Archive for April, 2011

Apr 29 2011

Impacts of Biodiversity Loss on Ocean Ecosystem Services [research article]

By Boris Worm, et al.


Dr. Boris Worm

Human-dominated marine ecosystems are experiencing accelerating loss of populations and species, with largely unknown consequences.

We analyzed local experiments, long-term regional time series, and global fisheries data to test how biodiversity loss affects marine ecosystem services across temporal and spatial scales. Overall, rates of resource collapse increased and recovery potential, stability, and water quality decreased exponentially with declining diversity.

Restoration of biodiversity, in contrast, increased productivity fourfold and decreased variability by 21%, on average.

We conclude that marine biodiversity loss is increasingly impairing the ocean’s capacity to provide food, maintain water quality, and recover from perturbations. Yet available data suggest that at this point, these trends are still reversible.

Click to read the entire article.

Apr 29 2011

Pregnant? Eat Fish!

Excerpt from Dr. Weil’s article on the Huffington Post mentions Ray Hilborn’s New York Times op-ed…

Dr. Andrew Weil

Dr. Andrew Weil

Founder and director of the Arizona Center for Integrative Medicine

“…while many worry that overfishing has depleted much of the world’s fish stock, “fish stocks worldwide appear to be stable, and in the United States they are rebuilding, in many cases at a rapid rate,” according to a recent New York Times Op-Ed piece by Ray Hilborn, a professor of aquatic and fishery sciences at the University of Washington. Even if this were untrue and fish were scarce, pregnant women would still be the most deserving recipients of this dwindling resource — and should be absolutely the last group to have to give up fish.”

Read the rest of the article on the Huffington Post.


Apr 25 2011

Congress Defunds Wasteful Catch Shares Program

Washington, DC – In a big victory for commercial and recreational fishermen, the U.S. Congress on April 14 voted to defund the “catch shares” program, a controversial and wasteful fisheries management fiasco.

Wenonah Hauter, Executive Director of Food & Water Watch, said the program has been “blocking access to fish for thousands of smaller scale fishermen, destroying their livelihoods and our coastal and fishing communities.”

The widely-contested “catch shares” program on the East and West Coasts, a pet project of Dr. Jane Lubchenco, NOAA administrator and also under secretary of commerce for oceans and atmosphere, serves to privatize public trust resources by concentrating ocean fisheries in a few corporate hands.

This amendment, offered by Representative Walter Jones of North Carolina, is part of the FY2011 budget that President Barack Obama signed into law on April 15.

Read the rest of the story here.


Apr 21 2011

Budget measure blocks new catch share programs

United States Capitolphoto © 2006 Jeff Kubina | more info (via: Wylio)

By Steve Urbon
April 20, 2011 12:00 AM

NEW BEDFORD — As a budget amendment blocking catch share management from spreading in America’s fisheries makes its way to President Barack Obama’s desk, new concerns have cropped up about the arrival of private brokers of fishing allocations.

The measure in the budget prohibits the Commerce Department from funding the implementation of fisheries catch share programs such as the one imposed in the Northeast one year ago. It was introduced by U.S. Rep. Walter Jones, R-N.C., and backed by U.S. Rep. Barney Frank, D-Mass., among others.

The language in the amendment was softened somewhat in the budget deliberations. Originally, it stopped funding for even the study of new catch share systems. Now it simply prohibits their approval.

“This is a shot in the arm for fishermen and a shot across the bow of the National Marine Fisheries Service,” said Jones in a prepared statement. “The last thing our government should be doing in these economic times is spending millions of taxpayer dollars to expand programs that will put even more Americans out of work. NMFS would be wise to take heed of the opposition of fishermen, the public and the Congress to their catch shares agenda; we’re not going away.”

Catch shares and sector management are being blamed (or credited) with sharply reducing the size of the groundfish fleet in the Northeast and the rapid consolidation of catch into the top 10 percent of the boats. The measures are being challenged in federal court in a lawsuit filed by New Bedford, Gloucester and other fishing interests.

Read the rest on


Apr 20 2011

Thousands of dead fish scooped from Ventura Harbor

(Credit: Los Angeles Times)

By Tony Barboza
Los Angeles Times Staff Writer

April 19, 2011

Officials were trying to determine Tuesday what caused thousands of sardines to turn up dead in Ventura Harbor, another puzzling case of fish that died off after apparently using up all their oxygen. 

Harbor master Scott Miller said he arrived Monday morning to find patches of dead sardines floating on the surface of the southwest corner of the harbor.

Other fish bobbed near the surface, appearing to gasp for air.

After deploying aerators to stir up oxygen below the surface, a dozen volunteers used nets to scoop about 6 tons of fish carcasses from the water before dumping them offshore, he said.

Read the rest of the story on


Apr 19 2011

How to Make Sardines in Olive Oil

eHow contributer Chelsea Hoffman recently posted steps to make sardines in olive oil.

1) Add the sardines to the canning jar. A full cup of sardines is close to 1/4 of a lb. Purchase your sardines fresh from a reliable source, making sure they’ve been properly cleaned before canning them.

2) Pour the olive oil into you canning jar. Add the carrots, onion, garlic and optional crushed red pepper to the jar. The crushed red pepper will give the sardines a spicy bite.

3) Secure the lid on the canning jar and shake the solution for a few seconds to mix the ingredients together.

4) Put the stockpot, half full of water, on the stove and bring it to a rolling boil. Place the jar into the pot. Let the water boil over the jar for 30 minutes. Not only does this cook the ingredients, but the hot water will seal the jar, making it airtight. This is known as a “hot water bath,” when canning foods.

5) Turn off the stove and remove the hot jar from the water, using the canning tongs. Sit the can on your counter and allow it to cool to room temperature. This takes up to eight hours, or sometimes more, depending on the temperature of the environment.


Apr 18 2011

Let Us Eat Fish


Ray Hilborn

THIS Lent, many ecologically conscious Americans might feel a twinge of guilt as they dig into the fish on their Friday dinner plates. They shouldn’t.

Over the last decade the public has been bombarded by apocalyptic predictions about the future of fish stocks — in 2006, for instance, an article in the journal Science projected that all fish stocks could be gone by 2048.

Subsequent research, including a paper I co-wrote in Science in 2009 with Boris Worm, the lead author of the 2006 paper, has shown that such warnings were exaggerated. Much of the earlier research pointed to declines in catches and concluded that therefore fish stocks must be in trouble. But there is little correlation between how many fish are caught and how many actually exist; over the past decade, for example, fish catches in the United States have dropped because regulators have lowered the allowable catch. On average, fish stocks worldwide appear to be stable, and in the United States they are rebuilding, in many cases at a rapid rate.

The overall record of American fisheries management since the mid-1990s is one of improvement, not of decline. Perhaps the most spectacular recovery is that of bottom fish in New England, especially haddock and redfish; their abundance has grown sixfold from 1994 to 2007. Few if any fish species in the United States are now being harvested at too high a rate, and only 24 percent remain below their desired abundance.

Much of the success is a result of the Magnuson Fishery Conservation and Management Act, which was signed into law 35 years ago this week. It banned foreign fishing within 200 miles of the United States shoreline and established a system of management councils to regulate federal fisheries. In the past 15 years, those councils, along with federal and state agencies, nonprofit organizations and commercial and sport fishing groups, have helped assure the sustainability of the nation’s fishing stocks.

Some experts, like Daniel Pauly of the University of British Columbia Fisheries Center, who warns of “the end of fish,” fault the systems used to regulate fisheries worldwide. But that condemnation is too sweeping, and his prescription — closing much of the world’s oceans to fishing — would leave people hungry unnecessarily.

Many of the species that are fished too much worldwide fall into two categories: highly migratory species that are subject to international fishing pressures, and bottom fish — like cod, haddock, flounder and sole — that are caught in “mixed fisheries,” where it is impossible to catch one species but not another. We also know little about the sustainability of fish caught in much of Asia and Africa.

The Atlantic bluefin tuna is emblematic of the endangered migratory species; its numbers are well below the target set by the International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tunas, and the catches in the Eastern Atlantic are too high. Many species of sharks also fall into this category. Because these stocks are fished by international fleets, reducing the catch requires global cooperation and American leadership. But not all highly migratory fish are in danger; the albacore, skipjack and yellowfin tuna and swordfish on American menus are not threatened.

Managing the mixed fisheries in American waters requires different tactics. On the West Coast, fish stocks have been strongly revived over the past decade through conservative management: fleet size reductions, highly restrictive catch limits and the closing of large areas to certain kinds of nets, hooks and traps. Rebuilding, however, has come at a cost: to prevent overharvesting and protect weak species, about 30 percent of the potential sustainable harvest from productive species (those that can be harvested at higher rates) goes untapped.

A similar tradeoff is going on in New England, where the management council, made up of federal and state representatives, restricts the harvesting of bottom fish like cod and yellowtail flounder in both the Gulf of Maine and Georges Bank, off Cape Cod. In trying to rebuild the cod, regulators have had to limit the catch of the much more abundant haddock, which are caught in the same nets.

The Magnuson Act regulating federal fisheries has been successful, but it needs to be revised. The last time it was reauthorized, in 2006, it required the rebuilding of overfished stocks within 10 years. That rule is too inflexible and hurts fishing communities from New England to California. A better option is to give the management councils greater discretion in setting targets and deadlines for rebuilding fish stocks.

We are caught between the desire for oceans as pristine ecosystems and the desire for sustainable seafood. Are we willing to accept some depleted species to increase long-term sustainable food production in return? After all, if fish are off the menu, we will likely eat more beef, chicken and pork. And the environmental costs of producing more livestock are much higher than accepting fewer fish in the ocean: lost habitat, the need for ever more water, pesticides, fertilizer and antibiotics, chemical runoff and “dead zones” in the world’s seas.

Suddenly, that tasty, healthful and environmentally friendly fish on the plate looks a lot more appetizing.

Ray Hilborn is a professor of aquatic and fishery sciences at the University of Washington.

Note – this commentary was used with permission from the author.  It previously appeared in The New York Times.



Apr 15 2011

Tsunami: Fisheries hit by safety fears

April 14, 2011

The nuclear crisis has spread fear among people all over the world, but fishermen in areas around the Fukushima No. 1 atomic plant say the perception of danger is unfairly affecting their livelihoods.

Although few of their catches are contaminated with radioactive materials beyond allowable limits, buyers and consumers have refused to buy, knocking down the market prices of seafood.

“How long should we wait until the situation gets better? For days? For months?” asked Tetsuro Tsuchida, head of Kujukuri Makiami Fisheries Cooperative.

“Sardines usually sell for ¥40 per kilo. But now the price is down to about ¥15 to ¥20,” Tsuchida said.

“I want to know if we’re going to be compensated for the loss. If so, who will do it? The prefectural, or central government?” he asked.

Highly radioactive water from the troubled Fukushima nuclear plant flowed into the sea until April 6. The operator also intentionally dumped about 10,000 tons of low-level radioactive water into the Pacific to empty tanks to hold far more toxic water from the crippled reactor buildings.

Read the rest at The Japan Times.


HELP JAPANphoto © 2011 Dominic Alves | more info (via: Wylio)

Apr 14 2011

The Road to End Overfishing: 35 Years of Magnuson Act

Assistant Administrator Schwaab for Fisheries Talks about the Cornerstone of Sustainable Fisheries

Handling Samplesphoto © 2010 Deepwater Horizon Response | more info (via: Wylio)

As we look toward Earth Day next week, I want to acknowledge and highlight the 35 th anniversary of the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act. Simply called “the Magnuson Act”, this law, its regional framework and goal of sustainability, has proven to be a visionary force in natural resource management – both domestically and internationally. The Magnuson Act is, and will continue to be a key driver for NOAA as we deliver on our nation’s commitment to ocean stewardship, sustainable fisheries, and healthy marine ecosystems

Because of the Magnuson Act, the U.S. is on track to end overfishing in federally-managed fisheries, rebuild stocks, and ensure conservation and sustainable use of our ocean resources. Fisheries harvested in the United States are scientifically monitored, regionally managed and legally enforced under 10 strict national standards of sustainability. This anniversary year marks a critical turning point in the Act’s history. By the end of 2011, we are on track to have an annual catch limit and accountability measures in place for all 528 federally-managed fish stocks and complexes. The dynamic, science-based management process envisioned by Congress is now in place, the rebuilding of our fisheries is underway, and we are beginning to see real benefits for fishermen, fishing communities and our commercial and recreational fishing industries.

But, we did not get here overnight. Our nation’s journey toward sustainable fisheries has evolved over the course of 35 years. At this particular moment it is important to take time and reflect back on where we have been to understand where we are and fully appreciate the historic visions and strategic investments that got us here, particularly by the Act’s principal architects, the late U.S. Senators Warren G. Magnuson of Washington State and Ted Stevens of Alaska.

Read the rest on


Apr 13 2011

5 Steps to Better Choose Sardines

sardines in a canphoto © 2011 jules | more info (via: Wylio)

Recently James Stuart, a contributor to eHow, posted five steps to picking out sardines. Here are the highlights:

1) Consider where the sardines were caught. Check the label and see if the country is listed. If not, check the company’s website. Knowing where the fish was caught can tell you about the practices that were used to capture it. Check fishing laws to see if that country uses methods you’re comfortable with. It can also help you identify what kind of sardine you like, as regional differences affect the taste of the fish.

2) Check the brand. Different brands may use different fishing methods, and will likely have a reputation. You can check websites such as that will tell you which brands are sustainable.

3) Look at the price. If your main concern is money, go for the cheapest brand. Ensure that the cheapest brand uses fishing methods and packaging that you’re comfortable buying.

4) Look at the packaging. Check to see if there is excess or unnecessary packaging that could hurt the environment. Ensure everything is recyclable.

5) Check the nutritional label and compare. If nutrition is your primary concern, comparing labels will help you select the healthiest brand of sardine.

Read more: How to Choose Sardines on