Archive for the Legislation Category

Feb 17 2021

Setting Biden’s seafood policy table

© Getty Images

Fishermen have been invited to be partners with the Biden administration on ocean policy and we are prepared to engage. Hard work, honest dialog and commitments to justice and equity will ensure that we remain at the table and not on the menu.

January’s executive order tackling climate change includes ambitious provisions that set agencies on a course to climate mitigation. Most importantly for America’s commercial fishing families, the order established two parallel processes to secure direct input from fishermen on, respectively the appropriate ways to conserve 30 percent of U.S. lands and waters by 2030, an initiative known as 30×30, and ways to make our fisheries more resilient to climate change.

Fishing communities are precisely where policymakers should look for durable ocean-based climate solutions. Here are some starting points.

Expand place-based fisheries protections

Today’s ocean is increasingly industrialized and our coasts are more densely occupied than ever. The historic pattern of ocean and coastal development exacerbated by climate change has resulted in reduced protections for fish habitat and serial declines of functional working waterfront. The administration has the ability to reverse both trends.

The U.S. should strengthen existing fisheries habitat protection processes by requiring federal agencies to avoid, minimize and mitigate impacts to Essential Fish Habitat (EFH). EFH consultations are regularly conducted by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), yet NOAA’s recommendations are routinely ignored by other agencies. Executive action requiring permitting agencies to incorporate NOAA’s EFH conservation recommendations into their decisions would significantly benefit fish habitat, fisheries and biodiversity.

The U.S. can also promote the resilience of our working waterfront through infrastructure investments and policy action that secure fishing community access. National infrastructure investments should support climate resilient working waterfronts that meet the needs of community-based fishermen. National Standard 8, a key community protection provision of the Magnuson-Stevens Act, should be strengthened and its implementing guidelines updated.

Decarbonize U.S. seafood systems

Domestic wild-caught fish has the lowest associated carbon emissions on average of any animal protein. Americans should be eating more wild domestic seafood to mitigate climate change and improve their health. With proper incentives and support, U.S. fishermen can secure new markets while increasing food security and reducing the carbon footprint of America’s food supply.

The Biden administration should take this opportunity to invest in local seafood systems, which can decrease emissions from this already low-emissions food source. Strengthening NOAA and USDA programs that support and promote sustainable wild-capture seafood consumption at home is a win-win. Simultaneously, the U.S. must strengthen policies and programs to eliminate Illegal, Unreported, and Unregulated fishing, which undermines international conservation efforts, harms domestic fisheries and increases seafood-associated emissions.

The administration can also partner with fishermen on direct emission reductions. Diesel engines remain the only widely available marine propulsion option for fishing vessels, but innovations in hybrid power and alternative fuels are advancing. New programs to accelerate development and acquisition of next-generation marine propulsion technology will set the course to low- or zero-emission fisheries.

Give 30×30 a dose of ocean reality

The fishing industry is united in insisting that 30×30 policies recognize our world-leading fisheries management and avoid walling off areas of the ocean to all commercial fisheries. This call was echoed by two dozen of the country’s leading fisheries scientists. Fishermen objected primarily to mandates for no-take marine protected areas, including those that would set aside large parts of the ocean for recreational exploitation while disenfranchising fishing families.

Implementing 30×30 equitably should start at the inventory stage. According to the United Nations World Database of Protected Areas and by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature’s definition of marine protection, existing marine protected areas already cover over 37 percent of U.S. ocean waters. Over the past 40 years the U.S. has developed a visionary system for fisheries governance and conservation and through it implemented sweeping science and process-based conservation measures. Rather than circumventing existing processes, arguing over semantics and disqualifying our sustainable fisheries, the 30×30 process in the ocean should focus on investing resources in comprehensive climate-focused stock assessments, strengthening participatory fisheries management and integrating climate change into existing management processes.

In his inaugural address, President Biden issued a clarion call for the new administration: “Let’s begin to listen to one another again, to hear one another, see one another, show respect to one another.”

Fishermen’s appeals for equitable participation have been heard. We are optimistic the administration is setting a collaborative course for ocean climate action that will result in just and durable solutions and we are ready to get to work.


Original post: https://thehill.com/opinion/energy-environment/538931-setting-bidens-seafood-policy-table

Linda Behnken is a commercial fisherman and executive director of the Alaska Longline Fishermen’s Association, an association of small-scale fishermen based in Sitka, Alaska. Mike Conroy is an attorney and executive director of the Pacific Coast Federation of Fishermen’s Associations based in San Francisco.

Jan 29 2021

PCFFA Statement on President Biden’s Executive Order on Tackling the Climate Crisis at Home and Abroad

San Francisco, Calif. — January 28, 2021 –

On January 27, President Biden announced executive action to address the climate crisis.  The Executive Order on Tackling the Climate Crisis at Home and Abroad (E.O.) is wide ranging and includes many beneficial programs and policies.  Two policies, however, are of concern as they have the ability to unnecessarily impact the U.S. fishing industry unless implemented in a collaborative, inclusive, and equitable manner.

30 x 30 initiative

The Ocean-Based Climate Solutions Act, introduced during the last months of the 116th Congress, proposed to “prohibit any commercial extractive or destructive human activity in at least 30 percent of the ocean under United States jurisdiction by 2030”. In the preceding and ensuing weeks, the fishing industry united in its opposition to no-take marine protected areas as a component of national ocean conservation campaigns and insisted on being part of the process.

Yesterday’s order indicates that the Administration has accepted these terms and is inviting fishing communities to the table. We applaud President Biden’s acknowledgement of the contributions and importance of the nation’s fishing industry.  Rather than a prescriptive top-down mandate, the E.O. calls for a process designed to achieve the goal of “conserving at least 30 percent of our lands and waters by 2030.”  Notably, this process requires engagement with fishermen throughout. We thank the Administration for listening to our concerns and agreeing that we have valuable contributions and insights.  We are on the water every day, we are seeing, experiencing, and adapting to a changing climate – in real time, and we have valuable insight to share.

“Conservation” is a value that U.S. fishermen have cherished for generations and depend on looking towards the future.  U.S. fishermen fight harder for fishery conservation than virtually any other group, without compromise: without it, we have no fishing communities.  For us, it is personal, and our livelihoods and the food security of all Americans depend on it.

Our industry’s future is wholly dependent on the conservation of our marine resources and the health of our ocean ecosystems.  The Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act (MSA) is the primary law governing marine fisheries management in the U.S; and a worldwide model for a public, science-driven ocean governance process.  Principles of resource, habitat and ecosystem conservation are deeply embedded in the MSA and have resulted in stakeholder-driven Fishery Management Councils establishing numerous protections and conservation measures in the oceans under U.S. jurisdiction. For example, under Council leadership, we have already prohibited bottom trawling in over 76% of US waters, the most comprehensive ocean conservation program in the country by far. Through hard work, strong science, and meaningful stakeholder participation we have achieved healthy, sustainable fisheries that all Americans can be proud of, managed using regulatory systems that result in meaningful and lasting ocean conservation. We should use these tools and integrate the achievements we’ve already made using them, rather than cast them aside.

Renewable Energy in Offshore Waters

We, and others similarly situated, have been vocal critics of how offshore energy siting and permitting decisions have been made and the absence of any planned actions to improve them.  Section 207 requires the Secretary of the Interior to “review siting and permitting processes * * * in offshore waters to identify * * * steps that can be taken * * * to increase renewable energy production * * * in those waters, with the goal of doubling offshore wind by 2030 while ensuring robust protection for our lands, waters, and biodiversity and creating good jobs.”  This review requires consultation with “other interested parties”.  Through, and with, our partners we expect to be granted “other interested party” status to inform this important process.  To date, the fishing industry has not been invited to the table in offshore energy siting discussions. In effect, we are on the menu. The fishing industry is still coming to terms with being forced to share its beating heart/workplace with a new activity – especially one that has not reached out to industry in an effort to determine locations which would have minimal impacts; one that has unknown impacts on fish stocks, protected species, sea birds and the larger marine ecosystem and environment; and one that promises jobs and economic revitalization, but at what true cost.

We are hopeful the review required by the order will sufficiently detail the potential harms of the industrialization of the ocean by offshore energy developers to the marine environment and biodiversity, and our ability to feed the nation, for which “robust protection[s]” can be discussed, analyzed and applied.  The need is based on offshore renewables being integral to meeting carbon emission goals.  We hope the review will consider whether such facilities are actually necessary to meet those goals; which requires identification of increases in emissions and other negative climate/environment impacts along the planning, construction, installation, maintenance and decommissioning phases of each Project.  The ability to create good jobs is predicated on economic viability of individual projects.  We hope the review will require future applicants to submit detailed documentation on all economic costs and benefits to those harmed by the project(s) and those who will benefit from the project(s).

Environmental and Economic Justice

Section 219 requires consideration of environmental and economic justice while governing.  Access to nature and natural resources is one of the underappreciated issues related to environmental justice.  U.S. harvested seafood is a healthy and affordable source of protein, and supports tens of thousands of jobs, particularly in rural coastal areas where economic options are limited.  For a large percentage of Americans, the only meaningful access to the living marine resources in our oceans is via the seafood we harvest.  We must not lose sight of this as we take actions in furtherance of the E.O.’s goals.

PCFFA is committed to working with the Biden Administration and other Stakeholders in carrying out the visions of the Executive Order.

About PCFFA
The Pacific Coast Federation of Fishermen’s Associations is the largest commercial fishermen’s organization on the West Coast, representing 17 local and regional fishermen’s associations from Santa Barbara to Southeast Alaska. As a major commercial fishing industry trade association, PCFFA represents the interests of commercial fishing families who make their living harvesting and delivering high-quality seafood to America’s tables.
 
Media contacts:
Mike Conroy, PCFFA executive director: (415) 638-9730 • mike@ifrfish.org

Jan 28 2021

Seafood Industry Reacts to Biden’s Climate Crisis Executive Order

January 28, 2021

White House in Washington DC

Photo Credit: YevgeniyM/iStock/Getty Images Plus

On Wednesday, President Joe Biden signed an executive order focused on “Tackling the Climate Crisis at Home and Abroad.

The order’s focus on science and addressing climate change was applauded by many in the industry. However, concerns over being included in some of the decision-making processes that will follow the order was a theme in reactions from industry associations and organizations.

National Fisheries Institute (NFI) President John Connelly wrote in a statement, “[NFI] welcomes the Administration’s early focus on fisheries. We are prepared to work with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and others to ensure the right programs are put in place.”

“Engaging stakeholders and researchers early is essential to ensuring seafood science, not slogans, drives sustainability initiatives. The health of both our nation’s seafood stocks and the communities that rely on them is vital to the success of any initiative. Efforts to implement broad restrictions should take into account the existing restrictions put in place by fisheries management councils,” Connelly concluded.

Overall, the administration’s focus on solving the issue of climate change was met positively.

“We applaud President Biden for recognizing the critical need for meaningful stakeholder engagement in fulfilling his campaign promise to conserve 30 percent of our lands and waters by 2030. Explicitly naming fishermen as a stakeholder group clearly acknowledges our role in ensuring healthy oceans systems and providing the lowest carbon footprint protein to the American people,” Leigh Habegger, Executive Director, Seafood Harvesters of America said in a statement.

“Alaskan fishermen expressed a combination of relief and optimism as the Biden Administration released its federal plan to address climate change. Having long been aware of the need to address a rapidly changing climate. Climate change is among Alaskan fishermen’s top concerns according to a 2020 survey of more than 750 fishermen,” a press release from the Salmon Habitat Information Program read.

Many organizations are questioning the ‘30×30’ provision, which calls for at least 30% of the country’s lands and waters be preserved.

“The order commits to the goal of conserving at least 30 percent of our lands and oceans by 2030 and launches a process for stakeholder engagement from agricultural and forest landowners, fishermen, Tribes, States, Territories, local officials, and others to identify strategies that will result in broad participation,” the statement from the White House reads.

The provision, which was included in the “Ocean-Based Climate Solutions Act,” introduced by Representative Raul Grijalva (D-AZ) last October was met with swift reaction from the seafood industry with 800 members sending a letter to Grijalva citing concerns about the plan.

“Conserving 30 percent of our lands and waters by 2030 is a big deal and we must get it right if it is to be effective. If this initiative is guided by no more than simply what feels good or sounds catchy, we will not get it right. Much like the Magnuson-Stevens Act, so too must this initiative be rooted in science if it is to be a global gold standard. ‘30×30’ must be science-based, transparent, and stakeholder-driven, while having a watchful eye for fairness, equity, and societal betterment. Our oceans are changing rapidly and we must confront that head on. However, we must allow for science to guide us, not politics,” Christopher Brown, President, Seafood Harvesters of America and 2016 White House Champion of Change for Sustainable Fisheries said in a statement.

In regard to the ‘30×30’ provision, the Alaska Longline Fishermen’s Association (ALFA) wrote:

“Unlike emissions reductions or transitioning to renewable energy, marine protected areas that exclude fishing communities do not address climate change, and in many cases may exacerbate it by weakening local food systems and increasing emissions in the seafood supply chain. Over the past six months, ALFA has been a leading voice as the commercial fishing industry united in calls to be included in decision making around the 30×30 campaign. Today’s actions signal that the administration is listening, and we thank them.”

The Responsible Offshore Development Alliance (RODA) shared its thoughts on the EO’s focus on offshore wind development in the country.

RODA wrote:

“The Administration has made clear its commitment to address climate change, which is a matter of critical importance to seafood harvesters adapting to the effects of ecosystem changes every day. The rapid advancement of large offshore wind energy facilities to meet climate goals places our nation at the dawn of a new era of ocean industrialization. While mitigating carbon emissions is urgent and necessary, so is protecting and prioritizing domestic sourcing of sustainable, affordable, and healthy protein. This necessitates evaluating the most efficient means of reducing atmospheric carbon while minimizing impacts to biodiversity and the economy.

Fishing communities stand ready and willing to incorporate their unique expertise in the country’s transition to renewable energy but there must be meaningful ways for them to do so. Three key topics must be addressed to ensure responsible planning for the unprecedented demands that are anticipated to be placed on our oceans.”

The three key topics RODA highlighted were: (1) Improving regional research efforts and scientific understanding of offshore infrastructure projects; (2) Enhanced interstate coordination and a clear delineation of authorities within federal agencies; (3) Facilitation of industry to industry cooperation.


 Posted with permission of Seafood News. Subscribe to SeafoodNews.com
Jan 28 2021

RODA statement on considerations for the Biden Administration from the fishing industry and coastal communities

January 27, 2021 — The following was released by the Responsible Offshore Development Alliance:

The United States commercial fishing industry is united around the common goals of protecting our traditional fishing communities, maintaining domestic food security, and leading with evidence-based decision making during an era of rapidly changing ocean use. We are encouraged by the new Administration’s commitment to inclusivity and environmental science. We look forward to improving partnerships between lawmakers, policymakers, and fisheries experts to protect and promote this low-environmental impact protein source, which leads the world in sustainability through the rigorous fisheries management and conservation requirements of the Magnuson Stevens Act.

It is imperative that our elected officials support and adopt policies to minimize and mitigate the effects of climate change; the strategies to do so must equally address the pressing issues of food production, ecosystem health, and preserving cultural heritage. As evidenced by his Agency nominations and recent Executive Order on “Tackling the Climate Crisis at Home and Abroad,” we are encouraged that the President is taking a measured approach. We applaud leadership and processes that underscore the value of science-based collaboration with members of small communities who are most impacted by natural resource management decisions.

Offshore Renewable Energy Development 

The Administration has made clear its commitment to address climate change, which is a matter of critical importance to seafood harvesters adapting to the effects of ecosystem changes every day. The rapid advancement of large offshore wind energy facilities to meet climate goals places our nation at the dawn of a new era of ocean industrialization. While mitigating carbon emissions is urgent and necessary, so is protecting and prioritizing domestic sourcing of sustainable, affordable, and healthy protein. This necessitates evaluating the most efficient means of reducing atmospheric carbon while minimizing impacts to biodiversity and the economy.

Fishing communities stand ready and willing to incorporate their unique expertise in the country’s transition to renewable energy but there must be meaningful ways for them to do so. Three key topics must be addressed to ensure responsible planning for the unprecedented demands that are anticipated to be placed on our oceans.

1. Improving regional research efforts and scientific understanding of offshore infrastructure projects

Development of the Outer Continental Shelf should only be done in a purposeful planned manner utilizing the best available science. Our scientific understanding of impacts from offshore wind energy development is improving, but there is far more unknown about how development will alter the physical, biological, economic and social dimensions of the marine environment.

Evidence-based planning is necessary to understand and minimize impacts, and currently that does not exist for the proposed scale of development to proceed responsibly. For commercial fishermen, it is extremely worrisome to see the push for a new industry that jeopardizes a sustainable and historic one without rigorous scientific due diligence. Such diligence must apply to transparent information about the environmental and economic effects associated with the entire offshore renewable energy supply chain, from mining rare earth minerals for battery components to turbine production to maritime traffic to decommissioning.

Currently, there is no balancing of priorities in offshore renewable energy permitting decisions. Promises to achieve production targets for offshore wind energy based solely on climate goals will significantly impact other public needs such as food production, tourism, and national security. Such targets, if adopted, must be accompanied by a comprehensive roadmap for evaluating tradeoffs and should not be pursued before the creation of balanced multi-use ocean plans. These must include funding for environmental research and compensatory mitigation for impacted sectors.

2. Enhanced interstate coordination and a clear delineation of authorities within federal agencies

Some of the biggest challenges around offshore renewable energy development are due to a lack of consistency in the leasing and planning processes, nonexistent or inconsistent engagement opportunities, and poor integration between planning and permitting authorities.

Regional issues associated with environmental and fisheries impacts require appropriate federal oversight. The current approach results in widespread duplication of efforts, inconsistency and inequity, misplaced interstate competition, and overall unpredictability. To help address the lack of coordination of regional research, RODA co-founded the Responsible Offshore Science Alliance with federal and state entities, offshore wind energy developers, and expert fisheries scientists to serve as a trusted regional coordinating entity. The Administration should reward the collaboration on this innovative public-private partnership and utilize it as a resource for improved coordination.

Responsibilities for the various federal agencies involved is often unclear. A clarification of the roles for these entities is urgently needed and regulatory authority should be returned to agencies with most expertise in the relevant aspects of environmental review.

We look forward to an incoming Commerce Secretary who can bring her expertise and knowledge of coordinating numerous federal, state and local agencies, as well as community members and regional partners together through her experience with the Block Island Wind Farm. As governor, Ms. Raimondo witnessed first hand the time and dedication required for effective collaboration and the complex links of offshore wind energy with the U.S. economy.

3. Facilitation of industry to industry cooperation

As users who will inevitably share the ocean space, regulations, and potential workforce, it is paramount that industry to industry cooperation improves between offshore wind energy development and fishing. Currently this is very difficult to achieve and would benefit from regulatory incentives or direct federal involvement.

RODA has worked to bring industries together through its Joint Industry Task Force and fishing industry leaders are committed to direct engagement when assured those efforts can bear fruit. Small collaborative projects and communication have added value to the process, but not enough resources have been committed to truly catalyze the industries working together in a meaningful way. Absent resources and in a regulatory atmosphere that strongly favors one party, progress is difficult. To be effective, support must be directed to fisheries-driven efforts, not just wind-organized ones. Similarly, some wind developers have expended far more effort than others to work with affected communities in good faith. Incentives to do so must be greatly expanded.

“30×30”

The Presidential Memorandum on scientific integrity must extend to implementation of science-based recommendations for conservation and environmental protection. We are encouraged by the Administration’s commitment to collect input from stakeholders in the “30×30” provisions included in the Executive Order on climate change, which implements a goal of conserving at least 30% of U.S. waters by 2030. We echo the concern expressed by fishing communities and scientists across the country that arbitrary closures, or targets for the total area of closures, based on political negotiations rather than science could have greater negative impacts to ocean conservation than no closures at all.

For conservation measures to be beneficial, they must be carefully designed for specific outcomes such as enhancing ecosystem production, protecting sensitive habitat, or preserving fish spawning activity. The public and transparent fishery management council process is the appropriate way to ensure the best available science determines such design.  We must also be mindful that for a vast majority of Americans, the only access they have to the marine resources in U.S. oceans is a direct result of the U.S. fishing industry.  The Executive Order clearly states environmental and economic justice are important considerations in developing programs and policies. Reducing our abilities to provide U.S. seafood to disadvantaged communities would not further environmental and economic justice.

Support for the Buy American Initiative

The Biden Administration should champion the U.S. commercial fishing industry, which complies with a multitude of regulations to provide renewable protein to Americans across the country. U.S. fisheries are among the most sustainable around the world and constitute one of the lowest-carbon methods of food production. Too often we hear public misconceptions that wild harvest fisheries are on the verge of extinction or utilize destructive practices, but that is not true for U.S. based fisheries. Domestic fisheries are the most strictly regulated in the world and have rebounded extraordinarily from overfishing decades ago; failing to recognize their success only pushes consumers toward seafood from other markets with much looser environmental oversight. The coastal communities across the nation that support our fishing heritage must be protected and celebrated.

In light of the Covid-19 pandemic and staggering unemployment rates, efforts to promote jobs should be maximized across all maritime sectors and ensure that any new coastal uses benefit the U.S. economy and Americans. RODA calls on the Biden administration to work with fishing companies and crews, offshore wind supply chains, unions, and workforce development programs to create robust mechanisms that create and maintain jobs across all maritime trades.

Complementary to this, offshore wind energy development should be the poster industry for the President’s “Buy American” initiative. Current infrastructure in the U.S. does not support the manufacturing or installation of offshore wind turbine components and thus energy development companies are poised to purchase from foreign countries. For example, GE Renewable Energy, a main supplier of wind turbines and turbine parts, recently opened a new offshore wind and development center in China. The Administration should support American labor by requiring turbines, monopiles and blades be manufactured here in the U.S., ensuring that they meet our world-class environmental standards.

As small business owners reliant upon a healthy U.S. environment, our members look forward to working with the President’s appointments for the Secretaries of Commerce, Interior, and Labor. Their experience working with small communities, including coastal and fishing communities, will prove vital as we tackle some of the biggest issues facing our nation. We also look forward to working with the entire Administration on protecting and promoting sustainable U.S. seafood. RODA is committed to helping our members stay on the water and will continue to advocate for protecting the important heritage of the fishing industry and coastal communities across the country.

 


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

Dec 22 2020

An Open Letter to the 116th Congress from U.S. Marine Fishery Scientists

Concerning:

Marine Protected Areas – Title II of the Ocean-Based Climate Solutions Act (H.R.8632)

 

December 10, 2020

Dear Senators and Representatives:

 

As scientists engaged in the provision of information to support federally managed fisheries, we are concerned that Title II of the proposed Ocean-Based Climate Solutions Act (H.R.8632), which would require the establishment of marine protected areas that ban all commercial fishing activity in 30% of U.S. ocean waters by 2030, is not based on the best scientific information available and would not be the most effective way to protect marine biodiversity. Conservation of marine ecosystems in the U.S. waters is challenged by a rapidly changing climate, but the proposed marine protected areas will not solve climate-related impacts on biodiversity, instead they will decrease flexibility of the fishery management system to adapt to climate change. The most significant impact of marine protected areas is a spatial shift in fishing, which is effectively a fisheries management action. Marine biodiversity is protected by the mandates of the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act, the Endangered Species Act, the Marine Mammal Protection Act, and other legislation. The implementation of those requirements with respect to fisheries impacts is through the regional Fisheries Management Council system to protect target species, bycatch species, protected species, ecosystem components, essential fish habitat and other sensitive habitats.

Although several U.S. fish stocks have been overfished, the fisheries are highly regulated to avoid overfishing and rebuild stocks with a precautionary approach. A large portion of U.S. waters are currently closed to fishing, either seasonally or year-round. A prevalent impact of climate change in the U.S. has been shifting spatial distributions, generally northerly and to deeper habitats. Many fisheries are flexible enough to adapt to such shifts, but the proposed extension of permanent marine protected areas would prohibit many adaptive responses to climate change. Based on our experiences and case studies, marine protected areas that are not based on the best scientific information available, such as the uninformed target of restricting commercial fishing in 30% of U.S. waters, will have unanticipated consequences such as increased bycatch and habitat destruction by shifting the location of fishing effort.

As an example, after over a decade of scientific analysis, the New England Fishery Management Council recently re-designated essential fish habitat for all 28 Council managed species, designated new habitat areas of particular concern, revised habitat and groundfish management areas, and designated deep-sea coral management zones and fishing gear restrictions. We affirm that these management areas are based on the best scientific information available, as required in the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act. By contrast, we are concerned that establishing new marine protected areas to meet the arbitrary 30% objective stated in Title II of the Ocean-Based Climate Solutions Act will not be based on the best scientific information available, will have negative unanticipated consequences, and will decrease the ability of U.S. fisheries to adapt to a changing climate.

Title II of the Ocean-Based Climate Solutions Act is predicated on a view that marine biodiversity in the U.S. EEZ is decreasing but provides no evidence that this is true. It is well established that targeted U.S. fish stocks are rebuilding and on average above target levels. A high proportion of benthic habitat and benthic ecosystems are already protected throughout the U.S. EEZ, and the non-target species of conservation concern are governed by other legislation, including the Endangered Species Act. Title II provides no evidence that biodiversity will be increased by more MPAs and provides no metrics for how the impact of additional MPAs would be evaluated.

Yours sincerely,

The undersigned are all marine scientists who have been involved in providing advice to the Federal or State governments on management of marine biodiversity. These scientists include former NOAA employees, former members of Science and Statistics Committees of Fisheries Management Councils including two chairs of those committees, a director of a NMFS regional center, the Editor in Chief of a major marine science journal and members of government advisory panels including the Ocean Studies Board of the National Research Council.

 

Judith R. Amesbury Micronesian Archaeological Research Services, Guam

David Bethoney, Commercial Fisheries Research Foundation

Debra T. Cabrera, University of Guam

Steven X. Cadrin, University of Massachusetts

Paul Callaghan, University of Guam

Yong Chen, University of Maine

Charles Daxboeck, Biodax Consulting

David Fluharty, University of Washington

Daniel Georgianna, University of Massachusetts Dartmouth

David Itano, Opah Consulting

Brad Harris, Alaska Pacific University

Ray Hilborn, University of Washington

Pierre Kleiber, NOAA retired

Olaf Jensen, University of Wisconsin

Bill Karp, NOAA retired

Kai Lorenzen, University of Florida

Franz Mueter, University of Alaska

Robert D. Murphy, Alaska Pacific University

Catherine E. O’Keefe, Fishery Applications Consulting Team

Richard Parrish, NOAA retired

Eric N. Powell, University of Southern Mississippi

Craig Severance, University of Hawaii Hilo

John Sibert, University of Hawaii (retired)

Robert Skillman, NOAA retired

Kevin Stokesbury, University of Massachusetts Dartmouth

 Robert Trumble, MRAG America (retired)

Vidar G. Wespestad, NOAA retired

Michael Wilberg, University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science

Affiliations are listed for identification purposes only and do not imply institutional support for the views expressed.


Original post: https://sustainablefisheries-uw.org/

Nov 19 2020

No-take MPAs “do nothing to mitigate” problems facing U.S. oceans, Dr. Ray Hilborn tells Congress


 

November 18, 2020 (Saving Seafood) — WASHINGTON — Yesterday, at a House Natural Resources Committee hearing on the Ocean-Based Climate Solutions Act, respected fisheries scientist Dr. Ray Hilborn criticized the marine protected area (MPA) provision of the bill, which he called “the wrong tool for adapting to climate change.”

The provision, known as the “30 by 30” plan, would require the establishment of MPAs in at least 30 percent of American waters by 2030. In his testimony, Dr. Hilborn, professor of sustainable fisheries at the University of Washington, cited numerous threats facing U.S. oceans, including climate change, ocean acidification, exotic species, land-based runoff, plastics and illegal fishing.

“There are solutions to each of these problems,” Dr. Hilborn said. “But it is not no-take MPAs – they do nothing to mitigate these problems.”

Dr. Hilborn praised current fisheries management under the regional council process, which he called science-based and credible with industry and other stakeholders. He also pointed out that MPAs would simply push fishing pressure outside of the protected area into other parts of the ocean, with no net gain.

“MPA advocates ignore the fact that ‘30 by 30’ would cause 70 percent of U.S. oceans to see increased fishing pressure from the vessels that moved out of the 30 percent closed, and thus potentially be less resilient to climate change. Do we really want to make 70 percent of our oceans less resilient to climate change?” Dr. Hilborn said.

The hearing kicked off with Ranking Member Rob Bishop (R-UT) introducing a letter organized in part by Saving Seafood and signed by over 800 seafood industry members opposing the “30 by 30” plan. Rep. Bishop added that “30 by 30” is “woefully misguided, does not improve fisheries, it undermines the Magnuson-Stevens Act, and even worse, it’s detrimental to Americans, especially American fishermen.”

Read Dr. Hilborn’s written testimony here

Watch the full hearing here


Original post: Saving Seafood savingseafood.org

Nov 17 2020

Sustainable fisheries are facing a moratorium

Sustainable fisheries are facing a moratorium
© Getty Images

 

American wild-caught seafood is integral to the nation’s food supply and to American food security. We’ve been working hard to keep it that way in the face of climate change. The people who catch fish for a living experience climate impacts directly. We recognized it early and we’ve responded. In fact, U.S. fishermen have been part of the solution to habitat conservation and climate responses for decades.

Nonetheless, some politicians and environmental organizations have embraced a version of an initiative called 30×30 (“thirty by thirty”) that would damage our nation’s sustainable fisheries and robust fisheries management process. Broadly, 30×30 aims to conserve 30 percent of habitat worldwide by the end of the decade — 2030. The 30×30 approach has been embraced by President-elect Biden’s campaign, and there’s talk he will sign an executive order on his first day in office.

We’re eager to engage with the new administration to address climate impacts and protect habitat. Proactive and durable ocean policy changes need to happen with us, not to us.

Our organizations have advocated for strong ocean conservation for decades, and we’ve built a fisheries management system that will continue to provide enduring protections to ocean habitat while insisting fishermen participate. The results are striking: we’ve established deep-sea habitat protection areas covering over 45 percent of U.S. waters off the West Coast. In 1998 we prohibited trawling off the entire coast of Southeast Alaska. Recently, the New England and Mid-Atlantic regions enacted major deep-sea coral protections that prohibit the use of impactful gear in sensitive areas.

Our work to conserve sensitive ocean spaces has helped make American fisheries the most sustainable in the world. Despite these accomplishments, the most connected and well-financed proponents of 30×30 are seeking to implement no-take marine protected areas in U.S. oceans without serious input from fishing stakeholders. Rep. Raul Grijalva (D-Ariz.) and his colleagues recently introduced H.R.8632, the Ocean-Based Climate Solutions Act, which would require “protection” of at least 30 percent of the U.S. ocean by 2030 by banning “all commercial extractive use.”

It’s important to note that the “non-commercial” exemption in the bill was added late and appears to be sanctioned by recreational fishing groups and environmental organizations. This move would be puzzling if not for the politics. In much of the U.S. ocean, commercial and recreational fishermen use similar gear types, and in many fisheries recreational harvest accounts for half, or sometimes more, of catch. But overcoming the objections of the sportfishing lobby is a tall order, and this is a fight 30×30 proponents chose not to pick, biological justification notwithstanding.

Whether you are a sport or commercial fisherman or a seafood consumer, policies that circumvent our fishery management system set a bad precedent and needlessly remove public access to healthy and natural seafood resources. They also contravene biological science, which supports fisheries management’s optimized approach to conservation and social science, which shows us that conservation is enhanced when stakeholders are provided equitable opportunities to participate.

We don’t need an unjustified moratorium on U.S. commercial fisheries in nearly a third of the ocean in order to achieve climate resilience and biodiversity protection. In fact, a ban on all commercial fisheries in 30 percent of U.S. waters would be a giant step backwards for biodiversity and climate change. U.S. fisheries increasingly support local food systems and shorten food supply chains — a climate positive.

It remains possible to fashion a U.S. 30×30 policy that is compatible with our fishery management institutions. Doing so would be relatively simple, but it would require acknowledging the gains fishermen and fisheries management processes have already achieved, while providing an equitable stakeholder role.

Are the proponents ready to engage? If they are, a 30×30 policy could be developed with goals that are directly compatible with biodiversity and fisheries management, while ensuring that serious discussions about climate change do not exclude coastal communities. If they aren’t, Americans will lose another piece of their maritime heritage, they’ll lose access to sustainably sourced seafood and coastal communities will be swept aside in a misdirected effort to address climate change.

Abandoning fishing communities when addressing the climate crisis is a disservice to our world-leading fisheries management system and to the people who risk their lives to feed the nation. But there’s still time for meaningful discussion with fisheries stakeholders. If Congressional Democrats and the Biden administration are serious about supporting working people, they must engage with working fishermen and women immediately, before executive orders issue or legislation passes.

Ocean-based climate solutions cannot be achieved without including the people who work there.

Linda Behnken is a commercial fisherman and executive director of the Alaska Longline Fishermen’s Association, an association of small-scale fishermen based in Sitka, Alaska. Mike Conroy is an attorney and executive director of the Pacific Coast Federation of Fishermen’s Associations, based in San Francisco.


Original post: https://thehill.com/

Oct 21 2020

Ocean climate bill is a grab bag for marine stakeholders

The trawler Virginia Marise from Point Judith, R.I., near the Block Island Wind Farm. Deepwater Wind photo.

Rep. Raul Grijalva (D-Ariz.), chairman of the House Committee on Natural Resources, today introduced the Oceans-Based Climate Solutions Act of 2020.

We could start with the irony of a representative from Arizona introducing an oceans climate bill, hailing not only from a landlocked state, but one most known for its lack of water.

But let’s instead lead with the fact that the blueprint for this bill was introduced and failed to make it out of committee in California — one of the nation’s most progressive states. Now Gov. Gavin Newsom has made an end run around the legislative process by creating an executive order to effect the changes in the bill that could not pass with votes.

The federal bill is more than a mixed bag. Reading its 324 pages felt like swinging at a piñata packed with a mix of treats and lit fireworks.

It includes (but is not limited to) amendments to the Magnuson-Stevens Act, language on marine protected areas, a prohibition of new oil and gas leases, an offshore wind energy mandate, promotion of U.S. seafood, fuel efficiency, aquaculture research, coastal hazards, marine mammal protection, ocean acidification and red tide.

“I am still trying to come to terms with what I am reading,” said Mike Conroy, executive director of the Pacific Coast Federation of Fishermen’s Associations. “It is clearly major legislation with lofty goals. There are some provisions we can support (the provisions surrounding Buying American Seafood under Title IV); but there are many which would benefit from additional scrutiny. We remain committed to working with Congress to share our concerns and perspectives.”

In California it was called 30×30, based on the overarching goal to designate 30 percent of the state’s waters and lands as protected areas by 2030.

Remember that at most 10 percent of the ocean is fishable ground. But there’s something for every marine user group in the federal bill, including the military under the underwater sound restrictions that could reasonably include seismic testing and sonar restrictions.

“The Ocean-Based Climate Solutions Act of 2020 is a very comprehensive bill with a long list of proposals to address climate change,” said Ben Martens, executive director of the Maine Coast Fishermen’s Association. “Maine fishermen have seen firsthand the effects climate change is having on our fisheries, and we fully support a robust and immediate response to these challenges. That being said, we do have concerns that this bill may fundamentally undermine the Magnuson-Stevens Act and particularly the regional council system, which uses the best available science and a collaborative approach to fisheries management. We also have concerns regarding the impacts of the bill on our ability to access traditional fishing grounds due to increased wind power and the creation of additional no fishing areas.”

The second section of the federal bill starts with the Protection of Habitat, directing a new federal policy “to prohibit any commercial extractive or destructive human activity in at least 30 percent of the ocean under United States jurisdiction by 2030. The 30 percent shall include existing areas in which commercial extractive and destructive human activities are and continue to be prohibited; and (2) to support the adoption and implementation of a global goal to protect at least 30 percent of land and 30 percent of ocean areas by 2030.”

That last “and” is important. The Newsom EO leaves some wiggle room in that 30 percent requirement, saying “it is the goal of the state to conserve at least 30 percent of California’s land and coastal waters,” not necessarily 30 percent of the land and 30 percent of the water, but 30 percent together. The only wiggle room in the federal bill is that it would conceivably draw lines around grounds that are not critical to commercial fisheries. There is a lot of ocean out there that fishermen don’t rely on, after all.

“We’re a nation that has long been sustained and protected by our oceans,” said Rep. Jared Huffman (D-Calif.) in the press conference to introduce the bill. “This legislation takes a very important step forward.”

“As we consider the impacts and the solutions to the climate crisis, we really have to be just as concerned about our oceans, where we are seeing major declines in biodiversity, rapidly shifting fish stocks, sea level rise, and widespread losses of our world’s most important coastal habitats,” added Huffman, who has been holding a fisheries listening tour in coastal communities around the country for the last year.

Somewhere between the bill’s introduction in California, its failure to pass there, and its reintroduction on the national stage, recreational fishing interests managed to leave a window for sport fishing in these proposed closed areas. I hope Huffman, who has been an advocate for commercial fishermen, is still listening as we begin the journey down this new road.

The third section of the bill mandates the implementation of offshore wind. As we’ve seen so far, this administration has generally been supportive of offshore wind energy development, including speeding up the time lines for lease approvals. However, the process has been slowed by input from other marine resource industries whose work conflicts with some of the proposals for wind array siting plans and proposals.

The approval and permitting process for offshore wind arrays so far seems to be working, as no leases have been denied, but rather more information is being gathered before granting foreign interests access to our exclusive economic zone. A mandate for a system that has yet to prove its reliability and sustainability in U.S. waters seems short-sighted. Let’s not short-circuit the systems we have in place to protect citizens and ensure the safe implementation of new infrastructure and industry.

“While recognizing the importance of addressing climate change, I urge Congress to consider fishermen not as obstacles, but as partners in developing policies based on sound science, thriving coastal communities, and food security,”said Annie Hawkins, executive director of the Responsible Offshore Development Alliance. “During today’s press conference, Rep. Alan Lowenthal (D-Calif.) stated that this administration has ‘thrown obstacles in the way’ of the nation’s first proposed commercial-scale offshore wind energy facility. Indeed, the administration undertook a supplemental review to evaluate the environmental impacts of a new era of ocean industrialization, before granting carte blanche to an activity that will fundamentally alter fishing, benthic habitat, biodiversity, and protected species. That review correctly found that such activities will have major impacts to these resources and we hope these impacts will be effectively mitigated.”

There’s a lot more to this legislation, which we are sure to see the effects of for many years to come.


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

Sep 23 2020

US panel votes to keep options open in Pacific sardine fishery rebuild plan

At least 100 commercial harvesters of sardines on the US west coast as well as lots of processors and many others that count on their landings appear to have escaped last week what could’ve been a painful blow.

The Pacific Fishery Management Council (PFMC) voted unanimously, 14-0, to support a rebuilding plan for northern Pacific sardines that gives it the option to keep the maximum quota at 4,000 metric tons per year or to move it up or down depending on the biomass. It was one of three alternatives recommended by the council’s Coastal Pelagic Species (CPS) Management Team.

One of the other two alternatives, which was favored by conservationists, would’ve instead limited the acceptable catch limit (ACL) to 5% of the biomass, while a third option would’ve allowed zero harvests of the species, essentially shutting down the fishery.

Based on the CPS management team’s estimates, the 5% methodology would’ve resulted in an ACL of just 1,414t during the current fishing season, about a third as much as is currently allowed. However, it’s worth noting that actual landings of northern Pacific sardines off the US West Coast have ranged between 2,063t and 2,505t over the last five years.

Pacific sardines. Photo: NOAA Fishwatch

As many as 63 harvesters are active CPS federal entry permittees and another 40 are state-authorized limited entry permittees in Oregon and Washington, according to Diane Pleschner-Steele, executive director of the California Wetfish Producers Association (CWPA).

Also, because sardines are commonly landed as bycatch, following the conservationist’s preferred approach could’ve resulted in sardines becoming much more of a choke species and interrupting the harvests of Pacific mackerel, market squid, northern anchovy, pink shrimp and Pacific whiting. Such harvesters now have a 20% per weight incidental catch rate, which was dropped last year from a rate of 45%, Pleschner-Steele noted in a recent email exchange with Undercurrent News.

But most imperiled by the prospect of the 5% approach, she said, would be the west coast live bait industry. It supplies recreational harvesters, accounts for $602 million in annual sales and is credited for providing 5,000 jobs.

What comes next

The move by the PFMC has been anticipated since July 2019. That’s when the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) notified the council that the biomass of sardines’ northern subpopulation was found to have fallen below the 50,000t threshold that — under the Magnuson Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act (MSA) — triggers the creation of a rebuilding plan within 15 months.

Now that the council has voted, a hew fishery management plan must be implemented within two years and the rebuilding plan must take less than 10 years to reach its goal unless environmental conditions interfere. Shortly after the PFMC sends its recommendations to NMFS, the agency can be expected to publish them in the Federal Register and take comments. It’s rare for NMFS to not follow a council’s advice.

Regardless, harvesters need not worry about the catch limit being changed for the current Pacific sardine season, which began July 1, 2020, and runs until June 30, 2021. Nor is it likely the 2021-2022 ACL will be reduced as a result of the latest action, though the council might be more conservative when that’s set as expected in April 2021, a PFMC staffer advised.

Cannery Row in Monterey, California. The area was renamed after the setting in John Steinbeck’s famous 1945 novel. Photograph on Shutterstock.

CWPA’s Pleschner-Steele, whose group represents both harvesters and processors, was among those pleased with the outcome. She was one of about 17 witnesses to testify in favor of the first alternative during the council meeting, held online because of pandemic concerns.

“The council’s unanimous decision to support the management team’s recommendations shows that they understand reality, the big picture. Our sardine harvest policy already has a built-in rebuilding plan,” said Pleschner-Steele in an opinion article published after the vote, noting how the PFMC closed the main directed fishery in 2015 and sharply reduced incidental harvest rates in 2019.

“Further cuts would drive many fishing businesses out of business, and we appreciate the council’s acknowledgment of that prospect,” she said.

Still from the video “Sardines in California: Fishery in Crisis” by Saving Seafood

The northern Pacific sardines occupy the US Pacific Coast from Southeast Alaska to the northern portion of the Baja Peninsula and are distinguished from two other groups: sardines from the southern Baja Peninsula to southern California and those in Mexico’s Gulf of California. However, Pleschner-Steele argued that many of the sardines being caught are really sardines from Mexico that have migrated north and shouldn’t be counted against the northern sardine cap.

The CPS management team had advised the council also that overfishing was not what was reducing the sardines biomass, putting more of the blame on recruitment.

“Falling below [minimum stock size threshold] triggered an overfished designation; however, overfishing has not been occurring for this stock, as Pacific sardine catch has been well below both the [acceptable biological catch] and the [annual overfishing limit],” the team said.

Learning from the decline of Cannery Row

Three conservation groups testified in favor of the more stringent alternative, including Oceana, Wild Oceans and the Pew Oceans Campaign.  They disagreed with the harvesters, as might have been expected, saying the council has ignored a 2020 study by federal fishery scientists that determined the sardine population has declined 98% since 2006 to instead take a “status quo management” approach.

Credit: Perla Berant Wilder/Shutterstock.com

They noted how the small, oily fish are an important food source for humpback whales, dolphins, seals, sea lions, brown pelicans and larger fish like tunas and sharks. They suggested the council pay more heed to the conservation actions that contributed to the infamous sardine crash that ended the iconic Cannery Row era more than 60 years ago.

“Fishery managers have failed to learn from the mistakes of history, and if they don’t act soon, we’ll be doomed to repeat them and continue on an irresponsible pathway that will devastate the sardine population and its prospects for recovery,” said Geoff Shester, a senior scientist at Oceana, in a statement issued after the vote. “It is disappointing that again California wildlife officials, federal managers, and the fishing industry are disregarding the science in order to avoid making hard choices. Today’s decision is a failure of responsible fishery management.”

Pleschner-Steele countered that the great sardine decline of the late 1940s involved harvesters catching 50% or more of the standing stock, while today’s harvest amounts to only 0.6% of the population.

Also, she noted, 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, she said.

In fact, fishery representatives are asking the council for a review of the rebuilding plan in 2021 as soon as possible after the next coastwide sardine survey, which was canceled in 2020 due to COVID-19 restrictions. The next survey in 2021 will, for the first time, include nearshore waters, in a collaborative effort using fishing industry vessels, she noted.

Contact the author jason.huffman@undercurrentnews.com


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

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

 

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