Feb 26 2019

Environmental Impact Displacement in Fisheries & Food

A recent policy perspective paper in Conservation Letters, Lewison et al. 2019 (open access), summarized several examples of environmental impact ‘displacement,’ an important policy concept with implications for fisheries and food.

Examples of environmental impact displacement

Environmental impact displacement is when a conservation policy designed to reduce impact in one area, displaces it to another area, sometimes making the overall problem worse. Researchers cite sea turtle bycatch in swordfish fisheries as an example of displacement in fisheries: U.S. Pacific swordfish fishing was curtailed to protect sea turtles caught as bycatch. However, lower U.S. catch increased foreign swordfish demand which ended up killing more sea turtles as foreign swordfish fisheries had higher rates of bycatch.

ProPublica and the New York Times recently published a long exposé about how a U.S. policy meant to reduce carbon emissions (by increasing biofuel use) raised demand for palm oil in Southeast Asia, which actually increased emissions and jumpstarted the palm oil/biodiversity crisis (this example is also cited in Lewison et al.).

The viral Ocean Cleanup Project is another example of environmental displacement; the crowdfunded campaign was trying to remove marine debris from the great Pacific garbage patch by sweeping a giant net-like object across the ocean. However, if it had worked as intended (it broke), it would have killed many more organisms than the trash it was trying to remove from the ocean.

Environmental displacement in fisheries & food

The concept of environmental impact displacement is important to consider in fisheries management and marine conservation. The swordfish case above is a good example of displacement in individual fisheries, but there are other areas of fishery management that should consider environmental impact displacement. For example, no-take marine protected areas often increase fishing pressure outside the area being protected, nullifying the protection. In some cases, displacing fishing pressure benefits the ecosystem, but often it does not.

Zooming out in scale raises larger systemic questions about food: Consider fisheries and marine conservation as part of a broader, global system of food and ecological preservation. A legitimate argument can be made that fulfilling fishery potential and consuming more seafood is good for the planet—it provides low-carbon, low-impact protein.

As the developing world continues to acquire wealth, global demand for animal-protein will continue to rise. The more seafood that is eaten in place of cow, the better, since bovine farming is the largest driver of rainforest and biodiversity loss on the planet. Not only is seafood the lowest-impact animal protein, several kinds of seafood (e.g. farmed bivalves and wild-caught pelagics) are among the lowest impact foods of any kind.

Solutions to environmental displacement

Lewison et al. 2019 outline ways to reduce environmental impact displacement that can be applied to fisheries management and global food systems. The first step, researchers state, is explicitly considering displacement in policy design, scoping, and evaluation. Fishery managers should evaluate and understand the biological, economic, and social outcomes of proposed policies to avoid issues like accidentally increasing turtle bycatch across the world or raising fishing pressure in an area surrounding an MPA.

Other ways to avoid displacement include:

  • Think large-scale to consider all economic/biological/social relationships
  • Enact both demand-side and supply-side policies
  • International trade agreements and cooperation as a holistic approach to global conservation

Conservation groups should consider the global food system and environmental impact displacement in their advocacy; policy makers and natural resource managers should consider environmental impact displacement in their decision-making processes. Conservation will be more effective with a larger, broad approach—particularly with fisheries and food. Lewison et al. 2019 is open access and available here.


Original post: https://sustainablefisheries-uw.org/environmental-impact-displacement/

Feb 25 2019

Methane bubbling up from ocean floor provides a surprising food source for crabs, Oregon State University research shows

Oregon State University researchers have documented tanner crabs feeding at a methane seep site off British Columbia. Tanner crabs are also known as ‘snow crabs’ and sold as food. It is the first time a commercially harvested species has been known to feed at methane sites.The methane shouldn’t cause any health concerns and, in fact, it may provide an alternative energy source for seafloor-dwelling marine species. [Oregon State University]

 

Climate change will result in less ocean-borne food falling into the deep sea, scientists say. But that likely won’t be a problem for tanner crabs, according to a recent discovery by Oregon State University researchers.

The long-legged orange crabs — one of three species that crabbers harvest and sell as snow crabs — vigorously feed at methane seeps, where the gas bubbles up from the ocean floor.

“The thinking used to be that the marine food web relied almost solely on phytoplankton dropping down through the water column and fertilizing the depths,” OSU Marine Ecologist Andrew Thurber said in a statement. “Now we know that this viewpoint isn’t complete and there may be many more facets to it.”

Thurber co-authored a study that the journal Frontiers in Marine Science just published. The study details how scientists found tanner crabs in eating frenzies around a methane seep in the floor of the Pacific Ocean off British Columbia. It is one the first times that a commercially harvested seafood has been found to rely on methane seeps.

Methane seeps appear to be serving up food to seafloor-dwelling species, such as tanner crabs. This would be a hedge against climate change because nearly all models predict less food will drop into the deep sea in coming years.

“Tanner crabs likely are not the only species to get energy from methane seeps, which really haven’t been studied all that much,” Thurber said. “We used to think there were, maybe, five of them off the Pacific Northwest coast and now research is showing that there are at least 1,500 seep sites — and probably a lot more. … They are all over the world, so the idea that they may provide an energy source is quite intriguing.”

Researchers first noticed tanner crabs bunching up around methane seeps in 2012 off the British Columbia coast. The crabs sifted through sediment at the bubbling seeps. Mats of bacteria form around the seeps and the crabs munch on those.

Underwater video shows methane building up below tanner crabs hanging out at seeps and eventually flipping them. The entertaining video drew researchers to wonder why the crabs were gathered around the seeps in the first place.

OSU teamed up with scientists from the University of Victoria in Canada. The National Science Foundation in the U.S. provided support for the study.

Off the Oregon Coast, Pacific sole and black cod have been seen near methane seeps. Like the crabs, the fish are harvested.

But seafood lovers need not worry about what their food is eating. Researchers say methane seeps create nontoxic environments.

Sarah Seabook, the lead author of the study and a Ph.D. candidate at OSU, said scientists examined the guts and tissues of tanner crabs to confirm they were feeding around methane seeps.

″… We can apply these new techniques to other species and find out if the use of methane seeps as a food source is more widespread than just tanner crabs,” she said in a statement.


Original post: https://www.registerguard.com/news/20190225/methane-bubbling-up-from-ocean-floor-provides-surprising-food-source-for-crabs-oregon-state-university-research-shows

Jan 23 2019

Oceana’s Anchovy Lawsuit Backfires, as Judge Asks NMFS to Update Science in Ruling Likely to Increase Catches

— Posted with permission of SEAFOODNEWS.COM. Please do not republish without their permission. —

Copyright © 2019 Seafoodnews.com

Seafood News


Photo: Lolly Knit, Flickr, Creative Commons

Oceana, an organization that is a frequent plaintiff against NMFS, thought they had a good case in 2016 when they filed suit against NMFS arguing that a 25,000 ton Central California anchovy allocation exceeded the entire stock, and should be overturned.

Their objective was to shut down the fishery based on an argument of flawed science.

Last week, federal district court  Judge Lucy Koh reaffirmed her 2018 decision that NMFS indeed did not use the best available science, and would need to do a reassessment on this stock.

With the government shutdown, it is not clear when NMFS might be able to respond to the ruling, but since then, the science on which Oceana argued its case has been drastically revised.

Oceana tried to argue that the anchovy stock had fallen to 15,000 to 32,000 ton, and that therefore a 25,000 ton allocation was excessive.

However, one of the scientists who authored that report submitted an updated estimate for the 2015 biomass of 92,000 tons, and using the same method would predict a 1.1 million metric ton biomass in 2017.

In short, the science was flawed, new data show the anchovy populations at record levels, and if NMFS uses the judge’s ruling to follow the best science, a much larger commercial fishery is in the offing.

Currently an anchovy working group from the Pacific Council is meeting without NMFS, and it may take some time to know how the ruling will be applied.

But, the lesson for Oceana is that suing for best available science is something the industry supports as well, and in the case of a dynamic stock like anchovy, it is very hard to get an accurate reading from a single year’s population study.

For that reason, some suggest the council move to a multi-year allocation which would better reflect the actual state of data collection, and avoid wild fluctuations based on possibly limited survey data.


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Jan 23 2019

Judge: NMFS must rewrite anchovy catch rule

Important to note, the “collapsed” anchovy assessment on which this court ruling was based was updated in November and submitted to the Pacific Fishery Management Council, which has been deliberating the anchovy issue. The original 15,000 mt estimated in 2015 was increased to 92,000 mt, and the 2017 population estimate came in at 1.1 million mt. The SWFSC also presented results of their latest Daily Egg Production study to the Council, noting that anchovy had returned to historic abundance. The judge did not receive this information before making her ruling.

It’s unclear how NMFS will respond now, in light of the ongoing government shutdown. The CPS management team met yesterday (without NMFS members present) to discuss how they might recommend a new OFL, ABC and ACL to the Council for the April Council meeting. The judge’s deadline for new reference points is April 18. NMFS/Department of Justice could request a stay, but an Oceana rep. at the management team meeting said they will oppose a stay because the Council and NMFS have had a year since the original ruling— and this shouldn’t be hard now, with the population at a million tons or more.

The April Council meeting should be lively!!

Diane Pleschner-Steele

 


 

Federal fishing regulators have until April 16 to rewrite a rule that sets annual catch limits (ACL) for commercial fishing of anchovy in federal waters off the northern coast of California, a judge has ruled.

The Jan. 18 order from federal judge Lucy Koh enforces a judgment in a lawsuit brought in 2016 by the environmental activist group Oceana against the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS).

Oceana’s lawsuit questioned the science that NMFS relied on in reaching a 2016 decision to set the ACL for northern California anchovy at 25,000 metric tons. The agency set that limit — even though landings typically only total less than a third of that, 7,300t — judging the stock’s maximum sustainable yield to be 123,000t, and calculating an acceptable biological catch of 100,000t. The ACL was set, conservatively, the agency said, at a fourth of that level.

However, after the 2016 rule was adopted, Oceana sued NMFS in federal court arguing that the rule violated principles established in the Magnuson-Stevens Act and another law, the Administrative Practices Act, because the agency failed “to articulate the scientific basis for this catch limit”.

In January 2018, judge Koh approved Oceana’s motion for summary judgment vacating the 25,000t ACL rule. NMFS had asked judge Koh to amend that judgment but in June 2018 she declined. NMFS, which is currently working on new assessments of the stock to inform future ACL decisions, has since appealed Koh’s ruling. Meanwhile, Koh, acting on a request from Oceana, ordered that the agency rewrite the rule.

NMFS objected, citing the pending assessments, but Koh was not moved.

“Moreover, the court is not convinced by defendants’ explanation for the delay. The Service need not wait for new data to promulgate an updated OFL [Overfishing Limit], ABC [Allowable Biological Catch], and ACL because the service need only use the best scientific information available,” she wrote.

Precipitous decline?

In its lawsuit, Oceana, claiming that the anchovy stock had “declined precipitously”, argued that NMFS hadn’t conducted a stock assessment for the species since 1995 and that the true size of the northern anchovy biomass averaged between 10,000t to 15,000t from the 2009 to 2011 period.

Speaking to Undercurrent in June 2018 about the ruling, Diane Pleschner-Steele, the executive director of the California Wetfish Producers Association, disagreed with the biomass estimates, but because the harvesters her group works with are seeing more anchovies, not fewer.

Pleschner-Steele said that her group worked in 2017 with the California Department of Fish and Wildlife to perform an aerial survey of anchovy stocks.

“The department’s plane flew along the coast inside the area that the NOAA acoustic trawl survey was transecting at the same time, and our spotter pilot estimated tonnage of the schools he observed,” she wrote.   “We documented tens of thousands of tons of coastal pelagic species — both sardine and anchovy —  that the NOAA cruise did not see or factor into its assessment because they survey largely offshore and don’t come into nearshore waters.   This is now recognized as a problem, and we’re hopeful that we can improve stock assessments over time.”

Contact the author jason.smith@undercurrentnews.com


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

Jan 15 2019

Understanding Ocean Acidification Impacts to California’s Living Marine Resources – Ocean Science Trust

Helping the State visualize what’s at stake as oceans acidify



Now Available: http://www.oceansciencetrust.org/wp-content/uploads/2019/01/OST-OA-Impacts-Infographic-Final.pdf

A summary of the latest research on ocean acidification (OA) impacts to important species and ecosystems in California, from crab to squid, rockfish to urchins. This tool provides a tangible illustration of our current knowledge to support decision-makers in prioritizing efforts and resources to address OA impacts.

Ocean Science Trust, working closely with scientists at UC Davis Bodega Marine Lab, the Ocean Protection Council (OPC) and other partners, undertook this synthesis to help identify data gaps and prioritize where to allocate resources to further increase understanding of OA impacts to California fishery resources.

OVERVIEW: UNDERSTANDING OA RISKS TO CALIFORNIA’S LIVING MARINE RESOURCES

Ocean acidification is a complex issue that has the potential to alter marine food webs and ecosystems in California, with direct and indirect impacts to valuable marine fisheries and the aquaculture industry. Currently, state agencies working to understand the risks OA poses to coastal species, ecosystems, and human communities – an essential step to helping those at risk prepare for what’s at stake as coastal oceans continue to acidify.

VISUALIZING IMPACTS OF OA TO LIVING MARINE RESOURCES IN CALIFORNIA

As a first step towards illuminating potential natural resource management solutions, Ocean Science Trust worked closely with scientists at UC Davis Bodega Marine Lab, the Ocean Protection Council and other partners to demonstrate the potential impacts of OA on important species and ecosystems in California. We undertook a synthesis of current scientific understanding and developed communications material for use by resources managers. The species included in the synthesis represent a diverse subset of species considered as ocean climate indicators, commercially, recreationally, and/or ecologically important. This list was selected by the project team and vetted and augmented by OPC, CDFW, and aquaculture representatives.

WORKSHOP: DEFINING OCEAN ACIDIFICATION HOTSPOTS IN CALIFORNIA

Building on this assessment, Ocean Science Trust hosted a workshop in November 2018, to help managers and decision-makers incorporate OA impacts information into relevant management decisions, prioritize efforts to address these impacts, and determine where to allocate resources to further increase understanding. This workshop brought together managers, policy makers, and scientists to better understand the concept of OA hotspots, ensure it is usable by state decision-makers, and identify key gaps in data and information that inhibit action.

 

Findings from this work may also:

  • Help identify research and data gaps to understanding OA impacts to California’s fishery resources
  • Inform species selection for a modeling exercise to identify species vulnerability thresholds
  • Provide the groundwork for a quantitative OA or climate vulnerability assessment for California or the West Coast

Originally posted: http://www.oceansciencetrust.org/

Dec 28 2018

Global warming today mirrors conditions leading to Earth’s largest extinction event, UW study says

A melting iceberg floats along a fjord leading away from the edge of the Greenland ice sheet near Nuuk, Greenland, in 2011. By this century’s end, if emissions continue at their current pace, humans will have warmed the ocean about 20 percent as much as during the Permian extinction event, newly published research says. (Brennan Linsley / The Associated Press)

 

If humans continue to pump greenhouse gases at our current rate, “we have no reason to think it wouldn’t cause a similar type of extinction,” said Curtis Deutsch, a UW professor and author of the research.

More than two-thirds of life on earth died off some 252 million years ago, in the largest mass extinction event in Earth’s history.

Researchers have long suspected that volcanic eruptions triggered “the Great Dying,” as the end of the Permian geologic period is sometimes called, but exactly how so many creatures died has been something of a mystery.

Now scientists at the University of Washington and Stanford believe their models reveal how so many animals were killed, and they see frightening parallels in the path our planet is on today.

Models of the effects of volcanic greenhouse-gas releases showed the earth warming dramatically and oxygen disappearing from its oceans, leaving many marine animals unable to breathe, according to a study published Thursday in the peer-reviewed journal Science. By the time temperatures peaked, about 80 percent of the oceans’ oxygen, on average, had been depleted. Most marine animals went extinct.

The researchers tested the model’s results against fossil-record patterns from the time of the extinction and found they correlated closely. Although other factors, like ocean acidification, might have contributed some to the Permian extinction, warming and oxygen loss account for the pattern of the dying, according to the research.

By this century’s end, if emissions continue at their current pace, humans will have warmed the ocean about 20 percent as much as during the extinction event, the researchers say. By 2300, that figure could be as high as 50 percent.

“The ultimate, driving change that led to the mass extinction is the same driving change that humans are doing today, which is injecting greenhouse gases into the atmosphere,” said Justin Penn, a UW doctoral student in oceanography and the study’s lead author.

Curtis Deutsch, a UW associate professor of oceanography and an author of the research, said if society continues to pump greenhouse gases at our current rate, “we have no reason to think it wouldn’t cause a similar type of extinction.”

Massive eruptions

The earth 252 million years ago was a much different place. The continents as we know them today were still mostly one landmass, named Pangea, which looks like a chunky letter “C” on a map.

The climate, however, resembled Earth’s now, and researchers believe animals would have adapted many traits, like metabolism, that were similar to creatures today. Nearly every part of the Permian Ocean, before the extinction, was filled with sea life.

“Less than 1 percent of the Permian Ocean was a dead zone — quite similar to today’s ocean,” Deutsch said.

The series of volcanic events in Siberia that many scientists believe set off the mass extinction “makes super volcanoes look like the head of a pin,” said Seth Burgess, a geologist and volcanologist with the United States Geological Survey.

“We’re talking about enough lava erupted onto the surface and intruded into the crust to cover the area of the United States that if you looked at the U.S. from above was maybe a kilometer deep in lava,” he said.

Burgess, who has researched the Siberian Traps volcanic events but did not work on the new Science paper, said scientists believe magma rising from the earth released some extinction-causing greenhouse gases.

In addition, sills of magma still inside the earth heated massive deposits of coal, peat and carbonate minerals, among others, which vented even more carbon and methane into the atmosphere.

“That’s how you drive the Permian mass extinction, by intruding massive volumes of magma into a basin rich in carbon-bearing sediments,” he said.

The UW and Stanford research “takes the next step in figuring out why things died at the end of the Permian,” Burgess said. “It couples what we think was happening in the climate with the fossil record, and it does it elegantly.”

Animals couldn’t breathe

It took a supercomputer more than six months to simulate all the changes the volcanic eruptions are suspected of causing during the Permian period. The computer models go into remarkable detail — simulating things like clouds, ocean currents and marine plant life — in describing what temperatures and conditions were like on Earth.

The researchers knew that surface temperatures rose about 10 degrees Celsius in the tropics because of previous scientific analysis of the fossilized teeth of eel-like creatures called conodonts.

To run their model, researchers pumped volcanic greenhouse gases into their simulation to match temperature conditions at the end of the Permian period.

As temperatures climbed toward the 10-degree mark, the model’s oceans became depleted of oxygen, a trend scientists are evaluating in today’s oceans, too.

To measure how rising temperatures and less oxygen would affect animal species of the Permian period, the researchers used 61 modern creatures — crustaceans, fish, shellfish, corals and sharks. The researchers believe these animals would have similar temperature and oxygen sensitivities to Permian species because the animals adapted to live in similar climates.

Warming’s effects were twofold on the creatures, the researchers found. In warmer waters, animals need more oxygen to perform bodily functions. But warm waters can’t contain as much dissolved oxygen, which means less was available to them.

In other words, as animals’ bodies demanded more oxygen, the ocean’s supply dropped.

In their model, the researchers were able to quantify the loss of habitat as species faced increasingly challenging ocean conditions. Surface-temperature rise and oxygen loss were more substantial in areas farther from the equator. Extinction rates also increased at higher latitudes.

Animals in the tropics were already accustomed to warmer temperatures and lower oxygen levels before the volcanic eruptions shifted the climate, according to the research. As the world warmed, they could move along with their habitat.

Marine creatures that favored cold waters and high oxygen levels fared worse: They had nowhere to go.

“The high latitudes where it’s cold and oxygen is high — if you’re an organism that needs those kind of conditions to survive, those conditions completely disappear from Earth,” Deutsch said.

In modern oceans, warming and oxygen loss have also been more pronounced near the poles, researchers said, drawing another analogue between the shift in climate some 252 million years ago and what’s happening today.

“The study tells us what’s at the end of the road if we let climate [change] keep going. The further we go, the more species we’re likely to lose,” Deutsch said. “That’s frightening. The loss of species is irreversible.”


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

Evan Bush: 206-464-2253 or ebush@seattletimes.com; on Twitter: @EvanBush.

Dec 12 2018

Arctic Report Card Shows ‘Most Unprecedented Transition in History’

Arctic Report Card: Update for 2018 – Tracking recent environmental changes, with 14 essays prepared by an international team of 81 scientists from 12 different countries and an independent peer-review organized by the Arctic Monitoring and Assessment Programme of the Arctic Council. See https://www.arctic.noaa.gov/Report-Card
 

Those are two takeaways from the 2018 Arctic Report Card, which was released Tuesday at the American Geophysical Union conference in Washington, D.C. The 13th year of this peer-reviewed report card features 14 essays by 81 scientists from 12 countries.

Few places will feel the blight of climate change as hard as the Arctic. Our upper pole is warming faster than any other region on Earth, a trend that may be tied to erratic weather patterns across the northern hemisphere.

For the first time, the report card includes a warning about red tide and harmful algal blooms, which are expanding due to a lack of ice and warming ocean temperatures. Toxins from these micro-organisms are threatening marine wildlife and coastal fisheries, imperilling communities that depend on these species.

This year will also enter the record books as the second warmest for the Arctic since 1900, said Emily Osborne of the NOAA Arctic Research Program.

“The only warmer year occured in 2016,” Obsorne said, adding that Arctic air temperatures for the past five years have exceeded all records since the beginning of the 20th century. “The Arctic is experiencing the most unprecedented transition in history.”

Here are three things you need to know about the Arctic Report Card.

Red tide

When you hear about harmful algal blooms, the mind typically wanders to Florida, where thick scums of blue-green algae and clouds of red tide have floated in the state’s warm waters for more than a year.

Due to a warming Arctic Ocean, at least five families of these harmful micro-organisms are now present in other northern waters, like the Chukchi and Bering seas.

“The vast majority of the Arctic ocean has experienced clear long- term trends of warming,” said Karen E. Frey, a geographer and biogeochemist at Clark University in Worcester, Massachusetts. Microscopic creatures are thriving in these waters. Near St. Lawrence Island, for instance, west of the Alaska mainland, aquatic biomass in 2018 increased between 275 and 500 percent relative to the average over the last 14 years.

These harmful algal blooms produce a range of toxins, which can poison other plankton, fish, shellfish, birds and humans. One study of stranded marine mammals — like whales and seals — found the algal toxin domoic acid in all species tested.

Mounting microplastics

This explosion in tiny creatures has been paralleled by the rapid rise of microplastics in the Arctic Ocean. The Arctic Basin contains more microplastic than all other ocean basins in the world, according to a study published in June and cited in the report card, with the highest concentrations stuck in the Beaufort Sea.

These microplastics have made multiple intrusions into the food web, being found in everything from polar cod and seafloor-hugging invertebrates to Arctic birds. The plastic waste has also been found buried in sea ice, which scientists are using to study its abundance.

The major sources of these microplastics remain unclear. They could be floating to the Arctic from other oceans, but some contribution is due to waste like fishing nets and other gear from shipping activities, which have increased substantially since 2009.

The greening of the Arctic continues to gradually grow. Vegetation has expanded overall in the Arctic for the last 36 years, according to the new report card. As shrubs and grasses expand, some species of birds and mammals are thriving. Caribou and wild reindeer, both herbivores, are not part of this lucky class.

Despite growing food sources overall, caribou and wild reindeer are dying

Arctic caribou in North America and Greenland and reindeer in Russia and Norway have declined 56 percent over the last two decades, with their populations dropping from 4.7 million to 2.1 million. Why?

Increased drought and longer spans of hotter weather are causing outbreaks of infectious bacteria and parasites, said Howard Epstein, an ecologist at the University of Virginia. The caribou and reindeer populations are also declining due to a boon in predators and because extreme weather events are occasionally triggering droughts.

 

 

Wacky weather and the eviction of older ice

The Arctic pattern most pertinent to our daily lives, here in North America, revolves around warmth.

Warm air temperatures, which are increasing at twice the rate of the remaining world, continue to disrupt the polar jet stream, making it sluggish and unusually wavy. A surge of warm Arctic weather in 2017 coincided with severe winter storms in the eastern United States at the beginning of 2018 and a cold snap in Europe in March. Osborne said the jury is still out on the strength of the connection between Arctic warming and wacky weather in the mid-latitudes, but at the moment, the correlation is solid.

This atmospheric warming also drove declines in Arctic snow cover and caused melting of the Greenland ice sheet. But the biggest loser, in terms of frozen water, is Arctic sea ice. Older packs of Arctic sea ice, which used to be impervious to the annual melting cycle, are thinner and covering less area than they have in the past. The oldest ice has declined by 95 percent in the last 33 years.

“During two weeks in February, which is typically the height of ice growth, the Bering Sea lost a piece of ice the size of Idaho,” said Donald Perovich, a sea ice geophysicist at Dartmouth College in New Hampshire. March witnessed the second lowest sea ice extent in 39 years.

Perovich said this loss is being felt hardest by coastal communities, which used to be buffered by the sea ice. The loss is also exposing communities to massive storm surge and disappearing shorelines. It is also depriving coastal residents of a safe route for hunting and travel.

“In 2018, the effects of persistent Arctic warming continue to mount … pushing the Arctic into unchartered territory,” Obsorne added.


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

Dec 2 2018

‘Get the balance back’: Amid seal and sea lion boom, group calls for hunt on B.C. coast

Quickest way to reverse declining salmon stocks is to introduce a harvest: Pacific Balance Pinnipeds Society

Greg Rasmussen · CBC News · Posted: Dec 01, 2018 1:00 AM PT

For the first time in decades, a small-scale seal hunt is taking place on Canada’s West Coast — all in the hopes that it leads to the establishment of a commercial industry to help control booming seal and sea lion populations and protect the region’s fish stocks.

In early November, a group called the Pacific Balance Pinnipeds Society (PBPS) started using First Nations hunting rights as part of a plan to harvest 30 seals. The society plans to test the meat and blubber to see if it’s fit for human consumption and other uses.

“We can look at opening up harvesting and starting a new industry,” said Tom Sewid, the society’s director and a commercial fisherman. “Since the [West Coast] seal cull ended in the 1970s, the population has exploded.”

Sewid, who is a member of the Kwakwaka’wakw First Nation, points out that Indigenous people have hunted the animals for thousands of years. Recent decades with little or no hunting have been an anomaly, he said, pointing to research that shows seal numbers are even higher now than in the 1800s.

Out go the nets, in come the sea lions

What’s become an ongoing battle between humans and sea lions played out on a recent nighttime fishing expedition, when Sewid and a crew of commercial fishermen set out in a 24-metre seine boat to fish for herring off the coast of Parksville, B.C.

The crew’s goal was to catch about 100 tonnes of herring, which rise to the surface to feed after dark. But the faint barking of sea lions was soon heard over the thrum of the boat’s diesel engine.

“All them sea lions out there are all happy — [they’re] all yelling, ‘Yahoo, it’s dinner time!'” Sewid said.

Once the crew spotted the herring, they let out hundreds of metres of net, while a smaller boat helped to circle it around the huge mass of fish. The crew then closed the bottom of the net, capturing the herring.

 

Watch sea lions pillage fishermen’s nets:

Many Sea Lions are caught in fishing nets, as they try to feed. 0:27

 

But the catch also provided some uninvited visitors with a captive dinner: Dozens of sea lions jumped over the floats holding up the net and started to gorge.

“These guys, it’s just a buffet for them,” said Sewid, as the bodies of the sea lions glistened in the boat’s floodlights. “Just like pigs at a trough.”

Sewid said the sea lions have learned there’s an easy meal to be had whenever they see or hear the fishing boats.

“They’re not afraid of us. They’ve habituated themselves to seeing that humans and fishing equates easy access to food, which is not right,” he said. “The animal kingdom is not supposed to be like that.”

Restarting a banned hunt

The hunting of seals and sea lions — which are collectively known as pinnipeds — has been banned on the West Coast for more than 40 years. It’s one reason their numbers have exploded along the entire Pacific coastline of North America.

According to one study, the harbour seal population in the Salish Sea is estimated at 80,000 today, up from 8,600 in 1975. The study also says seals and sea lions now eat six times as many chinook salmon as are caught in the region’s commercial and sports fisheries combined.

That adds up to millions of tonnes of commercially valuable fish.

Sewid’s group is proposing to cull current populations of harbour seals and sea lions by half, which would see thousands of the animals killed each year.

Tom Sewid is leading the effort to secure what he calls a sustainable harvest of seals and sea lions along the B.C. coast. (Greg Rasmussen/CBC)

The society’s small-scale “test” harvest is taking place between B.C.’s southern Gulf Islands and as far north as Campbell River, on Vancouver Island. It’s being carried out under the provisions of the Aboriginal Fisheries Strategy, which gives some First Nations harvesting and management rights for food and ceremonial purposes.

Testing the meat to see if it’s safe for human consumption is a first step in a plan to eventually gain permission for what the PBPS envisions as a sustainable, humane commercial hunt, which would largely be carried out by coastal First Nations.

“All the meat that’s in there, you’re looking at the high-end restaurants [that would sell it],” Sewid said. “The hides can also be used.”

Seal blubber is particularly valuable, he said, because it can be rendered down into an oil that’s in demand because of its high Omega-3 fatty acid content.

 

Watch fishing crew struggle to free sea lions entangled in their nets:

Watch as fishing crew struggles to free sea lions trapped in their nets. 0:49

 

One of the biggest hurdles facing the group is convincing the federal Department of Fisheries and Oceans to open a commercial hunt on the West Coast.

The seal hunt that takes place in the Atlantic and Arctic is controversial, and has long been subject to protests and fierce opposition from animal rights groups. The group expects a West Coast harvest to also face fierce confrontations.

Canadian Inuit have been waging a counter-campaign, highlighting the importance of the animal and the longstanding tradition of their hunt.

Most Canadian seal products are also banned in Europe and a handful of other countries, but the society says demand is strong in Asia.

Supporters and opponents

The PBPS does have a growing list of supporters, including 110 First Nations groups, a number of commercial fishing organizations, and some sectors of B.C.’s economically important sport fishing sector.

However, one key player, the Sport Fishing Institute of B.C., opposes a large commercial hunt, fearing it would generate public outrage and might not achieve the goal of enhancing fish stocks.

The institute’s director, Martin Paish, says the group sees some value in targeting some seals and other fish predators at specific times of year in a number of key river systems; he believes a limited hunt would help protect salmon stocks and boost the billion-dollar-a-year B.C. sport fishing industry.

“Our goal is to use predator control in a careful manner to improve chinook [salmon] production where it is needed,” said Paish.

Carl Walters is a fish biologist and UBC professor who supports cutting B.C.’s population of seals and sea lions by half. (Nic Amaya/CBC)

Fisheries scientist Carl Walters, a professor emeritus with UBC, believes culling the regions sea lions and seals could dramatically boost salmon stocks. He points to numerous studies showing how pinniped populations have been increasing, while salmon numbers have been plummeting.

“They’re killing a really high percentage of the small salmon shortly after they go into the ocean, about half of the coho smolts and a third of the chinooks,” he said.

Advocates of a hunt are also pitching it as a way to help B.C.’s endangered southern resident killer whales, which feed mainly on salmon.

“The thing that would benefit southern resident killer whales is to see improved survival of small chinook salmon — and I think the only way we can achieve that is by reducing seal numbers,” Walters said.

Peter Ross, from the Coastal Ocean Research Institute, says there would be little benefit to salmon from a seal and sea lion cull. (Nic Amaya/CBC)

Others disagree, including Peter Ross, the vice-president of research and executive director of the Coastal Ocean Research Institute.

“Killing of seals and sea lions is not going to have any positive impact for any salmon populations in coastal British Columbia,” he said.

While a few localized populations of salmon might benefit from a cull, Ross said climate change, habitat destruction and overfishing are all bigger factors in the overall decline of stocks.

Other subspecies of orcas, however, feed mainly on seals, so a hunt would reduce their access to prey.

Back on the boat, Sewid concedes a hunt would be controversial — but he firmly believes it’s necessary.

“All the indicators are there,” he said. “It’s time to get the balance back.”

The fishing crew from the Western Investor are shown harvesting herring in November. But they say they are being hampered by dozens of sea lions in their nets almost every night. (Nic Amaya/CBC)


Original post: https://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/british-columbia/seal-hunt-b-c-1.4921610

Nov 23 2018

CWPA CPS Nearshore Cooperative Research Survey Video

In cooperation with the California Department of Fish and Wildlife and Southwest Fisheries Science Center, CWPA is developing sampling methods to assess sardine and anchovy in nearshore waters not surveyed in NOAA acoustic trawl surveys.  Both sardine and anchovy are abundant in California’s coastal waters inshore of current NOAA acoustic trawl surveys; in fact, approximately 70 percent of California coastal pelagic species landings are harvested in waters not surveyed in federal stock assessments.  The sharp decline reported for both sardine and anchovy in recent years is belied by our nearshore surveys, and fishermen’s observations, that find increasing populations of both species. Accurate biomass estimates and stock assessments for CPS will benefit sustainable harvest policies, fishermen and seafood processors who produce these species, as well as our fishing communities and seafood consumers.

Our aerial survey samples CPS schools using aerial spotter pilots with plane and aerial camera system to fly transects near shore and photo-document schools, coupled with qualified purse seine vessels chartered to capture a subset of the schools identified while the pilot photographs the “point sets.” 

 

Nov 23 2018

Saildrone and NOAA team up to monitor fish populations

Video: http://www.thecwsandiego.com/story/39521848/saildrone-and-noaa-team-up-to-monitor-fish-populations

 

SAN DIEGO (NEWS 8) – Scientists in La Jolla are using cutting-edge technology to track schools of fish off the west coast.

They’re using Saildrone vessels equipped with sonar to monitor the health of the ocean and fish populations.

It may look like a sailboat but it’s actually a drone, hence the name Saildrone.

Five of the unmanned vessels recently completed a six-month mission to track fish populations from Vancouver to San Diego.

“It works just like a sailboat and it can sail or tack in a specific corridor. We use the solar panels that you see onboard to power the sophisticated sensor suite that’s inside,” said Nora Cohen, a spokesperson for Saildrone, a private company based in Alameda, California.

The Saildrone has a satellite connection that allows scientists to control it using a smartphone app.

It can stay at sea for up to 12 months. The only reason to bring it back to land is so scientists can download the data.

“At the end of the mission we bring the Saildrone back to shore and we transmit the entire, full-resolution data to the scientists for analysis,” said Cohen.

On the most recent mission, the Saildrones teamed up with a San Diego based, NOAA research ship: the 200-foot Reuben Lasker.

“You can see the draft of a Saildrone is quite small, our draft on (the Reuben Lasker) is 30 feet, so we can’t go nearly as close to shore as the Saildrone might be able to,” said Emily Rose, a NOAA Corps lieutenant command onboard the Reuben Lasker.

The five drones and the NOAA research ship were all equipped with sonar that locates large schools of fish underwater.

Back in La Jolla, researchers at NOAA’s Southwest Fisheries Science Center analyze the underwater sonar images.

“That sound bounces off of the fish schools and the intensity of those echoes tells how many fish are in the ocean,” said NOAA researcher Juan Zwolinski.

The scientists use NOAA’s 500,000 gallon Ocean Technology Development Tank to make sure the sonar equipment is calibrated using underwater metal targets and live fish.

“With this data we estimate the abundance of fish stocks. That’s all the anchovies, sardines, mackerel, and so on. We assess them year by year and over time we can track their populations and predict what they will be into the future,” said Zwolinski.

NOAA verifies the sonar images captured at sea by lowering nets and actually catching sample fish from the schools detected.

“Understanding the population and where the fish are really helps us understand what’s going on with the fish stocks, and helps us make educated and informed decisions concerning closing a fishery or restricting fishing until the fishery rebounds,” said NOAA Corps Lt. Cmdr. Rose.


Original post: http://www.thecwsandiego.com/