Jan 18 2021

West Coast Fisheries Impacts from COVID-19

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

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

COVID-19-Impact-Assessment

 

Dec 22 2020

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

Concerning:

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

 

December 10, 2020

Dear Senators and Representatives:

 

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

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

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

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

Yours sincerely,

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

 

Judith R. Amesbury Micronesian Archaeological Research Services, Guam

David Bethoney, Commercial Fisheries Research Foundation

Debra T. Cabrera, University of Guam

Steven X. Cadrin, University of Massachusetts

Paul Callaghan, University of Guam

Yong Chen, University of Maine

Charles Daxboeck, Biodax Consulting

David Fluharty, University of Washington

Daniel Georgianna, University of Massachusetts Dartmouth

David Itano, Opah Consulting

Brad Harris, Alaska Pacific University

Ray Hilborn, University of Washington

Pierre Kleiber, NOAA retired

Olaf Jensen, University of Wisconsin

Bill Karp, NOAA retired

Kai Lorenzen, University of Florida

Franz Mueter, University of Alaska

Robert D. Murphy, Alaska Pacific University

Catherine E. O’Keefe, Fishery Applications Consulting Team

Richard Parrish, NOAA retired

Eric N. Powell, University of Southern Mississippi

Craig Severance, University of Hawaii Hilo

John Sibert, University of Hawaii (retired)

Robert Skillman, NOAA retired

Kevin Stokesbury, University of Massachusetts Dartmouth

 Robert Trumble, MRAG America (retired)

Vidar G. Wespestad, NOAA retired

Michael Wilberg, University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science

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


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

Dec 16 2020

Recent Events Offer Promise for Protection of Sustainable Domestic Fishing

Interior Dept., BOEM, and Congressional Actions Pave Way to Protect Coastal Economies


December 15, 2020– The following was released by the Responsible Offshore Development Alliance:

Three significant positive developments affecting fisheries and offshore wind have occurred since Friday. The Responsible Offshore Development Alliance (RODA) has worked on these issues to ensure the safety and continued viability of our U.S. domestic fisheries, our coastal communities, and seafood consumers in light of offshore wind energy development. These wins were not achieved through high-powered lobbying or well-financed campaigns, but rather by expressing a clear and consistent message based in science and fact, making reasonable requests, and working diligently with elected and appointed officials in the Administration, both parties in Congress, career agency officials, and a multitude of state and private sector entities.

It is reassuring to see reason and logic prevail in government decisions. In addition to the many officials who contributed to these outcomes, we are immensely thankful for the efforts made by our own members, by others in the fishing industry and its advocates, and by those conscientious members of the offshore wind industry.

The Jones Act
What happened: On Friday, the Senate passed the 2021 National Defense Authorization Act that included a version of the “Garamendi Amendment,” which clarifies that all federal laws–including the Jones Act–apply to “all installations and other devices permanently or temporarily attached to the seabed, which may be erected thereon for the purpose of exploring for, developing, or producing resources, including non-mineral energy resources.” President Trump has threatened to veto the NDAA bill, but it is considered to have a veto-proof majority in Congress.

What It Means: A frequently cited benefit of the development of offshore wind energy has been domestic job creation. But the fact is that developers have planned to survey and construct early projects using vessels, equipment, and crew from abroad, with a longer term goal of building out a U.S. supply chain. RODA has submitted comment letters and raised attention to the Jones Act’s application to the offshore wind industry to date, which differed from all other ocean activities. This new statutory language means that many of those contracts and project plans will need to be revised to use U.S. vessels and crew from the start, consistent with all other U.S. industries. Currently, there are no Jones Act qualified vessels that can transport or install offshore wind turbines. Getting the investments required to build them may be challenging, and getting installation vessels in the water will take time. However, ensuring that any economic benefits generated by offshore wind energy accrue to our manufacturers and local communities is the right thing to do.

BOEM Vineyard Wind decision
What happened: The Department of Interior has announced that the preparation of an Environmental Impact Statement for the Vineyard Wind project is no longer necessary, and the process is terminated effective immediately. In plain English, this means the federal permitting process for the Vineyard Wind project is canceled. This news will become “official” in the Federal Register on December 16th.

What it means: On December 3, just a week before a final Environmental Impact Statement of its project was to be published in the Federal Register, Vineyard Wind announced that it had “decided to temporarily withdraw its Construction and Operations Plan (COP) from further review by the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM).”  BOEM responded by effectively stating that there is no “pause” option in the regulations, and accordingly “there is no longer a proposal for a major federal action awaiting technical and environmental review, nor is there a decision pending before BOEM,” and the process is “terminated.” RODA and local fishing interests repeatedly requested that Vineyard Wind, neighboring wind leaseholders, the states, BOEM, and USCG modify project designs to lessen impacts to the fishing industry. This led to a re-orientation of planned turbine rows in the dominant fishing direction, but other critical issues such as the addition of transit lanes for the safety of ocean-going fishing vessels were ignored. Now, Vineyard Wind will need to re-apply for its project, but the new timeline may not match supply contracts or the power purchase agreement with Massachusetts.

Department of the Interior internal legal memorandum
What happened: The Department of the Interior (DOI) issued an internal legal memorandum interpreting its statutory mandate to prevent offshore wind energy’s interference with fishing. Previous DOI guidance on the statutory language, which requires “prevention of interference with reasonable uses [including fishing] of the exclusive economic zone, the high seas, and the territorial seas,” indicated that offshore renewable energy projects could not interfere with the legal right to fish. This new memo explicitly changes that guidance, saying “[n]owhere does the statute indicate that the Secretary is only to prevent interference with the legal right to navigate or fish in an area. It is the Secretary’s job to provide for the prevention of interference with those uses.” In short, it states: (1) That the Secretary must ensure that offshore wind energy projects do not unreasonably interfere with fishing operations; (2) That fishermen’s perspectives are part of what determine whether interference is unreasonable; (3) That such interference is considered on a cumulative instead of project-specific level; and (4) If in question it must err on the side of less interference rather than more.

What It Means: This fundamentally shifts the balance of interests toward fishing, a critical provider of food security and low-carbon footprint protein, over offshore wind energy. Under previous guidance the presumption was that wind energy development should take precedence, and proceed in accordance with what developers determined to be optimal, and fishing interests would need to adjust. While a future Administration could revoke or refine the memorandum, it presents a solid legal argument for challenging any such action.

What does the future hold?
These three recent events create a better opportunity for a future in which the interests of all reasonable users of the seas can coexist.

When the 2021 National Defense Authorization Act becomes law, and projects must comply with the Jones Act, this will create a delay in the timeline for construction. It is crucial that the incoming Administration and interested states use that time to invest in science and research to understand—and ultimately minimize—environmental and economic impacts.

  • We need to start collecting robust baseline data immediately in all places where offshore wind projects may be considered in the future.
  • We need to retool our fisheries and protected resource monitoring protocols so important ecological data that forms the basis of fisheries management is not disrupted.
  • We need to understand the environmental impacts that have occurred from rapid large-scale development of offshore wind in places like Europe, which the European Parliament is currently reviewing and finding are largely unknown and possibly much greater than anticipated.
  • We need to understand the variations between the ocean and atmospheric environments of the European installations, and significantly different environments of U.S. federal waters, which are unique and contain some of the most productive and ecologically complex benthic environments in the world.
  • We need to much better understand the economic interactions between the two industries so we can preserve and promote traditional, historic, and sustainable fishing, while also identifying any possible economic opportunities that may arise for fishing communities from offshore wind energy production when it arrives in the future.
  • We need to continue to improve offshore wind energy and other renewable technology, including turbine and cable recycling methods, so that we can thoughtfully and quickly reduce carbon emissions while avoiding serious adverse environmental consequences associated with the large land use and materials needs of current technology.
  • We need to prioritize development of regional transmission systems to minimize the amount of structure that is ultimately placed in the water and on or under the seabed.
  • We need to build better relationships between fishermen, offshore wind energy developers, states, and federal managers so that information is effectively communicated and innovative solutions can be identified.
  • We need to develop decommissioning plans for when offshore wind leases are over that properly mitigate long-term environmental impacts and restore impacted habitats so we don’t create permanent steel graveyards in the ocean.

Most importantly, now that we’ve witnessed a project’s plans collapse due to failure to minimize fisheries impacts, we must work together to improve our planning process — as we in the fishing industry have been requesting for over a decade. Fishermen must be at the table and play a meaningful role in project siting and design. Ways to minimize and mitigate impacts must be identified up front and fully incorporated into all project plans. Although a handful of states and developers have made strong efforts to operate this way, it has never been done effectively on the correct spatial scale. In fact, we need to create new public, transparent, and inclusive regional processes that fully incorporate fisheries science and operational knowledge.

The need for a new planning process has been recognized by fishing interests and by offshore wind energy advocates. This was most recently clearly stated in a December 11th interview by Jeffrey Grybowski, the former CEO of Deepwater Wind, which was acquired by Ørsted in 2019.

“Obviously there are fishing groups in the Northeast that have raised really significant concerns. Those concerns can be addressed, but I also acknowledge they were real concerns. I don’t think anyone is suggesting their concerns should’ve been dismissed and projects just should have been approved.”

Mr. Grybowski went on to note that the problems with Vineyard Wind were not due to political bias.

“…some have said Vineyard Wind’s permit delays are due to some kind of anti-renewable bias within the administration. I disagree with the idea that — I think that view diminishes the nuance and complexity of what we’re all doing. New lease areas are complicated. There are stakeholders out there in favor of new lease areas. And so to simply blame everything on a political viewpoint understates the nuance and complexity of what we’re trying to do.”

The need for change has now been made clear by officials on both sides of the political aisle. Speaking at his annual climate change conference, Senator Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) stated

“Right from the very get-go, even before the filing … it should be a requirement of the filing to bring a statement of what work you’ve done with the fishing community, what their concerns have been. … Developers shouldn’t just get to go out there, cut a private deal with their funders, their investors, and then put their stamp down in the public ocean as if they owned it.”

These recent developments will significantly shift the discourse around offshore wind and fisheries to make sure fishermen’s needs and knowledge are afforded greater priority. Taken together, they offer a significant opportunity to fix the broken offshore wind energy planning process. Regardless of political or industry affiliation, we must now work together to properly balance uses of the ocean commons and maintain sustainable fishing practices.

Dec 10 2020

String of Marine Heatwaves Continues to Dominate Northeast Pacific

Researchers question whether heatwaves are becoming more common than not.

During the summer of 2020, an area of unusually warm ocean water—a marine heatwave—grew off the West Coast of the United States. It became the second most expansive Northeast Pacific heatwave since monitoring began in 1982. The heatwave eventually encompassed about 9.1 million square kilometers, almost six times the size of Alaska, towards the end of September.

In 2019 a similar heatwave developed slightly earlier in the year. While it was not as extensive as this year’s heatwave, its surface expression was warmer. It lasted 239 days, finally dying out way offshore in January 2020.

The 2020 heatwave was about the same horizontal extent as 2014’s massive marine heatwave known as The Blob. What’s different is the 2020 heatwave extended further south and towards the coast, compared to 2019. It encompassed much of southern California, the Southern California Bight, and into Mexican waters off Baja. Additionally, the 2020 heatwave lingered nearly a month longer into the fall in coastal waters and remained very strong in the far offshore region. However, neither the 2019 nor the 2020 heatwaves reached nearly as deep as The Blob, which warmed the water at least 100 meters deep in places. The last two heatwaves penetrated only 40 to 50 meters.

The largest three Northeast Pacific marine heatwaves on record from 1982 to today, on the day they reached their maximum size. Color represents the sea surface temperature anomaly (departure from normal for that location and time of year). Dark outline differentiates waters classified as a heatwave (e.g., values in the warmest 10 percent of all data, corrected by the variability at that location).

The New Normal?

“It’s notable that in five of the last seven years, the California Current system has been dominated by these large marine heatwaves, which are also the largest heatwaves on record for this area,” said Andrew Leising, a research scientist at NOAA Fisheries’ Southwest Fisheries Science Center in La Jolla, California. He developed a system for tracking and measuring heatwaves in the Pacific Ocean using satellite data. The California Current Marine Heatwave Tracker automatically analyzes variation from the average sea surface temperature from 1982 to the present. Experts are also tracking and analyzing marine heatwaves across the globe.

“The question we’re asking ourselves is whether these recurring heatwaves are the ‘new normal’ or if we’ll transition back to a previous climate state,” said Leising.

While some studies suggest that the warming oceans are fueling more frequent, stronger, and longer-lasting heatwaves, there are other considerations. Namely, the warming ocean itself is pushing baseline temperatures up, which may make heatwaves reach certain thresholds that exceed historical averages more often. Researchers continue to analyze ocean temperature data. They note that many questions remain about whether and how the ocean, and marine heatwaves, may be changing.

“The last few years have seen some really big marine heatwaves by any measure, but we are still teasing apart the complex factors behind them,” Leising said. “That is a big question going forward: What is changing, and what does it mean for our marine ecosystems?”

What Warmer Conditions Mean for the Ecosystem

These warmer conditions have boosted the odds of harmful algal blooms, shifting distributions of marine life, and changes in the marine food web. For example, the largest and most toxic bloom of Pseudo-nitzschia ever recorded along the U.S. West Coast occurred in 2015, during the 2013–16 marine heatwave. The widespread bloom increased levels of algal toxins that collect in shellfish. That forced the closure of the Dungeness crab fishery, one of the most productive and well known West Coast fisheries.

In recent weeks, Washington authorities have closed the state’s coastline to razor clamming and the central Washington Coast to Dungeness crab fishing because of high levels of algal toxins.

Ecosystem Approach to Monitoring Heatwaves

NOAA’s California Current Integrated Ecosystem Assessment is an interdisciplinary research effort led by NOAA scientists along the U.S. West Coast. It engages scientists, stakeholders, and managers to integrate all components of an ecosystem, including human needs and activities, into the decision-making process. The marine heatwave tracker was developed as a part of this effort. It helps managers consider the effects of ocean temperature on the ecosystem as a whole.

NOAA Fisheries’ Southwest and Northwest Fisheries Science Centers use this approach and lessons learned from the last heatwave to anticipate and mitigate potential impacts of this new one. Scientists provide fisheries managers and stakeholders with information on how these unusually warm conditions could affect the marine ecosystem and fish stocks.


Original post: https://www.fisheries.noaa.gov/feature-story/string-marine-heatwaves-continues-dominate-northeast-pacific?utm_medium=email&utm_source=govdelivery

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!

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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/