Archive for January, 2011

Jan 24 2011

MLPA proposal: tribes, fishing and environmental groups push for locally generated blueprint

John Driscoll/The Times-Standard
Posted: 01/22/2011 01:16:15 AM PST

Tribes and local fishing and environmental groups on Friday repeated their support of a regional proposal for marine reserves along the North Coast before the Legislature’s Joint Committee on Fisheries and Aquaculture in Eureka.

The hearing comes just prior to the California Fish and Game Commission’s Feb. 2 meeting in Sacramento at which a series of fishing and gathering closures and restrictions along the Humboldt, Del Norte and Mendocino county coastline are expected to be adopted. The regional group that generated a unified proposal for the Marine Life Protection Act Initiative has the support of more than 40 agencies and fishing and environmental organizations. The unified proposal was the first such agreement in the MLPA process in the state.

”I know it was a major achievement, but it doesn’t surprise me,” said committee Chairman Assemblyman Wesley Chesbro at the Humboldt County Board of Supervisors chambers.

Read the rest of the story from the Eureka Times-Standard here.

Jan 24 2011

Warm weather leading to hot fishing

By Ed Zieralski

Thursday, January 20, 2011

It’s still early, but the arrival of schools of mackerel off northern Baja has fishermen wondering if an early spring bite on yellowtail is in the works.

Fishing for rockfish, lingcod and even an occasional cowcod has been very good in Mexican waters, where the fish are legally caught right now. The rockfish closure in Southern California stretches to the end of February.

Meantime, fishing remains good for long-range boats out of San Diego, and another 300-pound tuna hit the Point Loma waterfront dock on Thursday.

Read the rest of the story from the San Diego Union-Tribune here.

Jan 22 2011

Rebuilding Global Fisheries [Video]

Ray Hilborn and Boris Worm comment on their findings in the Rebuilding Global Fisheries study:

Jan 20 2011

Ocean acidity: Small change, catastrophic results

Sometimes, seemingly small numbers can have remarkably big consequences. Miss a single free throw, and your team loses the championship. The economy slows by few percent, and millions of Americans are out of work. Your temperature rises by a degree or two, and you are down and out with a fever.

Nowhere, however, are the big consequences of little numbers becoming clearer than in the health of our oceans. There, a chemical shift of just 0.1 that’s right, just one-tenth of a point – is already causing “ocean acidification,” a massive, fundamental change that has enormous implications for marine life.

Read the rest of the article here.

Jan 18 2011

Dr. Ray Hilborn Discusses the State of World Fisheries, and more…[Video]

“Doomsday will come to fishes across the world’s oceans by 2048.”  That was the startling implication of findings published in 2006 by marine ecologist Boris Worm of Dalhousie University in Halifax, Canada, and several colleagues.

The projection, published in a paper in Science magazine, was about the relationship between biodiversity and ecosystem services in the oceans, and concluded that the world’s oceans were in bad shape, in part because of overfishing.

But many fisheries scientists were appalled.  In fact, one prominent critic was Dr. Ray Hilborn, a professor in the School of Aquatic and Fishery Sciences, University of Washington, specializing in natural resource management and conservation.

Trained in quantitative techniques for determining the abundance of fish stocks, Hilborn and others  questioned the methods used in Worm’s global assessment.  The conflict continued a charged and long-simmering debate between marine ecologists and fisheries scientists about the status of the world’s ocean ecosystems.

Yet, less than a year later, as recounted in a Science magazine article entitled “Détante in the Fisheries War,” Hilborn and Worm began meeting on neutral ground to hammer out their differences. Working under the auspices of the National Center for Ecological Analysis and Synthesis(NCEAS) in Santa Barbara, California, Hilborn and Worm brought together some 20 scientists from their respective disciplines as well as dozens of graduate students.

Initial results from this collaboration were published in the July 31, 2009 issue of Science magazine: Rebuilding Global Fisheries.

A new series of videos posted on WorldNews provides a video account of the highlights of this ground-breaking research.  Three videos feature Dr. Hilborn on the state of the world’s fisheries. Another video, including interviews with both Hilborn and Boris Worm, highlights findings in the Rebuilding Global Fisheries study, and yet another video presents Dr. Hilborn’s remarks at a Science Advisory Team meeting of the Marine Life Protection Act Initiative in southern California, critiquing the state’s rigid size and spacing guidelines governing marine protected area placement in the Golden State.

The first three videos are posted below:

Jan 17 2011

Concept of ‘fishing down food webs’ shown to be a myth

By Ray Hilborn (originally published in Pacific Fishing magazine, Jan. 2011)

Ray Hilborn

Perhaps no image of the impact of fish has captured the public as much as “fishing down food webs.”

The idea is very simple: Fishing begins, quite naturally, on the largest, most valuable fish. Once those are gone, fishermen move down the food webs to smaller, less valuable fish, and so on until the oceans are empty.

As Daniel Pauly, the prime apostle of the concept, has often said, we will soon have nothing to eat but jellyfish and zooplankton soup. This neatly fits the “apocalyptic” narrative that is so beloved by some environmental activists, but like many of these narratives, it is wishful thinking.

Pauly’s original paper, published in 1998, showed that the average fish caught in the world was becoming smaller and ever lower on the food web. This has been one of the most influential papers in the history of fisheries science. The “food web index” has been adopted by the Convention on Biodiversity and other groups as the best indicator of the health of marine ecosystems.

Read the rest here.

Jan 17 2011

Mineo brothers grateful for bountiful squid season

By Robert Walch • January 14, 2011

The Californian (Salinas)

Squid are poured into bins on Wharf No. 2 in Monterey from the Mineo brothers' boat in November. (ROBERT WALCH of The Californian)

Third-generation Monterey fishermen Frank Mineo and his older brother, Sal, hope that they will be able to make it to the end of their working lives in the family business. Whether there will be another generation of Mineo men fishing on Monterey Bay remains to be seen.

With new regulations, closed fisheries and the fickleness of the fish population, fishing on the Central Coast has always been a feast-or-famine proposition.

Frank Mineo, a Fisherman’s Flats resident, said there have been a few years recently when taking the Mineo Bros.’ 58-foot Alaskan Limit Seiner out into the bay was a money-losing proposition. But this year has been different. Very different!

“It has been up and down for years because of weather, nutrient upwelling, water temperature and other things,” Mineo said. “Over the last decade, our biggest season was 2003, but this year will be the best we have had in 20 years of fishing.”

Read the rest of the story here.

Jan 17 2011

Squid A Day: Fishing for Future Generations

By Danna Staaf
Created Jan 14 2011 – 4:48pm

I know, I know, I won’t shut up about squid fishing. But the Salinas Californian has a neat human-interest article about the closure of the market squid fishery, bringing the message home to Homo sapiens:

Third-generation Monterey fishermen Frank Mineo and his older brother, Sal, hope that they will be able to make it to the end of their working lives in the family business. Whether there will be another generation of Mineo men fishing on Monterey Bay remains to be seen.

Read more here.

Jan 17 2011

Environmental Groups Concede Sea Otter Protections Deserve More Scientific Study

Peter Halmay diving

By Harry Liquornik and Peter Halmay

After a yearlong legal fight with two environmental groups, the federal government recently came to an agreement surrounding the future protection of the threatened California sea otter.

If you believe the rhetoric coming from the plaintiff groups, they scored a major victory.

According to their statements, the Otter Project and the Environmental Defense Center are now on the path to freeing the sea otters from government interference and allowing the animals to return to the waters off Southern California.

But that’s not really the whole story, or even the whole truth.

Instead of dealing with meaningful, yet difficult, water quality problems this ill-conceived lawsuit sought simplicity — allow sea otters to go find places to survive on their own.

Sadly, without even so much as demanding an update to the 2005 scientific research surrounding the sea otters’ habitat, and seemingly not allowing the government to comply with the Endangered Species Act, the lawsuit took aim at terminating a key element of the government’s sea otter recovery program.

What’s more, these groups also wanted to ignore the act’s requirements that demand a program for a listed threatened species — such as sea otters — must also avoid harming other listed species. In this case, two endangered native abalone species are a primary prey of the threatened sea otters and the abalone share the habitat that will likely be occupied by the sea otters if the management program is ultimately ended.

The program, which began in 1987, established a separate colony of sea otters at San Nicolas Island as an insurance policy to protect the species in the event of a major oil spill. The plan also set up a sea otter management zone to protect Southern California’s shellfish fisheries, which represent a critical part of the state’s marine ecosystem and are an important element of many coastal communities.

Despite what the lawsuit claimed, the program has been a success.

Currently, the San Nicolas Island colony boasts the healthiest sea otters in California; these animals are reproducing at double the rate of the mainland population. Conversely, the island success stands in stark contrast to the mainland population, where approximately 300 sea otters die each year.

It’s for these reasons that several groups who know that a comprehensive ecosystem-wide protection plan is much more effective than a species-by-species approach, intervened in the lawsuit. This coalition, headed by the California Sea Urchin Commission, understands that without a functional ecosystem management plan, all species are at risk, not just a single target species. And that’s why we must redouble our efforts to fulfill all the elements of the 1987 program.

Thankfully, the court-approved agreement forced the plaintiffs to ultimately agree with the Sea Urchin Commission and its partners on practically all points put forward — that updating the 2005 study was appropriate; all elements of a final decision should in fact depend on a new analysis; the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service should consider impacts to other protected marine species; and it should also consider the negative impact that poor water quality is having on sea otters. So what did the plaintiffs get for their lawsuit efforts?

They got taxpayers to reimburse them $55,000 in legal fees for an agreement which they could have received with a written request and first-class stamp.

And what did the people of California get, besides an unnecessary bill? A chance for a comprehensive review of the translocation experiment and a chance to further develop a meaningful ecosystem-based management of the resources.

Harry Liquornik serves as chairman of the California Sea Urchin Commission and Peter Halmay is a former member of the Fish and Wildlife Service’s sea otter recovery implementation team. Both are commercial sea urchin divers.

Jan 12 2011

Has Overfishing Ended? Top US Scientist Says Yes

Has overfishing ended? Top US scientist says yes, but fishermen say cost was too high


Creative Commons License photo credit: Max Braun

By JAY LINDSAY Associated Press
BOSTON January 8, 2011 (AP)

For the first time in at least a century, U.S. fishermen won’t take too much of any species from the sea, one of the nation’s top fishery scientists says.

The projected end of overfishing comes during a turbulent fishing year that’s seen New England fishermen switch to a radically new management system. But scientist Steve Murawski said that for the first time in written fishing history, which goes back to 1900, “As far as we know, we’ve hit the right levels, which is a milestone.”

Read the rest of the story here.