Aug 6 2019

NOAA Releases 2018 Status of Stocks With New Emphasis on Environmental Impacts

The words “overfishing” and “overfished” are still used to describe seafood species with too high of a catch rate or too low of a population, but for the first time NOAA’s “Status of the Stocks 2018”, released last Friday, attributes impacts from global warming as causing changes in the sustainability status of fish stocks. It may be time to find new adjectives.

The bottom line for the report is the list, titled “Overfishing and Overfished Stocks As of December 31, 2018.” The good news in the 2018 report is that seven stocks came off the Overfishing List. But zero came off the Overfished List, five stocks were added to the Overfising List and eight stocks were added to the Overfished List.

The operative terms were defined by Alan Risenhoover, director of NOAA’s Office of Sustainable Fisheries, noted in Friday’s press conference.

“ ‘Overfishing’ is the rate of harvest, or the number of fish removed per year: one percent, ten percent, etc.,” Risenhoover said. “ ‘Overfished’ means that over time, overfishing creates a non-sustainable stock status for those species. It refers to overall population size.”

But it was environmental conditions that were listed as significant reasons for adding species to the lists, not what the fleets were doing.

“The total number of stocks listed as overfished increased, due to a number of factors including those outside the control of domestic fisheries management,” the report noted.

“The eight stocks added to the 2018 overfished list illustrate numerous challenges inherent in fisheries management,” the report author wrote.

“Environmental change, habitat degradation, and international fishing contributed to the status of the eight new overfished stocks. For example, relatively warm water conditions may be impacting the growth and reproduction of the cold-water Saint Matthew Island blue king crab. This stock has never been subject to overfishing and directed fishing for this crab has been prohibited since 2016.

“Warm ocean conditions, including the warm “Blob” in the northeast Pacific Ocean, reduced the number of spawning coho salmon returning to their natal rivers, and both Chinook and coho salmon have been impacted by habitat degradation caused by drought and lack of sufficient water for spawning,” the report noted.

“During the past 5 years, several of the fisheries for these salmon stocks have been declared fishery disasters under the MSA by the Secretary of Commerce due to factors beyond the control of fishery managers.”

NOAA partners with regional councils to manage the nation’s fisheries stocks, and works closely with other international bodies to manage stocks that are highly migratory and harvested globally. All management bodies use similar scientific principles to maintain sustainable populations, but very few include impacts of global warming or environmental changes, although almost all managers are aware of those impacts.

Managing fisheries on an ecosystem basis, rather than each species or species stock alone, was put into place by most U.S. management agencies in recent years. In Alaska, the effort to expand that to include weather systems, Arctic ice conditions, and stock migrations are underway.

Part of the problem is keeping up with rapidly changing warming ocean temperatures, especially in the north Atlantic and north Pacific. The nation’s most abundant fishing grounds in the Bering Sea are being impacted harder and sooner than many other productive areas because of the recent lack of sea ice and Arctic warming.

There are no models of how fisheries stocks react to these fundamental environmental shifts because the shifts have not happened on the current scale. Managers are aware of migration changes that may help some species and hurt others, depending on food availability, predators, and environmental conditions.

It is the biggest challenge NOAA Fisheries has faced perhaps in its history — how to manage stocks in a rapidly changing ocean.

For 2018, 43 fish stocks are on the Overfished List, with 28 on the Overfishing List. New England has the most Overfished species, with 15; the North Pacific has the least with 2 (St. Matthew Island and the Pribilof Island blue king crab stocks.)

After 9 years in a rebuilding plan with strict management, including a prohibition on landings, Gulf of Maine smooth skate was declared rebuilt in 2018.

“The renewed fishing opportunity and market for barndoor skate wings, following its rebuilt status, may lay the market foundation for a smooth skate fishery in the future,” the report noted.

Photo Credit: NOAA Fisheries

Peggy Parker
SeafoodNews.com
1-781-861-1441
peggyparker@urnerbarry.com


Original post: SeafoodNews.com — reposted with permission.

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