufficient food for ocean wildlife in the future,” Oceana says on its website.

However, the additional studies show an overall picture of anchovy abundance that is higher than that shown by the acoustic trawl survey alone. Oceana representatives have argued in the past that the acoustic trawl survey is the most technologically advanced method — and therefore, the best science available — for assessing anchovy abundance. Industry members countered that identifying the amount of anchovies in nearshore areas using scientifically proven methods adds to the cumulative best available science; therefore, fishery managers should make their decisions based on information from the entire suite of available data.

In August, CWPA filed to intervene in Oceana’s latest lawsuit in order to participate in the proceedings and represent the interests of its members and fishing communities before the court. CWPA believes that the additional restrictions on the anchovy harvest being sought by the lawsuit are unnecessary, and would result in significant job loss and economic hardship for California’s wetfish fishermen and processors, and by extension, California communities and the state’s fishing economy.

“We believe that the evidence will show that anchovy is being managed precautionarily and with the conservation of the species in mind,” Pleschner-Steele said. “Best management practices and the best available science do not support the claims of overfishing made in the lawsuit.”


Original post: https://www.seafoodnews.com Posted by permission. Please subscribe to Seafood News.