Archive for November, 2014

Nov 25 2014

Above-normal rainfall now predicted


The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration is predicting our area to experience above-average rainfall this season. (Photo: Provided/NOAA)


By the end of this week, be sure to start battening down the hatches.

Weather officials on Monday updated a rain outlook for the month of December, saying now that there will be above-normal rainfall moving toward the New Year that will have a significant effect on the drought outlook.

Logan Johnson, warning coordination meteorologist at the National Weather Service in Monterey, said above-normal precipitation is expected across the entire state during December, and that for central and southern California, the wet stuff is likely to keep coming throughout the rainy season, which runs through February.

“This very welcome news and should improve drought conditions statewide,” Johnson said.

In fact, according to Rich Tinker of the Climate Prediction Center at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the above-normal rainfall this season is knocking the Central Coast down a notch on the U.S. Seasonal Drought Outlook.

Up until Friday, the majority of California was listed as an area where “drought persists or intensifies.” Now, because of soppy month ahead, the Central Coast and most of the rest of the state is listed as “drought remains but improves.” Temperatures, however, are expected to remain warmer than normal, which will further support this year as one of the warmest on record.

Forecasters say the above-normal precipitation headed this way during the rainy season should not be thought of as any kind of drought-buster. The region has experienced too many years of drought for it to end in one above-average year; it would take several above-average years to get the area back to normal.

The early part of this week is forecast for sunny autumn weather, but a high-pressure ridge is expected to break down on Friday, allowing a rain front to move into Northern California that will work its way south by Saturday.

“There remains uncertainty with regards to exact timing and amount of rainfall expected with this frontal passage,” according to a statement issued early Monday afternoon by the NWS.

A rain-friendly, upper-level, low-pressure system will move into the Bay Area Sunday and Monday bringing with it widespread rain, the NWS predicts, but ends with a cautionary note that the amount of rain cannot be accurately predicted since the forecast is projected out five to eight days.

“However, there is increasing confidence that the [San Francisco/Monterey] region will enter into a wet period that will last into early next week,” the NWS said Monday.

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Nov 25 2014

Commercial Dungeness Crab Season Opens Dec. 1 in Northern California


The northern California Dungeness crab season will open at 12:01 a.m. on Monday, Dec. 1, 2014 north of the Sonoma-Mendocino county line.

Prior to the season opening, commercial fishermen are allowed a 64-hour gear setting period. This year, crab trap gear can be set no earlier than 8 a.m. on Friday, Nov. 28.

Quality tests conducted in northern California in November indicate that California Dungeness crabs are ready for harvest. For the results from the pre-season quality tests, please visit the PSMFC website.

Oregon and Washington Dungeness crab seasons will also open on Dec. 1. The central California Dungeness crab season (Sonoma-Mendocino county line to Mexico border) opened on Nov. 15.

For more information on Dungeness crab, please visit the Invertebrate Management Project web page.
Nov 25 2014

Kayakers Blown Out to Sea Rescued by Squid-Fishing Boats

High winds blew six kayakers out to sea, where squid-fishing boats and lifeguards on Jetskis rescued them

Six kayakers were blown a mile out to sea, and rescued by squid fishing boat crews, as 50-mile-per-hour Santa Ana winds cropped up suddenly in Malibu Sunday.

Sustained winds of 47 miles per hour, and a gust of 81 mph, were recorded in the hills above Malibu Sunday, as the six kayakers were blown south.

A large fleet of squid-fishing boats from Port Hueneme had been clustered near Point Mugu, taking advantage of ocean currents that concentrate squid there.

At least two of the kayaks were snared by the squid fleet to prevent them from being blown further out to sea. Lifeguards then used “Jetski”-type watercraft to tow the kayaks back to shore at about 9 a.m.

The rescue was a joint operation of lifeguards from Ventura and Los Angeles counties, and California State Parks.

Paramedics examined the kayakers at Countyline Beach and pronounced them fine. Lifeguards said the people had been fishing just west of the Los Angeles-Ventura county line.

Winds had been calm in western Malibu at 7 a.m., but were blowing at up to 50 miles per hour at Leo Carrillo Beach, straight out to sea, when the rescue occurred.

In Malibu, power lines were reported down on Latigo Canyon Road, one mile uphill from Pacific Coast Highway. Traffic was getting through in the area, a deputy said, and no fire was reported.

“When the winds are blowing offshore, it’s a bad time to kayak,” observed LA County Lifeguards Capt. Dan Murphy. “Make sure to have a signal device, and a personal flotation device.”

Earlier in the day, four paddleboarders were reported in distress to LA County lifeguards at around 11:30 a.m.

They were out in sustained 45 mph winds that stopped them from paddling back to shore, so the Malibu watch boat picked them up.

The hurricane-force, 81 mph wind gust was reported at a Mesonet weather station operated by a homeowner near Saddle Peak, at the 1,500 foot elevation. It was reported on the National Weather Service website at 10:15 a.m. That was not an official NWS reading, however.

Along the beach, palm fronds, eucalyptus branches and tumbleweeds were observed blowing across PCH at 8 a.m.



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Nov 21 2014

Surrogate sushi: Japan biotech for bluefin tuna

AP Business Writer

TATEYAMA, Japan (AP) – Of all the overfished fish in the seas, luscious, fatty bluefin tuna are among the most threatened. Marine scientist Goro Yamazaki, who is known in this seaside community as “Young Mr. Fish,” is working to ensure the species survives.

Yamazaki is fine-tuning a technology to use mackerel surrogates to spawn the bluefin, a process he hopes will enable fisheries to raise the huge, torpedo-shaped fish more quickly and at lower cost than conventional aquaculture. The aim: to relieve pressure on wild fish stocks while preserving vital genetic diversity.

Yamazaki, 48, grew up south of Tokyo in the ancient Buddhist capital of Kamakura, fishing and swimming at nearby beaches. His inspiration hit 15 years ago while he was out at sea during graduate studies at the Tokyo University of Marine Science and Technology, and a school of bluefin tuna streaked by.

“They swam just under the boat, and they were shining metallic blue. A beautiful animal,” Yamazaki said. “Before that, tuna was just an ingredient in sushi or sashimi, but that experience changed bluefin tuna into a wild animal to me.”

An animal, that like so many other species, is endangered due to soaring consumption and aggressive modern harvesting methods that have transformed the bluefin, also known as “honmaguro” and “kuromaguro,” from a delicacy into a commonly available, if pricey, option at any sushi bar.

This month, experts in charge of managing Atlantic bluefin met in Italy and raised the quota for catches of Atlantic bluefin tuna by 20 percent over three years. Stocks have recovered somewhat after a severe decline over the past two decades as fishermen harvested more to meet soaring demand, especially in Japan.

But virtually in tandem with that, the International Union for Conservation of Nature put Pacific bluefin tuna on its “Red List,” designating it as a species threatened by extinction.

About a quarter of all tuna are consumed by the Japanese, according to the United Nations Food and Agricultural Organization. They gobble up most – between 60 percent and 80 percent – of all bluefin. Rosy, fatty “chu-toro” from the upper part of bluefin bellies, is especially prized for sushi and sashimi.

Out at his seaside lab in Tateyama, on the far northern rim of Tokyo Bay, Yamazaki and other researchers are hoping their latest attempt to get mackerel to spawn bluefin will prove a success. An earlier attempt failed due to what he thinks was a problem with the water temperature.

Yamazaki’s technique involves extracting reproductive stem cells from the discarded guts of tuna shipped by cold delivery from fish farms and inserting them into mackerel fry so tiny they are barely visible.

The baby fish are put in an anesthetic solution and then transferred by dropper onto a slide under the microscope. Researcher Ryosuke Yazawa deftly inserts a minute glass needle into one’s body cavity to demonstrate.

Under the right conditions, the tuna stem cells migrate into the ovaries and testes of the mackerel. The team is now waiting to see if the mackerel, when mature, will spawn tuna, and if the tuna will survive. Following that, they could be released into the sea or farmed.

The research team has already succeeded in using surrogate technology to produce tiger puffer fish, the poisonous “fugu” used in sashimi and hotpot, using smaller grass puffer fish. It has produced trout spawned by salmon. Companies that import rare and tropical fish also are interested in the technology.

The method could help reduce pressure on wild populations, Yamazaki hopes, and also help ensure the greater genetic diversity needed to preserve various species.

Though he started out working in the field of genetic modification, Yamazaki emphasizes that his techniques involve only surrogate reproduction, not GM.

The main “tricks,” as he calls them, are using baby fish as future surrogates, because their immature immune systems will not reject the tuna cells, and relying on the natural tendency of the reproductive stem cells to mature and produce viable offspring. To simplify matters, the lab is using triploid, or sterile hybrid fish commonly bred at fish farms, that will not develop eggs or sperm of their own species.

Yamazaki expects his research to be useful for commercial purposes. Though researchers elsewhere have succeeded in breeding tuna in captivity, the process is costly and survival rates are low. Mackerel, less than a foot long when caught, are much easier to handle and keep in land-based tanks than tuna, which can grow to nearly the size of a small car and require far more food per fish. The mackerel also mature more quickly and spawn more frequently, if they are well fed and kept at the right temperature.

Not all experts favor such high-tech solutions for the bluefin.

Amanda Nickson, director of global tuna conservation for The Pew Charitable Trusts, said the partial recovery of Atlantic bluefin stocks shows that enforcement of catch limits, backed by threats of trade bans, can work.

Earlier this year, the multi-nation fisheries body that monitors most of the Pacific Ocean recommended limiting the catch of juvenile bluefin tuna to half the average level of 2002-2004. Scientists found that stocks of the species had dwindled to less than 4 percent of their original size. It also found that most fish caught were juveniles less than 3 years old, before they reach reproductive maturity.

The group set a 10-year target of rebuilding the population to 8 percent of its original size.

“As long as you don’t take too many, those populations can rebuild and rebuild fairly effectively,” she said.

Perhaps so, said Yamazaki, but over the centuries, humans have repeatedly over consumed resources, sometimes past the point of no return.

“Japanese people eat tuna from all over the world. We have to do something. That is the motivation for my research.”

5903779_G(AP Photo/Tokyo University of Marine Science and Technology, Goro Yamazaki)

5903780_G(AP Photo/Elaine Kurtenbach)

5903781_G(AP Photo/Elaine Kurtenbach)

5903782_G(AP Photo/Shizuo Kambayashi, File). FILE – In this Jan. 5, 2014 file photo, people watch a bluefin tuna laid in front of a sushi restaurant near Tsukiji fish market after the year’s celebratory first auction in Tokyo.

5903783_G(AP Photo/Elaine Kurtenbach)

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Nov 20 2014

San Francisco can’t keep up with bonanza Dungeness crab catch

Posted by permission of SEAFOODNEWS.COM  – November 19, 2014



If you are hoping to eat crab on Thanksgiving, you’ll love this. Crab boats are coming back absolutely loaded to the gills. The only downside is that huge catch is creating a few challenges.

Pier 45 has been dealing with a bottleneck of boats trying to deliver their catch. Several boats are still parked in the bay waiting to deliver their catch and head back out to fish. That means the dock workers will be working past midnight for the fourth day in a row.

Since the beginning of the commercial crab season began on Saturday, an estimated 400 boats have been delivering a steady stream of crab to Pier 45.

“We stayed until 2 or 3 last night,” president of the Crab Boat Association Larry Collins said. When we asked him how much sleep he got, he replied, “Not much.”

Many boats have been parked in the bay waiting to deliver. Crews are pumping in oxygen to keep their catch alive.

“We just don’t have the facilities here to unload any more than we are,” skipper Dan Hunt said. He explained in the meantime, “We just sit on crab. Pump on them, keep them alive until the market can take them.”

“It doesn’t look like there’s much crab in Eureka, Crescent City or Brookings, so everybody and their brother came down for this opener,” Collins said.

Skipper Brian Kelley and his crew, from Fort Brag hauled in 30,000 pounds in the first three days. This all amounts to plenty of overtime pay for Juan Cornejo who straps rubber bands around the claws of the Dungeness crabs and gets his share of pinches. He said it happens twice a day.

The crabbers are getting $3 a pound and by the time it’s shipped, boiled, cracked and put on your plate at the restaurant, the price is about $10.95 a pound.

“Yeah, a lot of good crab this year. It’s all 2.5 pounds or bigger. Usually, they’re about a pound and a half to two,” C.J. Green form Alioto’s restaurant said.

Eventually, the crab harvest will thin out and the price will claw its way up. But until then, crab lovers are being encouraged to come and get it.

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Nov 18 2014

UC Santa Cruz researchers say densovirus may be responsible for wiping out West Coast starfish

Posted with permission from SEAFOODNEWS.COM

[San Francisco Chronicle] by Peter Fimrite – November 18, 2014

Seafood News

Scientists have identified a virus that they believe is the mysterious killer that is wiping out starfish along the Pacific coast, but they can’t figure out why it suddenly became so deadly or whether it will continue its reign of destruction.

The pathogen believed responsible for causing millions of sea stars along the coast of California to wither and die was identified as a densovirus, a type of parvovirus, researchers at UC Santa Cruz and Cornell University said Monday.The disease was found not only in the tissues of its victims, but in brittle stars, which are closely related, and sea urchins.

It was also in seawater and sediments collected from affected areas, including Santa Cruz and Monterey, according to a paper published Monday in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.  Strangely, the virus was also detected in museum specimens dating back to 1942, meaning the disease has been lurking for decades but only recently turned deadly, said co-author Peter Raimondi, chairman of the ecology and evolutionary biology department at UC Santa Cruz. The virus wiped out starfish along huge swaths of the coast from Mexico to Alaska starting last year and has recently gone on a rampage through the Olympic Coast, in Washington state.

“What is unresolved is why it is so virulent,” said Raimondi, who leads the Pacific Rocky Intertidal Monitoring Program, which has been documenting the spread of the disease along the West Coast. “This virus has been around for at least 70 years, which brings up the question of why now?”

Another conundrum, said Raimondi, is the fact that the virus is present in other species, like sea urchins, which have not been dying nearly as much as starfish.

“Even if they don’t get infected, they carry it,” Raimondi said of the sea urchins. “That could be very problematic with respect to recovery.”

The mysterious pathogen, dubbed sea star wasting disease, was first detected in the summer of 2013 in Southern California. It was then found in tide pool areas along the coast of Monterey and has since spread through Oregon, Washington, British Columbia and southern Alaska. The telltale sign of the syndrome was that it caused starfish to become mushy and deteriorate until body parts began falling off.  Dead and dying starfish have been found close to shore and deeper underwater.

The disease even found its way last year into the filtration system of the Monterey Bay Aquarium, which uses seawater in its tanks. The virus has ravaged 20 varieties of starfish, going through a kind of progression, usually starting with the Ochre star, the purple or orange starfish most commonly seen in intertidal regions, Raimondi said. The pathogen has also ravaged the population of sunflower stars, the largest sea stars in the world. Short-spined sea stars and giant sea stars have also been hit hard. Raimondi said starfish feed on a variety of invertebrates, including mussels, sea urchins, clams and snails, which could be a source of the spreading disease.

The pathogen can also spread in the water almost like the common cold among the dense, often interwoven, populations of starfish, he said.The disappearance of starfish could have serious consequences by shifting the ecological balance of the sea. Mussels and other starfish prey could begin to overpopulate areas where their numbers were once controlled, Raimondi said. As a result, he said, fish, invertebrates, crabs and other species that feed on algae, plants and other sea life that thrive when starfish are in control will be marginalized and forced to look elsewhere for food.

Signs of hope

There is a light, however, amid the darkness. Huge numbers of baby sea stars have appeared in previously devastated sites in the Monterey Bay region, according to surveys conducted this year. In one study site, on a reef called Terrace Point, off Santa Cruz, researchers found more juvenile sea stars than have seen in 15 years of monitoring.

“There were just immense numbers of babies,” said Raimondi, who believes the diseased and dying sea stars went into reproductive mode, shooting out sperm and eggs as an evolutionary response to stress. “If they live, it’s going to mean we are going to have a recovery here in the next few years.”

Problem persists

Raimondi said the discovery of the suspected killer does not resolve the problem, but it helps in the quest to figure out what is going on in the ocean and, perhaps, prepare for change.

“One question is whether this virus evolved and became much more lethal,” Raimondi said. “The other possibility is that there is an environmental stress that is causing sea stars to become more susceptible, for instance warmer water or ocean acidification. It could be both. We don’t know. Our research will be looking at whether this is an isolated example or whether these things could become more common in the future. One question is whether this virus evolved and became much more lethal.”

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Nov 18 2014

Why isn’t anyone talking about Ocean Acidification?


Climate change is not the only outcome of increased greenhouse gas concentrations. The oceans have absorbed a lot of the excess carbon in the atmosphere, reducing the impacts of climate change to date, but at a cost. Higher concentrations of carbon dioxide (CO2) in the atmosphere have led to an increase in acidity of ocean water, a process known as ocean acidification. The process of acidification is laid out by Cheryl Logan in a user-friendly 2010 summary in the journal Bioscience.

Ocean acidification occurs when CO2 dissolves in ocean water, undergoing a chemical reaction that produces carbonic acid. The rate of this reaction is completely predictable and as a result the progression of acidification as CO2 levels increase is completely predictable. Unlike climate change, ocean acidification is not controversial at all—basically nobody disputes that it is happening—and happening rapidly.

As Logan explains, acidity is measured through the concentration of hydrogen ions—called the pH scale, for power of hydrogen—more hydrogen equals greater acidity. Since the late 19th century, the concentration of hydrogen ions in the ocean has increased by 30%, and that will increase another 150% by 2100, according to common emissions projections.

That is a massive change to ocean chemistry in a short amount of time, and many of the ocean’s inhabitants are struggling to adapt. The shells of many marine organisms are made of calcium carbonate, which is highly susceptible to acid. Logan explains how some organisms are starting to have trouble forming new shells, and in extreme cases, existing shells are getting thinner.

Just in case the plight of a few snails seems like a relatively minor concern, the issue goes well beyond snails. Corals, sea urchins, many species of plankton- organisms crucial to marine habitats and food webs- all rely on calcium carbonate as part of their structure. Some research even suggests that acidification can disrupt the ability of plants to perform photosynthesis. As marine organisms are responsible for much of the Earth’s oxygen production, this might one day threaten our very survival.

Acidification has the potential to completely disrupt the ocean’s—and perhaps even the planet’s—ecosystem before climate change has a chance to do so. Despite the urgency Logan describes, the American public is largely unaware of the issue. Public awareness notwithstanding, the solution to ocean acidification is straightforward: burn less carbon. Efforts to curb the climate change will address acidification as well, but progress is slow. It is astounding that such a key issue, one that might genuinely threaten our survival as a species, is still so little-known.

JSTOR Citations:

A Review of Ocean Acidification and America’s Response
Cheryl A. Logan
Vol. 60, No. 10 (November 2010), pp. 819-828
Published by: Oxford University Press

Marine and Coastal Science: Will Ocean Acidification Erode the Base of the Food Web?
Carol Potera
Environmental Health Perspectives
Vol. 118, No. 4 (APRIL 2010), p. A157
Published by: The National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS)

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Nov 18 2014

Dungeness crab fishery opens on Central California Coast, hundreds of boats participate

Published with permission from SEAFOODNEWS.COM by John Sackton Nov. 18, 2014
The Central California dungeness crab season opened on Saturday, and initial reports are that the catches are going well.

“”We’re guardedly optimistic,” said Zeke Grader executive director of the Pacific Coast Federation of Fishermen’s Association.

“We could very well be looking at year records for this time of year, but that doesn’t mean there’s necessarily more crab than in previous years, it just means more crab has been harvested earlier.”

Each year vessels in the northern zones of California and Oregon have to make a decision whether to participate in the early Bay Area fishery that opens November 15th, or wait until the regular season opens in the Northern sections, which usually is around December 1st, but can be delayed by slow growth of the crabs.

Any vessel fishing in the southern zone has to wait 30 days after the northern seasons open before itr can return to fish in the northern areas.

This year, most boats from Crescent city in Northern California set out to fish the Bay area, based on reports of abundant crabs, and the recent facts that the central area has landed more crab than the north.

Last year, the northern area landed about 6.68 million lbs, while the southern area landed 10.41 million lbs.  This is different than the historical average, where landings are generally higher in the north.

In Northern California, Oregon and Washington, the opening is determined by when a test fishery operated by the three states shows the crabs have sufficient meat fill, above 25%.  This year, the tests are being done as late as possible.

Anecdotal reports from some of the sport fisheries suggest the crabs have good meat fill, and that the season may open on December 1st.

Tests for Eureka and Crescent city should be available later this week.

Between 2013 and 2014, dungeness landings coast wide fell about 28%.  The shortfall, combined with strong live market demand from china, has led to consistently high dungeness prices over the past year.

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Nov 9 2014

Morro Bay’s fishing industry reels in largest catch in 20 years

6.8 million pounds of fish landings were reported in 2013 in Morro Bay, up from low of 668,866 pounds in 2007, study of data from Department of Fish and Wildlife reveals

By Nick Wilson | November 6, 2014


The fishing industry in Morro Bay has regained its sea legs, bouncing back from a 20-year low in 2007 to post its largest catch by volume since 1993, according to an economic impact report released this week.

Lisa Wise Consulting Inc. compiled the study, which showed a boost in earnings of more than 300 percent from about $2 million in 2007 to about $7.1 million in 2013 — the latest year of data accumulated.

The report documents a rise in fish landings from a low of 668,866 pounds in 2007 to nearly 6.8 million pounds in 2013, the highest single-year landing total since the boom times of the early ’90s.

The report relies on figures documented under government regulations, including information provided by the fishing industry to the Marine Fisheries Statistical Unit at the California Department of Fish and Wildlife.

This is the fourth consecutive year of the report, which was produced this year with $6,000 in funding provided by the Central California Joint Cable/Fisheries Liaison Committee. The Morro Bay Commercial Fishermen’s Organization also partners in the project. “As fishermen, we have an understanding of the industry, but others often don’t,” said Jeremiah O’Brien, a member and past president of the Morro Bay Commercial Fishermen’s Organization. “We do those reports to show people what’s happening.”

Lots of good news
The latest data shows a steady trend of increased earnings and landings, although the figures haven’t yet matched peak years of the 1990s, which topped 9 million pounds of landings in 1990 and eclipsed 10 million in 1993.

In 2008, the city of Morro Bay paid for an economic study that predicted a change from a once-thriving fishing industry to a primarily recreational fishing and boating area.

However, the city has since recognized the recovery of the commercial fishing industry, which “should continue to play a significant role in the social and economic future of Morro Bay,” staff members wrote in a recent report.

One of the factors that contributed to the decade-long decline in Morro Bay’s fishing industry — in additional to environmental closures and restrictions of fishing in certain ocean areas — occurred in 2006 with the purchase of Morro Bay’s fishing quota.

The Nature Conservancy bought out Morro Bay’s entire trawl fishing industry in 2006 with the goal of protecting and growing fish populations while limiting fishing.

About eight trawlers left the business, which exacerbated the decline in landings in those years, O’Brien said.

Since that time, the local industry has steadily improved, and earlier this year, the Conservancy transferred the quotas to the Morro Bay Community Quota Fund, which manages the fishing quota and leases fishing permits to local fishermen, who may trawl under specified environmental restrictions such as avoiding trawling in coral reef areas.

How the catch evolved
While the overall catch and earnings have climbed in recent years, landings of certain species have declined along with closures and regulations on uses of fishing equipment.

The salmon catch, for example, dropped to 45,000 pounds in 2013, from around 200,000 pounds per year in much of the 1990s.

And halibut, which must be fished outside of three miles from shore, has remained low for the past decade with a total of about 10,328 pounds landed in 2013 compared with takes of more than 40,000 pounds in the early 1990s.

But other species — including Dungeness crab and squid — have spiked.

Crab accounted for 17 percent of 2013 earnings in Morro Bay, climbing to a 20-year high of more than 300,000 pounds in landings.

There were 170,000 pounds of crab caught in 2006, which was the previous high in the past two decades. There was little to no crab caught between 2008 and 2011.

“The last couple of years we’ve seen a lot more crab,” O’Brien said. “Crab is typically cyclical, and we’ll have bigger catches usually about every six years. But they’ve been spawning in big numbers the past three in a row.”

The squid catch has also swelled, with landings of more than 4 million pounds in 2013.

That total hasn’t been matched since 1993, the only other year in the past two decades to top 4 million pounds of squid.

O’Brien said that a couple of fishing boats have made the investment in catching large numbers of squid along the Central Coast, which has kept squid processing companies from Watsonville and San Pedro, the closest around, returning to Morro Bay because it’s worth their while.

Another factor in the boom in local crab and squid fishing has been a trending preference for the seafood in China, where local buyers are shipping their products.

Local fishermen including Bill Blue have seen their sales of live crab, transported to China, significantly boost income over the past few years.

Like fellow anglers, Blue fishes for a variety of species, including black cod, but the high price that crab fetches in China is too lucrative to pass up.

“It’s good for business, but sad in some ways because you don’t see as many local restaurants buying crab because of the high price (driven by the Chinese market),” Blue said. “That means local people can’t go and get them as easily.”


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Nov 7 2014

Meteorologist explains El Niño, likely to develop this winter

Republished with permission of SEAFOODNEWS.COM November 6, 2014
In 1997-1998 abnormally high ocean temperatures off South America caused a collapse of the anchovy fisheries. Anchovies are a vital link in the food chain, and shortages can bring great hardship. Weather extremes associated with the event caused 2,000 deaths and $33 million (€26 million) in property damage. One commentator wrote that the warming event had “more energy than a million Hiroshima bombs”.

As it is not uncommon for an ocean warming to commence around Christmas, the fisherman of Peru call it El Niño, the Christ child. El Niño occurs when the temperature of the equatorial ocean west of South America is above normal, but its effects are more widespread.

Weather patterns in Indonesia and Australasia and the monsoons of southern Asia are affected. East Africa and North America also feel its impact. The heavy rainfall of Indonesia ceases, and droughts and wildfires are common in southeast Asia and Australia. Meanwhile, the mid- Pacific suffers a deluge.

During El Niño, the trade winds – which normally blow towards the west – weaken, allowing warm water from the western Pacific to slosh eastwards. El Niño lasts from a few months to a year or more and occurs about twice each decade, but its period is very irregular. It is linked to a see-saw pattern in which pressure in Tahiti is high when it is low in Darwin and vice versa. Together, this gives us Enso (El Niño southern oscillation).

Since February of 2014, some atmospheric models have been predicting the onset of El Nino, but it never quite materializes.

At the moment, there is evidence of warming along the South American Pacific coast, but that has not yet reached El Nino thresholds, despite disrupting the anchovy fisheries.

The current NOAA forecast says “Similar to last month, most models predict El Niño to develop during October-December 2014 and to continue into early 2015. However, the ongoing lack of clear atmosphere-ocean coupling and the latest NCEP CFSv2 model forecast have reduced confidence that El Niño will fully materialize. If El Niño does emerge, the forecaster consensus favors a weak event. In summary, there is a 58% chance of El Niño during the Northern Hemisphere winter, which is favored to last into the Northern Hemisphere spring 2015.

In Australia the Bureau of Meteorology says  “Weather conditions similar to El Nino will continue amid warming of the Pacific Ocean as thresholds for the event that brings drought to Asia and heavier-than-usual rains to South America may be reached by early next year.

Three of eight climate models may reach El Nino thresholds in January and another two remain just shy of the levels, the Australia’s Bureau of Meteorology said on its website today, maintaining an Oct. 21 outlook. The forecaster kept a watch status, indicating at least a 50 percent chance of a weak to moderate event, it said.

The bureau has pushed back projections for the onset of El Nino as changes to the atmosphere have failed to develop consistently. A weak event will probably develop by year end, MDA Weather Services predicted last month. El Ninos can roil agricultural markets as farmers contend with drought or too much rain. Palm oil, cocoa, coffee and sugar are among crops most at risk, Goldman Sachs Group Inc. has said.

“Sea surface temperatures in the tropical Pacific Ocean have warmed over the past two months, and the Southern Oscillation Index has remained negative, but indicators generally remain in the neutral range,” the bureau said. “The existence of warmer-than-average water in the tropical Pacific sub-surface supports a continuation of the current near-El Nino conditions.”

While sea-surface temperatures are warmer than normal across most areas in the tropical Pacific ocean, it still doesn’t qualify as an El Nino, Kyle Tapley, senior agricultural meteorologist at MDA said in response to e-mailed questions. Some additional warming could lead to the development of a weak El Nino, he said.