Archive for the Legislation Category

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

 

Permalink | Categories Breaking News, Legislation, View from the Ocean on September 18, 2020 by DaveGogel | No Comments
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Sep 10 2020

Editor’s Log: The other plague

A California fisherman works Dungeness crab pots. California Department of Fish and Wildlife photo.

The state of Alaska, known for its commitment to sustainable fisheries management, has a policy that fisheries allocations cannot be decided at the ballot box — meaning, they endeavor to let the experts decide.

Legislating fisheries by lawsuit is not that different. Surely, a federal judge should be an expert on the law. But they are not marine biologists; they are not community-based policy makers; they are not coastal economists. These are all the hats required of the Magnuson-Stevens Act’s National Standards. This is why federal fisheries policy is formed by councils and commissions after public input and approved by a federal agency — it requires a holistic perspective on the biomass, the working waterfront, the safety and efficiency of fishing gear and practices, and the best approaches to allocating access among all user groups.

Try to explain in a few sentences how federal fisheries are managed to someone who knows nothing about it. Anyone who has studied fishery science and policy will attest to its complexities. And those complexities change fishery by fishery and region by region — often within the same state.

I’m not necessarily advocating for a streamline of fisheries policy. It would be a lovely dream, but I fear the outcome would not work in any fleet’s favor. What I would like to see is any lawsuit attempting to change fishery policy through the backdoor of a federal bench be required to check off its adherence to every single National Standard under the Magnuson-Stevens Act — Optimum Yield, Scientific Information, Management Units, Allocations, Efficiency, Variations and Contingencies, Costs and Benefits, Communities, Bycatch, and Safety of Life at Sea. If you can show that your suit accounts for its effects on all of these factors (not just one or a handful) that federal managers are required to account for and does not sacrifice one for another, then carry on with your case.

Otherwise, anyone with enough money for a good lawyer can effectively cherry-pick the things they don’t like about a single policy. The result is that the fishermen who can muster the cash for their own lawyers must redirect funds and time to defending lawsuits instead of implementing innovations in gear, processing and products; and fishery managers are forced to twist and contort into impossible positions in order to try to please everyone (which I believe we all recognize is impossible).

As you can read in our news coverage of the Status of the Stocks, our federal management is superb and improving every year. The biggest deciding factor in whether or not a fishery is managed well should not be social pressure; it should be based in science. Money spent to halt a fishery would better serve the American public as an investment in better data, cooperative research and product innovation.

Without good data, we have no way of knowing what is happening in the ocean. Without good policy, we have no way of safely executing any fishery.


Original post: https://www.nationalfisherman.com/national-international/editor-s-log-the-other-plague

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/

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 14 2019

These Days, It’s Not About the Polar Bears

Polar bears feeding on garbage in Belushya Guba, on the Novaya Zemlya archipelago in northern Russia. Shrinking habitats has forced more bears to wander into town for food. Alexander Grir/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

 

By Benjamin Ryan  May 12, 2019

Climate science has struggled mightily with a messaging problem.

The well-worn tactic of hitting people over the head with scary climate change facts has proved inadequate at changing behavior or policies in ways big enough to alter the course of global warming.

While Europe has made some headway, the largest obstacles to change remain in the United States, which has historically been responsible for more emissions than any other country. And perhaps most important, climate change denial has secured a perch in the Trump administration and across the Republican Party.

Enter the fast-growing academic field of climate change communication. Across a swath of mostly Western nations, social scientists in fields like psychology, political science, sociology and communications studies have produced an expansive volume of peer-reviewed papers — more than 1,000 annually since 2014 — in an effort to cultivate more effective methods for getting the global warming message across and inspiring action.

While recent polls have shown an increase in the percentage of people who describe themselves as worried about climate change, experts say not enough people have been motivated to act.  “The main reason people reject the science of climate change is because they reject what they perceive to be the solutions: total government control, loss of personal liberties, destruction of the economy,” said Katharine Hayhoe, director of the Climate Science Center at Texas Tech University.  “But ironically, what motivates people to care and to act is an awareness of the genuine solutions: a new clean-energy future, improving our standard of living, and building local jobs and the local economy.”

Schoolchildren taking part in a student climate protest in London in March. Chris J Ratcliffe/Getty Images

Social-science investigators have found that the most effective tools for engaging the public in the subject of climate change are those that appeal to core human tendencies. For example, people tend to focus on personal and local problems happening now, which means talk of the last remaining polar bears stranded on shrinking icebergs, far from most people, is out.

The best climate-related appeals are not a collection of statistics, but those that target people’s affinity for compelling stories. They also work best if they avoid fear-based messaging (which can cause a head-in-the-sand effect) and provide a sense that individuals can affect the environment in a personal and positive way — by updating to energy-efficient appliances, for example, or eating less meat, given meat production’s heavy carbon footprint.

But these efforts at persuasion are up against a well-financed opposition.  In the United States from 2000 to 2016, major carbon-emitting industries spent more than $1.35 billion lobbying members of Congress on climate change legislation. They outspent environmental groups and renewable energy companies by 10 to 1, according to a paper last year in the journal Climate Change by Robert J. Brulle, an environmental sociologist at Drexel University in Philadelphia.

A 2015 paper by Bruce Tranter, a sociologist at the University of Tasmania, analyzed 14 Western nations and identified an association between a country’s per capita carbon footprint and the prevalence of climate science skepticism among its citizens.  And in a recent study published in Nature Climate Change, Matthew J. Hornsey, a social psychologist at the University of Queensland, found that nations that had the strongest relationship between political conservatism and climate science skepticism tended to be those with economies more highly dependent on the fossil fuel industry, including the United States, Australia, Canada and Brazil.

At the vanguard of the social-science-based response to such doubt is a pair of centers for climate change communications research at George Mason University and Yale University.

An iceberg stranded near the village of Innaarsuit, in northwestern Greenland, in July. Karl Petersen/EPA, via Shutterstock

These research hubs just released new polling data indicating that 96 percent of liberal Democrats and 32 percent of conservative Republicans support the Green New Deal — a public-opinion gap that widened by 28 percentage points between December and April as awareness about the proposed legislation grew.

In 2009, the two climate labs produced the highly regarded “Six Americas” report, which identified six different groups of Americans who represented the range of public opinion on climate change.

On one end of the spectrum are the “alarmed,” who are the most certain, and most concerned, about human-driven global warming. They’re also the most motivated to act to protect the climate. On the other end of the spectrum are the “dismissives,” who, as their name suggests, are least likely to accept or care about climate change. Between the two polarities are “concerned,” “cautious,” “disengaged” and “doubtful.”   The report has been updated repeatedly since its release and is often used by climate communication researchers to tailor their efforts to each demographic.

One such operation is the nonprofit Climate Outreach, based in Oxford, England. It recently issued a handbook that uses social science research to help climate scientists become better public champions of their own work.  Climate Outreach has also tapped into research that has identified especially effective visual techniques for communicating about climate change.

The Swedish climate activist Greta Thunberg, 16, during the World Economic Forum annual meeting in Davos, Switzerland, this January. Arnd Wiegmann/Reuters

For example, authentic photos of people actively engaged in global-warming mitigation — such as community members installing solar panels on a roof — are far more resonant than, say, images of politicians at the lectern of a climate conference. So Climate Outreach started Climate Visuals, an open library of research-tested, impactful images.

Major environmental organizations such as Greenpeace and the Sierra Club are also looking to social science to inform how they communicate about climate change, including their choice of imagery, as are federal agencies such as the National Aeronautics and SpaceAdministration (NASA) and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration(NOAA), according to the agencies’ representatives.

Edward W. Maibach, director of George Mason University’s Center for Climate Change Communication, has recruited an ever-expanding army to speak about climate science to the masses. His research revealed that the public puts particularly high trust in local TV weathercasters and health care providers as sources about climate science. So over the past decade, Dr. Maibach’s team enlisted 625 on-air meteorologists to give newscasts that help viewers connect the dots between climate change and hometown weather.

Another member of the George Mason team, John Cook, is one of various global academics working with a teaching method known as “inoculation,” which is a preventive strategy grounded in the finding that it can be very difficult to extract misinformation once it has lodged in the brain.

Dr. Cook has designed a high school curriculum as well as a popular online course that presents students first with facts and then a myth about climate change; the students are then asked to resolve the conflict.  In Europe, Sander van der Linden, a social psychologist at the University of Cambridge, codesigned an inoculation-based online game with doctoral researcher Jon Roozenbeek.

The game was designed to help its hundreds of thousands of players become better consumers of climate-related information.  “We’re trying,” Dr. van der Linden said, “to help people help themselves and navigate this post-truth environment.”


A version of this article appears in print on May 12, 2019, on Page A11 in The International New York Times. Order Reprints

Original post:

https://www.nytimes.com/2019/05/12/climate/climate-solutions-polar-bears.html?action=click&module=MoreInSection&pgtype=Article&region=Footer&contentCollection=Climate%20and%20Environment

Feb 26 2019

Environmental Impact Displacement in Fisheries & Food

A recent policy perspective paper in Conservation Letters, Lewison et al. 2019 (open access), summarized several examples of environmental impact ‘displacement,’ an important policy concept with implications for fisheries and food.

Examples of environmental impact displacement

Environmental impact displacement is when a conservation policy designed to reduce impact in one area, displaces it to another area, sometimes making the overall problem worse. Researchers cite sea turtle bycatch in swordfish fisheries as an example of displacement in fisheries: U.S. Pacific swordfish fishing was curtailed to protect sea turtles caught as bycatch. However, lower U.S. catch increased foreign swordfish demand which ended up killing more sea turtles as foreign swordfish fisheries had higher rates of bycatch.

ProPublica and the New York Times recently published a long exposé about how a U.S. policy meant to reduce carbon emissions (by increasing biofuel use) raised demand for palm oil in Southeast Asia, which actually increased emissions and jumpstarted the palm oil/biodiversity crisis (this example is also cited in Lewison et al.).

The viral Ocean Cleanup Project is another example of environmental displacement; the crowdfunded campaign was trying to remove marine debris from the great Pacific garbage patch by sweeping a giant net-like object across the ocean. However, if it had worked as intended (it broke), it would have killed many more organisms than the trash it was trying to remove from the ocean.

Environmental displacement in fisheries & food

The concept of environmental impact displacement is important to consider in fisheries management and marine conservation. The swordfish case above is a good example of displacement in individual fisheries, but there are other areas of fishery management that should consider environmental impact displacement. For example, no-take marine protected areas often increase fishing pressure outside the area being protected, nullifying the protection. In some cases, displacing fishing pressure benefits the ecosystem, but often it does not.

Zooming out in scale raises larger systemic questions about food: Consider fisheries and marine conservation as part of a broader, global system of food and ecological preservation. A legitimate argument can be made that fulfilling fishery potential and consuming more seafood is good for the planet—it provides low-carbon, low-impact protein.

As the developing world continues to acquire wealth, global demand for animal-protein will continue to rise. The more seafood that is eaten in place of cow, the better, since bovine farming is the largest driver of rainforest and biodiversity loss on the planet. Not only is seafood the lowest-impact animal protein, several kinds of seafood (e.g. farmed bivalves and wild-caught pelagics) are among the lowest impact foods of any kind.

Solutions to environmental displacement

Lewison et al. 2019 outline ways to reduce environmental impact displacement that can be applied to fisheries management and global food systems. The first step, researchers state, is explicitly considering displacement in policy design, scoping, and evaluation. Fishery managers should evaluate and understand the biological, economic, and social outcomes of proposed policies to avoid issues like accidentally increasing turtle bycatch across the world or raising fishing pressure in an area surrounding an MPA.

Other ways to avoid displacement include:

  • Think large-scale to consider all economic/biological/social relationships
  • Enact both demand-side and supply-side policies
  • International trade agreements and cooperation as a holistic approach to global conservation

Conservation groups should consider the global food system and environmental impact displacement in their advocacy; policy makers and natural resource managers should consider environmental impact displacement in their decision-making processes. Conservation will be more effective with a larger, broad approach—particularly with fisheries and food. Lewison et al. 2019 is open access and available here.


Original post: https://sustainablefisheries-uw.org/environmental-impact-displacement/