Archive for October, 2014

Oct 28 2014

FDA finds wholesale seafood products are labeled correctly 85% of the time

Posted by permission of SEAFOODNEWS.COM [SCOM] October 27, 2014


A two-year long investigation by the FDA into seafood mislabeling among wholesaler distributors found that fish products are labeling correctly 85 percent of the time.

The FDA’s study (the report can be found here) tested seven hundred DNA samples collected from wholesalers in 14 states, prior to restaurant or retail sale. Part of the study had the FDA target seafood that is most often suspected to be mislabeled including cod, haddock, catfish, basa, swai, snapper and grouper. Of that group, the FDA said a majority of the mislabeling was found in two species, snappers and groupers, which represent less than two percent of total seafood sales.

“This extensive federal analysis brings the challenge of mislabeling into a much clearer focus,” said John Connelly, President of the National Fisheries Institute (NFI.) “While at the same time calling into question other mislabeling ‘studies’ that suggest the issue is widespread and in need of a legislative fix.”

The NFI has previously called for more enforcement of federal and state labeling laws, rather than new legislation, noting that multiple anti-fraud laws already exist.

“What the FDA found reinforces the need for implementation of rules already on the books,” said Lisa Weddig, Secretary of the Better Seafood Board (BSB.) “We don’t need more regulations and rhetoric, we need more enforcement.”

Along with releasing the findings, the FDA also released its first-ever online seafood labeling training module designed to instruct industry participants, retailers and state regulators how to properly label seafood items throughout the supply chain.

“Proper identification of seafood is important throughout the seafood supply chain to ensure that appropriate food safety controls are implemented and that consumers are getting the type of seafood they expect and for which they are paying,” the FDA said.

Meanwhile, the BSB and the National Restaurant Association will work together on the labeling issue through a memorandum of understanding that includes educational outreach and even menu audits.

“Eighty-five percent of seafood was labeled correctly and the mislabeling was focused on two species,” said Connelly. “Our job is to work with companies and focus on those problem areas.” He continued, “This type of information gives regulators important insights and helps them focus their resources. New laws don’t do that.”

Photo Credit: FDA

Ken Coons 1-781-861-1441
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Copyright © 2014

Oct 25 2014

$quid Inc. 2014 — Video by Jason Crosby

squidVideo by Jason Crosby (YouTube).

Squid fishing in Monterey Ca. Lots of boats, lots of squid.

Oct 22 2014

The joy of sex began 385 million years ago with armored fish, scientists say

fish-fossilsProfessor John Long has discovered that the earliest example of sex was invented by Scottish amoured fish called placoderms.

An ancient fish with evolutionary ties to humans could have originated intercourse as we know it, which scientists say is ‘nothing short of remarkable.’

Scientists studying fossils have discovered that the intimate act of sexual intercourse used by humans was pioneered by ancient armored fishes, called placoderms, about 385 million years ago in Scotland.

In an important discovery in the evolutionary history of sexual reproduction, the scientists found that male fossils of the Microbrachius dicki, which belong to a placoderm group, developed bony L-shaped genital limbs called claspers to transfer sperm to females.

Females, for their part, developed small paired bones to lock the male organs in place for mating.

Placoderms are the earliest vertebrate ancestors of humans.

“Placoderms were once thought to be a dead-end group with no live relatives, but recent studies show that our own evolution is deeply rooted in placoderms and that many of the features we have — such as jaws, teeth and paired limbs — first originated with this group of fishes,” said John Long, a paleontologist at Flinders University in South Australia who led the research.

This new finding, he added, shows that “they gave us the intimate act of sexual intercourse as well”.

Matt Friedman, a paleobiologist from Britain’s Oxford University who was not involved in the research, described its findings as “nothing short of remarkable” and said they suggested much more could be learned from the fossil fishes.

Long, whose study was published in the journal Nature on Sunday, discovered the ancient fishes’ mating abilities when he stumbled across a single fossil bone in the collections of the University of Technology in Tallinn, Estonia, last year.

The research then involved scientists from Australia, Estonia, Britain, Sweden and China, who analyzed fossil specimens from museum collections across the world.

These demonstrate the first use of internal fertilization and copulation as a reproductive strategy known in the fossil record.

Measuring about 8 centimeters (3 inches) in length, Microbrachius lived in ancient lake habitats in Scotland, as well as parts of Estonia and China.

Long explained that “Microbrachius” means little arms, but said scientists have been baffled for centuries by what these bony paired arms were actually there for.

“We’ve solved this great mystery,” he said. “They were there for mating, so that the male could position his claspers into the female genital area.”

In one of the more bizarre findings of the study, Long said the fishes probably copulated from a sideways position with their bony jointed arms locked together — making them look more as if they were square dancing than having sex.

“This enabled the males to maneuver their genital organs into the right position for mating,” he said.

youtubeWatch video

View the original article: | REUTERS Monday, October 20, 2014

Oct 16 2014

Ecosystem-Based Fisheries Management


NOAA strives to adopt an ecosystem-based approach throughout its broad ocean and coastal stewardship, science, and service programs. The goal of ecosystem-based management is to maintain ecosystems in a healthy, productive, and resilient condition so they can provide the services humans want and need. NOAA Fisheries refers to the ecosystem-based approach to management that is focused on the fisheries sector as ecosystem-based fisheries management (EBFM). While EBFM is directed towards fisheries management, a similar approach, accounting for ecosystem interactions and considerations, can be applied in the management of protected and other trust marine species.


EBFM is a new way of looking at the management of living marine resources. The traditional management strategy for fisheries and other living marine resources is to focus on one species in isolation. For example, if a particular species’ population was declining, fishery managers might decide to reduce the annual catch limit the following year in an attempt to reduce overexploitation. However, fishing is only one variable that affects a species’ population. Additional elements come in to play, such as interactions with other species, the effects of environmental changes, or pollution and other stresses on habitat and water quality. To more effectively assess the health of any given fishery and to determine the best way to maintain it, fishery managers should take ecosystem considerations into account.




Fisheries in the California Current Ecosystem

Fisheries in the Northwest Atlantic Large Marine Ecosystem



View the original post here. header_noaa

Oct 15 2014

A Bird’s Eye View: Aerial Surveys of Nearshore Waters Provide Important Information for Managing Coastal Pelagic Fishes

aerialphoto_smAn unretouched aerial photo of a sardine school off Southern California


Since August 2012, CDFW’s Coastal Pelagic Species (CPS) Project and the California Wetfish Producers Association have been working together to develop a nearshore aerial survey program for southern California waters. The valuable data collected by the program may be used to set sustainable harvest limits and prevent overfishing of CPS, including Pacific sardine, Pacific mackerel, and northern anchovy.


A primary focus of the program is developing scientifically rigorous aerial survey methods. Over the first four field seasons, Pacific sardine schools were mostly observed close to shore along either mainland or island coasts. Boat-based groundtruthing confirmed the accuracy of aerial fish identification, and provided critical biological and environmental data.

Map illustrating Pacific sardine observations

Starting in summer 2013, other CPS were quantified including northern anchovy and Pacific mackerel. Both aerial and boat survey methods have been refined to improve data collection efficiency and accuracy, and staff have begun integrating all CPS observations into the program. Information from the aerial surveys will help to increase our understanding of the abundance and distribution of CPS in southern California.sidebar

CDFW coordinates with NOAA Fisheries and other West Coast agencies through the Pacific Fishery Management Council (PFMC) to manage Pacific sardine and other CPS fisheries included in the federal CPS Fishery Management Plan. PFMC uses stock assessments to set sustainable harvest limits that prevent overfishing of CPS populations. Once enough data are collected, CDFW will request that the PFMC include the California aerial survey data in future stock assessments of Pacific sardine and, potentially, other CPS. California aerial surveys would complement other types of surveys currently included in stock assessments, such as the ship-based acoustic surveys and fish egg surveys conducted farther off shore.

For more information about Pacific sardine research and management, please visit CDFW’s Pacific sardine webpage.



View original post: CDFW Marine Management News

Oct 15 2014

Jumbo squids attack Greenpeace submarine

dddThe Greenpeace Dual Deep Diver.

A pair of Greenpeace submariners have had their own “20,000 Leagues Under the Sea” experience on an expedition in the Bering Sea — in a scaled down sort of way. Rather than the Nautilus and a giant squid, the pair were in a Dual Deep Worker submersible when the encounter occurred.

And their attackers weren’t a squid of the giant variety, but a pair of Humboldt squids, nicknamed “jumbo squid” or “red devil” for their famed aggression and the red colour the squids turn when in hunting or attack mode.

Although these squids can get pretty big — up to 1.9 metres (6.2 ft) in mantle length and up to 50 kg (100 lb) in weight, these guys are relatively titchy — no longer than a few feet in length, maximum. Their size, however, is no indication of courage: coloured a brilliant red, they have a brave go at the sub before swimming off in a puff of ink.

The Humboldt squid’s tentacle suckers are lined with tiny, sharp teeth that can do some serious damage, so the Greenpeace divers were lucky to be protected by the submarine — though there are some scientists who believe that the cephalopods aren’t usually aggressive, and might have been set off in the first place by flashing or bright lights like the one on the Dual Deep Worker.


View original post: CNET



Oct 3 2014

Massive Pacific Coast die off of starfish continues, may be harbinger of climate change

Reposted by permission from: SEAFOODNEWS.COM [Newsweek] By Megan Scudellari – October 2, 2014

starfishdieoffPhoto Credit: WordPress – Dive.Roko

A grisly horror show is playing out along the West Coast of North America. Remains of millions of dead and dying sea stars, commonly known as starfish, litter the shoreline from Vancouver to San Diego.

Those stars are the victims of a swift and brutal illness. First, the animal’s body deflates, as if drained of all its water. Then the trademark arms begin to curl, detaching from rocks. White lesions appear, like festering canker sores. Then the star explodes as organs rupture though the body wall. The arms fall off. Ultimately, the sea star dissolves, as if melted by acid, disintegrating into goo.

Researchers in Washington state first noticed signs of the so-called “wasting syndrome” in June 2013 during routine monitoring of populations of bright purple and orange Pisaster ochraceus sea stars. The outbreak continued through the summer, spreading down into California’s central and southern coasts. Scientists hoped it would subside during the winter. It did not.

This summer, the outbreak morphed into a full-scale epidemic: Dead stars, of over 20 species, can now be found from Mexico all the way up to Alaska. It’s hard to find even a single group of stars that isn’t affected, says professor Drew Harvell of Cornell University, who spent the last year tracking the outbreak around the San Juan Islands near Seattle. The die-off is so bad that researchers have lost count of how many stars are lost. They estimate millions.

“It’s the largest epidemic we’ve ever seen with marine wildlife,” says Harvell. “We watched our populations go from thousands of stars to none over the space of a month.” The wasting syndrome has also been reported in populations along the East Coast, from New Jersey to Maine, though fewer monitoring programs exist there to quantify its spread.

Sea stars are voracious predators at the top of the coastal food chain, key members of the environment that chomp away on mussels, barnacles and more. Without sea stars, food webs are being upended: In Howe Sound, northwest of Vancouver, for example, green sea urchins, one of the sea stars’ prey, are flourishing and devouring large amounts of seaweed, once home to young spot prawns. The prawns used the seaweed as a nursery; without it, young prawns cannot flourish. And shorelines that used to be dotted with sea stars and other species are now blanketed with barnacles growing with abandon, a sign of the loss of biodiversity on the coast.

No one yet knows the exact causes of the epidemic. Some evidence suggests the outbreak is linked to warming ocean temperatures or other changes in the ocean due to climate change. It wouldn’t be the first time: Climate-related disease spread has been documented in corals and shellfish, although on a smaller scale than sea star wasting syndrome. This may be because infectious microorganisms thrive in warmer temperatures. Last year, for example, scientists found that ocean warming is promoting the growth and persistence of pathogenic bacteria in the North Sea in Europe.

Bruce Menge, an ocean ecologist at Oregon State University, has been studying sea stars along the Oregon coast for over 30 years. Now, at some of his study sites, he can no longer find even a single star. “Deep down, I worry this might be a harbinger of some impending, major problem resulting from climate change,” Menge says. “If what we’re seeing in this marine environment is any indication of what we might see in the future,” he adds, “it could lead to a complete alteration of coastal ecosystems,” ultimately affecting fish populations and the people that rely on them.

On the other hand, the death of captive sea stars in aquariums in both Seattle and Vancouver—in tanks that had maintained healthy populations for 40 years—suggests the cause is an infectious microorganism able to travel through water. Aquariums maintain constant temperatures in their tanks but fill them with circulating ocean water, so perhaps something in the water made the captive stars sick.

A team of eight pathologists, led by Alisa Newton of the Wildlife Conservation Society, closely examined slides of tissues harvested from dead or dying sea stars from both aquariums and the wild. “We haven’t seen, on slides, any parasite or fungus or specific organisms in the tissues,” Newton says. However, that rules out only infectious agents that are large enough to be seen with a light microscope.

To try to detect smaller microorganisms, Ian Hewson of Cornell, one of the few scientists in the world specializing in viruses that infect marine invertebrates, sequenced the DNA of hundreds of sea star samples to look for genetic evidence of a virus or small bacteria. He has recently found “quite conclusive” evidence for the involvement of at least one virus or bacteria, Harvell says, but until other scientists review that research, the Cornell team is declining to reveal the identity of the culprit.

Still, even if a virus or bacterium is implicated, Newton, Harvell and others agree the extent of the current wasting syndrome is most likely the result of multiple factors. Harvell’s team, for instance, detected a correlation between sea star deaths and warmer waters, so she and her team took sea stars into the lab, where they could control the environment, and found that the stars deteriorated faster at warmer temperatures. If warmer temperatures increase the speed or spread of the disease, that doesn’t bode well for the coming months: The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration is predicting that El Niño, a period of unusually warm sea surface temperatures in the Pacific, is likely to begin this fall and run into the winter.

On the flip side, the wasting syndrome appeared on the Oregon coast at the same time that deep, cold water rose up and filled the area, says Menge, so perhaps it is not warming waters but other effects of climate change, such as ocean acidification or lack of oxygen in the water, that led to the outbreak.

Either way, if the epidemic was exacerbated by climate change, similar widespread illnesses in other marine life may soon occur. Sea stars are, in a way, the canary in the coal mine of the ocean. “Honestly, if this had been a small worm or small crab, the whole thing could have happened and we never would have even known about it,” says Harvell. “Epidemics in the ocean are definitely out of sight and out of mind. As it was, it took a while for us to understand the scale of this.” Now, though, awareness is growing. In mid-September, for example, Rep. Denny Heck, D-Washington, introduced the Marine Disease Emergency Act to Congress,with the goal of creating a national response strategy to sea star wasting syndrome and future marine disease emergencies.

At the University of California, Santa Cruz, professor Pete Raimondi and his colleagues have been assessing the impact of the loss of the sea stars. They continue to monitor coastal areas to see if the absence of this top predator will cause predicted effects, such as increasing mussel populations and a loss of biodiversity. If so, that doesn’t bode well for the ecosystem.

But recently, Raimondi’s team saw small twinkles of hope dotting the rocky shore. Little juvenile stars, about the size of a thumbnail, are latching on to the coastline. Raimondi doesn’t know yet if these babies are susceptible to the disease. If they are, the new sea stars won’t live long enough to breed, and sea star populations may not recover next year. “This year might be the best, last chance for the animals,” says Menge.

But if the young stars are resistant to the epidemic and survive, there is hope—both for the stars and the ecosystems in which they live. “We should know in the next six months,” Raimondi says. “We’re tracking them. We’ll see whether the little guys grow.”

Seafood News


Ken Coons 1-781-861-1441
Email comments to

Copyright © 2014

Oct 2 2014

Is Ocean Acidification Affecting Squid?

A key animal in the marine food web may be vulnerable

Click below to begin video — or view the original video here. Produced by Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution.

Oct 2 2014

Do more fish in SoCal predict El Nino weather?

A number of exotic bounty normally found in more tropical waters have been popping up across Southern California, exciting fishermen and researchers alike.”This year is probably the first time in 15 years that we’ve had really good tuna fishing close to the California coastline,” said Dr. Chris Lowe, a professor at Cal State Long Beach’s Shark Lab.Tuna aren’t the only marine life turning up. Video from Dana Point Whale Watch shows a hammerhead shark attacking yellowfin tuna off the coast. Those who went to Manhattan Beach this summer were also greeted by blue creatures known as velella.

A hammerhead swims through Dana Point waters in this undated file photo. (Dave Beeninga,


But what’s bringing all the marine life to our ocean?

“The animals are following warm water and the prey that move with those conditions,” Lowe said.

Experts say ocean water temperatures last month alone hit 76 degrees, almost 10 degrees warmer than average.

“The last time we had conditions was in the late-80s when we had the strong El Nio periods,” Lowe said.

Lowe said it’s not yet clear if the increase in marine life signals a full El Nino.

“Normally, when we have El Nino conditions, we have really wet falls,” Lowe said. “We’re hoping that we get an El Nino that will bring us more water.”

View original story here.

Oct 1 2014

Celebrating Seafood, Sustainability, and Stewardship

A Message from Eileen Sobeck, Head of NOAA Fisheries | October 1, 2014

The arrival of fall can mean only one thing: Seafood.

Yes, while we at NOAA Fisheries appreciate the changing of the leaves and cooler temperatures that signify the change in seasons, for us fall is a celebration of seafood.

October is National Seafood Month and a chance for the “seafoodie” in each of us to rejoice. Nationwide, restaurants and markets showcase new seafood choices on their menus that are healthy and flavorful, and that highlight the sustainability of U.S. fisheries from Alaska to the Gulf of Mexico.

We know a little something about sustainably caught and farmed seafood, the jobs supported, and enjoyment experienced. Our science-based management process is delivering results benefiting both the environment and the economy. Of course, this wouldn’t be possible without the contributions and commitment of our partners and stakeholders who have helped make the U.S. a world leader in the successful stewardship of marine resources.

Seafood has become a powerful ambassador for global ocean stewardship—effectively connecting the wellbeing of human populations to the health and productivity of our ocean resources; and, more importantly, our collective responsibility for their stewardship.

Throughout National Seafood Month, NOAA Fisheries will feature stories and updates underscoring the successes and challenges of sustainable fisheries and the seafood they provide. We’ll also highlight the collaborative efforts of the commercial fishing, seafood and aquaculture industries, recreational and subsistence anglers, and conservation communities that will help us move forward and build on our successes.

So we invite you to explore seafood this month, knowing that you and NOAA Fisheries have helped make that enjoyment possible.

e_sobeck_leader_messageEileen Sobeck
Assistant Administrator for NOAA Fisheries



Photo Journey: Fisheries Research Expedition
Black Sea Bass is Rebuilt
Have Your Hake and Eat It Too
Efforts to Support and Streamline Seafood Trade
Fine Cooking on the High Seas

The ABCs of Stock Assessments
Sustainable Seafood: A U.S. Success Story
Healthy Habitat: Key to Our Seafood and Fisheries
Get to Know Your Seafood from Ocean to Plate
U.S. Marine Aquaculture: A Promising Future
Getting Back to Local
The Great American Surfclam
Protecting Our Seafood and Marine Resources

Seafood Fraud—Detection and Prevention
Keeping an Eye on Pollock
Feeds of the Future