Archive for October, 2011

Oct 31 2011

Clean Water Act failing in new climate


The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency recently gave California some tough love in the form of a ghastly report card on water quality along our coasts and in our rivers and streams: The state’s water pollution seems to have gotten much worse, with the number of polluted water bodies skyrocketing between 2006 and 2010.

Some of this change is due to more aggressive testing; the blame for the rest is solely our own. And while this news is bad enough on its own, what’s often not discussed is that all of that polluted water ends up downstream in the coastal ocean, already hard hit by decades of abuse.

This is killing the goose that lays the golden state’s egg. Californians depend upon our coastal oceans more than you might realize. As of 2000, over three-quarters of Californians lived in coastal counties, and the state’s coastal economy accounted for $42.9 billion and 700,000 jobs. These numbers have surely risen since 2000, but we’ve failed to be the stewards of these waters that their value – economic, aesthetic and otherwise – deserve.

And the threats to ocean resources keep coming, from climate change to the collapse of so many fisheries stocks worldwide. One challenge we are just beginning to understand is ocean acidification, a consequence of the fact that the oceans absorb a large fraction of the carbon dioxide we continue to pump into the atmosphere. This has changed the chemistry of the entire world’s ocean, making it more acidic. Because this increased acidity dissolves the hard shells of many of the world’s marine creatures (e.g., oysters, mussels, and many forms of plankton), these creatures and the food webs of which they are a part face a difficult future.

The horrible air quality of the 1970s is an obvious analogy to the state of California’s waters today. While the state still has severe air quality problems in places – Bakersfield, the Central Valley, and the Los Angeles region stand out – three decades of concerted effort to clean up our air has led to significantly improved air quality for most of our state. And the benefits of such action are enormous: An EPA report earlier this year showed the direct benefits of the 1990 Clean Air Act Amendments dwarfed the costs of implementation by a 30-to-1 ratio. This month’s final EPA report on water quality only confirms what we already know, that California must do better when it comes to our coastal ocean.

Read the rest of the opinion from the San Diego Union-Tribune.

Oct 26 2011

Weather satellite budget cuts a ‘disaster in the making’ – Obama official

'Hurricane Irene off the Carolinas' photo (c) 2011, born1945 - license:

Jane Lubchenco, head of National Oceanic and Atmospheric Agency, criticises GOP moves to cut funding for critical satellite

, US environment correspondent

America and Europe face a “disaster in the making” because of Congress budget cuts to a critical weather satellite, one of Barack Obama’s top science officials has warned.

The satellite crosses the Earth’s poles 14 times a day, monitoring the atmosphere, clouds, ice, vegetation, and oceans. It provides 90% of the information used by the National Weather Service, UK Met Office and other European agencies to predict severe storms up to seven days in advance.

But Republican budget-cutting measures would knock out that critical capacity by delaying the launch of the next generation of polar-orbiting satellites, said Jane Lubchenco, who heads the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Agency (Noaa).

“It is a disaster in the making. It’s an expression of the dysfunction in our system,” said Lubchenco, who was speaking at a dinner on the sidelines of the Society of Environmental Journalists meeting in Miami.

It would cost three to five times more to rebuild the project after a gap than to keep the funds flowing. “It’s insanity,” Lubchenco said.

2011 has set new records for extreme weather events in the US and around the world, bringing hurricanes, heatwaves, floods, tornadoes, blizzards, droughts and wildfires. Ten of those events, including last August’s devastating Hurricane Irene, inflicted damages of at least $1bn.

Climate change is expected to produce more extreme weather events in the future, making accurate long-range weather forecasts even more essential.

Read the rest on The Guardian.

Oct 24 2011

Growing chorus against catch shares

'U.S. Capital' photo (c) 2009, chucka_nc - license:

Written by
John Oswald | Staff Writer

A number of U.S. legislators are voicing their growing displeasure with NOAA’s catch shares program by asking the federal government to abandon the controversial fisheries management measure.

Simply, catch share programs take the total allowable catch for a fishery and divide it up into shares which are then bought by individuals, associations, communities or corporations. A main concern among those raising the cry against catch shares is that the policy consolidates the fishery in the hands of a few large operations to the detriment of individual fishermen.

On Oct. 6, Congressman John Runyan (R-NJ) sent a letter to President Obama urging him to reconsider the use of catch share programs for commercial and recreational fishermen. In his letter, which was also signed by Representatives Frank LoBiondo (R-NJ), Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL), Frank Guinta (R-NH), and Sandy Adams (R-FL), Runyan wrote,

“Excessive government regulations have played a large role in our continued economic crisis. One of these excessive regulations is the catch share programs for fishermen. These programs have proven to decrease the number of fishing boats, which can have long lasting unintended economic consequences, including the loss of jobs in the fishing industry.”

Less than a week later, U.S. Senators Kelly Ayotte (R-NH) and Scott Brown (R-MA) introduced the Saving Fishing Jobs Act of 2011 which would require, among other things, that the Secretary of Commerce terminate new and existing catch share programs that result in a 15 percent or more reduction in the total number of fishermen in the program.

“Catch share programs are driving New Hampshire’s fishermen out of business. Five months after federal catch shares were implemented in New England, 55 out of the initial 500 boats in the fishery controlled 61 percent of the revenue, and 253 of the boats were sitting at the dock, unable to fish without quota,” Sen. Ayotte said.

And as recently as Wednesday, an article in the Gloucester Times of Gloucester, Mass, reports that Sen. John Kerry (D-MA) has requested that NOAA administrator, Dr. Jane Lubchenco, declare the catch shares program a disaster.

Read the rest here.

Oct 7 2011

Can Smartphones Help Stop Illegal Fishing in California?


When venturing into the waters along California’s 1,100 miles of coastline, at times it can be difficult to determine which areas are protected — where fishing and other recreational activities are restricted or limited.

Now outdoorsmen who carry a mobile device can access a searchable Department of Fish and Game website that maps the locations of the marine protected areas (MPAs).

“In general, whether you’re a hunter or a fisher or anything else, you should be pretty well aware of where you plan to go and what the regulations are that apply for the species you’re trying to take before you ever step out the door,” said Eric Miller, a department staff programmer analyst.

But those who aren’t up to speed, the new website  has been optimized for iPhone, iPad and Android.

The site allows fishermen, divers, ocean goers and the general public to search for current MPAs by name, county or general area. Officials said the site will be updated if and when new MPAs go into effect.

Through an interactive map, users can locate an MPA and find information about its boundaries and regulations. According to the department, some MPAs prohibit fishing or collecting of any kind — so the mobile site might help users avoid those mistakes.

“One of the cooler features of this website is that you can actually get your location and then see where you are on a map and then see if you are in an MPA, or if any MPAs are around you,” said Aaron Del Monte, a department staff programmer analyst.

For best results, the Department of Fish and Game recommends that the phone’s GPS feature is turned on.

Users who access the site out in the open ocean can track their current location through the site’s map function, with the mobile device’s GPS supporting the mobile site.

But can fishermen actually use the new mobile website in ocean waters?

Read the rest of the story from Government Technology.

Oct 7 2011

USC marine biologist presents study of Redondo Beach fish kill

Millions of sardines floated to the surface at Redondo Beach's King Harbor in March 2011. (Brad Graverson/Staff Photographer)

By Melissa Pamer Staff Writer

For nearly six years, USC researchers have been studying coastal waters in Redondo Beach, waiting for an event like the one in March that left some 170 tons of dead sardines stinking up King Harbor.

As the fish kill generated global media attention and much speculation about its causes, scientists from David Caron’s lab at USC were already at work examining the evidence.

They parsed data from underwater sensors installed in the harbor in 2006 after another big fish kill the previous year. On Friday night, Caron will present their findings during a free event at Cabrillo Marine Aquarium in San Pedro.

There won’t be any jaw-dropping revelations. The explanation is very similar to that offered by Caron and other scientists in the immediate aftermath of the fish kill.

“What happened there was a low-oxygen event,” said Caron, a professor of biological sciences.

As hypothesized at the time, millions of fish swarmed into the harbor and used up all the available oxygen, essentially suffocating. It’s not really clear what drove them into the harbor.

There’s evidence from the sensors and other oceanographic data that an upwelling of cold ocean water from the deep had flowed into the marinas, lowering oxygen levels by nearly half in weeks before the fish kill, Caron said.

Read the rest of the story from the Torrance Daily Breeze.

Oct 6 2011

An interview with ICES guest instructor Ray Hilborn

Ray Hilborn

All about Bayesian inference in fisheries science

​ICES Training Programme recently offered Introduction to Bayesian Inference in Fisheries Science, conducted by Ray Hilborn and Samu Mäntyniemi. It was attended by 26 students from 17 countries.

Ray Hilborn, one of today’s leading experts on fisheries, is a professor in the School of Aquatic and Fishery Sciences, University of Washington, specializing in natural resource management and conservation. He serves as an advisor to several international fisheries commissions and agencies as well as teaching graduate and undergraduate courses in conservation, fishery stock assessment, and risk analysis. He is author of Quantitative Fisheries Stock Assessment, with Carl Walters, and The Ecological Detective: Confronting Models with Data, with Marc Mangel.

What is Bayesian statistics?

Bayesian statistics is one variety of statistics. Depending on how you divide it, you could say there are three primary schools. Beginning statistics courses centre on the concept of the null hypothesis and whether the data support rejection of the null hypothesis; usually, statistics are reported so that the probability of the null hypothesis is false. Then, there is the probability that you can reject the null hypothesis, and that’s often called Frequentive statistics. Finally, there’s another school, the Likelihoodist, that deals primarily with the extent to which the data support competing hypotheses. It’s a more interesting statistic because it realizes that you often have multiple different hypotheses, which is interesting to the extent that the data support the different hypotheses.

Bayesian statistics is, in a sense, much like the Likelihoodist, but it goes the additional step of actually assigning probabilities to competing hypotheses. The reason that’s so important is that, when you are giving advice to decision-makers, they want to know what’s the chance that something will happen. It turns out that Bayesian statistics is the only form of statistics that philosophically claims that they are probabilities. Going back – I guess I first ran into Bayesian statistics about 35 years ago – you find that Bayesian statistics really dominated business schools because they were built around decision-making.

Read the rest here.

Oct 1 2011

Squid invasion photographs reveal a surreal nighttime event

The rare invasion of large and ravenous squid off Southern California has been more like a blitz, with the slithery cephalopods showing first off San Diego and advancing at least as far north as Santa Barbara.

This has sent anglers clambering onto fishing boats for a truly wet and wild experience, but for one resident catching the mysterious denizens wasn’t enough. Jon Schwartz dove in with his camera to document the experience from beneath the surface (his self-portrait is pictured below).

It was not the safest swim the grade-school teacher from Oceanside has enjoyed, and this is not something others should attempt. But Schwartz, who is an expert marine photographer, captured some incredible images and even brought a few squid to class for first-grade study.

“I asked a bunch of experts if they thought it was safe and they said it might be,” Schwartz, who specializes in photographing large game fish from underwater, said of his weekend plunge.

Read the rest here.

— Images are courtesy of Jon Schwartz and protected by copyright laws. To read more about Schwartz’s adventures, please visit his blog

Oct 1 2011

Jumbo Squid Encroach SD Beaches

Humboldt squid have been seen swimming the red tide waters of San Diego

By Sarah Grieco

Seen a squid lately?

San Diego beachgoers have seen large, red and white Humboldt squid wash up on the shoreline throughout the last few weeks.

No, the odd-looking invertebrates aren’t invading the coast; they’re simply beaching themselves. But the reason the large-tentacled creatures are here is unknown.

“We don’t actually know why they’re stranding,” said Linsey Sala, the UCSD assistant museum scientist and collection manager for pelagic invertebrates. “We haven’t really nailed down one particular reason why they’re here.”

Sala said the Humboldt squid are historically from Chile, but in recent years have been expanding their range north. Scientists are still trying to figure out why the jumbo squid are coming closer to the coast each year.

Read the rest on NBC San Diego.