Archive for March, 2015

Mar 7 2015

SavingSeaFood – Fishing industry takes PBS to task for misleading promotion

Dear Ms. Kerger,

We in the U.S. commercial fishing industry have for the most part become inured to the distorted, mean spirited and too often self-serving attacks on domestic fish, domestic fishing and domestic fishermen that if not encouraged are definitely facilitated by a “news” industry that seems to put a much greater premium on shock value than on journalistic integrity. However, like most of our fellow citizens, we have felt that PBS has remained above that particular fray, being fortunate enough to be the recipient of significant public support.

Speaking for our membership, which is composed of the leaders of trade organizations that represent fishermen, processors and dealers who handle well over half of the fish and shellfish landed by U.S. vessels in U.S. ports, we were shocked by a promotional spot for your new series Wild. In it researcher Jeremy Jackson indicted by implication every U.S. fisherman – recreational, commercial, or party/charter – and the federal fisheries management system that we are and have been heavily invested in making the best in the world since the passage of the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act in 1976.

Dr. Jackson started off by displaying three photographs of anglers, boat crews and dead fish. The first showed a dozen or so very large grouper. The second showed perhaps fifty not so large grouper, snapper, jacks and porgy. The third showed seven fish, possibly bonito. He then said “there’s just no way that one can misinterpret what’s happened here, which is that we’ve eaten all of these (first picture) and we’ve eaten all of these (second picture) and now all we have left is these (third picture). These are emblematic of a panoply of gigantic creatures that used to live here.”

In fact it’s very easy to misinterpret what’s happening anywhere with anything based on an analysis of three photographs taken over a period of maybe 50 years with no information other than what’s depicted in those photos. And it’s apparent that’s what Dr. Jackson did.

The large grouper in the first photograph are goliath grouper. Their harvest and possession has been prohibited by federal and state law since 1990. Since this total moratorium was put in place the stock has recovered to such an extent that these large grouper are interfering with other fisheries and the managers are being pressured to open a restricted fishery on them. But since 1990 it would be illegal to have even one goliath grouper on a dock.

Of the four taxa of fish that predominate in the second photograph, the various species are now managed by size and possession limits and most have closed seasons as well.

A brief and easily accomplished review of the commercial and recreational catch data or of the more difficult to understand assessment data would reveal the true condition of the various stocks with significantly more accuracy than would holding three undated, undocumented photographs in front of a video camera. That’s why in the U.S. we spend tens of millions of dollars a year to collect that data.

We have not caught and eaten all of the big fish, nor have we caught and eaten all of the medium sized fish. In fact, from a resource perspective our fisheries are on the whole in much better shape than they have been in since the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act became law in 1976 and our management system is one of the most effective in the world.

Particularly considering the fact that PBS is in large part publicly funded, we would expect you to put more reliance on fact checking and less on sensationalist hype. There are fisheries scientists and professional managers whose objectivity is accepted by fishermen, the management establishment and other researchers who we would be eager to put PBS in touch with at any point in the future.

Nils E. Stolpe (for the Seafood Coalition)

Alaska Bering Sea Crabbers, American Albacore Fishing Association, Atlantic Capes Fisheries, At-sea Processors Association, Blue Water Fishermen’s Association, California Wetfish Producers Association, Coalition of Coastal Fisheries, Columbia River Crab Fishermen’s Association. Coos Bay Trawlers Association, Directed Sustainable Fisheries, Fisheries Survival Fund, Fishermen’s Dock Cooperative, Fishermen’s Marketing Association, Garden State Seafood Association, Groundfish Forum, Long Island Commercial Fishing Association, Midwater Trawlers Cooperative, Monkfish Defense Fund, National Fisheries Institute, North Carolina Fisheries Association, Oregon Trawl Commission, Organized Fishermen of Florida, Pacific Seafood Processors Association, Pacific Whiting Conservation Cooperative, South Carolina Seafood Alliance, Southeastern Fisheries Association, United Catcher Boats, Washington Dungeness Crab Fishermen’s Association, Washington Trollers Association, West Coast Seafood Processors Association, Western Fishboat Owners Association


Mar 7 2015 Replaces Reality, Regulation and History with Hyperbole

Original post: | © 2015 National Fisheries Institute | Published with permission.


A story this week on about the state of the seafood industry is packed with sensationalism and hyperbole, yet absent much of the real science, facts and figures that drive actual sustainability.

To begin, U.S. fisheries are among the world’s best managed and most sustainable. Though not referenced by name a single time in this article, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, NOAA, regulates U.S. seafood with headquarters in Washington D.C., five regional offices, six science centers and more than 20 laboratories around the country and U.S. territories.

Author John Roach, however, perpetuates doom and gloom throughout this piece, asserting “voids” left by cod, halibut and salmon that need to be filled by other fish. We’re guessing Mr. Roach isn’t aware that salmon shattered modern-day records in 2014, returning to the Columbia River Basin in the highest numbers since fish counting began at Bonneville Dam more than 75 years ago. Could you tell us again about that void?

Mr. Roach also intones a narrative of sustainability disaster for popular predators like tuna but forgot to mention groups like the International Seafood Sustainability Foundation (ISSF), a coalition created through a partnership between WWF, the world’s leading conservation organization, and canned tuna companies from across the globe to insure the long-term conservation and sustainable use of tuna stocks. In an article that claims the sky is falling for species like tuna it’s odd that ISSF gets nary a nod or even a mention.

Switching gears, Mr. Roach goes on to blame giant trawlers “armed” with technology and massive nets as part of the reason we’re “running low” on fish. As in any industry, technology gets better by the day, creating more efficient ways to do business. However, new technology is by no means exempt from standing national and global fishery regulations, such as catch-limits, by-catch laws, compliance, and so forth. To suggest that enhanced technology or “bigger or faster” boats are causing our fish supplies to dwindle ignores the impact of technology on sustainability and even regulatory oversight. There are pros and cons to every catch-method and there is no one-size-fits all solution to sustainability challenges but to blame technology without recognizing its contribution to solutions is folly.

Hyperbolic rhetoric about sustainability continues to be discounted by legitimate fisheries experts in the scientific community. In fact, one “report” forecasting empty oceans by 2048 was challenged by a number of independent researchers who described the study that promoted the statistics as, “flawed and full of errors.” Including Ray Hilborn, a professor of aquatic and fishery sciences at the University of Washington in Seattle whose research into the study lead him to say, “this particular prediction has zero credibility within the scientific community.” After Hilborn’ s analysis the author of the original study himself explained that his research was not in fact predicting worldwide fish stock collapse at all but merely examining trends. Articles like this track along precisely with the discounted, overblown storyline that gave birth to the empty oceans by 2048 nonsense.

Whether you’re a “natural optimist” or not, there is no question that seafood harvested from U.S. fisheries is inherently sustainable as a result of NOAA’s fishery management process and global fisheries management is far from the wild west scenario bandied about.  Things aren’t perfect and there’s work to be done but the “game” is not “almost over” and those who suggest it is, willfully propagate that narrative not because it’s accurate but because bad news sells.

Mar 6 2015

10 unexpected foods on TIME’s 50 Healthiest Foods’ list

istock-sardinesSardines on TIME’s ‘healthiest foods’ list? iStockphoto

TIME Magazine recently published its list of the 50 healthiest foods we all should be eating. With the help of registered dietitian Tina Ruggerio, author of The Truly Healthy Family Cookbook and the folks at Cooking Light, they have provided not only why these foods are so healthy, but also offer simple recipes to make incorporating them into your diet easy peasy.

While most of the food items on the list won’t surprise you (We all know eating more fruits and vegetables is important), there were 10 items that seemed a little unexpected. From sardines to household spices like cumin, there are some surprises on this list.


These tiny fish show that size doesn’t matter when it comes packing a nutritional punch. They are a good source of calcium as well as improve blood flow and help with inflammation. One can of sardines is only 191 calories and has 22.7 grams of protein. Try Cooking Light’s Fennel-Sardine Spaghetti recipe.


Another small fish, the anchovy, can be an acquired taste for some, but they are a great source of protein, vitamin B, calcium, iron and omega-3 fatty acids. Even better, they are low in mercury. Only two drained and minced anchovy fillets are required for Cooking Light’s Spicy Anchovy Broccoli.


Kefir is a fermented milk drink that has actually been shown to improve lactose intolerance and to fight cavities. It is chock full of good microbes. Simply add to a smoothie instead of milk or yogurt.

Rooibos tea

This red tea can help protect you from chronic and degenerative diseases and is a great source of calcium and iron. Other plus points? No calories and easy to make. Just add to hot water.


Apparently the phrase “spicing up your life” should refer not only to your sex life, but to actual spices as well. This orange color spice derived from the root of the Curcuma longa plant can help your body fight viruses and inflammation. Some research also points to its ability to prevent Alzheimer’s and cancer as well. Just one teaspoon in a dish like an Omelet with Turmeric, Tomato, and Onions by Cooking Light can make a positive impact in your health.


It definitely might surprise you to know that a common kitchen spice like Cumin can improve your heart health as well as fight infection. According to TIME, you get twice as many antioxidants in a one-half teaspoon of ground cumin than in a carrot. Lightly sprinkle salmon fillets with cumin and other mixtures for this heart healthy recipe by Cooking Light: Cumin-Dusted Salmon Fillets.


The tuna, especially canned tuna, tends to be an underrated compared to the glitzy salmon, but our budgets might not always be able to afford a salmon fillet so it is nice to know that a tuna fish sandwich can also help boost our brain health and reduce our risk of cardiovascular disease. Just remember that there is the risk of mercury poisoning so be careful how much of it you eat on a weekly basis. Pregnant women, breast-feeding women and young children have to be especially careful. This week make a simple tuna fish sandwich or add Cooking Light’s Arugula, Italian Tuna, and White Bean Salad to your menu.

Hemp seeds

Whatever your stance on marijuana, the cannabis sativa plant has other uses. Its hemp seeds are a good source of protein and will provide you with all nine essential amino acids as well as vitamin E. If you like pine nuts, you’ll love the taste. A simple way to add hemp seeds into your diet is to add a handful to a smoothie or your morning oatmeal; you can even sprinkle some on your salad.


People tend to either love or hate these fungi, but what can’t be denied is that they are the highest vegan source of vitamin D. Eating mushrooms can also help you fight cancer, and contains riboflavin which is important for the body’s ability to detox. Don’t like eating mushrooms raw? Cooking Light has a Penne with Sage and Mushroom recipe that you might find more appealing.


Besides fighting off vampire and over amorous kissers, garlic also is very good for our health. Improve your immunity and protect your joints by adding garlic to your diet. Garlic-and-Herb Oven Fried Halibut by Cooking Light requires only 1 large garlic clove.

Were you surprised by any of the other items on TIME’s list?

Read the original post: | by Tracey Romero

Mar 6 2015

Bottom trawling gets a bum rap, CSUMB study finds.

5195115ef1e42.imageNic Coury
Local petrale sole, like this dish at the former Alvarado Fish & Steakhouse, may be a more sustainable fish than we thought.

Bottom trawling—dragging nets along the sea floor to catch species like halibut and sanddabs—isn’t always the destructive fishing method it’s made out to be, according to a collaborative study by fishermen, The Nature Conservancy and CSU Monterey Bay.

The study, published in National Marine Fisheries Service’s Fishery Bulletin, found that not all sea floors are created equal. The “soft” sea floor (mostly mud and sand) that comprises up to 85 percent of the continental shelf off the California coast may be able to recover quickly from small footrope trawl gear, the study concludes. Yet most of the state waters and much of the federal waters are closed to bottom trawling.

“Our study adds to a growing body of literature from around the world showing trawling impacts are context dependent—they depend on the type of gear used, the types of habitats trawled and how often trawling occurs,” a press release states. “Trawling in rocky areas with long-lived corals will likely have more long-lasting impacts than trawling in soft-bottom habitats that may be less vulnerable and can recover more quickly.”

Monterey Bay Aquarium’s Seafood Watch guide, which has long shunned much of Monterey Bay’s own local catch because it viewed bottom trawling as environmentally unfriendly, is now picking up on that more nuanced approach. The updated Seafood Watch guide upgraded 21 species of West Coast groundfish from red (avoid) to yellow (good alternative) or green (best choice) rankings, as the Weekly reported last fall.

Also promising: next-generation light-trawl gear that floats just above the sea floor instead of dragging. Environmental Defense Fund consultants Huff McGonigal and David Crabbe developed the technology to allow fishermen to “fish a wider area, travel faster, reduce fuel costs by a quarter and preserve bottom-dwelling fauna,” as the Weekly reported in 2013.

Read the original post: | by Kera Abraham

Mar 3 2015

California drought likely a fixture, says Stanford study

Two piers lay on the shoreline at Shadow Cliffs Regional Recreation Area in Pleasanton, Calif., on Friday, Jan. 9, 2015. The man-made lake’s water level remains at historically low levels, about 10 feet below normal for the winter season. (Doug Duran)

Human-caused climate change is increasing drought risk in California — boosting the odds that our current crisis will become a fixture of the future, according to a major report Stanford scientists released Monday.

The finding comes as cities across the Bay Area wrap up the warmest three-month stretch of winter on record.

The new study looked at data from the past and simulations foretelling the future to understand the influence of greenhouse gases on California.

“What has happened in California has been a clear warming trend over the historical record … that probably would not have happened without humans,” said Stanford climate scientist Noah Diffenbaugh.

The continuation of global warming “will result in more frequent occurrences of high temperatures and low precipitation that will lead to increased severe drought conditions,” said Diffenbaugh. The research was published in the March 2 issue of the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Low precipitation, alone, doesn’t cause a drought — what matters is whether it happens in a warm year, according to members of the Stanford team. They don’t offer specific recommendations but say their findings could help California plan for the future.

The news comes on the eve of this winter’s third manual snow survey, taken atop the Sierra on Highway 50. Other readings reveal that statewide, the snowpack water content is just 19 percent of the historical average for the date.

Reinforcing the drought’s threat, one weather agency is reporting that many Bay Area cities have broken records for the warmest winter in history. Average temperatures for December through February were 54.44 degrees in San Jose, up from the 54.42 degree record of 1996; 52.62 degrees in Livermore, up from the 51.72 degree record of 1996; and 57 degrees in San Francisco, up from the 55.70 degree record of 1970, according to Jan Null of Golden Gate Weather Services.

The Stanford study supports the growing recognition that warming temperatures can worsen a drought that is driven by declining precipitation, noted Richard Seager of Columbia University’s Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory, who was not involved in the research.

“This is happening all over the world — there is nothing unusual in terms of California,” said Seager.

The Stanford team previously reported that the conditions behind our current drought — a high pressure system parked over the Pacific Ocean, diverting storms away from California — are much more likely to occur amid concentrations of greenhouse gases.

The new study goes further. Using a recently released trove of 120 years of historical data, the researchers found more than a doubling of the frequency of drought years. There were six droughts in past 20 years (1995-2014), compared to 14 in the previous 98 years (1896-1994.)

What’s happening? Imagine flipping two coins, one for precipitation and one for temperature, said Diffenbaugh, associate professor of Environmental Earth System Science at Stanford.

Until recently, precipitation and temperature occurred independently.

But climate change means that the temperature coin is landing on warm weather most of the time. So even as precipitation varies, the combination of both warm and dry is more common. We see little rain, snow melts earlier, and soil and plants lose more water.

“Low precipitation isn’t enough to create a drought. The key difference is temperature,” said Diffenbaugh. And that’s what is changing.

Seager agrees that climate change will produce warmer weather, although he contends that our recent extreme heat is due to natural variations in sea surface temperatures, “far in excess of what you would expect from background greenhouse gases,” based on his National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration-sponsored research.

He agrees that California “will also face tremendous water problems as the climate changes, because of warmer temperatures, less snow, shorter and sharper winters, and warming that takes moisture out of the soil.”

The Stanford team doesn’t have data for the future, of course, and it’s impossible to run a real-world experiment. So they created climate simulations to peer into the future.

Their models show that the warming trend is likely to continue, boosting the odds that a heads-tails coin toss — co-occurring warm and dry years, creating drought — will climb in the coming decades.

Droughts have occurred throughout California’s pre-human history, just as the coin toss example would predict, they say. And nature creates its own variability, with volcanic eruptions and solar fluctuations.

But steadily rising temperatures — caused by burning fossil fuels and clearing forests — increases the probability of such conditions, they found.

“Continued global warming will result in more frequent occurrences of high temperatures and low precipitation,” said Diffenbaugh, “leading to more of the severe drought conditions that we’ve been experiencing.”

Read the original post: | By Lisa M. Krieger

Mar 3 2015

California salmon dodge drought bullet for another year

la-dd-california-salmon-dodges-one-more-year-o-001A fall-run salmon jumps at the Coleman National Fish Hatchery near Anderson, Calif., on Oct. 2, 1996. (Rollin Banderbob / Associated Press)

Apparently the California salmon has dodged the drought bullet for another year: The annual forecast for the fishery predicts that the population this year will be slightly bigger than last.
The initial results of the 2015 National Marine Fisheries Service survey forecasts an adult ocean population of California salmon that’s about 2.7% higher than last year.

That translates to about 650,000 fish — up from about 630,000 last year but substantially less than 2013 total of more than 800,000. Still, that’s far healthier than 2008 and 2009, when the fishery was closed completely.

The most recent figures are much better than many observers had predicted, given the devastating four-year drought the state is still enduring. With reduced water flow in the Sacramento River, some observers had feared a collapse in the population of young salmon heading out to sea.

“There’s a pretty good chance we’ll see that in the future, maybe as early as next year,” says Michael O’Farrell, a National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration research fisheries biologist specializing in salmon.

“But we make abundance forecasts based on 2-year-old fish, and while California was certainly dry two years ago, it certainly wasn’t like it is now.”

In January, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service began a huge release of stocked juvenile salmon after warm temperatures and shallow waters killed an estimated 95% of the eggs laid in some tributaries. “But we make abundance forecasts based on 2-year-old fish, and while California was certainly dry two years ago, it certainly wasn’t like it is now.”

In January, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service began a huge release of stocked juvenile salmon after warm temperatures and shallow waters killed an estimated 95% of the eggs laid in some tributaries.

The salmon forecast is a preliminary report that will be used to set catch limits and seasons for fishermen, both commercial and recreational.

The Pacific Fisheries Management Council is scheduled to meet to make a final decision on those in April, but predictions are that the commercial season will likely begin around May 1, and that the fish will start showing up in markets shortly after.

“There have been various indicators about poor survival of fish in [the Sacramento River basin] that could indicate down the road we could have trouble,” O’Farrell said. “But we make these forecasts on a year-to-year basis, and this year our science is telling what the right thing to do is. Next year we’ll take another look and we’ll do the whole thing again.”

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