Nov 19 2020

No-take MPAs “do nothing to mitigate” problems facing U.S. oceans, Dr. Ray Hilborn tells Congress


 

November 18, 2020 (Saving Seafood) — WASHINGTON — Yesterday, at a House Natural Resources Committee hearing on the Ocean-Based Climate Solutions Act, respected fisheries scientist Dr. Ray Hilborn criticized the marine protected area (MPA) provision of the bill, which he called “the wrong tool for adapting to climate change.”

The provision, known as the “30 by 30” plan, would require the establishment of MPAs in at least 30 percent of American waters by 2030. In his testimony, Dr. Hilborn, professor of sustainable fisheries at the University of Washington, cited numerous threats facing U.S. oceans, including climate change, ocean acidification, exotic species, land-based runoff, plastics and illegal fishing.

“There are solutions to each of these problems,” Dr. Hilborn said. “But it is not no-take MPAs – they do nothing to mitigate these problems.”

Dr. Hilborn praised current fisheries management under the regional council process, which he called science-based and credible with industry and other stakeholders. He also pointed out that MPAs would simply push fishing pressure outside of the protected area into other parts of the ocean, with no net gain.

“MPA advocates ignore the fact that ‘30 by 30’ would cause 70 percent of U.S. oceans to see increased fishing pressure from the vessels that moved out of the 30 percent closed, and thus potentially be less resilient to climate change. Do we really want to make 70 percent of our oceans less resilient to climate change?” Dr. Hilborn said.

The hearing kicked off with Ranking Member Rob Bishop (R-UT) introducing a letter organized in part by Saving Seafood and signed by over 800 seafood industry members opposing the “30 by 30” plan. Rep. Bishop added that “30 by 30” is “woefully misguided, does not improve fisheries, it undermines the Magnuson-Stevens Act, and even worse, it’s detrimental to Americans, especially American fishermen.”

Read Dr. Hilborn’s written testimony here

Watch the full hearing here


Original post: Saving Seafood savingseafood.org

Nov 17 2020

Sustainable fisheries are facing a moratorium

Sustainable fisheries are facing a moratorium
© Getty Images

 

American wild-caught seafood is integral to the nation’s food supply and to American food security. We’ve been working hard to keep it that way in the face of climate change. The people who catch fish for a living experience climate impacts directly. We recognized it early and we’ve responded. In fact, U.S. fishermen have been part of the solution to habitat conservation and climate responses for decades.

Nonetheless, some politicians and environmental organizations have embraced a version of an initiative called 30×30 (“thirty by thirty”) that would damage our nation’s sustainable fisheries and robust fisheries management process. Broadly, 30×30 aims to conserve 30 percent of habitat worldwide by the end of the decade — 2030. The 30×30 approach has been embraced by President-elect Biden’s campaign, and there’s talk he will sign an executive order on his first day in office.

We’re eager to engage with the new administration to address climate impacts and protect habitat. Proactive and durable ocean policy changes need to happen with us, not to us.

Our organizations have advocated for strong ocean conservation for decades, and we’ve built a fisheries management system that will continue to provide enduring protections to ocean habitat while insisting fishermen participate. The results are striking: we’ve established deep-sea habitat protection areas covering over 45 percent of U.S. waters off the West Coast. In 1998 we prohibited trawling off the entire coast of Southeast Alaska. Recently, the New England and Mid-Atlantic regions enacted major deep-sea coral protections that prohibit the use of impactful gear in sensitive areas.

Our work to conserve sensitive ocean spaces has helped make American fisheries the most sustainable in the world. Despite these accomplishments, the most connected and well-financed proponents of 30×30 are seeking to implement no-take marine protected areas in U.S. oceans without serious input from fishing stakeholders. Rep. Raul Grijalva (D-Ariz.) and his colleagues recently introduced H.R.8632, the Ocean-Based Climate Solutions Act, which would require “protection” of at least 30 percent of the U.S. ocean by 2030 by banning “all commercial extractive use.”

It’s important to note that the “non-commercial” exemption in the bill was added late and appears to be sanctioned by recreational fishing groups and environmental organizations. This move would be puzzling if not for the politics. In much of the U.S. ocean, commercial and recreational fishermen use similar gear types, and in many fisheries recreational harvest accounts for half, or sometimes more, of catch. But overcoming the objections of the sportfishing lobby is a tall order, and this is a fight 30×30 proponents chose not to pick, biological justification notwithstanding.

Whether you are a sport or commercial fisherman or a seafood consumer, policies that circumvent our fishery management system set a bad precedent and needlessly remove public access to healthy and natural seafood resources. They also contravene biological science, which supports fisheries management’s optimized approach to conservation and social science, which shows us that conservation is enhanced when stakeholders are provided equitable opportunities to participate.

We don’t need an unjustified moratorium on U.S. commercial fisheries in nearly a third of the ocean in order to achieve climate resilience and biodiversity protection. In fact, a ban on all commercial fisheries in 30 percent of U.S. waters would be a giant step backwards for biodiversity and climate change. U.S. fisheries increasingly support local food systems and shorten food supply chains — a climate positive.

It remains possible to fashion a U.S. 30×30 policy that is compatible with our fishery management institutions. Doing so would be relatively simple, but it would require acknowledging the gains fishermen and fisheries management processes have already achieved, while providing an equitable stakeholder role.

Are the proponents ready to engage? If they are, a 30×30 policy could be developed with goals that are directly compatible with biodiversity and fisheries management, while ensuring that serious discussions about climate change do not exclude coastal communities. If they aren’t, Americans will lose another piece of their maritime heritage, they’ll lose access to sustainably sourced seafood and coastal communities will be swept aside in a misdirected effort to address climate change.

Abandoning fishing communities when addressing the climate crisis is a disservice to our world-leading fisheries management system and to the people who risk their lives to feed the nation. But there’s still time for meaningful discussion with fisheries stakeholders. If Congressional Democrats and the Biden administration are serious about supporting working people, they must engage with working fishermen and women immediately, before executive orders issue or legislation passes.

Ocean-based climate solutions cannot be achieved without including the people who work there.

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


Original post: https://thehill.com/

Nov 10 2020

MPA Update: Fishing communities discuss protected areas impacts

Fishing boats at the Bodega Bay harbor. (Image credit Frank Schulenburg)

“We’re getting hit from all sides,” says a fisherman from Crescent City during a virtual focus group discussion. “If it isn’t the environment, it’s management.”

Over the last decade, California established an extensive network of marine protected areas (MPAs) along the coast. In hopes of providing respites where ecosystems can grow undisturbed, these MPAs set limits on activities such as fishing around the state. Researchers are now assessing how the restrictions impact marine life as well as fishing communities in seven large-scale monitoring projects funded by the California Ocean Protection Council in partnership with California Department of Fish and Wildlife and California Sea Grant.

For one team, this monitoring focuses on humans rather than fish. The project includes virtual focus groups with commercial and charter fishermen. Researchers want to know how the MPAs affect the economic and social aspects of life for fishing communities up and down the coast.

“In MPAs, what you’re managing are people — not fish or what’s on the floor of the ocean,” says Jon Bonkoski, knowledge systems program director with Ecotrust and a co-director of the team leading the human dimensions project. Bonkoski works alongside three other organizers and a larger team to gather, analyze and communicate information about the health and wellbeing of fishing communities and ports around the state.

Cheryl Chen, another co-director who works primarily on data analysis, says the project has two modes: first, pioneering a way to monitor how MPAs impact fishing communities in the long-term, and second, using existing historical data to understand research priorities and determine the most useful data to collect in the future.

So far, the team has compiled information such as catch records, number of fishers and revenue dating back to 1992 in an interactive data explorer on the project’s website.

Chen works with Bonkoski to analyze landings  data about where commercial fishing vessels operate, but she says without fine-scale digital logbooks the current data is limited. “Fish and Wildlife collects spatial fishing data, but it’s a 10 by 10 nautical mile resolution, which is too large,” she says. “A lot of these MPAs are much smaller than that.”

MPA monitoring project directors on a video call with fishermen from Bodega Bay, California in the first of many virtual focus groups.

 

From figures to fishers

The team points out that catch numbers and fishing location data, while useful for statistical analyses, become more meaningful and powerful when put into the context of human stories. In order to hear voices from commercial and CPFV fisheries, Laurie Richmond, an associate professor at Humboldt State University, and her grad student, Samantha Cook, designed a series of questions and discussion points for focus groups within 24 fishing communities.

“We have around 15 questions asking fishermen to rank things about the health and well-being of their ports in relation to MPAs on a scale of one to five,” she says. “Then we ask them to rank them again after the conversation, because their views may have shifted based on the conversations they have with their peers.”

The discussions center around the sustainability, infrastructure, community and management of the ports and MPAs. The group hoped to conduct conversations in person but switched to video calls because of COVID-19.

“I was worried the technology would feel really clunky,” says Richmond. “But it’s worked really well.” She credits Kelly Sayce, another project co-director and co-founder of Strategic Earth Consulting, and colleagues Jocelyn Enevoldsen and Rachelle Fisher with getting communities involved.

“The Strategic Earth team has worked with fishermen in ports up and down the state for over a decade and built a lot of trust,” she says. “It seems that this trust has played a huge role in enabling vulnerable discussions, and I get the sense that fishermen feel that their perspectives are honored by the project team.”

The team also offers interviewees monetary compensation. “We’re not asking them to just donate their time while we’re getting paid for the project,” Richmond says. The researchers post results of focus group meetings along with key quotes and summaries for specific ports on the project website.

https://mpahumanuses.com/data-viewer.html

The data visualizer includes maps and summaries for ports as well as different types of fisheries.

Reimagining management

The monitoring project’s leaders expect a wide range of responses to the wellbeing surveys. They say it’s still too early to see how MPAs affect fishing communities across the state, but one common theme has already emerged: the need for greater transparency in management. Fishing communities are typically the most impacted by the implementation of MPAs, but they consistently feel left out of the planning, monitoring and research processes.

“For the most part, fishermen are very interested in what is happening within MPAs, and there is an expressed need for clear communications on what the key findings are and how MPAs impact respective fisheries in the short and long term,” says Kelly Sayce. “Fishermen do not feel they are included in that whole conversation, and that can perpetuate a lack of trust for how resources are managed.”

The idea has persisted since the first focus group in Crescent City, where one fisherman said, “[managers] need to do a much better job of making especially fishermen, but entire communities, aware of what they’re doing.” The project team hopes that highlighting the voices of fishing communities and the challenges they face will lead to more integrative leadership at the state level.

“Ten years from now, we don’t want to come back to them and have the same conversation,” says Bonkoski. “We’re collecting this information to organize and do something proactive.”

Laurie Richmond agrees. “Fisheries management, especially at the state scale, uses lots of ecological data to guide decision-making,” she says. “It would be exciting to see this information about wellbeing guide decision-making too.”

The team believes this adaptive management is possible if fishing communities are given a seat at the table. “How amazing might it look to have fishermen together with academic scientists, managers, Tribal leaders and conservation organizations talking in a more equitable way about how resources are managed,” muses Sayce. “If ever there was a time to reimagine what engagement looks like, I just have to believe it’s now.”

Written by Erin Malsbury, California Sea Grant/UC Santa Cruz Science Writing Intern 2020


Original post: https://caseagrant.ucsd.edu/news/mpa-update-fishing-communities-discuss-protected-areas-impacts

 

About California Sea Grant

NOAA’s California Sea Grant College Program funds marine research, education and outreach throughout California. Our headquarters is at Scripps Institution of Oceanography, University of California, San Diego; we are one of 33 Sea Grant programs in the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), U.S. Department of Commerce.

Oct 21 2020

Ocean climate bill is a grab bag for marine stakeholders

The trawler Virginia Marise from Point Judith, R.I., near the Block Island Wind Farm. Deepwater Wind photo.

Rep. Raul Grijalva (D-Ariz.), chairman of the House Committee on Natural Resources, today introduced the Oceans-Based Climate Solutions Act of 2020.

We could start with the irony of a representative from Arizona introducing an oceans climate bill, hailing not only from a landlocked state, but one most known for its lack of water.

But let’s instead lead with the fact that the blueprint for this bill was introduced and failed to make it out of committee in California — one of the nation’s most progressive states. Now Gov. Gavin Newsom has made an end run around the legislative process by creating an executive order to effect the changes in the bill that could not pass with votes.

The federal bill is more than a mixed bag. Reading its 324 pages felt like swinging at a piñata packed with a mix of treats and lit fireworks.

It includes (but is not limited to) amendments to the Magnuson-Stevens Act, language on marine protected areas, a prohibition of new oil and gas leases, an offshore wind energy mandate, promotion of U.S. seafood, fuel efficiency, aquaculture research, coastal hazards, marine mammal protection, ocean acidification and red tide.

“I am still trying to come to terms with what I am reading,” said Mike Conroy, executive director of the Pacific Coast Federation of Fishermen’s Associations. “It is clearly major legislation with lofty goals. There are some provisions we can support (the provisions surrounding Buying American Seafood under Title IV); but there are many which would benefit from additional scrutiny. We remain committed to working with Congress to share our concerns and perspectives.”

In California it was called 30×30, based on the overarching goal to designate 30 percent of the state’s waters and lands as protected areas by 2030.

Remember that at most 10 percent of the ocean is fishable ground. But there’s something for every marine user group in the federal bill, including the military under the underwater sound restrictions that could reasonably include seismic testing and sonar restrictions.

“The Ocean-Based Climate Solutions Act of 2020 is a very comprehensive bill with a long list of proposals to address climate change,” said Ben Martens, executive director of the Maine Coast Fishermen’s Association. “Maine fishermen have seen firsthand the effects climate change is having on our fisheries, and we fully support a robust and immediate response to these challenges. That being said, we do have concerns that this bill may fundamentally undermine the Magnuson-Stevens Act and particularly the regional council system, which uses the best available science and a collaborative approach to fisheries management. We also have concerns regarding the impacts of the bill on our ability to access traditional fishing grounds due to increased wind power and the creation of additional no fishing areas.”

The second section of the federal bill starts with the Protection of Habitat, directing a new federal policy “to prohibit any commercial extractive or destructive human activity in at least 30 percent of the ocean under United States jurisdiction by 2030. The 30 percent shall include existing areas in which commercial extractive and destructive human activities are and continue to be prohibited; and (2) to support the adoption and implementation of a global goal to protect at least 30 percent of land and 30 percent of ocean areas by 2030.”

That last “and” is important. The Newsom EO leaves some wiggle room in that 30 percent requirement, saying “it is the goal of the state to conserve at least 30 percent of California’s land and coastal waters,” not necessarily 30 percent of the land and 30 percent of the water, but 30 percent together. The only wiggle room in the federal bill is that it would conceivably draw lines around grounds that are not critical to commercial fisheries. There is a lot of ocean out there that fishermen don’t rely on, after all.

“We’re a nation that has long been sustained and protected by our oceans,” said Rep. Jared Huffman (D-Calif.) in the press conference to introduce the bill. “This legislation takes a very important step forward.”

“As we consider the impacts and the solutions to the climate crisis, we really have to be just as concerned about our oceans, where we are seeing major declines in biodiversity, rapidly shifting fish stocks, sea level rise, and widespread losses of our world’s most important coastal habitats,” added Huffman, who has been holding a fisheries listening tour in coastal communities around the country for the last year.

Somewhere between the bill’s introduction in California, its failure to pass there, and its reintroduction on the national stage, recreational fishing interests managed to leave a window for sport fishing in these proposed closed areas. I hope Huffman, who has been an advocate for commercial fishermen, is still listening as we begin the journey down this new road.

The third section of the bill mandates the implementation of offshore wind. As we’ve seen so far, this administration has generally been supportive of offshore wind energy development, including speeding up the time lines for lease approvals. However, the process has been slowed by input from other marine resource industries whose work conflicts with some of the proposals for wind array siting plans and proposals.

The approval and permitting process for offshore wind arrays so far seems to be working, as no leases have been denied, but rather more information is being gathered before granting foreign interests access to our exclusive economic zone. A mandate for a system that has yet to prove its reliability and sustainability in U.S. waters seems short-sighted. Let’s not short-circuit the systems we have in place to protect citizens and ensure the safe implementation of new infrastructure and industry.

“While recognizing the importance of addressing climate change, I urge Congress to consider fishermen not as obstacles, but as partners in developing policies based on sound science, thriving coastal communities, and food security,”said Annie Hawkins, executive director of the Responsible Offshore Development Alliance. “During today’s press conference, Rep. Alan Lowenthal (D-Calif.) stated that this administration has ‘thrown obstacles in the way’ of the nation’s first proposed commercial-scale offshore wind energy facility. Indeed, the administration undertook a supplemental review to evaluate the environmental impacts of a new era of ocean industrialization, before granting carte blanche to an activity that will fundamentally alter fishing, benthic habitat, biodiversity, and protected species. That review correctly found that such activities will have major impacts to these resources and we hope these impacts will be effectively mitigated.”

There’s a lot more to this legislation, which we are sure to see the effects of for many years to come.


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

Oct 15 2020

The Value of California’s Market Squid

Market Squid Reproducing. Photo credit: Mark Conlin Photography

Arriving on the heels of the farm to fork movement, the COVID-19 pandemic has disrupted supply chains and altered product demand, which has inspired businesses to restructure and Californians to pay particular attention to where their food comes from. Many understand that almonds, artichokes or lettuce are grown in their own backyard, mostly in the Central or Salinas Valleys. But when residents are asked about wild-caught food sources coming from the ocean, tuna, salmon or perhaps rockfish might immediately come to mind. While those are indeed popular fisheries, the largest of California’s commercial fisheries actually target invertebrates, not fish!

Invertebrates are animals without a backbone, such as the tidepool favorites, sea stars and anemones. But there are many more invertebrates around the world, both swimming and sedentary, that are highly sought after for food – and their popularity is on the rise. California’s largest marine commercial fisheries in terms of volume and value are market squid and Dungeness crab, with well over 100 million pounds landed and more than $30 million in revenue in a typical year for the squid fishery.

Market squid, the invertebrate known to diners as the popular dish calamari, use ocean currents, jet propulsion and prehistoric instincts to travel up and down the continental shelf of California. These slippery siblings of octopuses live very short lives (less than nine months) and produce heaps of eggs, somewhere on the order of 2,000 to 7,000 per female!

When conditions are right, squid show up in droves to reproduce in coastal waters. After reproducing for just a few short days, they die as a natural part of their life cycle. This means the entire population replaces itself in less than a year. These qualities lend to a high volume of squid available for fishermen, cost-effective management and a sustainable fishery. Squid are also used as bait to catch a wide variety of fish species and can be found at many coastal tackle shops or on live bait barges, mostly in Southern California.

Highest value marine fisheries, 2015-2019

If you see very bright lights from groups of boats on the water at night, it is likely the squid fishing fleet in action. Fishermen have used this technique for more than a century because squid are attracted to the lights, which mimic the moonlight. As described in an historic Fish Bulletin from 1965, the market squid fishery began in Monterey around 1863. The early fishing methods involved rowing a skiff with a lit torch at the bow to aggregate the squid. Then, two other skiffs would maneuver a large net around the school.

In today’s fishery, squid are typically caught using a purse seine, a large circular net which is “pursed” at the bottom to contain the school. Once the school of squid is brought closer to the vessel, a long tube is then used to suck the squid out of the net and onto the boat.

Only a limited number of vessels may fish for squid in California, and during the weekends (from Friday afternoon to Sunday afternoon) squid fishing is closed to allow for uninterrupted reproduction. In many fisheries, highly sophisticated mathematical models are used to estimate the available population for an upcoming season and ultimately to decide how many fish can be sustainably caught. Because market squid are short-lived, highly responsive to ever-changing environmental conditions and do not behave like most fish, traditional models are ineffective.

Squid fishing fleet near Monterey. CDFW photo by Carrie Wilson

For this reason, the fishery is monitored using the egg escapement method, which is essentially an estimate of how many eggs are released prior to female squid being caught. By comparing the average number of eggs that a female squid will produce to squid samples collected at the docks, biologists can calculate how many eggs were produced each year. This is used to look for trends or major shifts in how the squid fishing fleet is interacting with the stock. Biologists continue to explore ways to pair egg escapement information with population estimates, environmental variables, fishing behavior and economics.

Squid fishing fleet at night. CDFW photo by Carrie Wilson

Fishing for market squid is a long-standing tradition in California and normally provides for a large export market. But a number of recent factors, including the COVID-19 pandemic, have inspired stronger local markets for many fisheries, such as squid. This means more restaurants, businesses and consumers are buying directly from the docks, shortening the distribution chain. Boat captains, crew, processors, distributors and diners eagerly await the arrival of squid, especially around spring and summer on the central California coast when fishing is generally the most successful. If history repeats itself, vessels will move to Southern California in the fall and winter, where the Channel Islands tend to be the hot spot for squid fishing. But in response to a changing climate, the range for this species is likely to expand northward, forcing the fishing industry and the biologists studying squid to adapt as well!

###

Media Contact:
Kirsten Macintyre, CDFW Communications, (916) 804-1714.


Original post: https://wildlife.ca.gov/Science-Institute/News/the-value-of-californias-market-squid

Sep 23 2020

US panel votes to keep options open in Pacific sardine fishery rebuild plan

At least 100 commercial harvesters of sardines on the US west coast as well as lots of processors and many others that count on their landings appear to have escaped last week what could’ve been a painful blow.

The Pacific Fishery Management Council (PFMC) voted unanimously, 14-0, to support a rebuilding plan for northern Pacific sardines that gives it the option to keep the maximum quota at 4,000 metric tons per year or to move it up or down depending on the biomass. It was one of three alternatives recommended by the council’s Coastal Pelagic Species (CPS) Management Team.

One of the other two alternatives, which was favored by conservationists, would’ve instead limited the acceptable catch limit (ACL) to 5% of the biomass, while a third option would’ve allowed zero harvests of the species, essentially shutting down the fishery.

Based on the CPS management team’s estimates, the 5% methodology would’ve resulted in an ACL of just 1,414t during the current fishing season, about a third as much as is currently allowed. However, it’s worth noting that actual landings of northern Pacific sardines off the US West Coast have ranged between 2,063t and 2,505t over the last five years.

Pacific sardines. Photo: NOAA Fishwatch

As many as 63 harvesters are active CPS federal entry permittees and another 40 are state-authorized limited entry permittees in Oregon and Washington, according to Diane Pleschner-Steele, executive director of the California Wetfish Producers Association (CWPA).

Also, because sardines are commonly landed as bycatch, following the conservationist’s preferred approach could’ve resulted in sardines becoming much more of a choke species and interrupting the harvests of Pacific mackerel, market squid, northern anchovy, pink shrimp and Pacific whiting. Such harvesters now have a 20% per weight incidental catch rate, which was dropped last year from a rate of 45%, Pleschner-Steele noted in a recent email exchange with Undercurrent News.

But most imperiled by the prospect of the 5% approach, she said, would be the west coast live bait industry. It supplies recreational harvesters, accounts for $602 million in annual sales and is credited for providing 5,000 jobs.

What comes next

The move by the PFMC has been anticipated since July 2019. That’s when the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) notified the council that the biomass of sardines’ northern subpopulation was found to have fallen below the 50,000t threshold that — under the Magnuson Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act (MSA) — triggers the creation of a rebuilding plan within 15 months.

Now that the council has voted, a hew fishery management plan must be implemented within two years and the rebuilding plan must take less than 10 years to reach its goal unless environmental conditions interfere. Shortly after the PFMC sends its recommendations to NMFS, the agency can be expected to publish them in the Federal Register and take comments. It’s rare for NMFS to not follow a council’s advice.

Regardless, harvesters need not worry about the catch limit being changed for the current Pacific sardine season, which began July 1, 2020, and runs until June 30, 2021. Nor is it likely the 2021-2022 ACL will be reduced as a result of the latest action, though the council might be more conservative when that’s set as expected in April 2021, a PFMC staffer advised.

Cannery Row in Monterey, California. The area was renamed after the setting in John Steinbeck’s famous 1945 novel. Photograph on Shutterstock.

CWPA’s Pleschner-Steele, whose group represents both harvesters and processors, was among those pleased with the outcome. She was one of about 17 witnesses to testify in favor of the first alternative during the council meeting, held online because of pandemic concerns.

“The council’s unanimous decision to support the management team’s recommendations shows that they understand reality, the big picture. Our sardine harvest policy already has a built-in rebuilding plan,” said Pleschner-Steele in an opinion article published after the vote, noting how the PFMC closed the main directed fishery in 2015 and sharply reduced incidental harvest rates in 2019.

“Further cuts would drive many fishing businesses out of business, and we appreciate the council’s acknowledgment of that prospect,” she said.

Still from the video “Sardines in California: Fishery in Crisis” by Saving Seafood

The northern Pacific sardines occupy the US Pacific Coast from Southeast Alaska to the northern portion of the Baja Peninsula and are distinguished from two other groups: sardines from the southern Baja Peninsula to southern California and those in Mexico’s Gulf of California. However, Pleschner-Steele argued that many of the sardines being caught are really sardines from Mexico that have migrated north and shouldn’t be counted against the northern sardine cap.

The CPS management team had advised the council also that overfishing was not what was reducing the sardines biomass, putting more of the blame on recruitment.

“Falling below [minimum stock size threshold] triggered an overfished designation; however, overfishing has not been occurring for this stock, as Pacific sardine catch has been well below both the [acceptable biological catch] and the [annual overfishing limit],” the team said.

Learning from the decline of Cannery Row

Three conservation groups testified in favor of the more stringent alternative, including Oceana, Wild Oceans and the Pew Oceans Campaign.  They disagreed with the harvesters, as might have been expected, saying the council has ignored a 2020 study by federal fishery scientists that determined the sardine population has declined 98% since 2006 to instead take a “status quo management” approach.

Credit: Perla Berant Wilder/Shutterstock.com

They noted how the small, oily fish are an important food source for humpback whales, dolphins, seals, sea lions, brown pelicans and larger fish like tunas and sharks. They suggested the council pay more heed to the conservation actions that contributed to the infamous sardine crash that ended the iconic Cannery Row era more than 60 years ago.

“Fishery managers have failed to learn from the mistakes of history, and if they don’t act soon, we’ll be doomed to repeat them and continue on an irresponsible pathway that will devastate the sardine population and its prospects for recovery,” said Geoff Shester, a senior scientist at Oceana, in a statement issued after the vote. “It is disappointing that again California wildlife officials, federal managers, and the fishing industry are disregarding the science in order to avoid making hard choices. Today’s decision is a failure of responsible fishery management.”

Pleschner-Steele countered that the great sardine decline of the late 1940s involved harvesters catching 50% or more of the standing stock, while today’s harvest amounts to only 0.6% of the population.

Also, she noted, NOAA research ships are too large to survey near shore, where most fishing occurs in California. For the past few years, fishermen have testified to a growing abundance of sardines on their fishing grounds yearlong, she said.

In fact, fishery representatives are asking the council for a review of the rebuilding plan in 2021 as soon as possible after the next coastwide sardine survey, which was canceled in 2020 due to COVID-19 restrictions. The next survey in 2021 will, for the first time, include nearshore waters, in a collaborative effort using fishing industry vessels, she noted.

Contact the author jason.huffman@undercurrentnews.com


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

Sep 18 2020

Pacific Fishery Management Council Approves Pacific Sardine Rebuilding Plan

BUELLTON, CA / ACCESSWIRE / September 17, 2020 /

Thousands of fishermen, processors and allied fishing businesses along the west coast thank the Pacific Fishery Management Council for taking final action on a rebuilding plan for the “northern” stock of Pacific sardine that achieves the balance between conservation and fishing communities mandated by the Magnuson Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act (MSA).

This action was required by the MSA after the “northern” sardine stock was declared “overfished” in 2019, when the biomass estimate fell below 50,000 mt. The Council decision came after many months of hard work by stock assessment scientists, modelers, the Coastal Pelagic Species (CPS) Management Team and the Council’s Science and Statistical Committee (SSC), to build and analyze a Rebuilder model based on the 2020 “northern” sardine stock assessment, which covered a period of low recruitment. The herculean effort attempted to forecast future sardine population growth and rebuilding time scenarios under various harvest alternatives.

“The Council’s unanimous decision to support the Management Team’s recommendations shows that they understand reality, the big picture,” said Diane Pleschner-Steele, Executive Director of the California Wetfish Producers Association, representing California fishermen and processors. “Our sardine harvest policy already has a built-in rebuilding plan. The Council closed the main directed fishery in 2015, and sharply reduced incidental harvest rates last year. Further cuts would drive many fishing businesses out of business, and we appreciate the Council’s acknowledgement of that prospect.”

The environmental group Oceana immediately issued a press release decrying the Council action, accusing fishery managers of irresponsible mismanagement. Oceana and other environmental activists based their arguments on the Rebuilder model that scientists, the Management Team and the Council all acknowledged did not reflect reality because it could not model the environmental cycles driving sardine productivity, nor could it predict the future. Further, it assumed that the total harvest allowance was caught every year.

Oceana’s accusation, “fishery managers have failed to learn from the mistakes of history,” does not pass the straight face test when all the facts are presented. During the great sardine decline in the late 1940s, the historic sardine fishery harvested 50 percent or more of the standing stock. Today’s sardine fishery harvest amounts to only 0.6 percent of the northern sardine population — very close to 0 US harvest, which was modeled as Alternative 2, and showed disastrous economic impacts to fishing communities in California and the West Coast because it curtailed major fisheries. Commercial fisheries that take sardines incidentally include market squid, anchovy and mackerel in California and Pacific whiting, pink shrimp and groundfish along the entire West Coast. In addition, the live bait fishery relies on sardines and serves a billion-dollar recreational fishing enterprise.

The Council decision illuminates a dicey problem: sardine fishery management policy assumes that two sardine stocks exist along the west coast and Mexico, divided by a temperature barrier at about 62 degrees F. But the Council manages only the “northern” stock, and in recent years, stock assessments have subtracted thousands of tons of sardines found in waters warmer than 62 degrees on the assumption that those were “southern” sardines that migrated up from Mexico. Stock assessments also are now based on annual NOAA summer acoustic trawl (AT) surveys that begin in the Pacific Northwest and move south, not reaching California waters until late August, when water temperatures are typically above 62 degrees. Thus, most California sardines are now omitted from “northern” stock assessments on the assumption they are “southern” sardines. Also, NOAA research ships are too large to survey near shore, where most fishing occurs in California. For the past few years, fishermen have testified to a growing abundance of sardines on their fishing grounds yearlong. But complicating matters even further, for management purposes, all sardines landed are subtracted from the “northern” sardine harvest allowance, regardless of sea temperature. This catch-22 sets the backstory for the Council’s final decision.

Due to Covid-19 restrictions the Council meeting was conducted via webinar, and parade of fishermen, seafood processors and community representatives testified to the hardship they are already experiencing under current restrictions. They all voiced unanimous support for Alternative 1, “status quo” fishing regulations. The Management Team also recommended Alternative 1 as the most balanced and flexible choice. Environmental groups testified as well, and all supported Alternative 3, a static five percent harvest rate hard-wired for close to 20 years, based on Rebuilder model analysis, that would have cut current harvest levels nearly in half, precipitating harsh economic impacts.

In their deliberations, Council members highlighted the flexibility of the “status quo” sardine Harvest Control Rule (HCR) that sets harvest limits based on current environmental conditions. They concurred with scientists and the Management Team that the Rebuilder model does not reflect reality; it can’t model the natural high and low productivity cycles of sardines. Council members recognized that the HCR’s precautionary harvest limits are designed to provide forage for predators. Respecting both the need for conservation and the needs of fishing communities, Washington Councilmember Phil Anderson commented that he would rather provide a little more harvest now to keep fishing communities viable. Otherwise they might not survive into the future. Council chair Marc Gorelnik summarized discussion with his comment, “Mother Nature bats last.”

Scientists and Council members alike recognize that environmental conditions are key to stock rebuilding, as they have been for eons even without fishing. The Management Team pointed out that actual fishery catches in the past five years, since the main directed fishery was closed, have averaged only about 2,300 metric tons, far short of the allowed annual catch target, and most of the catch is “southern” stock sardines. The Council also recognized that the current HCR equates to a built-in rebuilding plan because it has flexibility to reduce catches in relation to the biomass, and also includes automatic actions to further restrict fishing in low abundance years. The Council has already reduced the fishery as far as feasibly possible. Now Mother Nature needs to do the rest.

All things considered, the Council made the proper rebuilding plan decision, following the MSA mandates to specify a time period for rebuilding that is as short as possible, taking into account the biology of the stock and needs of fishing communities. The MSA does allow directed fishing to continue when rebuilding an overfished stock, and does not require instant recovery or the most drastic action be taken. Optimum Yield is a long-term goal. The MSA also allows flexibility in developing a rebuilding plan. The plan will be updated when new information is available – nothing is cast in stone.

In light of evidence of recruitment and the abundance of sardines that California fishermen have been reporting inshore of AT surveys, fishery representatives are asking for a review of the rebuilding plan in 2021 as soon as possible after the next coastwide sardine survey, which was cancelled in 2020 due to Covid-19 restrictions, and will for the first time in 2021 include a survey of nearshore waters, in a collaborative effort using fishing industry vessels. The fishing industry is dedicated to help improve the science underpinning stock assessments. “If stock assessments were accurate,” said Corbin Hanson, a highline fisherman who has fished sardines as well as other CPS for more than a decade, “sardines would not be declared ‘overfished.'”

PRESS CONTACT:

Diane Pleschner-Steele
diane@californiawetfish.org
(805) 693-5430

SOURCE: California Wetfish Producers Association

ReleaseID: 606630

 

Permalink | Categories Breaking News, Legislation, View from the Ocean on September 18, 2020 by DaveGogel | No Comments
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Sep 10 2020

Editor’s Log: The other plague

A California fisherman works Dungeness crab pots. California Department of Fish and Wildlife photo.

The state of Alaska, known for its commitment to sustainable fisheries management, has a policy that fisheries allocations cannot be decided at the ballot box — meaning, they endeavor to let the experts decide.

Legislating fisheries by lawsuit is not that different. Surely, a federal judge should be an expert on the law. But they are not marine biologists; they are not community-based policy makers; they are not coastal economists. These are all the hats required of the Magnuson-Stevens Act’s National Standards. This is why federal fisheries policy is formed by councils and commissions after public input and approved by a federal agency — it requires a holistic perspective on the biomass, the working waterfront, the safety and efficiency of fishing gear and practices, and the best approaches to allocating access among all user groups.

Try to explain in a few sentences how federal fisheries are managed to someone who knows nothing about it. Anyone who has studied fishery science and policy will attest to its complexities. And those complexities change fishery by fishery and region by region — often within the same state.

I’m not necessarily advocating for a streamline of fisheries policy. It would be a lovely dream, but I fear the outcome would not work in any fleet’s favor. What I would like to see is any lawsuit attempting to change fishery policy through the backdoor of a federal bench be required to check off its adherence to every single National Standard under the Magnuson-Stevens Act — Optimum Yield, Scientific Information, Management Units, Allocations, Efficiency, Variations and Contingencies, Costs and Benefits, Communities, Bycatch, and Safety of Life at Sea. If you can show that your suit accounts for its effects on all of these factors (not just one or a handful) that federal managers are required to account for and does not sacrifice one for another, then carry on with your case.

Otherwise, anyone with enough money for a good lawyer can effectively cherry-pick the things they don’t like about a single policy. The result is that the fishermen who can muster the cash for their own lawyers must redirect funds and time to defending lawsuits instead of implementing innovations in gear, processing and products; and fishery managers are forced to twist and contort into impossible positions in order to try to please everyone (which I believe we all recognize is impossible).

As you can read in our news coverage of the Status of the Stocks, our federal management is superb and improving every year. The biggest deciding factor in whether or not a fishery is managed well should not be social pressure; it should be based in science. Money spent to halt a fishery would better serve the American public as an investment in better data, cooperative research and product innovation.

Without good data, we have no way of knowing what is happening in the ocean. Without good policy, we have no way of safely executing any fishery.


Original post: https://www.nationalfisherman.com/national-international/editor-s-log-the-other-plague

Aug 31 2020

Fidelity of El Niño Models and Simulations Matter for Predicting Future Climate

A new study led by University of Hawai’i at Mānoa researchers and recently published in the Nature Communications journal revealed that correctly simulating ocean current variations hundreds of feet below the ocean surface – the so-called Pacific Equatorial Undercurrent – during El Niño events is key in reducing the uncertainty of predictions of future warming in the eastern tropical Pacific.

The issue of prediction is not so much one of timing, but of degree or severity.

Trade winds and the temperatures in the tropical Pacific Ocean experience large changes from year to year due to the El Niño-Southern Oscillation, or ENSO, affecting weather patterns across the globe. For instance, if the tropical Pacific is warmer and trade winds are weaker than usual – an El Niño event – flooding in California typically occurs and monsoon failures in India and East Asia are detrimental to local rice production. In contrast, during a La Niña the global weather patterns reverse with cooler temperatures and stronger trade winds in the tropical Pacific.

These natural climate swings affect ecosystems, fisheries, agriculture, and many other aspects of human society. Changes to pink shrimp production and the location of market squid on the West Coast are frequently related to El Ninos.

Computer models that are used for projecting future climate correctly predict global warming due to increasing greenhouse gas emissions as well as short-term year-to-year natural climate variations associated with El Niño and La Niña.

“There is, however, some model discrepancy on how much the tropical Pacific will warm,” Malte Stuecker, co-author and assistant professor in the Department of Oceanography and International Pacific Research Center at UH Mānoa said in a press release. “The largest differences are seen in the eastern part of the tropical Pacific, a region that is home to sensitive ecosystems such as the Galapagos Islands. How much the eastern tropical Pacific warms in the future will not only affect fish and wildlife locally but also future weather patterns in other parts of the world.”

Researchers have been working for decades to reduce the persistent model uncertainties in tropical Pacific warming projections.

Many climate models simulate El Niño and La Niña events of similar intensity. In nature, however, the warming associated with El Niño events tends to be stronger than the cooling associated with La Niña. In other words, while in most models El Niño and La Niña are symmetric, they are asymmetric in nature.

In this new study, the scientists analyzed observational data and numerous climate model simulations and found that when the models simulate the subsurface ocean current variations more accurately, the simulated asymmetry between El Niño and La Niña increases–becoming more like what is seen in nature.

“Identifying the models that simulate these processes associated with El Niño and La Niña correctly in the current climate can help us reduce the uncertainty of future climate projections,” corresponding lead author Michiya Hayashi, a research associate at the National Institute for Environmental Studies, Japan, and a former postdoctoral researcher at UH Mānoa said in the release. “Only one-third of all climate models can reproduce the strength of the subsurface current and associated ocean temperature variations realistically.”

“Remarkably, in these models we see a very close relationship between the change of future El Niño and La Niña intensity and the projected tropical warming pattern due to greenhouse warming,” Stuecker noted.

That is, the models within the group that simulate a future increase of El Niño and La Niña intensity also show an enhanced warming trend in the eastern tropical Pacific due to greenhouse warming. In contrast, the models that simulate a future decrease of El Niño and La Niña intensity show less greenhouse gas-induced warming in the eastern part of the basin. The presence of that relationship indicates those models are capturing a mechanism known to impact climate. In turn, that signifies those models are more reliable. This relationship totally disappears in the two-thirds of climate models that cannot simulate the subsurface ocean current variations correctly.

“Correctly simulating El Niño and La Niña is crucial for projecting climate change in the tropics and beyond. More research needs to be conducted to reduce the biases in the interactions between wind and ocean so that climate models can generate El Niño-La Niña asymmetry realistically,” added Fei-Fei Jin, co-author and professor in the Department of Atmospheric Sciences at UH Mānoa.

“The high uncertainty in the intensity change of El Niño and La Niña in response to greenhouse warming is another remaining issue,” said Stuecker. “A better understanding of Earth’s natural climate swings such as El Niño and La Niña will result in reducing uncertainty in future climate change in the tropics and beyond.”

Graphic: Future increase of El Nino and La Nina intensity leads to enhanced warming in the Eastern Tropical Pacific, left. Future decrease of El Nino and La Nina Intensity leads to less warming in the eastern tropical Pacific, right. Credit: Data from NOAA.


Posted with permission of Seafood News

Susan Chambers
SeafoodNews.com
1-541-297-2875

Jul 3 2020

Top 10 for ’20 | National Fisherman

The fishing industry responded to the presidential roundtable with gratitude for the spotlight and a push for help with other issues. Here’s our Top 10 as compiled from feedback around the country.

 

Pandemic Assistance

As of mid-June, fishermen had not seen funds filter down from the CARES Act through Commerce to their state agencies and their businesses. Though the act was passed in March, with guidelines for disbursement issued by Commerce in May, NMFS predicted a mid-July date for approval of state funding plans, which would predate any payments. Controversial allocations trough the Paycheck Protection Program and low caps on the Small Business Administration’s Economic Injury Disaster Loans also hampered relief to the industry, which is primarily comprised of small business owners, independent operators and contract workers.

Wind Power

“Offshore wind development has been fast-tracked at the peril of commercial fishermen,” said Patrice McCarron, executive director of the Maine Lobstermen’s Association. “The Bureau of Ocean Energy Management has established a task force to facilitate and plan offshore wind development in the Gulf of Maine. Although this will directly impact the livelihoods of commercial fishermen, they are not represented on the task force.”Fishermen can only make their living from the ocean, and the proposed development of floating turbines will result in the closure of fishing areas. In addition, the impacts of offshore wind development on ocean ecology and commercial fishing are poorly understood. Fishermen must be fairly represented in this fragmented process. Data must be improved to understand how these future developments will impact commercial fishing as well as the marine ecosystem.”

Deepwater Wind foundations at the Block Island wind farm site off Rhode Island. Deepwater Wind photo.Deepwater Wind foundations at the Block Island wind farm site off Rhode Island. Deepwater Wind photo.

Habitat Protection

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers was nearing completion of its environmental review for the proposed Pebble Mine at the headwaters of Alaska’s Bristol Bay as we went to press on this issue in mid-June. At the same time, Bristol Bay’s commercial fishermen, seafood processors, and residents were preparing for the return of a forecasted 49 million sockeye salmon. A final permitting decision is expected to drop as soon as 30 days after the review, around the peak of the fishing season, when Bristol Bay’s fishermen and residents will be occupied with fishing and preoccupied by an added layer of covid-19 prevention practices.“It is unconscionable that, despite overwhelming comments and outcry requesting an extension and revision to the Pebble Mine permitting process, the Army Corps has continued to rush its environmental review and aims to release a final permitting decision while Bristol Bay grapples with the challenges of harvesting, processing and supplying half the world’s wild sockeye salmon during a global pandemic,” said Katherine Carscallen, Bristol Bay resident and executive director for Commercial Fishermen for Bristol Bay. “We look to Alaska’s senators for their leadership and implore the EPA to use its authority under the Clean Water Act to veto Pebble’s permit. The EPA’s own science and comment letters to the Army Corps show that this project poses an unacceptable risk to our country’s greatest remaining wild salmon runs.”

Marketing

“If the U.S. government is going to support and fund a large, planned increase in domestic aquaculture production, there must be some sort of specific support for domestic wild seafood products that will come under increased competition from this new and expanded domestic aquaculture production,” said Bruce Schactler, a commercial fisherman, industry advocate and NF Highliner, based in Kodiak, Alaska, referring to the president’s executive order in May that promotes the production of offshore aquaculture.“The Farm Bill,” Schactler added, “provides hundreds of millions of dollars per year for the exclusive use of the U.S. Agriculture industry to subsidize technology, marketing, infrastructure, research, education, training, price supports of various kinds, and generous support for the young farmers and ranchers that will carry on this critical industry. The U.S. seafood industry has no such support program, although it is not for lack of trying.”

Offloading salmon in Petersburg, Alaska. Jessica Hathaway photo.
Offloading salmon in Petersburg, Alaska. Jessica Hathaway photo.

Trade Aid

Though the promise of a Seafood Trade Task Force and the implementation of the Seafood Import Monitoring Program offer some promise of relief for U.S. fisheries and dealers competing with cheap foreign imports in our own markets and looking for new opportunities overseas, the need for federal assistance with global trade restrictions through specific agreements is still paramount for many U.S. fisheries.“Tariffs do not come and go overnight,” said Annie Tselikis, executive director of the Maine Lobster Dealers’ Association. “Many of us in the industry have been advocating for fair access to foreign markets for a long time. In order for tariffs to be reduced or eliminated, there is a process of negotiation and diplomacy, and each negotiating partner needs to be a willing and fair participant in that process.”

Marine Mammals

New England fishermen aren’t the only ones worried about whales and working to improve gear, fishing methods and management to avoid them. The West Coast Dungeness fleet has worked with other stakeholders for several years in a gear working group.But on the flipside, the Marine Mammal Protection Act establishes permanent protocol for species, like sea lions, that have rebounded to the point of creating a nuisance and preying excessively on critical species, like Pacific salmon.“Marine mammal stocks (California sea lions, in particular) should lose protections when their populations reach a certain level, whether that is carrying capacity or the Marine Mammal Protection Act’s Optimal Sustainable Population,” said Mike Conroy, executive director of the Pacific Coast Federation of Fishermen’s Associations. “They throw off ecosystem balance and are in direct competition with other ESA-listed species (Southern Resident killer whales, for example) for limited amounts of food.”

The Louisiana shrimp boat Miss Nan. Louisiana Department of Fish and Wildlife.

The Louisiana shrimp boat Miss Nan. Louisiana Department of Fish and Wildlife.

Recovery Response

This includes everything from disaster funds to increased flexibility, which would provide means for the industry to manage disaster recovery. Most fishermen will tell you: They don’t want handouts, they just want to work. Federal aid can be helpful, but it takes so long to reach the fleets that many businesses go bust waiting for relief.The state of Mississippi, for example, was awarded $11 million for a 2011 disaster declaration, but fishermen have seen very little of those funds so far.“It was probably about 2015-16 before we started seeing money from that disaster declaration. And they’re still spending that money, almost 10 years later,” said Ryan Bradley, executive director of Mississippi Commercial Fisheries United and a 2018 NF Highliner. “Oystermen and crab fishermen and seafood dealers have received about 15 percent” of that $11 million, so far.

Better Data

“Whether that means more funding for science center activities or closer coordination with fishermen or just listening to what they are reporting,” said Conroy. “Fishermen have knowledge, are on the water far more often than the science folks, observe changes related to ocean conditions and fish populations, assist in understanding fish movement by collaborating with different organizations (e.g., tagging programs).“One example out here is the stock assessments for Pacific sardine. They are based on surveys taken on large NOAA ships which can’t access the nearshore waters (typically those less than 25 fathoms). Coincidentally, that is prime habitat for sardine. So the stock assessments keep showing a decline in sardine biomass, while fishermen are reporting (with documentation) increasing numbers of sardine in the nearshore. Because the fishermen’s observations are anecdotal, they carry no weight.”

Homarus americanus. Doug Stewart photo.Homarus americanus. Doug Stewart photo.

Infrastructure and Access

“Feeding fish to the community requires a new commitment and approach to the food supply chain,” said Pete Halmay, commercial fisherman and president of the San Diego Fishermen’s Working Group. “Without improved infrastructure and better access to resources, the promise of fresh, sustainable , local fish cannot be fulfilled.”“This includes dredging, NOAA weather buoys that actually work, shoreside off-loading equipment and product storage, dockside land space for gear storage and/or office space, etc.,” said Conroy. “Ensure protections can be put in place to protect the future access to private unloading stations.”All of these (and more) add up to the culminating priority for the industry.

Recognition of the Value of U.S. Commercial Fisheries


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