Archive for February, 2011

Feb 25 2011

Fisheries catch share program questioned

Small personal fishing boat returns to harbor - youngster in the red sweatshirt is filleting, cleaning the fish on the back deckphoto © 2009 Mike Baird | more info (via: Wylio)

Sue Book
Sun Journal Staff

The search for balance between economic and environmental concerns intensified this week over catch limits from those in both commercial and recreational fishing industries.

Key North Carolina congressional delegation members have asked U.S. Secretary of Commerce Gary Locke “to consider other well-established fishery management techniques” to help keep the industry alive.

A letter from Rep. Walter Jones, R-N.C., Rep. Mike McIntyre, D-N.C., Sen. Kay Hagan, D-N.C., and Sen. Richard Burr, R-N.C., joined several senators and congressmen from other East Coast states in the request. The request came over “concern that the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administrations catch share policy will further endanger the economic vitality of the already-struggling fishing industry and will not end overfishing.”

“The fishing industry is a crucial part of our nation’s economy, but in these tough economic times too many fishermen are struggling to provide for themselves, their families and their communities,” the letter said.

It maintains, as have fishermen speaking at recent public hearings in New Bern before the Mid-Atlantic Fishery Management Council this year, that NOAA has “committed significant funding to encourage the adoption of catch share programs when it has not committed sufficient funds to adequately assess the stocks of our nation’s fisheries.”

Read the rest of the story here.


Feb 25 2011

Kerry steps up push vs. NOAA

By Richard Gaines Staff Writer

U.S. Sen. John Kerry has put his political weight behind the struggles of the fishing industry in its growing fight for relief from the regulatory, economic and law enforcement policies created and being carried out by the Obama administration.

John Kerryphoto © 2009 Center for American Progress Action Fund | more info (via: Wylio)

Expressing disappointment and frustration at the lack of progress in a year’s struggle dating to the Feb. 24, 2010, national fishermen’s rally in Washington, D.C., Kerry announced plans organize a field hearing of the Senate Commerce Committee — somewhere in Massachusetts, and no later than April.

The hearing would gather testimony for comprehensive legislation aimed at modifying the Magnuson-Stevens Act, the landmark 1976 law that governs America’s fisheries and is credited with achieving sustainable stocks and ending overfishing.

Read the rest of the story here.

Feb 24 2011

Jones Amendment to Block Obama Administration Catch Shares Policy Passes House of Representatives

WASHINGTON – Feb. 19, 2011 (Saving Seafood) – Amendment #548 to H.R. 1 sponsored by Walter Jones (R-North Carolina) and cosponsored by Barney Frank (D-Massachusetts) and Frank Pallone (D-New Jersey) passed the United States House of Representatives on a recorded vote of 259-159 at 1:43 a.m.

The Amendment would prevent funds from being expended by NOAA to enact new limited access fishing programs.  The Amendment, if H.R. 1 is passed by the Senate and signed into law, would prevent spending on new catch shares programs.

51 Democrats joined 208 Republicans voting in favor of the Amendment.

Read the rest of the story here.
Feb 24 2011

CBS report renews calls for NOAA accountability

Fishing boat photo © 2009 Mike Baird | more info (via: Wylio)

CBS focuses on excessive fines, abusive enforcement, lack of oversight

By Richard Gaines Staff Writer

A nationally televised report has told the world of the travails of the Gloucester-based fishing industry at the hands of government regulators.

Featuring testimony from longtime port of Gloucester fishermen Bill Lee and Richard Burgess, the CBS News report broadcast Wednesday night marked the first extended network coverage of a struggle that was joined with the start of the Obama administration and has built in intensity for two years

The grievances against the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and its National Marine Fisheries Service trace back more than a decade, as the federal Commerce Department inspector general has acknowledged.

The report by CBS News chief investigative correspondent Armen Keteyian covered issues that readers of the Times have been immersed in — stultifying overregulation and vindictive, debilitating law enforcement, which together put small businessmen out of business — but CBS also added a new perspective.

Read the rest of the story here.




Feb 24 2011

House backs killing NOAA catch share funds

The dome of the Capitol Building in DCphoto © 2008 Dion Hinchcliffe | more info (via: Wylio)

The U.S. House has voted to cut off funding for future catch share programs, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration policy that opens the door to commodities trading of fishermen’s catch allocations — and a policy already steering control of the fishing industry to larger corporations while driving out smaller, independent boats.

The 259-159 vote early Saturday morning was largely un-lobbied by either fishing industry backers or the Obama administration and its environmental allies, notably the Environmental Defense Fund that developed and has pushed hard for catch share policies.

The vote marked the first time a House of Congress has weighed in on the management regimen, and it looms as a setback for the Obama administration, whose most visible advocate of catch shares is Jane Lubchenco, the embattled NOAA administrator who formerly served as a top board member with Environmental Defense.

While with EDF, she helped organize a disputed scientific justification for catch shares, implying that without them, all food fish would soon be taken.

Read the rest of the story here.
Feb 17 2011

American Fishermen Caught in Net of Regulations

NOAA Fined One Fisherman $19,000 for Catching About 20 Extra Codfish

By Armen Keteyian


For 37 years the waters off the coast of Mass. were a way of life for fishermen Bill Lee. Then, without warning – it all changed.

“NOAA took a career that I enjoyed and put me out of business,” Lee said. “And laughed all the way to the bank.”

NOAA is short for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration – the federal agency that oversees the $3.9 billion dollar fishing industry.

CBS News chief investigative correspondent Armen Keteyian reports in 2009 NOAA fined Lee $19,000 for catching about 20 extra codfish – nearly three years after he caught them. A fine, he says, that destroyed his one-man operation.

“They just took it away,” Lee said.

Now dozens of New England fishermen charge their livelihood is at risk. Sinking under the weight of 700 pages of confusing federal regulations.

Read the rest of the story here.

Feb 15 2011

Sardine collapse due to multiple causes

This commentary was originally published in the Monterey County Herald.

Guest commentary

On Jan. 30 The Herald published an excerpt, headlined “Overfishing triggered ruin of the sardine,” from a book by authors Steve Palumbi and Carolyn Sotka.

But there’s just one problem. The story is not entirely true.

“Ruin” is a harsh – and incorrect – headline to describe the storied sardine decline in the 1940s.   While the fish exodus may have ruined the canneries that once crowded Cannery Row, the sardines did return. And so has Monterey’s wetfish industry – so named because these species were canned ‘wet from the sea’ with little preprocessing.

In their column, Palumbi and Sotka actually allude to the fact that there is much more to the story than simple overfishing.  They note that, “Ed [Ricketts] also somehow knew that part of the problem was not overfishing, but a change in the ocean.”

In the 1960s, two decades after Ed Ricketts, scientists studying anaerobic sediments in the Santa Barbara Basin in Southern California discovered a natural historic record of pelagic fish populations, including sardine and anchovy.  These initial findings were the first step in proving Ed Ricketts’ earlier theories about ocean cycles.

In fact, analysis of the scale-deposition series showed that sardines and anchovies both tended to vary, layered in the deep mud, over a period of approximately 60 years, with the average time for sardine recovery about 30 years.

What’s more, the scale-deposition record counted nine major recoveries and subsequent collapses of the sardine population over a 1,700 year period.  Scientists Soutar, Isaacs, Baumgartner and others found the current recovery was not unlike those of the past in its rate or magnitude. Sardines were fated to decline with or without fishing pressure:  warm-water cycles favor sardines, and cold-water cycles favor anchovies.

Sardine recoveries and collapses

The sardine decline spurred the creation of the California Cooperative Fisheries Investigations (CalCOFI), a consortium composed of the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS), Scripps Institution of Oceanography and California Department of Fish and Game (DFG), whose focus was to study the sardine and other coastal pelagic species in the California Current System. California’s wetfish industry contributed funding and manpower to advance the research.

The DFG curtailed sardine harvest beginning in the late 1960s, and lifted the moratorium to allow a 1,000-ton harvest nearly 20 years later, after estimating a biomass of at least 20,000 tons.  The sardine resource expanded at an estimated 30 percent per year in the 1980s, stretching its boundaries from Southern California to the Pacific Northwest and Canada by the late 1990s.  New research and scientific models estimated the population at more than one million metric tons in 1999, when management authority transferred to the federal NMFS, which declared the population fully recovered.

Currently there’s a shift to a cold-water Pacific decadal oceanic cycle; the sardine population may again be entering another natural decline.  But now California’s sardine industry is limited to only 65 permitted vessels (63 active), restricted by a capacity goal and landing limits.   The sardine fishery is regulated under the federal Magnuson Act, with strict overfishing limits and annual catch limits to prevent overfishing.

The harvest control rule deducts 150,000 metric tons off the top of the biomass estimate (all fishing would be curtailed below that level) to provide forage for other marine life, as well as ensure a sustainable base population.  In addition, the allowed harvest rate is only 15 percent (net 10-11 percent after subtracting the 150,000 mt ‘cutoff’), far lower than other fishery exploitation rates.

Today the wetfish industry in Monterey is a traditional industry with a contemporary outlook.

Fishermen and markets actively engage in collaborative research on sardine and also market squid. The sons of the fathers and grandfathers before them who now harvest and process the wetfish complex– sardines, anchovies and market squid, all dynamic resources with natural cycles of abundance – still form the foundation of Monterey’s storied fishing community – culturally and economically.

These fishing families hope to carry on; and they should – wetfish resources are among the most sustainable marine life species in California, especially under today’s precautionary fishery management.

With 30 years of fishing industry experience, D.B. Pleschner is the executive director of the non-profit California Wetfish Producers Association, whose mission is to protect wetfish resources and the historic industry.  She’s a former contributing editor of Pacific Fishing magazine, and manager of the California Seafood Council.

Feb 10 2011

Dr. Ray Hilborn: ‘The end of overfishing,’ what does it mean?

Ray Hilborn

Dr. Ray Hilborn examines the end of overfishing in the United States. He addresses what fisheries managers can control and what is in the realm of nature, beyond the reach of human management.

(SEAFOOD.COM NEWS) – Feb 7, 2011 – The following article from Ray Hilborn is in response to NMFS chief scientist Steve Murawski’s widely reported comments last month that US overfishing as ended. This is part of a continuing series of occasional articles on fisheries and conservation topics by Ray Hilborn, Professor at the School of Aquatic and Fishery Sciences, University of Washington, prepared for News.

Overfishing has ended in the U. S. said Professor Steve Murawski, former chief fishery scientist for NOAA on January 8th 2011.

Could this possibly be true?

With many fish stocks still at low abundance, subject to rebuilding plans and listed as overfished, how could he argue that overfishing has ended?

To understand the issue we first must begin with the distinction between “overfished” and “overfishing.” Overfished is a term used when the abundance of the stock is low enough that its sustainable yield is significantly reduced. Overfishing is when the percentage harvested is higher than required to provide long term maximum sustainable yield. So “overfished” is about abundance and “overfishing” is about the percentage we harvest.

What Murawski said is that the percentage harvested for all U. S. federally managed fish stocks is now within the range that would produce maximum sustainable yield.

We have stopped fishing too hard; but many fish stocks remain at low abundance.

Read the rest of the story on

Feb 3 2011

Marine protection act challenged in state court

Anglers want the plan voided

By Mike Lee

February 2, 2011

Ron Baker, a fishing boat captain out of Point Loma, is opposed to the state’s decision to expand marine protected areas: “It’s going to affect a lot of people, not just sportsfishermen.” Photo by K.C. Alfred

Making good on a pledge, angler advocacy groups have sued the California Fish and Game Commission in an attempt to invalidate a sweeping marine protection plan for Southern California that was adopted by the state in December and another set covering the north Central Coast.

United Anglers of Southern California, the Coastside Fishing Club and San Diego fishing activist Robert Fletcher filed the lawsuit late last week in San Diego Superior Court.

“We think that the process is flawed — they didn’t follow the regulations,” said John Riordan, treasurer for United Anglers. “It’s restricting access to recreational fishermen (and) ocean users.”

Read the rest of the story in the San Diego Union Tribune here.