Archive for May, 2017

May 23 2017

Decades of data on world’s oceans reveal a troubling oxygen decline

Date: May 4, 2017

Source: Georgia Institute of Technology

Summary: The amount of dissolved oxygen contained in the water — an important measure of ocean health — has been declining for more than 20 years, reveals a new analysis of decades of data on oceans across the globe.

Global map of the linear trend of dissolved oxygen at the depth of 100 meters.
Credit: Georgia Tech


A new analysis of decades of data on oceans across the globe has revealed that the amount of dissolved oxygen contained in the water — an important measure of ocean health — has been declining for more than 20 years.

Researchers at Georgia Institute of Technology looked at a historic dataset of ocean information stretching back more than 50 years and searched for long term trends and patterns. They found that oxygen levels started dropping in the 1980s as ocean temperatures began to climb.

“The oxygen in oceans has dynamic properties, and its concentration can change with natural climate variability,” said Taka Ito, an associate professor in Georgia Tech’s School of Earth and Atmospheric Sciences who led the research. “The important aspect of our result is that the rate of global oxygen loss appears to be exceeding the level of nature’s random variability.”

The study, which was published April in Geophysical Research Letters, was sponsored by the National Science Foundation and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. The team included researchers from the National Center for Atmospheric Research, the University of Washington-Seattle, and Hokkaido University in Japan.

Falling oxygen levels in water have the potential to impact the habitat of marine organisms worldwide and in recent years led to more frequent “hypoxic events” that killed or displaced populations of fish, crabs and many other organisms.

Researchers have for years anticipated that rising water temperatures would affect the amount of oxygen in the oceans, since warmer water is capable of holding less dissolved gas than colder water. But the data showed that ocean oxygen was falling more rapidly than the corresponding rise in water temperature.

“The trend of oxygen falling is about two to three times faster than what we predicted from the decrease of solubility associated with the ocean warming,” Ito said. “This is most likely due to the changes in ocean circulation and mixing associated with the heating of the near-surface waters and melting of polar ice.”

The majority of the oxygen in the ocean is absorbed from the atmosphere at the surface or created by photosynthesizing phytoplankton. Ocean currents then mix that more highly oxygenated water with subsurface water. But rising ocean water temperatures near the surface have made it more buoyant and harder for the warmer surface waters to mix downward with the cooler subsurface waters. Melting polar ice has added more freshwater to the ocean surface — another factor that hampers the natural mixing and leads to increased ocean stratification.

“After the mid-2000s, this trend became apparent, consistent and statistically significant — beyond the envelope of year-to-year fluctuations,” Ito said. “The trends are particularly strong in the tropics, eastern margins of each basin and the subpolar North Pacific.”

In an earlier study, Ito and other researchers explored why oxygen depletion was more pronounced in tropical waters in the Pacific Ocean. They found that air pollution drifting from East Asia out over the world’s largest ocean contributed to oxygen levels falling in tropical waters thousands of miles away.

Once ocean currents carried the iron and nitrogen pollution to the tropics, photosynthesizing phytoplankton went into overdrive consuming the excess nutrients. But rather than increasing oxygen, the net result of the chain reaction was the depletion oxygen in subsurface water.

That, too, is likely a contributing factor in waters across the globe, Ito said.

Story Source:

Materials provided by Georgia Institute of Technology. Note: Content may be edited for style and length.

May 16 2017

With No Disaster Relief Funds in Sight, Crabbers Discuss Next Steps

— Posted with permission of SEAFOODNEWS.COM. Please do not republish without their permission. —

Copyright © 2016

Seafood News


SEAFOODNEWS.COM [Eureka Times-Standard] by Will Houston – May 15, 2017

After four years of poor crab and salmon fishing, including one of the worst crab seasons in recent memory, local fisherman and Eureka resident Bob Borck decided in November that it was time to move on. After selling his fishing vessel — the Belle J II — of four years in January, Borck is now planning to start work as a contractor.

“I couldn’t be married to the boat,” he said Friday. “I’ve got enough family responsibilities on shore that it was too difficult to dedicate it to everything it needed to be.”

Borck said he isn’t walking away from the industry completely if the right opportunity presents itself. But he said isn’t pining to return to it either, especially following a “pretty hard financial beating” after toxic algae blooms closed the 2015-16 Dungeness crab season for six months, placing many fishermen into debt.

Borck’s story is not unique.

After Congress decided in late April to not include millions of dollars in funds in its government spending bill to relieve fisheries that experienced disastrous seasons, Borck said he is concerned how many more fishermen will leave the industry.

“You’ve got a lot of youth interest now in trying to keep the U.S. commercial fishing industry operational,” Borck said. “If bankruptcies and financial difficulties are really what a guy has to look forward to on the horizon, unless he gets lucky in the fishing business, you’re going to have a hard time maintaining a U.S. industry.”

On the other end of the California coast, Devin Grace, 39, has been working as a rock crab fisherman in Santa Barbara for the past 10 years.

He had just received his own crab fishing permit — at the price of $75,000 — in April 2015 and fished for a few months when an unprecedented large toxic algae bloom enveloped the West Coast. This caused the normally year-round rock crab season to close for several months.

Grace said he has yet to recoup his losses from that season, and with no government financial relief in sight, he is now wondering if it is worth it to continue fishing.

“By the time the money comes around, most people will have either gone under or fired all their employees or lost their house,” Grace said. “It’s like, ‘Gee thanks, but where were you when we needed it?’ ”

After Congress decided not to include the relief funds, California Congressman Jared Huffman (D-San Rafael) and Congresswoman Jackie Speier (D-Hillsborough) introduced two bills on May 3 to provide $140 million in relief funds to California and Yurok Tribe fishermen.

Huffman told the Times-Standard on Friday that the bill will likely be voted on in the next appropriation cycle in September before the start of the new federal fiscal year in October. By that point, crab and salmon fishermen will have waited nearly two years for federal assistance.

As to whether the funds could be voted on earlier, Huffman said there is no assurances under the current Republican majority in Congress.

“I would say to everyone that is holding their breath hoping this thing happens, we’re trying multiple fronts. It’s not just this bill,” Huffman said before having to end the interview early for another call.

Grace said he is considering whether to take out a sizable loan to remain in the industry.

“To have no help in sight, it’s really disheartening. To watch the wheels of government turn as slow as they do toward industries, to no fault of our own —” Grace said, cutting off his sentence. “… One of my closest friends in the industry had to put a second mortgage on his house. Another is out for good. There are just thousands of jobs just dropping like flies in a really good industry.”

Grace is one of many crab fishermen who have expressed frustration at how the state handled the toxic algae bloom.

The state implemented an immediate closure of the rock crab and Dungeness crab fisheries in November 2015 after crab tested high for domoic acid, which is a toxin produced by algae. While the state is working to improve domoic acid testing and notification to fishermen, Grace said he still does not feel heard by the state.

Meanwhile, the state is considering raising fishing landing fees by as much as 1,300 percent in order to make up a $20 million deficit in the California Department of Fish and Wildlife’s budget.

The landing fees have not been increased since 1993. While wholesale buyers normally pay the fee, fishermen and local state representatives say the proposed increase will likely impact the per pound price of catch, further impacting fishermen’s finances.

At nearly 40 years old, Grace said he is not sure what he would do if he were to retire from fishing.

“I’m just trying to hang on by my fingernails,” he said.

Subscribe to | Susan Chambers, Contributing Writer | 1-781-861-1441

May 12 2017

U.S. fishing generated more than $200B in sales in 2015, two stocks rebuilt in 2016

Two new reports reveal nation’s progress in sustainably managing marine resources

May 9, 2017
U.S. commercial and recreational fishing generated $208 billion in sales, contributed $97 billion to the gross domestic product and supported 1.6 million full- and part-time jobs in 2015 — above the five-year average — according to NOAA’s Fisheries Economics of the United States report released today.
A commercial fishing trawl vessel in New England sets out a net.

Also out today, the Annual Report to Congress on the Status of U.S. Fisheries shows that the number of domestic fish stocks listed as overfished or subject to overfishing remain near all-time lows, with two new stocks rebuilt in 2016.

The reports highlight the collaborative role of NOAA Fisheries and many partners in making continued progress towards ending overfishing, rebuilding stocks, and realizing significant benefits to the U.S. economy.

“U.S. fisheries are big business,” said Samuel Rauch, acting assistant administrator for NOAA Fisheries. “Sustainable management of our nation’s fisheries, supported by sound science, opens up economic opportunities to Americans along the supply chain – from buying bait at a local marina to enjoying a seafood dinner.”

The U.S commercial fishing and seafood industry (including imports) generated $144 billion in sales in 2015, a 6-percent decline from the previous year, and supported 1.2 million jobs, a 15-percent decline from 2014, although this is still above the five-year average. Factors such as the “warm blob,” marine toxins, and El Nino affected the Pacific marine environment in 2015, and West Coast fishermen saw lower landings and revenue for several key commercial species.

 Total sales generated by U.S. commercial and recreational fishing industries
In 2015, U.S. commercial and recreational fishing generated a total of $208 billion in sales, and supported 1.6 million full-and part-time jobs. (NOAA)

Market forces affected fisheries in other regions, such as in the Gulf of Mexico, where revenue for shrimp landings decreased due to high inventories, dampening prices for both domestic harvest and imports. Seafood imports were also lower in 2015 — $1.4 billion less than in 2014.

Saltwater angling generated $63 billion in sales across the economy in 2015, up 5 percent from 2014. Job impacts in the marine recreational fishing industry remained steady from 2014 at 439,000 jobs. Mississippi, Connecticut, South Carolina, Washington and Alaska had the greatest recreational fishing sector job growth in 2015.

In 2016, U.S. fisheries continued to rebuild, with the number of stocks on the overfishing and overfished lists remaining near all-time lows. Four stocks came off the overfishing list, while six stocks were added to the overfishing list. There were no changes to the list of overfished stocks in 2016. Two additional stocks — barndoor skate in Georges Bank/Southern New England and albacore in the North Atlantic — were rebuilt in 2016, bringing the total stocks rebuilt since 2000 to 41.

A stock is on the overfishing list when the catch rate is too high. A stock is on the overfished list when the population size of a stock is too low, whether because of fishing or other causes, such as environmental changes.

Two new fisheries rebuilt in 2016    Two stocks were rebuilt in 2016: albacore in the North Atlantic (left) and barndoor skate (right) in Georges Bank/Southern New England. (NOAA)

“These reports show that the U.S. is on the right track when it comes to sustainably managing our fisheries,” said Rauch. “Rebuilding and keeping stocks at sustainable levels will help us address the growing challenge of increasing our nation’s seafood supply and keep us competitive in a global marketplace.”

View the 2015 Fisheries Economics of the United States and 2016 Status of U.S. Fisheries reports.

NOAA Media Release