Archive for June, 2011

Jun 23 2011

A sustainable superfood from the sea

Editor’s note – This article focuses on Portuguese sardines, but here in California, our sardines are also available in season.  And they are on the Monterey Bay Aquarium’s “Super Green List.”

Sardinesphoto © 2000 Robin | more info (via: Wylio)

Sardines ready for the grill

If your experience with sardines is limited to what you get from a can, then you are in for a special treat with Portuguese sardines.

Good, grilled sardines are a shock for most people who have only had them canned. Even Oprah includes sardines as one of the 25 superfoods to include in your diet. According to her, “Wild-caught sardines are low in mercury and high in vitamin D; a 3-ounce serving has as much calcium as a cup of milk. Even better, they’re one of the Monterey Bay Aquarium’s top picks for sustainability.”

Executive Chef Billy Brandolini of Ceia Kitchen & Bar in Newburyport shows us his way of brining and grilling sardines a la Portuguese style. Grilled sardines are also eaten all over Southern Europe along the Mediterranean coast. In Portugal, sardines are very popular, especially in the summer at outdoor celebrations and festivals, when the sardines are fattest. To the Portuguese, the little fish are like hot dogs and hamburgers, available from outdoor vendors and served at private food gatherings.

Get the recipe here.


Jun 22 2011

Squid Studies: Scientists Seeking and Savoring Squid

William Gilly, a professor of biology at Stanford University’s Hopkins Marine Station, embarked on new expedition this month to study jumbo squid in the Gulf of California on the National Science Foundation–funded research vessel New Horizon. This is his second blog post about the trip.

By William Gilly

SEA OF CORTEZ— As we moved up the Gulf towards Guaymas, we continued to prepare our equipment. Actually, this will be a never-ending focus for the next two weeks. A research cruise in most cases is a creation in progress, and ‘equipment’ in our case ranges from Brad Seibel’s industrial-scale plumbing system for keeping big squid alive during experiments to our collection of fishing gear to catch squid. Everything will need constant, meticulous attention.

We arrived in Guaymas mid-afternoon and collected the rest of our party by 7 pm and immediately headed out to deep water about 10 miles offshore for our first exploratory squid jigging session. We arrived around 10:00 pm at the chosen site where a finger-like canyon poked back toward Guaymas. We immediately began to catch squid, and this had a predictable effect. We believe that catching a squid automatically triggers joyful exuberance. We have seen this phenomenon hundreds of times over the last decade. If there is photo of someone frowning while holding up a squid for the camera, we would like to see it. We doubt such an image exits.

Within an hour or so we collected our target sample of 20 to 30 squid. They were lined up sequentially on deck, measured, weighed, sexed and assessed for stage of maturity. This is information is simple but vital for two main reasons.

First, it is necessary to confirm the size of animals being sampled by the scientific sonar system on board that is being used by the Oregon State group. Acoustic data collected shows the depth where the squid and their prey are, and it can also be used to calculate numbers of squid or biomass – but only if you know how large the squid are that are being sampled acoustically. This is standard fare for acoustic assessment of fin-fish fisheries around the world, but use of such methods with squid is much less widespread. Kelly Benoit-Bird’s team from Oregon State is doing pioneering work in this area, and her insights and creativity were recognized with a MacArthur award in 2010.

Read the rest at Scientific American.

Jun 21 2011

LAT looks for surprising numbers to track possible fishing recovery


By Rosland Gammon

Like its Gulf Coast counterpart, the fishing industry in California has faced hard times. But it doesn’t have an oil spill to blame. Instead, a low population of salmon prompted a three-year ban on fishing. Alana Semuels of the Los Angeles Times takes her audience aboard Duncan MacLean’s boat as he goes out for the first time after the ban was lifted. She writes:

“As dawn breaks on a recent morning, he sits at the helm of his 43-foot wooden boat, the Barbara Faye, guiding it past yachts and pleasure cruisers, two break walls and a beacon. But his enthusiasm to be fishing again is tempered by anxiety over what he will catch.”

Read the rest of the story here.


Jun 20 2011

California water pact attacked by GOP congressmen

Washington — House Republicans representing the San Joaquin Valley pressed their attack on California’s plan to restore water to fisheries and wildlife, holding a hearing Thursday on a bill that would gut a key bipartisan pact passed by the state Legislature in 2009 after decades of litigation.

The bill has environmental groups and Bay Area Democrats in an uproar, but it has an excellent chance of passing the GOP-controlled House this year – one of many areas from abortion limits to spending cuts where Republicans are moving aggressively to shift the direction of government.

In the Democratic-controlled Senate, however, the water bill faces strong opposition from California Sens. Dianne Feinstein and Barbara Boxer, both Democrats, as well as opposition from the Obama administration.
Read more at the San Francisco Chronicle.


Jun 9 2011

Editorial: Fisheries have equal claim to water

You’ve seen the signs — “Farms, not fish!” — when the TV cameras are about to roll. But it isn’t likely you’ve seen any proclaiming “Fish, not subsidized water for corporate ag,” which is because there haven’t been many signs like that.

Fishermen can be just as appealing as farmers, but agriculture continues to win the political and public relations fight over the limited amount of California water that both of them need. Those who should be supporting the fishing interests—including the people and institutions of the Central Coast—should start doing that more loudly and more clearly.

A bill now in the House, H.R. 1837 by tea party favorite Rep. Devin Nunes, R-Visalia, would set the clock back to 1994 for environmental regulations imposed on giant water traffickers such as the Westlands Water District and the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California.

Read the rest of the The Monterey County Herald editorial here.


Jun 4 2011

Commerce Secretary nominee should champion policies that rebuild fish stocks and strengthen coastal economies

By Talking Fish on June 2, 2011

Last week, President Obama nominated John Bryson, a former energy company CEO, to be the next Secretary of Commerce.  According to the Boston Globe, Bryson has a long history of business leadership, having spent nearly two decades as chairman and CEO of Edison International, a major electric utility. He is also a director of Boeing and Walt Disney and an adviser to a large private-equity firm in New York.

Why should this matter to Talking Fish readers? The Department of Commerce houses NOAA, so the Secretary of Commerce plays a significant role in creating and enforcing federal fisheries policy and all ocean matters.  While President Obama’s announcement of the nomination emphasized Bryson’s business expertise, he was also co-founder of the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC).

That heritage may be controversial among fishermen and a few politicians in New England, but we think it reflects a perfect blend to guide the nation forward in obtaining full economic benefits from our marine resources without compromising the ocean’s ability to sustain these benefits.

Read the rest here.


Jun 2 2011

Oceana Twists Truth to Further Agenda


Oceana’s Geoff Shester recently penned an op-ed in The Santa Cruz Sentinel alleging that forage fish harvesting is out of control and must be reigned in.  The only problem with his opinion:  the “facts”.  They are, in fact, not accurate, but instead reflect an agenda.

Below, I’ve highlighted Mr. Shester’s false claims and followed them with a dose of reality:


• “Thirty years ago forage species accounted for 40 percent of California’s commercial fish landings by weight.  Today, with big fish gone, forage landings have soared to 85 percent”

In 1981, a moratorium was in effect prohibiting sardine fishing, and tunas dominated California landings, totaling more than 40 percent of the California catch.  The tuna canning industry based in San Diego, then the tuna capitol of the world, was driven out of California beginning in the mid-1980s, due in large measure to unfair competition from foreign water-packed imports and the excessive cost of doing business in the Golden State.  Those ‘big fish’ weren’t gone from the ocean, however, they were just not landed in California.

The sardine resource made a dramatic recovery beginning in the late 1970s, with the advent of a warm-water oceanic cycle.  Resource managers reopened the fishery in 1985, but this time around, they enacted strict harvest limits coupled with environmental triggers.  The resource was declared fully recovered in 1999 when the population exceeding one million metric tons.  But the harvest rate was capped at 10 percent after subtracting 150,000 mt off the top of the biomass estimate to account for forage needs.  The stock appears to have entered another natural decline and biomass estimates have dropped sharply.  Which brings up another allegation:


“…Overfish the forage and the rest of the marine species are in trouble…but that is exactly what is happening in California today.  Pacific sardines have declined 70 percent in the past decade, and market squid are being fished at record levels.  California fisheries, like salmon, rockfish and tuna, are depleted and in dire need of recovery.”

Regarding sardine, the conservative biomass estimate does not measure transboundary stocks in Canada and Mexico, but it does count landings from those countries, and those have declined; but coastwide harvest guidelines, including Washington and Oregon, as well as California, have also declined precipitously – from 152,000 mt in 2007 to 40,000 mt in 2011.

The market squid statement also is calculated to confuse.

California’s ocean has exhibited incredible productivity in the past two years, producing the highest grey whale count on record, resurgent rockfish stocks and a rebounding salmon fishery.  Market squid also thrived in these productive ocean conditions, but the fishery did not hit ‘record levels’.  In fact precautionary management has established a maximum harvest cap, intended to prevent overexploitation.  The fishery reached it and was closed before the end of the year.  A post-season survey of the squid spawning grounds revealed large aggregations of squid spawning nearly everywhere, well beyond end of the normal spawning cycle.

The squid life cycle runs from birth to death after spawning in nine short months or less, and abundance is driven primarily by environmental cycles. To maintain a sustainable fishery, The Department of Fish and Game instituted weekend fishing closures, allowing squid to spawn untouched for 30 percent of the week, and implemented marine reserves in more than 30 percent of traditional fishing grounds in central and southern California.  In addition, the fishery management plan approved in 2004 reduced the fleet by more than half.

California fisheries are by no means depleted, they are managed strictly by both the state and federal government (that’s why landings have appeared to decline – more fish are left in the ocean!).  Rockfish and salmon are managed under the ecosystem-based fishery management mandate of the federal Magnuson Act, with precautionary annual catch limits to prevent overfishing.


• “A recent federal study found that top ocean predators off California have declined by more than 50 percent since 2003.  Removing their source of food is like taking medicine away from the patient.  Traditional fisheries management concentrates on single species …”

The study, presumably the first draft of the “California Current Integrated Ecosystem Assessment”, does not yet include the area south of Point Conception – a critical omission acknowledged by the scientific team.  The draft IEA was submitted to the Pacific Fishery Management Council as an example.  Clearly, with data from a significant part the ocean missing, conclusions are not ready for ‘prime time’.

The IEA was developed to assist the Council in developing its Ecosystem-based Management Plan for the entire California Current – which will inform all the other fishery management plans, which now include ecosystem considerations themselves.  (The Coastal Pelagic Species plan has considered forage needs for more than a decade!)

Similar innuendos and misstatements run throughout the article, but I will touch on just one more:


“The question of fishing sustainably is a matter of political will.  That’s why a strong coalition of conservationists, fishermen and seafood businesses that want to see … healthy California oceans are supporting Assembly Bill 1299 that emphasizes the critical role that forage species play…”

A vast majority of California’s fishing communities, including municipalities, port districts, recreational and commercial fishing groups and individuals, seafood companies and knowledgeable fishery scientists, believe California already fishes sustainably;  indeed, California Current fisheries are acknowledged as having one of the lowest harvest rates in the world.

This super-majority is very much opposed to AB 1299, seeing that it embodies the same type of confusing, captious policy statements as contained in the ‘forage fishing must be controlled’ article.

To be clear, the majority of California fishing-related interests oppose the bill for the following reasons:


  • A multi-million dollar boondoggle:  AB 1299 is a solution in search of a problem.  This bill fails to acknowledge and integrate all the existing protections for forage species that now exist in both state and federal law. Whales, sea lions, and sea birds are thriving, providing clear evidence that state and federal forage species policies are working. Moreover, there are no ‘reduction’ fisheries in California, nor fishmeal plants, so the alleged threat from increasing forage fish production for aquaculture does not exist here: fisheries are strictly regulated.

  • Fails to recognize existing efforts: California has done a good job managing forage fish – far better than most other states and countries.  In addition to strict harvest rates and other management measures, the Marine Life Protection Act has implemented no-take reserves, including many near bird rookeries and haul out sites to protect forage for other marine life.  To start as if from scratch is both redundant and disrespectful of that management history.

  • Requires non-existent funding and staff time: Department of Fish & Game (DFG) is already enormously underfunded and understaffed for its existing tasks. The increased demand for Department research and management resources that this bill would create cannot be met without sacrificing resources for programs that are actually necessary.

  • Duplicates federal and state efforts: Oceana, the bill author, admitted at a public forum that California’s Marine Life Management Act already provides a science-based process to manage forage species. The federal Pacific Fishery Management Council is currently developing its California Current Ecosystem Management Plan, which will cover the entire West Coast, not just California state waters, with objectives similar to those in AB 1299. We encourage California to collaborate with the PFMC, which does not require legislation.

  • Places impossible standard on fisheries: The May 27 amendments to AB 1299 camouflage the millions needed to do specified research and make findings, yet still require new fishery management plans and amendments to fishery plans to be consistent with the new policy after January 1, 2012.  The new policy objective requires ecosystem-based management that “recognizes, prioritizes, accounts for, and incorporates the ecological services rendered by forage species”.  This implies setting explicit allocations for birds and mammals off the top of all fishery harvest plans  – and much of this information is not available.  Although final amendments in Appropriations Committee removed specific language, the threat of restriction is still inherent in this policy.


AB 1299 still requires millions in new money for DFG to prove that a fishery had no negative impacts before allowing it to operate. This is money that could be going to schools, health care, and other state programs with proven needs.


  • AB 1299 does not consider best available science, and could actually impede ecosystem-based management. AB 1299 will not protect forage species as virtually all range far beyond California state waters, but the policy proposed in this bill could severely restrict California fishermen unnecessarily and unfairly.



Jun 1 2011

Fishing interests wary of Commerce nominee

By Steve Urbon
NEW BEDFORD — President Barack Obama’s nominee to be the next secretary of commerce raised concerns among fishing interests today.

When Dr. Brian Rothschild, dean emeritus of the UMass School of Marine Science and Technology, heard that nominee John Bryson was a co-founder of the Natural Resources Defense Council, his reaction was, “Oh, wow.”

But the NRDC was founded 40 years ago, and today Bryson is better known for being chairman and CEO of the power company Edison International until he retired in 2008.

Today he is a senior adviser to the private equity firm Kohlberg Kravits Roberts & Co. and since 1995 he has sat on the board of directors of the Boeing Co. and since 2000 at Walt Disney.

In a prepared statement, President Obama said, Bryson “understands what it takes for America to succeed in a 21st century global economy. John will be an important part of my economic team, working with the business community, fostering growth, and helping open up new markets abroad to promote jobs and opportunities here at home.”

Apart from the boilerplate, there was immediate concern among fishing interests about Bryson’s personal attitude toward commercial fishing, given that NRDC has long been involved in litigation to tighten fishing restrictions.

Read the rest here.