Archive for August, 2011

Aug 30 2011

Brown appoints Chuck Bonham as new DFG Director

August 26, 2011

by Dan Bacher

Governor Jerry Brown has appointed Charlton “Chuck” Bonham, 43, of Albany, as director of the California Department of Fish and Game

Bonham has served in multiple positions at Trout Unlimited, a national trout advocacy organization, since 2000, including California director and senior attorney, according to a August 26 news release from Governor Jerry Brown’s Office.

He was an instructor and trip leader for the Nantahala Outdoor Center from 1994 to 1997 and was a small business development agent for the United States Peace Corp in Senegal, West Africa from 1991 to 1993.

Bonham was not available for comment at press time, but representatives of recreational and commercial fishing groups praised his appointment by Brown.

“I think he’s a good choice,” said Zeke Grader, executive director of the Pacific Coast Federation of Fishermen’s Associations (PCFFA). “I hope that he’s able to resolve the funding issues that plague the Department of Fish and Game. How can you run a department when there is no money for research and enforcement?

Read the rest of the story here.

Aug 30 2011

Protections already strong for forage fish

D.B. Pleschner , executive director of the California Wetfish Producers Association, had the following piece run in the Monterey County Herald on Saturday…

'Sardines' photo (c) 2000, Robin - license:


Guest commentary

Posted: 08/27/2011

If you didn’t know better, you might think that forage fish, like sardines and squid, are on the brink of destruction in California.

That’s what some activists imply. However, nothing could be further from the truth.

California’s coastal pelagic “forage” fisheries are the most protected in the world, with one of the lowest harvest rates.

In addition to strict fishing quotas, the Marine Life Protection Act has implemented no-take reserves, including many near bird rookeries and haul out sites to protect forage for marine life.

But activists are pushing even more restrictions in the form of Assembly Bill 1299.

California already provides a science-based process to manage forage species. The federal Pacific Fishery Management Council is also developing a California Current Ecosystem Management Plan, covering the entire West Coast, not just California waters. Further, the federal Coastal Pelagic Species Fishery Management Plan that governs these fish adopted an ecosystem-based management policy more than a decade ago.

To initiate new legislation like AB 1299 as if no regulation exists is fiscally irresponsible and disrespectful of California’s management history.

The National Marine Fisheries Service voiced concern about the bill’s redundancy and overlap with federal management, pointing out that it could actually impede ecosystem-based management.

AB 1299 won’t protect forage species because virtually all range far beyond California state waters, which only extend three miles from shore.

But the bill does jeopardize the future of California’s historic wetfish fisheries, the backbone of California’s fishing economy. AB 1299 restrictsCalifornia fishermen unfairly, because virtually all the forage species listed are actively managed or monitored by the federal government and most species are harvested along the entire West Coast.

In this economic crisis, why would California squander millions of dollars — and sacrifice thousands of jobs — on an unfunded mandate that duplicates existing laws?

Apparently this doesn’t matter to activists, whose rhetoric claims that overfishing is occurring in California now and a change is needed.

AB 1299 proponents have made many false claims about forage species. For example, they referenced a National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration evaluation of the California Current Ecosystem, predicting a downward trend for some marine life, including squid, but failed to explain that this report was simply a draft. The evaluation excluded southern California waters, where 80 percent of the squid harvest occurs. A record spawning event also occurred in 2010.

Consider sardines. After their decline in the 1940s, fishery managers instituted an ecosystem-based management plan that accounts for forage needs before setting harvest quotas, and reduces quotas in concert with natural declines in the resource. The harvest quota for the West Coast plummeted 74 percent from 2007 to 2011.

But activists embellished an NOAA graph to “prove” their claim that the current sardine population decline was due to overfishing. The marine scientist who developed the graph pointed out their error, stating, “You can rest assured that the U.S. has not exceeded the overfishing limit based on the rules in place today.”

In fact, the majority of California’s fishing community — municipalities, harbor districts, recreational and commercial fishing groups, seafood companies and knowledgeable fishery scientists — oppose AB 1299, seeing it as a disingenuous attempt to curtail sustainable fisheries unnecessarily.

D.B. Pleschner is executive director of the California Wetfish Producers Association, a nonprofit designed to promote sustainable wetfish resources. This commentary reflects his opinion. Opposing views are invited to respond to

Aug 30 2011

Fish on Fridays: The Newest Redlist Species: Commercial Fishermen

'Fishing Boats in San Diego' photo (c) 2011, Randy Kashka - license:

By Michael Conathan

Sustainability is the ultimate buzzword in fisheries and it’s led to the ubiquitous red-yellow-green list as one of the most popular means of trying to present consumers with a simple yet comprehensive way of determining whether or not they should order a certain kind of fish. Yet on the wallet cards that attempt to provide an accurate breakdown, there’s one species that’s never talked about: commercial fishermen.

There’s no question that the number of jobs available in many fisheries declined in recent years, and the Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts that this will continue. But unlike other industries in which job loss is driven by economic decline or market contraction, in fisheries, productivity is limited by just one thing: fish. Not enough fish means not enough fishing.

And anything that causes a decline in jobs is ripe for political pressure to end the slide at any cost, particularly in a down economy. Yet here’s the fundamental problem: There’s not a single politician in the world—not a president or prime minister or poobah—who can regulate, dictate, or legislate more fish into existence.

This hasn’t stopped some politicians, though, from pointing fingers in an attempt to score points with their constituents, who understandably blame low catch levels on the regulators who set the limits on how much fish can be harvested. These same regulators are under a legal mandate to set catches at or below levels recommended by scientists based on the best information they can gather.

Complicating matters is that at the same time these strict catch-limit policies have taken effect, a new management system touted mainly by environmental groups has gained quite a bit of traction with federal regulators. Catch shares is an overarching term for a management system that, in one form or another, divides up the total amount of fish available for harvest in a given year and allocates it to permit holders annually, usually on the basis of their historical landings. Fishermen can then either fish their allocation, or lease or sell it to their colleagues. Think of it as a cap-and-trade system for fish. A Fish on Fridays column from April has more on the details of catch shares.

Read the rest here.

Aug 26 2011

Department of Commerce submits plan to comply with Obama regulatory review

The Department of Commerce has submitted its plan to comply with President Obama’s Executive Order 13563, “Improving Regulation and Regulatory Review”.   The General Counsel of the Department of Commerce, Cameron Kerry, will be responsible for overseeing execution of the retrospective analysis laid out in the Plan.

According to the plan:

Many of NOAA’s statutory mandates emphasize the need to base decisions on best scientific information available and require periodic review of regulatory actions. In addition, many of NOAA’s activities require analyses under the National Environmental Policy Act. The Council on Environmental Quality has indicated that environmental impact statements that are more than 5 years old should be carefully reexamined to determine if supplementary analyses are required per 40 C.F.R. § 1502.9 of the CEQ regulations. See (explaining need for supplements to old EIS at question # 32 of “NEPA’s Forty Most Asked Questions”).

NOAA’s National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) intends to reinforce the existing culture of retrospective analysis through increased outreach to the Regional Fishery Management Councils that develop fishery management plans pursuant to the Magnuson-Stevens Act. The Councils’ fishery management planning process entails significant public participation and opportunities for soliciting thoughts on needed modifications to or repeal of regulatory actions. NMFS has begun, and will continue, to coordinate with the councils, emphasizing the need for scrutiny of proposed and existing regulations consistent with Executive Order 13563, the Magnuson-Stevens Act, and other relevant laws, and the need to make fisheries management regulations simpler and easier to follow. NMFS intends to encourage such scrutiny of regulatory actions through its meetings with the Council Coordination Committee and during meetings of the councils and their subcommittees.

As part of the agency’s Catch Share Policy, NOAA has provided further guidance to the Councils regarding periodic review of all limited access privilege programs pursuant to 16 U.S.C. § 1853a(c)(1)(G). Specifically, the agency directs that Councils should periodically review all catch share and non-catch share programs to ensure that management goals are specified, measurable, tracked, and used to gauge whether a program is meeting its goals and objectives. The policy reinforces NOAA’s commitment to working with Councils, stakeholders, the Department of Commerce, the Office of Management and Budget, and Congress in improving and monitoring useful and relevant performance metrics for all U.S. fishery management policies, not just catch share programs.

Additional plan sections referenceing NMFS include:

NOAA’s National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) and the Regional Fishery Management Councils established under the Magnuson-Stevens Act have ongoing engagement with constituents and other members of the public on fishery management actions. NMFS and the Councils receive continual feedback on concerns regarding regulations, guidance documents, information collections, and other agency activities. Since publication of the notice, NMFS has used outreach and communication opportunities, as they have arisen, to alert members of the public to the notice and to encourage people to provide feedback.

The vast majority of NOAA’s significant regulations involve marine fishery and protected resources issues. These regulations are subject to change frequently as a result of new information and also pursuant to statutory requirements.

NOAA is currently undertaking the following actions to review its rulemaking, in many cases to streamline and reduce requirements:

Read the rest on or the complete document here.

Aug 19 2011

Ironic: Jerry Brown Has a Jobs Plan…Meanwhile AB 1299 Will Kill 3,000 Jobs

Truth is stranger than fiction — while Gov. Jerry Brown is developing a plan to add jobs,  the Legislature is contemplating a bill — AB 1299 — that would kill at least 3,000 jobs.  Hard working fishermen and blue-collar processing crew jobs, which represent the backbone of California’s  fishing economy.

FRESNO — Gov. Jerry Brown said today that he and legislative leaders are considering a series of measures to address California’s persistent unemployment, suggesting he has a jobs plan but declining to discuss it in detail before talking with lawmakers Thursday morning.
“We have a series of things that we’re doing,” the Democratic governor said between meetings in Fresno. “Some are bills, and some are actions, and some are proposals.”

Brown said in his gubernatorial campaign last year that growth in renewable energy could create at least 500,000 jobs, and he has increasingly talked about clean energy since passage of the state budget. Earlier today, Brown appointed former bank executive Michael Rossi to be his top jobs adviser.

Brown said in a lengthy speech to civic leaders this afternoon that Rossi’s appointment is to ensure the state is responsive to business.

With California’s unemployment rate around 12 percent, politicians are lining up with jobs plans.

Read the rest at the Sacramento Bee.

Aug 15 2011

Scientist calls to end rule of NOAA

By Richard Gaines

Staff Writer

Influential marine scientist Brian Rothschild has charged NOAA with adopting an “unnecessarily hard-line,” wrong, wasteful and job-destroying interpretation of Congress’ intent for managing America’s fisheries.

Finding no accountability, “no master plan” or will to align policy more closely with what was intended and no hope for redress from the judiciary, Rothschild — who is based at the University of Massachusetts at Dartmouth and is one of New England’s most respected fishing advocates — proposed that Congress create an ad hoc commission to restructure fisheries management in the Northeast.

Rothschild issued his blunt judgments about the performance of the government and the courts in the aftermath of a June ruling by a federal judge in Boston that upheld the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s catch share policy management system, which data shows is bringing about a consolidation of the industry and forcing out small, independent boats and businesses.

Rothschild’s full commentary is reprinted in full on Page 8 of today’s Times; it was also published in the Wednesday Standard-Times of New Bedford, which is adjacent to Rothschild’s Dartmouth base.

A venerable waterman, scientist and linchpin between the Massachusetts fishing industry, academia and the political system, Rothschild’s words are read carefully across the country.

Rothschild, who turns 77 Sunday, was NOAA’s senior scientist during the 1970s, when the Magnuson-Stevens Act was rolled out. He was also the much-preferred choice of the industry and many members of Congress to head the National Marine Fisheries Service, but Jane Lubchenco, President Obama’s choice to lead NOAA in 2009, instead went for Maryland state wildlife official Eric Schwaab, never explaining her strange choice.

In his op-ed column, Rothschild absolved Judge Rya Zobel of much responsibility for affirming the government’s groundfishery policies, writing that she was “working within the bounds of standards established in administrative law.”

Rothschild wrote that the two cases handled by Zobel, brought by the cities of Gloucester and New Bedford and fishermen from every Atlantic coast state from Maine through North Carolina, showed that the judicial system does not always have the wherewithal to align the “executive’s implementation of laws with congressional intent.”

Certainly, Rothschild wrote, Congress did not intend NOAA to create a system that wastes 100,000 tons of fish a year worth $300 million at the dock, or $1.2 billion to the economy, while eliminating “hundreds if not thousands of jobs.” And it did not intend to disregard the economic and social impacts, unfairly reward some groups at the expense of others and “ignore valid scientific findings and suppress discussion regarding the magnitude of fish stocks.”

Congressman John Tierney and Barney Frank, both Democrats, and Sen. Scott Brown, a Republican, agreed with Rothschild’s view of NOAA, as did the consumer group, Food & Water Watch, which added that “Congress needs to step in and put an end to the agency’s abuse of any discretion that it has …”

NOAA did not respond to a request for comment.

“NOAA continues to send a clear message that it is unwilling to make the system fair for our fishermen,” Tierney said in a prepared statement to the Times. “I agree with Mr. Rothschild, that ‘protecting fishing jobs is a priority’ and that Congress must take every available action to ensure that our fishing communities are not driven out of business by NOAA’s inflexible interpretation of the Magnuson-Stevens Act.

“I am committed to working with my colleagues in Congress to protect our local fishing economy and push for a change in leadership at NOAA,” added Tierney, whose district includes Gloucester, all of Cape Ann and much of the North Shore.

In a telephone interview, Frank, who represents New Bedford and seeks Rothschild’s counsel on fisheries issues, said he believes Congress was moving closer to a bipartisan consensus to rein in NOAA by the limiting statutory changes to the Atlantic and Gulf regions, where grievances are greatest.

Read the rest here.

Aug 13 2011

Rare sighting of sperm whale made off Palos Verdes Peninsula

Rare sighting of sperm whale made off Palos Verdes Peninsula

With perhaps hundreds of blue whales scattered throughout Southern California waters, it would seem disappointing to embark on a whale-watching excursion and not see one of the majestic leviathans.

But Natalie Booth-Massey and others aboard the Voyager on Monday were hardly disappointed because they witnessed a far more unusual sight: that of a sperm whale, which came into view shortly after they had seen a minke whale breach 11 times.

Booth-Massey on Monday evening posted photos on herFacebook page, along with the exclamation, “I am still on a whale high. I am barely able to talk I am so giddy!”

Sperm whales, which are toothed whales that prey almost exclusively on squid, are rarely seen off Southern California. However, the whale spotted Monday off the Palos Verdes Peninsula is believed to be the same whale that has been seen multiple times in the same general area since it was first photo-documented aboard the Voyager in 1996.

Presumably, this whale, estimated to measure 45-55 feet, is foraging in the depths of Redondo Canyon, which is said to be teeming with market-sized squid. Many of the whale sightings were in August and September, so it will not be surprising if this whale is encountered again this summer.

Read the rest on Pete Thomas’ blog.

Aug 9 2011

Ed Zieralski: Conservation, not preservation, should be priority for new commission

'Fishing Boats in San Diego' photo (c) 2011, Randy Kashka - license:


Those familiar with the Blue Ribbon Task Force and its roll in the controversial Marine Life Protection Act know how that group’s actions are being challenged in court by fishing groups.

That’s why the announcement of the California Fish and Wildlife Strategic Vision Blue Ribbon Citizen Commission sets off alarms for most everyone who hunts and fishes.

The group is a result of legislation calling for the formation of the commission that will take a look at the state Department of Fish and Game and the Fish and Game Commission.

There’s an executive committee that includes heads of departments, like the DFG, and that group will make final decisions. Under them is the Blue Ribbon Citizen Commission that includes some former state legislators and representatives who are “strategic problem solvers with expertise in policy, management and fiscal issues.”

Under them is the Stakeholder Advisory Group, and those members, 52 in all from 130 applicants, must be approved by the executive committee.

The first meeting of the Blue Ribbon Citizen Commission is Aug. 18. The stakeholders — fishing and hunting representatives among them — meet Aug. 19. Both meetings are in Sacramento but will be available on theInternet.

Read the rest from the San Diego Union-Tribune.

Aug 3 2011

Surprising squid encounter in La Jolla delights photographer

Jon Schwartz of Carlsbad comes across a large shoal of squid swimming near his kayak off the La Jolla coast. Photos by Jon Schwartz/

By Steven Mihailovich

Jon Schwartz has been photographing marine life for the past four years and he’s good at it. Good enough for 15 magazines such as Field & Stream, Sport Fishing and Marlin to grace their covers with his photos. Schwartz said he travels far and wide to get his shots of exotic fish, such as marlin in pristine tropical waters, to destinations like Hawaii, Mexico and the Caribbean islands among others, where he has landed in pursuit of his prized subjects.

However, when Schwartz and fishing buddy Josh Pruitt launched their kayaks in the predawn hours of June 20, none of his many expeditions across the globe prepared him for what he found just one mile off the coast of La Jolla: a large shoal of squid swimming near the surface by his kayak.

“The squid encounter was super special,” Schwartz said of the experience. “It’s expensive to go to the places I go to get the pictures I get. With this, I didn’t have to get on a plane and bring my gear. It was completely unexpected and I was back at my house in half an hour.”

That day, the pair had kayaked for hours and Pruitt hooked a 40-pound white sea bass while Schwartz snapped photos of it. At about noon, they chanced upon the shoal of red squid just underneath them, which Schwartz estimates to have been about 20 feet by 30 feet, or the size of two SUVs.

Read the rest of the story here.