Archive for the Breaking News Category

Sep 18 2020

Pacific Fishery Management Council Approves Pacific Sardine Rebuilding Plan

BUELLTON, CA / ACCESSWIRE / September 17, 2020 /

Thousands of fishermen, processors and allied fishing businesses along the west coast thank the Pacific Fishery Management Council for taking final action on a rebuilding plan for the “northern” stock of Pacific sardine that achieves the balance between conservation and fishing communities mandated by the Magnuson Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act (MSA).

This action was required by the MSA after the “northern” sardine stock was declared “overfished” in 2019, when the biomass estimate fell below 50,000 mt. The Council decision came after many months of hard work by stock assessment scientists, modelers, the Coastal Pelagic Species (CPS) Management Team and the Council’s Science and Statistical Committee (SSC), to build and analyze a Rebuilder model based on the 2020 “northern” sardine stock assessment, which covered a period of low recruitment. The herculean effort attempted to forecast future sardine population growth and rebuilding time scenarios under various harvest alternatives.

“The Council’s unanimous decision to support the Management Team’s recommendations shows that they understand reality, the big picture,” said Diane Pleschner-Steele, Executive Director of the California Wetfish Producers Association, representing California fishermen and processors. “Our sardine harvest policy already has a built-in rebuilding plan. The Council closed the main directed fishery in 2015, and sharply reduced incidental harvest rates last year. Further cuts would drive many fishing businesses out of business, and we appreciate the Council’s acknowledgement of that prospect.”

The environmental group Oceana immediately issued a press release decrying the Council action, accusing fishery managers of irresponsible mismanagement. Oceana and other environmental activists based their arguments on the Rebuilder model that scientists, the Management Team and the Council all acknowledged did not reflect reality because it could not model the environmental cycles driving sardine productivity, nor could it predict the future. Further, it assumed that the total harvest allowance was caught every year.

Oceana’s accusation, “fishery managers have failed to learn from the mistakes of history,” does not pass the straight face test when all the facts are presented. During the great sardine decline in the late 1940s, the historic sardine fishery harvested 50 percent or more of the standing stock. Today’s sardine fishery harvest amounts to only 0.6 percent of the northern sardine population — very close to 0 US harvest, which was modeled as Alternative 2, and showed disastrous economic impacts to fishing communities in California and the West Coast because it curtailed major fisheries. Commercial fisheries that take sardines incidentally include market squid, anchovy and mackerel in California and Pacific whiting, pink shrimp and groundfish along the entire West Coast. In addition, the live bait fishery relies on sardines and serves a billion-dollar recreational fishing enterprise.

The Council decision illuminates a dicey problem: sardine fishery management policy assumes that two sardine stocks exist along the west coast and Mexico, divided by a temperature barrier at about 62 degrees F. But the Council manages only the “northern” stock, and in recent years, stock assessments have subtracted thousands of tons of sardines found in waters warmer than 62 degrees on the assumption that those were “southern” sardines that migrated up from Mexico. Stock assessments also are now based on annual NOAA summer acoustic trawl (AT) surveys that begin in the Pacific Northwest and move south, not reaching California waters until late August, when water temperatures are typically above 62 degrees. Thus, most California sardines are now omitted from “northern” stock assessments on the assumption they are “southern” sardines. Also, NOAA research ships are too large to survey near shore, where most fishing occurs in California. For the past few years, fishermen have testified to a growing abundance of sardines on their fishing grounds yearlong. But complicating matters even further, for management purposes, all sardines landed are subtracted from the “northern” sardine harvest allowance, regardless of sea temperature. This catch-22 sets the backstory for the Council’s final decision.

Due to Covid-19 restrictions the Council meeting was conducted via webinar, and parade of fishermen, seafood processors and community representatives testified to the hardship they are already experiencing under current restrictions. They all voiced unanimous support for Alternative 1, “status quo” fishing regulations. The Management Team also recommended Alternative 1 as the most balanced and flexible choice. Environmental groups testified as well, and all supported Alternative 3, a static five percent harvest rate hard-wired for close to 20 years, based on Rebuilder model analysis, that would have cut current harvest levels nearly in half, precipitating harsh economic impacts.

In their deliberations, Council members highlighted the flexibility of the “status quo” sardine Harvest Control Rule (HCR) that sets harvest limits based on current environmental conditions. They concurred with scientists and the Management Team that the Rebuilder model does not reflect reality; it can’t model the natural high and low productivity cycles of sardines. Council members recognized that the HCR’s precautionary harvest limits are designed to provide forage for predators. Respecting both the need for conservation and the needs of fishing communities, Washington Councilmember Phil Anderson commented that he would rather provide a little more harvest now to keep fishing communities viable. Otherwise they might not survive into the future. Council chair Marc Gorelnik summarized discussion with his comment, “Mother Nature bats last.”

Scientists and Council members alike recognize that environmental conditions are key to stock rebuilding, as they have been for eons even without fishing. The Management Team pointed out that actual fishery catches in the past five years, since the main directed fishery was closed, have averaged only about 2,300 metric tons, far short of the allowed annual catch target, and most of the catch is “southern” stock sardines. The Council also recognized that the current HCR equates to a built-in rebuilding plan because it has flexibility to reduce catches in relation to the biomass, and also includes automatic actions to further restrict fishing in low abundance years. The Council has already reduced the fishery as far as feasibly possible. Now Mother Nature needs to do the rest.

All things considered, the Council made the proper rebuilding plan decision, following the MSA mandates to specify a time period for rebuilding that is as short as possible, taking into account the biology of the stock and needs of fishing communities. The MSA does allow directed fishing to continue when rebuilding an overfished stock, and does not require instant recovery or the most drastic action be taken. Optimum Yield is a long-term goal. The MSA also allows flexibility in developing a rebuilding plan. The plan will be updated when new information is available – nothing is cast in stone.

In light of evidence of recruitment and the abundance of sardines that California fishermen have been reporting inshore of AT surveys, fishery representatives are asking for a review of the rebuilding plan in 2021 as soon as possible after the next coastwide sardine survey, which was cancelled in 2020 due to Covid-19 restrictions, and will for the first time in 2021 include a survey of nearshore waters, in a collaborative effort using fishing industry vessels. The fishing industry is dedicated to help improve the science underpinning stock assessments. “If stock assessments were accurate,” said Corbin Hanson, a highline fisherman who has fished sardines as well as other CPS for more than a decade, “sardines would not be declared ‘overfished.'”

PRESS CONTACT:

Diane Pleschner-Steele
diane@californiawetfish.org
(805) 693-5430

SOURCE: California Wetfish Producers Association

ReleaseID: 606630

 

Permalink | Categories Breaking News, Legislation, View from the Ocean on September 18, 2020 by DaveGogel | No Comments
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Jul 3 2020

Top 10 for ’20 | National Fisherman

The fishing industry responded to the presidential roundtable with gratitude for the spotlight and a push for help with other issues. Here’s our Top 10 as compiled from feedback around the country.

 

Pandemic Assistance

As of mid-June, fishermen had not seen funds filter down from the CARES Act through Commerce to their state agencies and their businesses. Though the act was passed in March, with guidelines for disbursement issued by Commerce in May, NMFS predicted a mid-July date for approval of state funding plans, which would predate any payments. Controversial allocations trough the Paycheck Protection Program and low caps on the Small Business Administration’s Economic Injury Disaster Loans also hampered relief to the industry, which is primarily comprised of small business owners, independent operators and contract workers.

Wind Power

“Offshore wind development has been fast-tracked at the peril of commercial fishermen,” said Patrice McCarron, executive director of the Maine Lobstermen’s Association. “The Bureau of Ocean Energy Management has established a task force to facilitate and plan offshore wind development in the Gulf of Maine. Although this will directly impact the livelihoods of commercial fishermen, they are not represented on the task force.”Fishermen can only make their living from the ocean, and the proposed development of floating turbines will result in the closure of fishing areas. In addition, the impacts of offshore wind development on ocean ecology and commercial fishing are poorly understood. Fishermen must be fairly represented in this fragmented process. Data must be improved to understand how these future developments will impact commercial fishing as well as the marine ecosystem.”

Deepwater Wind foundations at the Block Island wind farm site off Rhode Island. Deepwater Wind photo.Deepwater Wind foundations at the Block Island wind farm site off Rhode Island. Deepwater Wind photo.

Habitat Protection

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers was nearing completion of its environmental review for the proposed Pebble Mine at the headwaters of Alaska’s Bristol Bay as we went to press on this issue in mid-June. At the same time, Bristol Bay’s commercial fishermen, seafood processors, and residents were preparing for the return of a forecasted 49 million sockeye salmon. A final permitting decision is expected to drop as soon as 30 days after the review, around the peak of the fishing season, when Bristol Bay’s fishermen and residents will be occupied with fishing and preoccupied by an added layer of covid-19 prevention practices.“It is unconscionable that, despite overwhelming comments and outcry requesting an extension and revision to the Pebble Mine permitting process, the Army Corps has continued to rush its environmental review and aims to release a final permitting decision while Bristol Bay grapples with the challenges of harvesting, processing and supplying half the world’s wild sockeye salmon during a global pandemic,” said Katherine Carscallen, Bristol Bay resident and executive director for Commercial Fishermen for Bristol Bay. “We look to Alaska’s senators for their leadership and implore the EPA to use its authority under the Clean Water Act to veto Pebble’s permit. The EPA’s own science and comment letters to the Army Corps show that this project poses an unacceptable risk to our country’s greatest remaining wild salmon runs.”

Marketing

“If the U.S. government is going to support and fund a large, planned increase in domestic aquaculture production, there must be some sort of specific support for domestic wild seafood products that will come under increased competition from this new and expanded domestic aquaculture production,” said Bruce Schactler, a commercial fisherman, industry advocate and NF Highliner, based in Kodiak, Alaska, referring to the president’s executive order in May that promotes the production of offshore aquaculture.“The Farm Bill,” Schactler added, “provides hundreds of millions of dollars per year for the exclusive use of the U.S. Agriculture industry to subsidize technology, marketing, infrastructure, research, education, training, price supports of various kinds, and generous support for the young farmers and ranchers that will carry on this critical industry. The U.S. seafood industry has no such support program, although it is not for lack of trying.”

Offloading salmon in Petersburg, Alaska. Jessica Hathaway photo.
Offloading salmon in Petersburg, Alaska. Jessica Hathaway photo.

Trade Aid

Though the promise of a Seafood Trade Task Force and the implementation of the Seafood Import Monitoring Program offer some promise of relief for U.S. fisheries and dealers competing with cheap foreign imports in our own markets and looking for new opportunities overseas, the need for federal assistance with global trade restrictions through specific agreements is still paramount for many U.S. fisheries.“Tariffs do not come and go overnight,” said Annie Tselikis, executive director of the Maine Lobster Dealers’ Association. “Many of us in the industry have been advocating for fair access to foreign markets for a long time. In order for tariffs to be reduced or eliminated, there is a process of negotiation and diplomacy, and each negotiating partner needs to be a willing and fair participant in that process.”

Marine Mammals

New England fishermen aren’t the only ones worried about whales and working to improve gear, fishing methods and management to avoid them. The West Coast Dungeness fleet has worked with other stakeholders for several years in a gear working group.But on the flipside, the Marine Mammal Protection Act establishes permanent protocol for species, like sea lions, that have rebounded to the point of creating a nuisance and preying excessively on critical species, like Pacific salmon.“Marine mammal stocks (California sea lions, in particular) should lose protections when their populations reach a certain level, whether that is carrying capacity or the Marine Mammal Protection Act’s Optimal Sustainable Population,” said Mike Conroy, executive director of the Pacific Coast Federation of Fishermen’s Associations. “They throw off ecosystem balance and are in direct competition with other ESA-listed species (Southern Resident killer whales, for example) for limited amounts of food.”

The Louisiana shrimp boat Miss Nan. Louisiana Department of Fish and Wildlife.

The Louisiana shrimp boat Miss Nan. Louisiana Department of Fish and Wildlife.

Recovery Response

This includes everything from disaster funds to increased flexibility, which would provide means for the industry to manage disaster recovery. Most fishermen will tell you: They don’t want handouts, they just want to work. Federal aid can be helpful, but it takes so long to reach the fleets that many businesses go bust waiting for relief.The state of Mississippi, for example, was awarded $11 million for a 2011 disaster declaration, but fishermen have seen very little of those funds so far.“It was probably about 2015-16 before we started seeing money from that disaster declaration. And they’re still spending that money, almost 10 years later,” said Ryan Bradley, executive director of Mississippi Commercial Fisheries United and a 2018 NF Highliner. “Oystermen and crab fishermen and seafood dealers have received about 15 percent” of that $11 million, so far.

Better Data

“Whether that means more funding for science center activities or closer coordination with fishermen or just listening to what they are reporting,” said Conroy. “Fishermen have knowledge, are on the water far more often than the science folks, observe changes related to ocean conditions and fish populations, assist in understanding fish movement by collaborating with different organizations (e.g., tagging programs).“One example out here is the stock assessments for Pacific sardine. They are based on surveys taken on large NOAA ships which can’t access the nearshore waters (typically those less than 25 fathoms). Coincidentally, that is prime habitat for sardine. So the stock assessments keep showing a decline in sardine biomass, while fishermen are reporting (with documentation) increasing numbers of sardine in the nearshore. Because the fishermen’s observations are anecdotal, they carry no weight.”

Homarus americanus. Doug Stewart photo.Homarus americanus. Doug Stewart photo.

Infrastructure and Access

“Feeding fish to the community requires a new commitment and approach to the food supply chain,” said Pete Halmay, commercial fisherman and president of the San Diego Fishermen’s Working Group. “Without improved infrastructure and better access to resources, the promise of fresh, sustainable , local fish cannot be fulfilled.”“This includes dredging, NOAA weather buoys that actually work, shoreside off-loading equipment and product storage, dockside land space for gear storage and/or office space, etc.,” said Conroy. “Ensure protections can be put in place to protect the future access to private unloading stations.”All of these (and more) add up to the culminating priority for the industry.

Recognition of the Value of U.S. Commercial Fisheries


Original post: https://www.nationalfisherman.com/

Apr 23 2020

Controversy descends on Pacific sardine fishery over stock surveys

The Pacific sardine fishery on the U.S. West Coast appears to be headed for another year of being shut down after a recent National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) assessment showed a low biomass.

The NOAA assessment estimated the Pacific sardine biomass will be at 27,547 metric tons by the summer – significantly less than the 150,000 metric tons needed to reopen the fishery to commercial fishing. Any fishery at less than 50,000 metric tons is considered to be overfished. The assessment estimates the sardine biomass was around 1.8 million metric tons in 2006.

In response, the Pacific Fishery Management Council has approved an annual catch target of 4,000 metric tons for all uses this year, a move which comes at a time the fishery has been suspended for five years due to overfishing concerns. The council relied on reports from its own scientific and statistical committee, its coastal pelagic species management team, and the public.

While the council heard testimony from environmental advocates who believe the stock has dwindled to a level that cannot sustain a commercial fishery, fishermen believe that the NOAA stock assessment neglects to account for the inshore sardine biomass which is not recorded by federal radar surveys because the research ships don’t operate in such shallow waters.

According to California Wetfish Producers Association Executive Director Diane Pleschner-Steele, the migration of sardines inshore became pronounced five years ago – the same year the fishery was last active – due to changing ocean conditions. The California Wetfish Producers Association has hired helicopter pilots to capture aerial photographs of the biomass to show the abundance of the species inshore, and its fishermen have reported seeing large schools of sardines.

“The big problem is NOAA’s acoustic surveys aren’t seeing the fish and we are. But we’re not allowed to fish. If the stock assessment was accurate, sardines would not be declared overfished,” Pleschner-Steele told SeafoodSource. “The stock assessments haven’t included any biological composition data so none of the young fish that we’re seeing have been introduced into the model and the model continues to predict that there’s no recruitment.”

Marc Gorelnik, vice chair of the Pacific Fishery Management Council, told SeafoodSource the council had listened to the association’s argument, and agreed more accurate data could help the council make a more informed decision on the eventual reopening of the sardine fishery.

“One thing everyone agrees on is the need to improve the sardine stock assessment,” Gorelnik said.

Pleschner-Steele said that the majority of the 4,000-metric-ton catch will be used by the live-bait fishery, which is entitled to target sardines. However, the association has also proposed a research project that would use some 700 metric tons of the 4,000 for sampling to help better determine the age of the stock. The research project has not yet been approved.

“We will have designated vessels enabled to go out once or twice a month and actually catch a school of sardines. The Department [of Fish and Wildlife] will be at the docks to do the sampling. That’s the age data that we need so that we can update the age data in the [NOAA] model,” Pleschner-Steele said. “They’ll have another update [of the model] at the end of this year and our hope is that they will have the age data they need to recognize that we have pretty substantial recruitment.”

Pleschner-Steele said the situation has echoes of previous crises in the U.S. West Coast sardine fishery.

“In California, sardines are the foundation of our historic wetfish industry, which has endured for more than a century. Veteran fishermen who lived through the last sardine recovery in the early 1990s see ironic parallels today, with sardines abundant on the fishing grounds but the fishery closed because government stock assessment surveys didn’t see the fish,” Pleschner-Steele said.

Last year, an assessment on the Pacific sardine by NOAA Fisheries showed the stock remained low enough to be classified by the agency as overfished. In response, non-governmental organizations including Oceana have pushed for the council to create a rebuilding plan.

“We’ve been urging for an overhaul to the way sardine are managed for the last seven years,” Oceana California Campaign Director Geoff Shester told SeafoodSource in April 2019. “It is critical to hold fishery managers accountable for exacerbating this modern-day sardine collapse and seek management changes to use best available science to learn from our mistakes.”

Fishermen and managers are also at odds over the definition of the California sardine stocks, where fish found in ocean temperatures are identified as a southern stock extending from waters off Mexico, according to National Fisherman. If the northern sardine stock assessment was reflective of sardine abundance reported by fishermen in year-round waters the species would not be considered overfish, the wetfish group said.

Pleschner-Steele said her organization would abide by the decision of the council, but that it believed the designation of the fishery as overfished was flawed as the data used in the decision is not accurately counting inshore sardines.

“The end goal of the California Wetfish Producers Association is to be allowed to target sardines under closely controlled circumstances,” she said. “We’re thankful that the fishermen’s testimony seemed to resonate with the council … Our main focus now is collaborating with state and federal fishery managers to document the abundance of sardines inshore of federal acoustic surveys. Our research is the key to the future.”


Original post: https://www.seafoodsource.com/

Apr 8 2020

Pacific Council Approves Sardine Harvest Including More Data From Special Fishery for 2020

April 7, 2020

In its first fully-virtual meeting to avoid spreading COVID-19, the Pacific Fisheries Management Council approved catch specifications for Pacific sardines, allowing for a special fishery that will inform future stock assessments. Pacific sardines have not had a commercial fishery for six years, based on a stock assessment showing low biomass and no recruitment that has been at the center of a years-long controversy.

“One thing everyone agrees on is the need to improve the sardine stock assessment,” stated Marc Gorelnik, vice chair of the Pacific Fishery Management Council.

Even without a commercial fishery, Pacific sardines are caught as bycatch and bait for other fisheries, by Tribes and as a result of scientific surveys. On advice from the Council’s Scientific and Statistical Committee (SSC), Coastal Pelagic Species (CPS) Management Team and Advisory Subpanel, and the public, PFMC approved an Annual Catch Total (ACT) of 4,000 mt for the season July 1, 2020 through June 30, 2021, last weekend. That level is similar to last year’s action.

Environmental groups pleaded for more precaution and much lower harvest limits, arguing that the stock assessment shows the stock to be at low and declining levels. National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) declared the northern sardine subpopulation as ‘overfished’ in 2019, triggering the Council to develop a rebuilding plan.

“We greatly appreciate the expressions of concern from the management team and advisory subpanel, and the Council’s action based on those concerns.” said Diane Pleschner-Steele, Executive Director of the California Wetfish Producers Association (CWPA).

“This confict is between what fishermen say is out there, based on what they see, and what biologists say, based on insufficient science,” Pleschner-Steele explained.

Both fishermen and independent scientific surveys have documented sardine recruitment and growing abundance since 2015. But NOAA’s sardine acoustic trawl surveys have not seen it, and those surveys have largely driven the stock assessments in recent years.

Pleschner-Steele notes, “the model used to predict biomass has not updated the age data from the fishery since 2015, because the directed fishery has been closed since that time.”

Faced with this Catch-22, CWPA submitted an application for an Exempted Fishing Permit (EFP) to NMFS to coordinate a closely-controlled directed fishing effort to capture sardine schools throughout the year. The California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) has agreed to sample and age all the landings and provide that data for the next stock assessment. The Council unanimously supported that last weekend.

A core managment problem is that Pacific sardines have been considered by federal scientists to be of two groups: a northern stock and a southern stock, separated by a temperature line in the water. The northern stock are thought to be found in water colder than 62 degrees F and southern stocks in warmer water.

Southern stocks are assumed to be migrating from Mexico, but if caught in the U.S. are subtracted from the northern sardine stock assessment, Pleschner-Steele explained.

The CPS management team recommended a year ago that the Council “review the basis for the habitat model and refine estimates of both the catch and biomass attributable to the NSP (northern subpopulation) and SSP (southern subpopulation).”

They noted in their report last weekend that “assigning 16.7℃ Sea Surface Temperature as the boundary of the ‘northern’ stock has eliminated most California sardines from the ‘northern’ stock assessment” and “age composition data from the fishery have not been updated in the model since 2015.”

The advisory panel also argued with the federal survey statement that recruitment has not been observed, and the population is still declining. They say “recruitment has been evident in live bait pens and observed by fishermen since 2015.”

Environmental groups, meanwhile, are asking the Council to revise the entire management structure to provide more forage for other species. Pleschner-Steele notes that the entire CPS complex fishery, including sardine, amounts to less than two percent of the key forage pool, which also includes other forage species.

Scientists widely acknowledge that environmental forcing drives the abundance of sardines and other CPS; these stocks rise and fall based on natural conditions in the ocean, with negligible impact from fishing.

“Meanwhile, CWPA and California sardine fishermen, as well as sardine fishermen in the Pacific Northwest, are committed to conduct the research necessary to improve the sardine stock assessment. If the ‘northern’ sardine stock assessment accurately reflected the abundance of sardines reported by fishermen virtually yearlong (in water temperatures below 62 degrees F), northern sardines would not be considered ‘overfished,’ Pleschner-Steele said.

Other high priority recommendations from the industry advisory group asked for a review of the habitat model, as suggested by the SSC, use the juvenle Rockfish Survey as an indicator of recruitment, and support futher efforts by industry to improve the science surrounding the sardine stock assessments.

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

Apr 8 2020

SARDINES IN CALIFORNIA

California Wetfish Producers Association Press Release:

Pacific Fishery Management Council Approves Pacific Sardine Fishing Levels for 2020 [PDF]

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE-Sardine Spex

 


 

Accompanying this release is a new video – and a narrative describing the video:

 

SARDINES IN CALIFORNIA ~ FISHERY IN CRISIS

This conflict is between what fishermen say is out there, based on what they see, and what biologists say, based on insufficient science. Fishermen who lived through the return of sardines in the early 1990s are experiencing déjà vu these days. Since 2015, many have testified to the growing abundance of sardines in California. Nick Jurlin is one of those fishermen. A third-generation fisherman, Nick remembers how things were when sardines returned. Nick and his son-in-law Corbin, the next generation, see the ironic parallels: schools of sardines like giant lily pads on the ocean everywhere now, but the fishery is closed and they have little else to fish.

Scientific surveys that are conducted primarily offshore have seen no evidence of sardine recruitment, and stock assessments continue to predict decline. So, conflict has spiraled into crisis: the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) closed the sardine fishery in 2015 because NOAA acoustic trawl surveys did not see sardines and the stock assessment fell below the cutoff for directed fishing. But the large research ships can’t survey near shore; more than 70 percent of California’s sardine catch is made in shallow water inshore of NOAA’s acoustic surveys. In 2019, conditions turned from bad to worse, as the stock assessment fell even further, and NMFS declared sardines ‘overfished.’

Since the turn of the 20th century, sardines have been the foundation of California’s wetfish industry. Nick and Corbin, who used to rely on sardines yearlong, now are dedicated to research, helping to document the abundance of sardines inshore of the federal surveys, hoping to improve sardine stock assessments and reopen the fishery. Fishermen like Corbin are pleading with the Pacific Fishery Management Council for help to save their jobs.
This video is the story of one fishing family and their efforts to survive.

Direct: https://youtu.be/uaps0Vz5XOA

Dec 23 2019

California coastal waters rising in acidity at alarming rate, study finds

A commercial fishing boat heads out of Morro Bay. A study released Monday found that waters off the California coast are acidifying faster than the rest of the ocean. (Al Seib / Los Angeles Times)

 

Waters off the California coast are acidifying twice as fast as the global average, scientists found, threatening major fisheries and sounding the alarm that the ocean can absorb only so much more of the world’s carbon emissions.

A new study led by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration also made an unexpected connection between acidification and a climate cycle known as the Pacific Decadal Oscillation — the same shifting forces that other scientists say have a played a big role in the higher and faster rates of sea level rise hitting California in recent years.

El Niño and La Niña cycles, researchers found, also add stress to these extreme changes in the ocean’s chemistry.

These findings come at a time when record amounts of emissions have already exacerbated the stress on the marine environment. When carbon dioxide mixes with seawater, it undergoes chemical reactions that increase the water’s acidity.

Across the globe, coral reefs are dying, oysters and clams are struggling to build their shells, and fish seem to be losing their sense of smell and direction. Harmful algal blooms are getting more toxic — and occurring more frequently. Researchers are barely keeping up with these new issues while still trying to understand what’s happening under the sea.

Scientists call it the other major, but less talked about, CO2 problem.

The ocean covers more than 70% of the Earth’s surface and has long been the unsung hero of climate change. It has absorbed more than a quarter of the carbon dioxide released by humans since the Industrial Revolution, and about 90% of the resulting heat — helping the air we breathe at the expense of a souring sea.

Here in California’s coastal backyard, some of the nation’s most economically valuable fisheries are also the most vulnerable. Scientists for years have worried that the West Coast would face some of the earliest, most severe changes in ocean carbon chemistry.

Many have noted how West Coast waters seemed to acidify faster, but there was little historical data to turn to. Ocean acidification has become a field of research only in recent decades, so information has been limited to what scientists have since started monitoring and discovering.

This study, published Monday in the journal Nature Geoscience, came up with a creative way to confirm these greater rates of acidification. Researchers collected and analyzed a specific type of shell on the seafloor — and used these data to reconstruct a 100-year history of acidification along the West Coast.

“This is the first time that we have any sort of record that takes it back to the beginning of the [last] century,” said Emily Osborne, a NOAA researcher and lead author of the study. “Prior to this, we didn’t have a time series that was long enough to really reveal the relationship between ocean acidification” and these climate cycles.

The study analyzed almost 2,000 shells of a tiny animal called foraminifera. Every day, these shells — about the size of a grain of sand — rain down onto the seafloor and are eventually covered by sediment.

Scientists took core samples from the Santa Barbara basin — where the seafloor is relatively undisturbed by worms and bottom-feeding fish — and used the pristine layers of sediment to create a vertical snapshot of the ocean’s history.

Seen under a microscope, these colorful spots are foraminifera shells taken from the mud of core samples off the California coast. Scientists studied these shells dating back 100 years to measure acidification rates in the ocean. (NOAA)

 

The more acidic the ocean, the more difficult it is for shellfish to build their shells. So using a microscope and other tools, the research team measured the changes in thickness of these shells and were able to estimate the ocean’s acidity level during the years that the foraminifera were alive.

“We can read the deposits like pages in a book,” said Osborne, a scientist for NOAA’s Ocean Acidification Program. “In Santa Barbara, there are just beautifully preserved laminated records of the seafloor that allow us to generate these high-resolution reconstructions.”

Image of a foraminifera shell magnified 650 times by a scanning electron microscope. (NOAA)

 

Using these modern calibrations, the scientists concluded that the waters off the California coast had a 0.21 decline in pH over a 100-year period dating back to 1895 (the lower the pH, the greater the acidity, according to the logarithmic pH scale of 0 to 14 ). This is more than double the decline — 0.1 pH — that scientists estimate the ocean has experienced on average worldwide.

From these records, Osborne could see clear changes whenever El Niño or other climate cycles shifted the ocean’s chemistry more dramatically. The data revealed an unexpected connection to the Pacific Decadal Oscillation, a warming and cooling cycle involving strong winds that pull warmer surface water on or offshore. The swings in upwelling of more nutrient- and carbon-rich waters alleviated or amplified the acidification.

This climate pattern has already been connected to shifts in sea level rise and other effects along the West Coast. More data and better understanding of these connections will help scientists adjust their models as they project what to expect in the future.

So there’s this bottom-up pressure from the oscillation, as well as the top-down stress of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere getting absorbed by surface water, Osborne said. “This makes the extremes even more extreme. It’s like a double whammy for this region of the world.”

Restoring the ocean’s kelp forests and other marine vegetation will help sequester some of this carbon, but ultimately, how much worse this all gets depends on the choices people make in the next decade. Efforts to rein in human-produced greenhouse gases play a significant role in temperature, wind patterns, acidification and how fast the sea will rise.

“While the ocean has served a very important role in mitigating climate change by absorbing CO2 from the atmosphere, there’s a capacity at which the ocean can’t absorb anymore,” Osborne said. “From this study, and so many other published studies, there’s no question that the answer is to curb our carbon emissions.”


Original post: https://www.latimes.com/california/story/2019-12-16/ocean-acidification-california

Aug 8 2019

California Wetfish Producers Association Files to Intervene in Oceana Anchovy Lawsuit

August 8, 2019 — The following was released by the California Wetfish Producers Association:

The California Wetfish Producers Association (CWPA) has filed to intervene in a lawsuit filed by environmental group Oceana over California’s northern anchovy fishery. The filing will allow CWPA to participate in the lawsuit to protect the interests of California fishermen and processors who would face significant economic harm if the lawsuit were successful.

The lawsuit alleges that the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) must set stricter limits on the northern anchovy catch. As the result of a recent Oceana lawsuit, where the Court required NMFS to revise its catch rule, the catch limit is currently set at 23,573 metric tons, which, according to NMFS estimates, is only 25 percent of the stock’s overfishing level.

Not only are additional restrictions on the anchovy harvest unnecessary, but greater cuts would result in significant job loss and economic hardship for California’s wetfish industry and coastal communities.

“If [Oceana] prevails in this case, there could be a drastic reduction from current harvest levels,” said CWPA in its filing. “Such a reduction in harvest opportunity will seriously and irreparably harm CWPA members and the wetfish industry.”

Anchovy fishing off the California coast

 

This would affect not just California wetfish fishermen, who rely on anchovy when other species, like squid or mackerel, are unavailable, but also the processors, distributors, and seaside businesses who rely on a consistent catch. If lower catch limits are approved, the jobs of at least 400 CWPA members alone will be at risk, as well as many thousands more in related industries.

“Fishermen up and down the California coast are facing threats to their livelihoods from this frivolous and unnecessary lawsuit,” said Diane Pleschner-Steele, executive director of CWPA. “We are asking to be involved in this lawsuit to ensure that the Court also considers the needs and concerns of our members and California’s coastal communities. Our fishery management policy mandates balance between protecting the ocean and sustaining fishing communities ”

The sharply reduced catch limits that Oceana seeks are not scientifically justified. The basis for Oceana’s case is a single, flawed study that significantly underestimated the size of the anchovy population, in 2015, leading to the first Court decision, That study excluded  the abundance of anchovy in inshore areas, for example. Cooperative surveys that CWPA has conducted with the Southwest Fisheries Science Center and the California Department of Fish and Wildlife  have documented tens of thousands of tons of anchovies in these areas that have simply not been counted in stock assessments. . This finding contradicts the argument that the anchovy population was dangerously low, and that the already precautionary catch levels must be reduced further.

“The best available science does not support Oceana’s position,” said Ms. Pleschner-Steele. “ The Court needs to allow NMFS to set appropriate catch limits based on sound science.”

May 15 2019

The Keeling Curve Hits 415 PPM

Watch the new video released by Scripps Oceanography

Scripps scientists measured a record level of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere: 415 parts per million, on Sunday, May 12, 2019. This daily record, the Keeling Curve, is considered the foundation of modern climate change research. Geochemist Charles David Keeling joined Scripps in 1956 and built a manometer and other equipment to isolate the carbon dioxide in air samples. In 1958, the average carbon dioxide concentration of the first measurement was 316.16 parts per million. In 2013, the CO2 concentration surpassed 400 ppm for the first time in human history.

Dec 12 2018

Arctic Report Card Shows ‘Most Unprecedented Transition in History’

Arctic Report Card: Update for 2018 – Tracking recent environmental changes, with 14 essays prepared by an international team of 81 scientists from 12 different countries and an independent peer-review organized by the Arctic Monitoring and Assessment Programme of the Arctic Council. See https://www.arctic.noaa.gov/Report-Card
 

Those are two takeaways from the 2018 Arctic Report Card, which was released Tuesday at the American Geophysical Union conference in Washington, D.C. The 13th year of this peer-reviewed report card features 14 essays by 81 scientists from 12 countries.

Few places will feel the blight of climate change as hard as the Arctic. Our upper pole is warming faster than any other region on Earth, a trend that may be tied to erratic weather patterns across the northern hemisphere.

For the first time, the report card includes a warning about red tide and harmful algal blooms, which are expanding due to a lack of ice and warming ocean temperatures. Toxins from these micro-organisms are threatening marine wildlife and coastal fisheries, imperilling communities that depend on these species.

This year will also enter the record books as the second warmest for the Arctic since 1900, said Emily Osborne of the NOAA Arctic Research Program.

“The only warmer year occured in 2016,” Obsorne said, adding that Arctic air temperatures for the past five years have exceeded all records since the beginning of the 20th century. “The Arctic is experiencing the most unprecedented transition in history.”

Here are three things you need to know about the Arctic Report Card.

Red tide

When you hear about harmful algal blooms, the mind typically wanders to Florida, where thick scums of blue-green algae and clouds of red tide have floated in the state’s warm waters for more than a year.

Due to a warming Arctic Ocean, at least five families of these harmful micro-organisms are now present in other northern waters, like the Chukchi and Bering seas.

“The vast majority of the Arctic ocean has experienced clear long- term trends of warming,” said Karen E. Frey, a geographer and biogeochemist at Clark University in Worcester, Massachusetts. Microscopic creatures are thriving in these waters. Near St. Lawrence Island, for instance, west of the Alaska mainland, aquatic biomass in 2018 increased between 275 and 500 percent relative to the average over the last 14 years.

These harmful algal blooms produce a range of toxins, which can poison other plankton, fish, shellfish, birds and humans. One study of stranded marine mammals — like whales and seals — found the algal toxin domoic acid in all species tested.

Mounting microplastics

This explosion in tiny creatures has been paralleled by the rapid rise of microplastics in the Arctic Ocean. The Arctic Basin contains more microplastic than all other ocean basins in the world, according to a study published in June and cited in the report card, with the highest concentrations stuck in the Beaufort Sea.

These microplastics have made multiple intrusions into the food web, being found in everything from polar cod and seafloor-hugging invertebrates to Arctic birds. The plastic waste has also been found buried in sea ice, which scientists are using to study its abundance.

The major sources of these microplastics remain unclear. They could be floating to the Arctic from other oceans, but some contribution is due to waste like fishing nets and other gear from shipping activities, which have increased substantially since 2009.

The greening of the Arctic continues to gradually grow. Vegetation has expanded overall in the Arctic for the last 36 years, according to the new report card. As shrubs and grasses expand, some species of birds and mammals are thriving. Caribou and wild reindeer, both herbivores, are not part of this lucky class.

Despite growing food sources overall, caribou and wild reindeer are dying

Arctic caribou in North America and Greenland and reindeer in Russia and Norway have declined 56 percent over the last two decades, with their populations dropping from 4.7 million to 2.1 million. Why?

Increased drought and longer spans of hotter weather are causing outbreaks of infectious bacteria and parasites, said Howard Epstein, an ecologist at the University of Virginia. The caribou and reindeer populations are also declining due to a boon in predators and because extreme weather events are occasionally triggering droughts.

 

 

Wacky weather and the eviction of older ice

The Arctic pattern most pertinent to our daily lives, here in North America, revolves around warmth.

Warm air temperatures, which are increasing at twice the rate of the remaining world, continue to disrupt the polar jet stream, making it sluggish and unusually wavy. A surge of warm Arctic weather in 2017 coincided with severe winter storms in the eastern United States at the beginning of 2018 and a cold snap in Europe in March. Osborne said the jury is still out on the strength of the connection between Arctic warming and wacky weather in the mid-latitudes, but at the moment, the correlation is solid.

This atmospheric warming also drove declines in Arctic snow cover and caused melting of the Greenland ice sheet. But the biggest loser, in terms of frozen water, is Arctic sea ice. Older packs of Arctic sea ice, which used to be impervious to the annual melting cycle, are thinner and covering less area than they have in the past. The oldest ice has declined by 95 percent in the last 33 years.

“During two weeks in February, which is typically the height of ice growth, the Bering Sea lost a piece of ice the size of Idaho,” said Donald Perovich, a sea ice geophysicist at Dartmouth College in New Hampshire. March witnessed the second lowest sea ice extent in 39 years.

Perovich said this loss is being felt hardest by coastal communities, which used to be buffered by the sea ice. The loss is also exposing communities to massive storm surge and disappearing shorelines. It is also depriving coastal residents of a safe route for hunting and travel.

“In 2018, the effects of persistent Arctic warming continue to mount … pushing the Arctic into unchartered territory,” Obsorne added.


Original post: https://www.kqed.org/

Oct 25 2018

Seaport developer, fishermen reach deal to help save San Diego’s storied fishing industry

Commercial fishermen David Haworth (left) and Peter Halmay talk on the G Street Mole on Sept. 24, 2018. (Brad Racino/inewsource)

 

After years of negotiations, San Diego’s fishermen and a local developer have signed an agreement to recapture a lost piece of the city’s history – a thriving commercial fishing trade that once employed thousands of people while netting hundreds of millions of dollars.

Much of the agreement focuses on five acres called Tuna Harbor, and the role it will play within Seaport San Diego, the billion-dollar waterfront development expected to break ground in 2022.

The marina is expected to provide a true “working waterfront” – a unique attraction for the Seaport project, an economic boon for the region and an opportunity for the fishermen to revive their struggling industry.

Throughout the talks, inewsource monitored the arguments, near-implosions and compromises that finally led to a deal being signed last month. It was a rare and noteworthy episode in San Diego history: Downtown land was up for grabs, and the two sides vying for a part of its future couldn’t have contrasted more in their history, finances or motivations.

“It wasn’t easy,” Peter Halmay said.

The 77-year-old urchin diver, representing San Diego’s commercial fishermen, sat next to Seaport San Diego developer Yehudi Gaffen at the conference room table of the American Tunaboat Association on Sept. 24. For years, Halmay had worked for this moment, though in a way he’d been planning it for decades – as one of the biggest advocates for commercial fishing’s “fantastic future” in San Diego.

Gaffen signed for Seaport and sat a head shorter from the tip of Halmay’s shock of white hair.

“I was 6 foot when I started,” Gaffen said.

“And I had wavy blond hair,” Halmay said.

The papers on the table were an ending point — but also a beginning. There are still government agencies, private interests and the public to appease. Not easy steps, said Alex Buggy, seated to Halmay’s right. The former Navy SEAL has spent the past three years as the intermediary between the fishermen and developer.

“But if we do it together, we have a better chance of succeeding,” Buggy said.

San Diego’s commercial fishermen rarely cooperate with outsiders. Monied interests – including developers – are naturally interested in their bayfront properties. Hotels line the downtown North Embarcadero. Two different billion-dollar developments are coming to the Central Embarcadero (home to Tuna Harbor). A third waterfront project – one of the largest on the West Coast – is expected to break ground on the Chula Vista bayfront in 2019.

Halmay, who had been negotiating on behalf of a disparate and unruly group of fishermen for the past three years, pointed to Gaffen and Buggy.

“And one thing these people never said was, ‘How do we get rid of these guys?’”

Gaffen smirked.

“We thought we could until we met you,” he said.

Setting the scene

Two years earlier – at the same table – Peter Flournoy considered the news media’s portrayal of his clients as “cowboys of the sea.” From Washington, D.C., to Papua New Guinea, the 74-year-old maritime attorney has represented fishermen for decades. A map of the world took up much of the wall behind him. San Diego Bay lapped outside his windows.

“I guess it depends on what you think of as a cowboy,” Flournoy said. “If you think of cowboys as outlaws or cattle rustlers or stuff like that, that’s not commercial fishermen. If you think of cowboys as independent, tough, resilient, hard working, with deep character, kind of people, then yeah, maybe you can call them cowboys.”

Many of these San Diego “cowboys” displayed those traits in public meetings, private talks, aboard their boats and underwater during the years of negotiations with Gaffen. They also showed volatility, a lack of organization and a level of distrust that sometimes bordered on paranoia.

Few interviewed had high hopes for Gaffen when his Seaport project cleared a hurdle on July 13, 2016.

“This has been a competition for ideas,” then-San Diego Port Commissioner Bob Nelson said to a packed house that afternoon, “and I believe there is one clear winner.”

The competition was over 70 acres of public land and water along the Central Embarcadero. Six companies presented redevelopment plans to the port – a government agency that manages thousands of acres of public land and water across San Diego, National City, Chula Vista, Coronado and Imperial Beach.

The winner was 1HWY1 – Seaport’s umbrella organization managed by Gaffen, Jeffrey Essakow and Jeff Jacobs. The estimated cost for the project was $1.2 billion, funded entirely by private investment. It is now around $1.6 billion, and includes hotels, office space, retail, a school, an aquarium, public parks and more within the area from the San Diego Convention Center to the USS Midway Museum.

Five acres of that land are protected by law for San Diego’s commercial fishermen. The California Coastal Act recognizes their industry’s “economic, commercial, and recreational importance.” It’s one of the few protections the fishermen have.

“People wonder why fishing has been on a downturn, and it’s because it’s difficult to operate our businesses on a day-to-day basis,” fisherman Kelly Fukushima said.

“Everything’s a struggle.”

What’s at stake

Fishermen around the country have been on the defensive for decades. Developers are just one threat. Federal and state regulations, an overabundance of imported seafood, low wages, a lack of public awareness and an aging fleet are a few others.

These factors nearly sank the commercial fishing industry in San Diego – and the U.S. – over the past half century, and the maritime economy along with it:

Despite these numbers, San Diego’s commercial fishermen believe opportunities abound: the Port Commission’s new chairman openly advocates for a vibrant maritime industry; fish off the California coast are plentiful after “spectacular rebuilding efforts”; the Tuna Harbor Dockside Market, a 4-year-old commercial enterprise formed and run by local fishermen, is drawing hundreds of customers each Saturday; and a panel discussion about the future of Tuna Harbor drew close to 200 people in April 2017.

“From an industry standpoint, we’re seeing a big bright light,” said Fukushima, who has been catching swordfish, shark and tuna off the coast for more than 20 years.

“The demand for our products is increasing. The public awareness of what we do is on a scale that hasn’t been recognized in a long time. There’s a great opportunity for fishing, and we need to promote it better,” he said.

“We also need to have the infrastructure to do it right.”

From Gaffen’s perspective, if San Diego fishermen are equipped with that infrastructure and support, they’ll generate a true “working waterfront” – like those in Morro Bay, San Francisco, Seattle and Tacoma.

A working waterfront also opens the door to possible apprenticeships, branding campaigns, a network of local buyers and a fishing museum, Gaffen and others said. Those elements could create a maritime district in downtown San Diego.

But key to that future is the physical state of Tuna Harbor.

On the docks

David Haworth looked around the marina this past August. The tuna, lobster and squid fisherman pointed out rotting piers and dilapidated docks before motioning toward a landscaper.

That guy is out here every day, tending to the flowers, Haworth said, while what really needs to be maintained is ignored.

The Port of San Diego is responsible for taking care of the harbor, but it hasn’t been doing the best job. Docks are falling apart – many are unusable. Storage is lacking. One study from 2010 found it would take $2.4 million to $8.4 million to renovate Tuna Harbor.

Port Chairman Rafael Castellanos acknowledged the marina’s backlog of deferred maintenance but said it’s not unique to Tuna Harbor.

“We have 34 miles of coastline, 6,000 acres,” Castellanos said of the port. “We would like for all of that to be in perfect condition, but the reality is we have to make choices every year.”

He hopes the Seaport development will fund the Tuna Harbor improvements.

That’s where the past several years of negotiations come into play. To reinvent Tuna Harbor, the developer and fishermen would have to find a compromise. The fishermen would need to overcome a silo mentality, spend much of their time on land, and learn how to work with a person who represented everything they’ve long despised – waterfront development.

Gaffen and his team had to put in long hours, organize hundreds of meetings with stakeholders, and find a way to work with a splintered faction of gruff older men who labeled his initial plans for Tuna Harbor “HS1” and “HS2” – the HS short for horseshit.

If they hadn’t worked out a deal, the fishermen could have gone to the California Coastal Commission, the port or the news media – and possibly killed Gaffen’s project.

Gaffen could have ignored the marina, or found a way around the fishermen by developing the surrounding land and taking millions of dollars off the table for reinvestment in Tuna Harbor.

‘’I don’t like to be forced by very wealthy people to do something I don’t want to do,” Halmay told inewsource. “It goes against a fisherman’s nature.‘’

Trouble on the horizon

Gaffen guessed that by August 2016 he’d already spent at least nine months meeting with Halmay and his colleagues.

“In the beginning,” Gaffen recalled, “they just said, ‘We don’t trust you, we don’t even know if we want to work with you.’”

Though the meeting locations would change every other week – from the American Tunaboat Association to the Chesapeake Fish Co. to the Hubbs-SeaWorld Research Institute to the downstairs dining room of the Harbor House restaurant – the distrust remained constant.

Phil Harris, a second-generation fisherman, spoke to inewsource about Gaffen while piloting his boat, the Seanag.

Phil Harris was a part of the Seaport negotiations and is pictured here aboard his boat, the Seanag, in July 2016. (Brad Racino/inewsource)

“He’s a typical developer,” Harris said, then paused.

“Well, I don’t know about typical, but he is a developer and you gotta just take that into consideration in dealing with him.”

He said Gaffen had been pleasant to work with, but he was in a “position to either help us a lot, or sink us.”

“We’re headed for a confrontation, I’m sure,” Harris said.

Harris remembered the “fiasco” of the North Embarcadero development project. The Port of San Diego promised that swath of land to the public in the early 2000s, but powerful interests privatized it piece by piece. Gaffen was involved with that project, and Harris would clash frequently with the developer over the next two years.

At a crowded meeting in January 2017, Harris broke up what was becoming a productive discussion between the fishermen and Gaffen.

“What are your intentions,” Harris shot at the developer. “We’re not going to give anything up.”

During the negotiations, Harris, Halmay and dozens of other fishermen would meet on Saturday mornings at the Tuna Harbor Dockside Market to sell fish and trade the latest gossip. Was Gaffen going to allow yachts inside Tuna Harbor, next to fishing boats? What was going to happen to their parking spaces? Was he going to jack up the rent?

The Tuna Harbor Dockside Market on Oct. 7, 2016. (Megan Wood/inewsource)

Even after more than a dozen meetings, they continued to doubt Gaffen.

“They are suspicious of the outcome and why this is being done,” Gaffen told inewsource at the time. “They don’t trust the data, and to some extent don’t trust us.”

He said he didn’t blame them – that they had been taken advantage of in so many areas over the decades that the lack of trust was well-founded.

A growing rift was over allowing anything other than commercial fishing boats within Tuna Harbor. From Gaffen’s standpoint, empty slips didn’t make sense: Why not fill them with sportfishing or pleasure boats when the fishermen weren’t using them? From the fishermen’s perspective, once those boats got in, they’d never leave – and there are only about 100 spots in the harbor.

Halmay’s plan for “a fantastic future” for commercial fishing would have no room to flourish if this happened.

The urchin diver and the developer could find no common ground. In February 2017, Halmay sent an email: Gaffen was pulling out of Tuna Harbor.

A turning point

Seaport’s financial backers “do not see any possibility of running the marina in the black even in the distant future,” Halmay wrote, without allowing yachts and sportfishing boats in Tuna Harbor.

Gaffen later told inewsource he didn’t know where that rumor came from, but it wasn’t true. The issue, however, would pop up again. Gaffen promised the fishermen no recreational activities would be allowed in the marina, and he presented them with plans for upgrading facilities and structures at the harbor.

Shortly after that, Halmay told inewsource at an interview in a North Park coffee shop that he had changed his mind about the Seaport developer. Gaffen had proved he was listening.

“It looks like the stuff we wanted is there. Now the real work starts,” he said.

Commercial fisherman Peter Halmay aboard the Erin B., on July 27, 2016. (Brad Racino/inewsource)

Halmay was joined that day by Theresa Talley, a scientist and researcher at the Scripps Institution of Oceanography. She specializes in coastal ecosystems and had been at the negotiations from the beginning.

She started by helping the fishermen find a unified voice, then transitioned to being what she called a “referee” at the meetings.

In the summer of 2016, Talley and her colleagues at the University of California San Diego published a research paper. It found only 8 percent of San Diego’s 86 seafood markets consistently carried locally sourced fish.

Reasons cited included “a small fishing fleet, prevalence of imported seafood, limited waterfront and urban infrastructure needed to support a local seafood system, and a lack of public awareness about local fisheries.”

The week after inewsource met with Halmay and Talley, Gaffen sat for an interview at his office in Sorrento Valley.

“This is taking almost every waking moment of my day, seven days a week,” Gaffen said.

“It’s at a very critical stage of the project right now.”

But things were going better than he expected. There was mutual trust and collaboration developing, Gaffen said. The two sides were on a path together.

“I must say that after our last meeting a couple of weeks ago, it felt really good,” he said. “I think it was the ‘Aha’ moment.”

That good faith lasted a month or so.

Then, at an April 2017 port meeting, the fishermen erupted when the board proposed zoning Tuna Harbor as “mixed use.” To them, that was a nebulous term that meant removing protections given to them by state law.

“The fishermen thought we did it,” Gaffen told inewsource the morning after the meeting.

“We had nothing to do with it. It came as a surprise to us,” he said.

The port ended up dropping the “mixed use” designation, though the fishermen’s distrust would persist for months.

Deal falling apart

This year, on Feb. 3, Gaffen told inewsource the negotiations were crumbling.

Talks with the fishermen were transitioning from a “win-win” to a “lose-lose,” he said, because a small group of mavericks wouldn’t accept anything he offered. He said his team was willing to pump millions into Tuna Harbor, but the fishermen needed to give up something. They needed to agree to having secondary uses at the harbor when fishing boats weren’t filling up the piers.

Halmay, Haworth, Harris and Flournoy gathered on the G Street Pier that day. They said they were in the same position as they were 10 months before, but that Gaffen had become secretive and stopped listening to their concerns.

But before a big meeting in front of the Port Commission on March 13, the fishermen got some concessions and decided it was better to stick with Gaffen than risk everything they’d work toward.

The meeting drew people from the San Diego Regional Chamber of Commerce, San Diego Tourism Authority, Scripps Institution of Oceanography, UC San Diego, the San Diego Waterfront Coalition and others. Almost all spoke in support of Gaffen’s Seaport project – as did Halmay and Flournoy.

“When we started, we were almost talking two different languages,” Halmay said to the commission. “We look at the port from the water in, and most developers look at it from the land, from the buildings, all the way to the edge of the water. … I think we can make it into a beautiful area that would not only reflect on the history and tradition, but would be an efficient way of marketing our fish. I think we’re working towards that goal.”

Minor issues still needed to be worked out, Halmay said, but “I think we can get there.”

Gaffen, seated in the front row, was visibly happy with what he was hearing.

Port Commissioner Robert “Dukie” Valderrama from National City said to Gaffen, “When the fishermen first approached us regarding this project, there was a war going on – and it was them against you. … But the good point is you guys are meeting and you’re communicating and you’re evolving.”

He added: “Overall I’m pleased with where we’re headed.”

A done deal

The signed agreement – dated Sept. 24, 2018 – was on the table in front of Halmay and Gaffen. It described what each side was willing to give – and give up.

Seaport will keep rates low for fishermen and designate Tuna Harbor solely for commercial fishing. The developer will provide space in a waterfront building for seafood buyers and processors, along with cold storage, ice machines, live seafood tanks and other items necessary for direct marketing – something Halmay has advocated for long before Gaffen came along.

“He may be in his 70s,” liaison Alex Buggy said of Halmay, “but he honestly has the perspective of a millennial, and understands that you need to be out in the community marketing what you do, and letting Americans know that American products can be sold here locally.”

Seaport will also provide cranes, an offloading dock, more dedicated parking and berths, signage, improved storage areas, sufficient space for a fish auction, and a strong effort to help fishermen restore a pier on the North Embarcadero.

In exchange, the fishermen won’t object if Seaport wants to commercialize the bay west of the Fish Market Restaurant. They will actively support the developer’s interests in the community and at related government meetings. And they’re still negotiating how much space to cede in Tuna Harbor for other uses when there is no demand for a commercial fishing slip – but no recreational boating is allowed.

Shortly after signing the deal, Gaffen reflected on the past three years dealing with Halmay.

“A lot of credit goes to him for persevering through,” Gaffen said. Halmay could have been out fishing and making a living, but instead his dedication to building a future for San Diego’s commercial fishermen helped lay the groundwork for the agreement on the table, Gaffen said.

“Without him, we would never have got here,” the developer said.

Halmay accepted the praise in his own way – joking that those kind words will make his fellow fishermen think he’s been paid off.

The ink had dried. The two sat back in their seat.

“The treaties that the fishermen have signed with the port haven’t been very good for the last 30 years,” Halmay said. “We’ve kept losing and losing and losing. … Finally – I don’t think we’re losing in this.”

By year’s end, Gaffen said Seaport will present a final project description, which for Tuna Harbor means a “fairly precise” layout of infrastructure, slip sizes, building footprints and square footage. Then it will to the Port Commission, the California Coastal Commission and the State Lands Commission.

Once an environmental impact report is finished, Gaffen said, Tuna Harbor could be rebuilt in less than a year.

“It’s gonna be a slow build,” Buggy said. “But once it crests, it’s going to have this huge upland economic impact that’s going to be great for San Diego.”

But Halmay did exercise a note of caution, quoting “the famous philosopher Mike Tyson.”

“A plan is good,” Halmay said, “until you get punched in the face.”


Originally published: https://inewsource.org/  |  by Brad Racino | October 23, 2018 | Full article including video files