Archive for March, 2012

Mar 28 2012

For California Fishermen, Squid Means Big Money

Capt Nick Jurlin's crew hauls squid aboard the Cape Blanco on their round trip from San Pedro to the western side of Santa Catalina Island. The catch is abundant -- and valuable. (Bob Chamberlin, Los Angeles Times)


















Written by Tony Barboza, Los Angeles Times

Long before calamari reaches the table, crews set out from San Pedro and elsewhere to round up California’s most valuable catch. But environmentalists question whether the haul is too large.


As the sun sets over the ocean, the six crewmen on the Cape Blanco are starting a long night’s work off the far side of Santa Catalina Island, putting on orange slickers and hard hats to fish for the milky white mollusks that have become California’s most valuable catch.

Below the gentle waves off the side of the boat swims an immense school of market squid.

Capt. Nick Jurlin, pacing impatiently with a cigarette dangling from his mouth, is eager to pull in as much of it as possible.

Five nights a week, the third-generation fisherman from San Pedro steps into a pair of rubber boots and hunts for squid along the Southern California coast. The 50-year-old with spiky blond hair and wraparound sunglasses looks the part of a man who’s wrestled with nets in the salty air since he was a teenager — his arms are taut, his neck creased and weathered, his voice gravelly from going without sleep.

On a night like this, the 90-foot steel vessel can bring in as much as $50,000 worth of the seafood so popular worldwide that all but a fraction is shipped overseas to be served as calamari.

But for the Cape Blanco and dozens of squid fishing boats working out of ports like San Pedro and Monterey, the boom is an uncertain one. Doubts are emerging about how long one of California’s last remaining money fish will stay bountiful.

Though Jurlin and his crew are four hours from shore tonight, they are not alone.

Rocking in the waves around them are a dozen other purse seiners beginning the same ritual: encircling the darting mass of tentacled, hot dog-sized sea creatures with huge nets that will be cinched up like the drawstring of a purse.

A flotilla of smaller boats assists by following the swarms and coaxing them to the surface with 30,000-watt lanterns that light up the ocean with an otherworldly green and white glow.

On Jurlin’s signal, a deckhand swings a hefty metal bar above his head and slams it into a pelican hook, freeing a clunky metal skiff that plunges into the water and rumbles away, its motor filling the night air with exhaust.

Each man takes his position on the Cape Blanco’s deck, working among strained cables and ropes as thick as fire hoses. A hydraulic winch whirs, engines roar and propellers gurgle as a tangle of black netting, yellow floats and steel rings tumble into the water off the back of the boat. The skiff tows it all in a wide circle around the squid, trapping the school.

Most of the world’s market squid is harvested from California’s shallow waters, where they gather in enormous schools each year to mate, deposit their eggs on the seafloor and die.

Cold ocean conditions have drawn them in such numbers lately that fishermen have handily caught their 118,000-ton limit — enough to fill 60 Olympic-size swimming pools — and the state has shut them down early two years running. Surging demand in China, Japan, Mexico and Europe has boosted prices and launched a fishing frenzy worth more than $70 million a year.

The good times have drawn the attention of conservationists, who fear such abundant catches are threatening the foundation of a delicate marine food web. Groups like Oceana and Audubon California are pushing for new protections for squid, sardines, anchovies, herring and other small, schooling prey known as “forage fish.”

A bill moving its way through the California Legislature would require the state to leave more small fish in the water for seabirds, whales, dolphins and other natural predators to feed on.

Those like Jurlin, whose families have fished these waters for generations, say a smaller catch could be crippling.


During the squid season, Jurlin pushes off each afternoon from Terminal Island, where a few other purse seiners dock along a waterfront of weedy and abandoned lots where street names — Sardine, Cannery and Wharf — reflect a fish-packing industry that is largely gone.

He follows the squid from the Channel Islands to San Diego, setting out net after net and returning before dawn the next morning.

Tonight he motors along the backside of Catalina as his crewmen eat spaghetti and watch baseball in the galley. Many, like Jurlin, are the sons or grandsons of fishermen.

It isn’t long before they bring in their first net.

Frigid water falls in sheets from the net as it is pulled through a giant hydraulic pulley towering above the deck. The men pile it into a slippery mound, slowly corralling the squid closer to the boat.

Whether stacking rings or piloting the skiff, each crewman is dedicated to a single task. There is no conversation. It is dangerous, straining work, and they focus with intense precision.

By the time Jurlin and several deckhands reach over the side of the boat to gather the last bunches of loose net, their bright slickers are drizzled with black ink from the squid.

Fishing for squid can be good money, but it is unpredictable.

The boat’s owner, Tri Marine Fish Co., takes half the earnings, and the crew divides the rest. For a good night’s work, deckhands can earn well over $1,000 and the captain and engineer even more. On a bad night, they might catch enough to cover fuel.

In the off-season, the fishermen sew up nets, make repairs and paint the boats — without pay. A few months of the year, they make a little money fishing for sardines. But without squid, there are no big paychecks.

As luck would have it, the night’s first net bursts with an exceptional haul: 40 tons of squid.

“Everybody’s going to do real well tonight,” Jurlin tells the crew.

They lower a heavy metal pump into the thick stew, and the catch goes sloshing into the ship’s refrigerated wells below deck.

Once their catch is stowed, the crewmen hose off and light up cigarettes as the fog moves in.


A half century ago, the sardine was king of the sea.

In the 1930s and ’40s, the largest fishing industry in the Western Hemisphere centered on California’s harvest of the oily, silvery fish. Monterey was its capital, its crowded waterfront the backdrop for John Steinbeck novels such as “Cannery Row.”

But the boom went bust by mid-century as overfishing brought a devastating collapse.

Squid fishing exploded in the 1990s when worldwide demand jumped. Over the last decade, the California Department of Fish and Game has kept the fishery in check with catch limits, a ban on weekend fishing and a cap on the number of squid boats.

Squid come and go in cycles, streaming to shore when waters are cold and vanishing during warm El Niño periods. And they live just a year, making it difficult for scientists to assess the health of their population. Conservation groups, in saying current limits are too permissive, point to research saying those huge fluctuations make small species like squid particularly vulnerable to collapse.

The industry says California’s regulations already guard against overfishing and don’t need to be changed.


Standing at the helm in the dark, Jurlin studies a glowing grid of navigation screens and electronic fish finders.

He sips coffee and watches for diving birds and sea lions — nature’s squid detectors. He talks to himself to stay awake and keeps a running dialogue on the radio with friendly boats to gather intelligence on fishing spots.

Like many fishermen here, Jurlin is a descendant of immigrants, born into the profession.

His grandfather was an illegal immigrant from Croatia who jumped ship in Canada and made his way to San Pedro to fish almost a century ago. Jurlin’s father fished, and his grandmothers and mother packed tuna back when the San Pedro waterfront was alive with canneries.

Jurlin started working on Alaskan salmon vessels as a teenager and bought his first boat when he was 21.

Over the past 30 years, he and his wife have raised two daughters, bought a condo in downtown Long Beach and a second home in Arizona. Squid has paid for it all.

He has staked his future on being able to continue. When the first squid upswing hit 16 years ago, he bought his own seiner. During this boom he put his two sons-in-law aboard to learn the profession.

“We’ve been hitting it pretty good, but it’s sustainable,” he says. “We get a bad rap from the environmentalists. They’ll tell us there’s no fish, and we’ll come out here and see incredible amounts. They say we want to rape and pillage the ocean. But this is our livelihood.”

As is so often the case lately, Jurlin and his crew are catching so much squid so quickly that it strains buyers in San Pedro, who can only fit so much in their freezers.

So tonight, each vessel can load up with just 70 tons before returning to the docks, where workers will pump the squid ashore and slop it into plastic-lined boxes. Forklifts will wheel it into warehouse-sized blast freezers, where it will be prepared for shipment to Asia. From there, it will be processed and shipped around the world, some back to restaurants in California.

It’s just before midnight when the captain of a fellow squid boat, the Ferrigno Boy, radios to report he has caught too much. Could the Cape Blanco suck up the surplus?

“Okey-dokey,” Jurlin responds, setting down the radio. “That’s it. Another day in paradise.”

Read the article on Los Angeles Times.
Mar 28 2012

House Subcommittee Holds Hearing on the National Ocean Policy’s Effect on Fishing

California Capitol Hill Bulletin – March 22, 2012

The House Natural Resources Subcommittee on Fisheries, Wildlife, Oceans, and Insular Affairs met on Thursday, March 21, 2012 for an oversight hearing titled Empty Hooks: The National Ocean Policy is the Latest Threat to Access for Recreational and Commercial Fishermen. The Committee previously held a hearing on the National Ocean Policy on October 4, 2011.

Witnesses included: Captain Robert F. Zales, II, President, National Association of Charterboat Operators; Gary Zurn, Senior Vice President Marketing, Big Rock Sports, LLC; Terry Gibson, Principle, North Swell Media, LLC; George J. Mannina, Jr., Partner, Nossaman, LLC; and Justin LeBlanc, Federal Representative, United Charter Boats.

The President signed an executive order on July 19th, 2010 to adopt the final recommendations of the Interagency Ocean Policy Task Force, effectively instituting the new National Ocean Policy (the Policy). Over 140 federal laws and numerous agencies have jurisdiction over ocean resources. The aim of the Policy is to manage commerce and conservation of ocean resources through a “comprehensive and collaborative framework for the stewardship of the ocean, our coasts, and the Great Lakes that facilitates cohesive actions across the Federal Government, as well as participation of State, tribal, and local authorities, regional governance structures, nongovernmental organizations, the public, and the private sector.” The National Ocean Council, tasked with implementing the Policy, extended the public comment period on the draft National Ocean Policy Implementation Plan by one month through March 28, 2012. House Resources Committee Chair Doc Hastings (WA) had requested that the deadline be extended by 90 days, arguing “[t]he likelihood of deterring new investment and job creation is too great to rush the implementation of this questionable new federal bureaucracy.”

This week’s hearing focused on the effects of the Policy on commercial and recreational fishing. Issues discussed included:


  • Recreational and commercial fishing statistics, including that recreational fishing in 2009 produced sales impacts totaling $50 billion and value added impacts of $23 billion while providing over 327,000 jobs. Commercial Fishing provided over 1 million jobs, $116 billion in sales and $32 billion in income impacts.


  • The possible negative effect of the Policy on jobs directly and indirectly related to fishing.


  • The level of involvement of stakeholders in the advancement of the Policy, with concerns raised regarding the lack of fishery representatives on the Policy’s Regional Planning Bodies.


  • The current regulatory burdens on fishing (including no-fishing mandates), and whether the industry can absorb more regulation without serious consequence to its economic value.


  • The Policy’s lack of regulatory authority, but the concern that it may still add new and expanded regulations on already regulated industries and activities.


  • The impact of California’s expected finalization of a statewide effort that will place 15-20 percent of the state’s coastal waters off limits to fishing through a process called the Marine Life Protection Act Initiative (MLPA).


  • The benefits that can be realized because of the Policy’s new management framework, which will create a coordinated, regional system that breaks down barriers between different agencies and reduces the complicated regulatory bureaucracy currently governing the oceans.


Read the article on California Capital Hill Bulletin, or for more information visit

Mar 26 2012

Estimated 1,000 Fishermen Rally for Reform in Protest Staged in Nation’s Capital

Recreational and commercial fishermen gather on Capitol Hill  on Wednesday to call for reform of the Magnuson-Stevens Fisheries Conservation and Management Act. AP Photo 

Written By By Don Cuddy

Around 1,000 commercial and recreational fishermen from around the country gathered near the U.S. Capitol on Wednesday to call attention to the regulatory difficulties facing the fishing industry on the East and West coasts.

The rally, billed as Keep Fishermen Fishing, was organized to seek reforms to the Magnuson Stevens Act, the law that governs fishing in federal waters.

Fishermen and industry groups have long complained that inflexible and onerous regulations are hampering their ability to fish and forcing some independent fishermen to abandon their traditional way of life.

New Bedford Mayor Jon Mitchell was among those who spoke at the rally. “There was a great show of support from the fishing community and a big turnout from Congress,” he said. Several senators and around a dozen House members spoke at the gathering, according to the mayor, including a large New England delegation that included Massachusetts Sens. John Kerry and Scott Brown and Reps. Barney Frank, John Tierney and Bill Keating.

Bristol County District Attorney C. Samuel Sutter, running against Keating for Congress in the 9th District, also spoke.

Mitchell, who estimated the crowd at 1,000, focused his remarks on the need to keep fishermen in New England on the water by adopting greater flexibility in the rigid timelines established for rebuilding fish stocks.

“We need regulations geared to the reality at sea and we need more money for research and better stock assessments,” he said.

Read the rest of the article on SouthCoastToday.


Mar 22 2012

Fishermen, Politicians Rally Against Federal Regulations

Written By Morgan True and Aarthi Gunasekaran

WASHINGTON –  Fishermen from across the United States descended upon Capitol Hill Wednesday to voice their displeasure with a federal bureaucracy they believe is regulating them out of business.

Politicians from both sides of the political aisle and both houses of Congress joined a crowd of several hundred current and former fishermen, along with industry advocates, in lambasting the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and its director, Jane Lubchenco.

One small boy wore a sign around his neck reading, “NOAA, Jesus was a fisherman. Why can’t I be?” Others waved signs declaring, “Show Me The Science” and “Let Fishermen Fish.”

A bevy of public officials spoke, including Sens. John Kerry, D-Mass., and Scott Brown, R-Mass.
“What does it take to get fired at NOAA?” asked an incredulous Brown. He was joined on stage by a staffer holding a blown-up photograph of a $300,000 luxury craft whose purchase has been sharply criticized by NOAA’s inspector general — and which Brown has sought to make a symbol of the agency’s bureaucratic excess.

“The nation’s primary fishing regulator, NOAA, is being run by Washington insiders with a radical agenda to change the way that you do business and it’s wrong,” he charged.

In his remarks, Kerry focused on the theme of improving the science that guides regulation, declaring, “If [regulators] make judgments that are based on unsound science, no science at all or science you can’t believe in, then we are going to have a problem.”

Read the rest of the article on


Mar 22 2012

“It’s All About Jobs” Will be the Message of Thousands of Fishermen in Washington on March 21


With just three days to go until the Keep Fishermen Fishing Rally near the U.S. Capitol on March 21, organizers expect thousands of recreational and commercial fishermen – and their families – to be in Washington this week in support of coastal fishing-related jobs.

Coastal fishermen last assembled in organized protest in February of 2010 to show their dissatisfaction with federal fisheries management, though organizers say that Congress has been slow to react to their concerns.

Despite previous congressional mandates, there has been no improvement in the science underlying federal fisheries management and no adherence by the federal agency to the statutory requirements that federal fisheries data collection be improved. Instead, NOAA Fisheries enforcement is in a shambles, as are the assurances of transparency and rebuilt relationships that Dr. Jane Lubchenco promised Congress when she took over at NOAA in 2009.

According to the thousands of fishermen set to peacefully assemble at Upper Senate Park on March 21st, changes implemented under the reauthorized 2006 Magnuson Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act have improved the health of U.S. coastal fish stocks primarily by kicking fishermen off the water and putting thousands of Americans out of work. Recreational and commercial fishermen alike, supported by a core group of bipartisan coastal legislators, believe that proper balance of commerce and conservation is possible through simple amendments to the federal fisheries law.

“We aren’t going to Washington because we object to effective fisheries management; we are going because we object to overly restrictive management measures,” said Nils Stolpe, one of the rally organizers and a representative of the commercial fishing industry. “We are going because we object to a federal law that puts all of the emphasis on protecting the fish and none whatsoever on protecting the jobs of those that sustainably harvest those fish.”

Read more about the event on MarketWatch or visit


Mar 14 2012

Senators Scott Brown and John Kerry lead bipartisan effort to boost domestic fishing industry

Protesters gather at the United We Fish rally on Feb. 24, 2010 in Washington (AP Photo/Luis M. Alvarez)

 By Robert Rizzuto, The Republican

In what is being hailed as a bipartisan effort to right a decades-old wrong, U.S. Sen. John Kerry, D-Mass., and Sen. Scott Brown, R-Mass., have joined with colleagues to push a bill that is expected to give the fishing industry in the U.S. a solid push into the future.

The Fisheries Investment and Regulatory Relief Act, or FIRRA as it’s known, would ensure that a significant portion of the money collected from tariffs on imported fish or fish products is cycled back into the American fishing industry, in accordance with the 1954 Saltonstall-Kennedy Act.

The 1954 legislation, sponsored by Democratic Sen. John F. Kennedy and Republican Sen. Leverett Saltonstall, both of Massachusetts, called for 30 percent of tariffs on imported fish to be used for research and development of the domestic fishing industry. But as imports have climbed along with revenue, Congress has typically allocated a majority of the money to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, which has came under fire for questionable spending in the past.

In February, Brown blasted NOAA after an Inspector General report revealed that the agency had spent more than $300,000 in fines collected from U.S. fisherman to purchase a luxury boat which was used by agency members for recreation on the ocean with family, friends and alcohol.

A summary of the new legislation provided by Kerry’s office stated that in 2010, the government collected $376.6 million in tariffs on imported fish and fish products, which should have set aside $113 million for fishery research and development. In the end, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration received $104.6 million, with just $8.4 million going to fishery development.

Read the full article on


Mar 13 2012

JOHN KERRY: Righting a wrong for our fisheries

In Massachusetts, commercial fishing supports more than 77,000 jobs. Recreational fishing is also an important part of our maritime economy and our local research institutions are world-renowned. However, today our fishermen continue to face economic peril and they are deeply frustrated by science and research they don’t trust and federal regulators in whom they lost faith when abuses were exposed by an investigation.

We can take an important first step in changing the relationship between our fishermen and federal regulators by passing the Fisheries Investment and Regulatory Relief Act which I am introducing in the Commerce Committee with Senator Snowe, a Republican Senator from Maine and my longtime colleague on the Committee. In the House, Congressmen Barney Frank and Frank Guinta will be introducing similar legislation.

The cornerstone of this bill is returning the use of Saltonstall-Kennedy funds to our fishermen, as was the original intent of its creators.

In 2010, the estimated total duties collected on imports of fishery products were $376.6 million. Thirty percent of that total is approximately $113 million that should be used to improve science and help our fisheries. Unfortunately last year, only $8.4 million of that $113 million was used by National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) for grants for fisheries research and development projects. The remaining funds were used by NOAA for their operations.

This simply can’t continue, especially given the current situation facing our fisheries. Our bill will restore the investment to help the fishermen and communities for whom Sens. Saltonstall and Kennedy originally intended it to protect.

Read the full opinion piece from The Gloucester Times.

Mar 13 2012

NOAA’s FishWatch Gets a Fresh Look

The NOAA’s re-launched FishWatch website provides easy-to-understand science-based facts to help consumers make smart sustainable seafood choices.

About NOAA’s FishWatch Website

FishWatch delivers the most up-to-date information on popular seafood harvested – or farmed – in the United States. FishWatch helps you understand the complex science, laws, and management process actively sustaining our seafood supply.

FishWatch is maintained by NOAA Fisheries, the leading science authority for managing the nation’s marine fisheries. Under our watch, U.S. fisheries are scientifically monitored and managed, and U.S. fishermen follow the most restrictive regulations in the world.

Our fisheries are some of the largest and most valuable in the world and supply about a fifth of the seafood we eat in the United States. The U.S. approach for sustainably managing fisheries has become an international model for addressing the challenges facing global ocean fisheries today.

To learn more visit the FishWatch website.


Mar 10 2012

Senators Kerry and Snowe will introduce bill to restore intent of Saltonstall-Kennedy Act

On Thursday, Senators John Kerry and Olympia Snowe will introduce legislation to restore the funding of the Saltonstall-Kennedy Act, which supported fishery research projects, to “help the fishermen and communities for whom it was originally intended.”

WASHINGTON, D.C. – March 9, 2012  – The Saltonstall-Kennedy (S-K) Act was authored by Senators Leverett Saltonstall (R-Mass.) and John F. Kennedy (D-Mass.) in 1954 to promote and market domestic seafood.

According to a report by the Congressional Research Service, the Saltonstall-Kennedy Fund has, among other things, supported fishery research and development projects in the 58 years since its passage.  However, beginning “in FY1979, increasing amounts of S-K dollars have been transferred to the Department of Commerce’s National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s (NOAA’s) Operations, Research, and Facilities (ORF) account, reducing the funds and percentage of funds available for fishing industry projects and the national program. Since FY1982, the S-K program has never allocated the minimum amount (50% after FY1980 and 60% after FY1983) specified by law for industry projects.”

On Thursday, Senators John Kerry (D-Mass) and Olympia Snowe (R-Maine) will introduce legislation to restore this funding to “help the fishermen and communities for whom it was originally intended.”

A companion bill, authored by Representative Barney Frank (D-Mass.) and Frank Guinta (R-New Hampshire) is expected to be introduced in the House of Representatives.

The following was released by Senator Kerry’s office: 

Background on the Kerry-Snowe Fisheries Investment and Regulatory Relief Act

The Saltonstall-Kennedy (S-K) Act directs 30% of the duties on imported fish products to a grant program for research and development projects to benefit the U.S. fishing industry. It is estimated that for 2010, the total duties collected on the imports of fishery products was $376.6 million. The S-K Act directs 30% of that total to be transferred to the Secretary of Commerce. In 2010, that equaled $113 million. Of that $113 million, $104.6 million went to NOAA’s operations budget, and only $8.4 million was used by NOAA for grants for fisheries research and development projects. We believe that we should follow the original intent of Senators Leverett Saltonstall and John F. Kennedy and restore this funding to help the fishermen and communities for whom it was originally intended.

Today, our regional fisheries are facing difficult issues such as the recent Gulf of Maine cod crisis in New England and pirate fishing on the West Coast. With federal funds scarce, each region is in need of a reliable source of federal funding to assist them in responding to the many challenges of managing a fishery. The Fisheries Investment Act ensures that the Saltonstall-Kennedy money is spent in coordination with the Regional Fishery Management Councils (RFMC) and focused on key priorities identified by both fishermen and NOAA, restoring the original intent of the S-K Act by involving local stakeholders in determining how funds are used.


Read more on SavingSeaFood.


Mar 10 2012

Senate bill seeks millions to improve fishery science and stock assessments

Written by By Don Cuddy 

Sens. John Kerry, D-Mass., and Olympia Snowe, R-Maine, will introduce a bill today designed to provide millions of dollars in federal funds to help the commercial fishing industry.

The Fisheries Investment and Regulatory Relief Act could funnel more than $100 million annually into improving scientific research and fish stock assessments nationwide.

The money would come from an existing source: the customs duties raised from fish products imported to the U.S. Legislation passed in 1954, known as the Kennedy-Saltonstall Act, directs that 30 percent of all duty paid on fish imports be transferred to the Secretary of Commerce and set aside for fisheries research and other projects.

In practice, that has not been happening, according to Kerry’s office, which said that duties collected on imported fish products in 2010 totaled $376.6 million. Of that amount, $113 million went to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. But only $8.4 million was used for fisheries research and development. The remaining $104.6 million was swallowed by NOAA’s operational budget.

The New England fishing industry has repeatedly criticized NOAA and the National Marine Fisheries Service for basing management decisions on incomplete or outdated data, with the recent dire assessment of cod stocks in the Gulf of Maine provoking the latest controversy.

A rosy stock assessment in 2008 was followed this year by a declaration that the stock has collapsed, threatening many fishermen’s survival.

“We can’t fix our fishing problems if we don’t restore trust and you start rebuilding trust by investing in fishing science that’s credible and comprehensive and comes from the fishing community itself,” Kerry said in an email to The Standard-Times.

The bill proposes to restore the original intent of Saltonstall-Kennedy; using the money in coordination with regional fishery management councils to allow local stakeholders a voice in how funds are directed.

Read the rest on South Coast Today.