Archive for the View from the Ocean Category

Jan 18 2021

West Coast Fisheries Impacts from COVID-19

In April 2020, NOAA Fisheries prepared its first national report on the regional impacts of COVID-19 on the commercial, recreational and aquaculture sectors.

This report updates that initial assessment, capturing economic changes experienced by the fishing industry as the country began its phased reopening along with infusion of Federal funding through the CARES Act. NOAA
Fisheries will continue to use this information to identify economic hardship where it exists and identify pathways for enhancing the resilience of the U.S. seafood and fisheries industries.

COVID-19-Impact-Assessment

 

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/

Dec 16 2020

Recent Events Offer Promise for Protection of Sustainable Domestic Fishing

Interior Dept., BOEM, and Congressional Actions Pave Way to Protect Coastal Economies


December 15, 2020– The following was released by the Responsible Offshore Development Alliance:

Three significant positive developments affecting fisheries and offshore wind have occurred since Friday. The Responsible Offshore Development Alliance (RODA) has worked on these issues to ensure the safety and continued viability of our U.S. domestic fisheries, our coastal communities, and seafood consumers in light of offshore wind energy development. These wins were not achieved through high-powered lobbying or well-financed campaigns, but rather by expressing a clear and consistent message based in science and fact, making reasonable requests, and working diligently with elected and appointed officials in the Administration, both parties in Congress, career agency officials, and a multitude of state and private sector entities.

It is reassuring to see reason and logic prevail in government decisions. In addition to the many officials who contributed to these outcomes, we are immensely thankful for the efforts made by our own members, by others in the fishing industry and its advocates, and by those conscientious members of the offshore wind industry.

The Jones Act
What happened: On Friday, the Senate passed the 2021 National Defense Authorization Act that included a version of the “Garamendi Amendment,” which clarifies that all federal laws–including the Jones Act–apply to “all installations and other devices permanently or temporarily attached to the seabed, which may be erected thereon for the purpose of exploring for, developing, or producing resources, including non-mineral energy resources.” President Trump has threatened to veto the NDAA bill, but it is considered to have a veto-proof majority in Congress.

What It Means: A frequently cited benefit of the development of offshore wind energy has been domestic job creation. But the fact is that developers have planned to survey and construct early projects using vessels, equipment, and crew from abroad, with a longer term goal of building out a U.S. supply chain. RODA has submitted comment letters and raised attention to the Jones Act’s application to the offshore wind industry to date, which differed from all other ocean activities. This new statutory language means that many of those contracts and project plans will need to be revised to use U.S. vessels and crew from the start, consistent with all other U.S. industries. Currently, there are no Jones Act qualified vessels that can transport or install offshore wind turbines. Getting the investments required to build them may be challenging, and getting installation vessels in the water will take time. However, ensuring that any economic benefits generated by offshore wind energy accrue to our manufacturers and local communities is the right thing to do.

BOEM Vineyard Wind decision
What happened: The Department of Interior has announced that the preparation of an Environmental Impact Statement for the Vineyard Wind project is no longer necessary, and the process is terminated effective immediately. In plain English, this means the federal permitting process for the Vineyard Wind project is canceled. This news will become “official” in the Federal Register on December 16th.

What it means: On December 3, just a week before a final Environmental Impact Statement of its project was to be published in the Federal Register, Vineyard Wind announced that it had “decided to temporarily withdraw its Construction and Operations Plan (COP) from further review by the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM).”  BOEM responded by effectively stating that there is no “pause” option in the regulations, and accordingly “there is no longer a proposal for a major federal action awaiting technical and environmental review, nor is there a decision pending before BOEM,” and the process is “terminated.” RODA and local fishing interests repeatedly requested that Vineyard Wind, neighboring wind leaseholders, the states, BOEM, and USCG modify project designs to lessen impacts to the fishing industry. This led to a re-orientation of planned turbine rows in the dominant fishing direction, but other critical issues such as the addition of transit lanes for the safety of ocean-going fishing vessels were ignored. Now, Vineyard Wind will need to re-apply for its project, but the new timeline may not match supply contracts or the power purchase agreement with Massachusetts.

Department of the Interior internal legal memorandum
What happened: The Department of the Interior (DOI) issued an internal legal memorandum interpreting its statutory mandate to prevent offshore wind energy’s interference with fishing. Previous DOI guidance on the statutory language, which requires “prevention of interference with reasonable uses [including fishing] of the exclusive economic zone, the high seas, and the territorial seas,” indicated that offshore renewable energy projects could not interfere with the legal right to fish. This new memo explicitly changes that guidance, saying “[n]owhere does the statute indicate that the Secretary is only to prevent interference with the legal right to navigate or fish in an area. It is the Secretary’s job to provide for the prevention of interference with those uses.” In short, it states: (1) That the Secretary must ensure that offshore wind energy projects do not unreasonably interfere with fishing operations; (2) That fishermen’s perspectives are part of what determine whether interference is unreasonable; (3) That such interference is considered on a cumulative instead of project-specific level; and (4) If in question it must err on the side of less interference rather than more.

What It Means: This fundamentally shifts the balance of interests toward fishing, a critical provider of food security and low-carbon footprint protein, over offshore wind energy. Under previous guidance the presumption was that wind energy development should take precedence, and proceed in accordance with what developers determined to be optimal, and fishing interests would need to adjust. While a future Administration could revoke or refine the memorandum, it presents a solid legal argument for challenging any such action.

What does the future hold?
These three recent events create a better opportunity for a future in which the interests of all reasonable users of the seas can coexist.

When the 2021 National Defense Authorization Act becomes law, and projects must comply with the Jones Act, this will create a delay in the timeline for construction. It is crucial that the incoming Administration and interested states use that time to invest in science and research to understand—and ultimately minimize—environmental and economic impacts.

  • We need to start collecting robust baseline data immediately in all places where offshore wind projects may be considered in the future.
  • We need to retool our fisheries and protected resource monitoring protocols so important ecological data that forms the basis of fisheries management is not disrupted.
  • We need to understand the environmental impacts that have occurred from rapid large-scale development of offshore wind in places like Europe, which the European Parliament is currently reviewing and finding are largely unknown and possibly much greater than anticipated.
  • We need to understand the variations between the ocean and atmospheric environments of the European installations, and significantly different environments of U.S. federal waters, which are unique and contain some of the most productive and ecologically complex benthic environments in the world.
  • We need to much better understand the economic interactions between the two industries so we can preserve and promote traditional, historic, and sustainable fishing, while also identifying any possible economic opportunities that may arise for fishing communities from offshore wind energy production when it arrives in the future.
  • We need to continue to improve offshore wind energy and other renewable technology, including turbine and cable recycling methods, so that we can thoughtfully and quickly reduce carbon emissions while avoiding serious adverse environmental consequences associated with the large land use and materials needs of current technology.
  • We need to prioritize development of regional transmission systems to minimize the amount of structure that is ultimately placed in the water and on or under the seabed.
  • We need to build better relationships between fishermen, offshore wind energy developers, states, and federal managers so that information is effectively communicated and innovative solutions can be identified.
  • We need to develop decommissioning plans for when offshore wind leases are over that properly mitigate long-term environmental impacts and restore impacted habitats so we don’t create permanent steel graveyards in the ocean.

Most importantly, now that we’ve witnessed a project’s plans collapse due to failure to minimize fisheries impacts, we must work together to improve our planning process — as we in the fishing industry have been requesting for over a decade. Fishermen must be at the table and play a meaningful role in project siting and design. Ways to minimize and mitigate impacts must be identified up front and fully incorporated into all project plans. Although a handful of states and developers have made strong efforts to operate this way, it has never been done effectively on the correct spatial scale. In fact, we need to create new public, transparent, and inclusive regional processes that fully incorporate fisheries science and operational knowledge.

The need for a new planning process has been recognized by fishing interests and by offshore wind energy advocates. This was most recently clearly stated in a December 11th interview by Jeffrey Grybowski, the former CEO of Deepwater Wind, which was acquired by Ørsted in 2019.

“Obviously there are fishing groups in the Northeast that have raised really significant concerns. Those concerns can be addressed, but I also acknowledge they were real concerns. I don’t think anyone is suggesting their concerns should’ve been dismissed and projects just should have been approved.”

Mr. Grybowski went on to note that the problems with Vineyard Wind were not due to political bias.

“…some have said Vineyard Wind’s permit delays are due to some kind of anti-renewable bias within the administration. I disagree with the idea that — I think that view diminishes the nuance and complexity of what we’re all doing. New lease areas are complicated. There are stakeholders out there in favor of new lease areas. And so to simply blame everything on a political viewpoint understates the nuance and complexity of what we’re trying to do.”

The need for change has now been made clear by officials on both sides of the political aisle. Speaking at his annual climate change conference, Senator Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) stated

“Right from the very get-go, even before the filing … it should be a requirement of the filing to bring a statement of what work you’ve done with the fishing community, what their concerns have been. … Developers shouldn’t just get to go out there, cut a private deal with their funders, their investors, and then put their stamp down in the public ocean as if they owned it.”

These recent developments will significantly shift the discourse around offshore wind and fisheries to make sure fishermen’s needs and knowledge are afforded greater priority. Taken together, they offer a significant opportunity to fix the broken offshore wind energy planning process. Regardless of political or industry affiliation, we must now work together to properly balance uses of the ocean commons and maintain sustainable fishing practices.

Dec 10 2020

String of Marine Heatwaves Continues to Dominate Northeast Pacific

Researchers question whether heatwaves are becoming more common than not.

During the summer of 2020, an area of unusually warm ocean water—a marine heatwave—grew off the West Coast of the United States. It became the second most expansive Northeast Pacific heatwave since monitoring began in 1982. The heatwave eventually encompassed about 9.1 million square kilometers, almost six times the size of Alaska, towards the end of September.

In 2019 a similar heatwave developed slightly earlier in the year. While it was not as extensive as this year’s heatwave, its surface expression was warmer. It lasted 239 days, finally dying out way offshore in January 2020.

The 2020 heatwave was about the same horizontal extent as 2014’s massive marine heatwave known as The Blob. What’s different is the 2020 heatwave extended further south and towards the coast, compared to 2019. It encompassed much of southern California, the Southern California Bight, and into Mexican waters off Baja. Additionally, the 2020 heatwave lingered nearly a month longer into the fall in coastal waters and remained very strong in the far offshore region. However, neither the 2019 nor the 2020 heatwaves reached nearly as deep as The Blob, which warmed the water at least 100 meters deep in places. The last two heatwaves penetrated only 40 to 50 meters.

The largest three Northeast Pacific marine heatwaves on record from 1982 to today, on the day they reached their maximum size. Color represents the sea surface temperature anomaly (departure from normal for that location and time of year). Dark outline differentiates waters classified as a heatwave (e.g., values in the warmest 10 percent of all data, corrected by the variability at that location).

The New Normal?

“It’s notable that in five of the last seven years, the California Current system has been dominated by these large marine heatwaves, which are also the largest heatwaves on record for this area,” said Andrew Leising, a research scientist at NOAA Fisheries’ Southwest Fisheries Science Center in La Jolla, California. He developed a system for tracking and measuring heatwaves in the Pacific Ocean using satellite data. The California Current Marine Heatwave Tracker automatically analyzes variation from the average sea surface temperature from 1982 to the present. Experts are also tracking and analyzing marine heatwaves across the globe.

“The question we’re asking ourselves is whether these recurring heatwaves are the ‘new normal’ or if we’ll transition back to a previous climate state,” said Leising.

While some studies suggest that the warming oceans are fueling more frequent, stronger, and longer-lasting heatwaves, there are other considerations. Namely, the warming ocean itself is pushing baseline temperatures up, which may make heatwaves reach certain thresholds that exceed historical averages more often. Researchers continue to analyze ocean temperature data. They note that many questions remain about whether and how the ocean, and marine heatwaves, may be changing.

“The last few years have seen some really big marine heatwaves by any measure, but we are still teasing apart the complex factors behind them,” Leising said. “That is a big question going forward: What is changing, and what does it mean for our marine ecosystems?”

What Warmer Conditions Mean for the Ecosystem

These warmer conditions have boosted the odds of harmful algal blooms, shifting distributions of marine life, and changes in the marine food web. For example, the largest and most toxic bloom of Pseudo-nitzschia ever recorded along the U.S. West Coast occurred in 2015, during the 2013–16 marine heatwave. The widespread bloom increased levels of algal toxins that collect in shellfish. That forced the closure of the Dungeness crab fishery, one of the most productive and well known West Coast fisheries.

In recent weeks, Washington authorities have closed the state’s coastline to razor clamming and the central Washington Coast to Dungeness crab fishing because of high levels of algal toxins.

Ecosystem Approach to Monitoring Heatwaves

NOAA’s California Current Integrated Ecosystem Assessment is an interdisciplinary research effort led by NOAA scientists along the U.S. West Coast. It engages scientists, stakeholders, and managers to integrate all components of an ecosystem, including human needs and activities, into the decision-making process. The marine heatwave tracker was developed as a part of this effort. It helps managers consider the effects of ocean temperature on the ecosystem as a whole.

NOAA Fisheries’ Southwest and Northwest Fisheries Science Centers use this approach and lessons learned from the last heatwave to anticipate and mitigate potential impacts of this new one. Scientists provide fisheries managers and stakeholders with information on how these unusually warm conditions could affect the marine ecosystem and fish stocks.


Original post: https://www.fisheries.noaa.gov/feature-story/string-marine-heatwaves-continues-dominate-northeast-pacific?utm_medium=email&utm_source=govdelivery

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 15 2020

The Value of California’s Market Squid

Market Squid Reproducing. Photo credit: Mark Conlin Photography

Arriving on the heels of the farm to fork movement, the COVID-19 pandemic has disrupted supply chains and altered product demand, which has inspired businesses to restructure and Californians to pay particular attention to where their food comes from. Many understand that almonds, artichokes or lettuce are grown in their own backyard, mostly in the Central or Salinas Valleys. But when residents are asked about wild-caught food sources coming from the ocean, tuna, salmon or perhaps rockfish might immediately come to mind. While those are indeed popular fisheries, the largest of California’s commercial fisheries actually target invertebrates, not fish!

Invertebrates are animals without a backbone, such as the tidepool favorites, sea stars and anemones. But there are many more invertebrates around the world, both swimming and sedentary, that are highly sought after for food – and their popularity is on the rise. California’s largest marine commercial fisheries in terms of volume and value are market squid and Dungeness crab, with well over 100 million pounds landed and more than $30 million in revenue in a typical year for the squid fishery.

Market squid, the invertebrate known to diners as the popular dish calamari, use ocean currents, jet propulsion and prehistoric instincts to travel up and down the continental shelf of California. These slippery siblings of octopuses live very short lives (less than nine months) and produce heaps of eggs, somewhere on the order of 2,000 to 7,000 per female!

When conditions are right, squid show up in droves to reproduce in coastal waters. After reproducing for just a few short days, they die as a natural part of their life cycle. This means the entire population replaces itself in less than a year. These qualities lend to a high volume of squid available for fishermen, cost-effective management and a sustainable fishery. Squid are also used as bait to catch a wide variety of fish species and can be found at many coastal tackle shops or on live bait barges, mostly in Southern California.

Highest value marine fisheries, 2015-2019

If you see very bright lights from groups of boats on the water at night, it is likely the squid fishing fleet in action. Fishermen have used this technique for more than a century because squid are attracted to the lights, which mimic the moonlight. As described in an historic Fish Bulletin from 1965, the market squid fishery began in Monterey around 1863. The early fishing methods involved rowing a skiff with a lit torch at the bow to aggregate the squid. Then, two other skiffs would maneuver a large net around the school.

In today’s fishery, squid are typically caught using a purse seine, a large circular net which is “pursed” at the bottom to contain the school. Once the school of squid is brought closer to the vessel, a long tube is then used to suck the squid out of the net and onto the boat.

Only a limited number of vessels may fish for squid in California, and during the weekends (from Friday afternoon to Sunday afternoon) squid fishing is closed to allow for uninterrupted reproduction. In many fisheries, highly sophisticated mathematical models are used to estimate the available population for an upcoming season and ultimately to decide how many fish can be sustainably caught. Because market squid are short-lived, highly responsive to ever-changing environmental conditions and do not behave like most fish, traditional models are ineffective.

Squid fishing fleet near Monterey. CDFW photo by Carrie Wilson

For this reason, the fishery is monitored using the egg escapement method, which is essentially an estimate of how many eggs are released prior to female squid being caught. By comparing the average number of eggs that a female squid will produce to squid samples collected at the docks, biologists can calculate how many eggs were produced each year. This is used to look for trends or major shifts in how the squid fishing fleet is interacting with the stock. Biologists continue to explore ways to pair egg escapement information with population estimates, environmental variables, fishing behavior and economics.

Squid fishing fleet at night. CDFW photo by Carrie Wilson

Fishing for market squid is a long-standing tradition in California and normally provides for a large export market. But a number of recent factors, including the COVID-19 pandemic, have inspired stronger local markets for many fisheries, such as squid. This means more restaurants, businesses and consumers are buying directly from the docks, shortening the distribution chain. Boat captains, crew, processors, distributors and diners eagerly await the arrival of squid, especially around spring and summer on the central California coast when fishing is generally the most successful. If history repeats itself, vessels will move to Southern California in the fall and winter, where the Channel Islands tend to be the hot spot for squid fishing. But in response to a changing climate, the range for this species is likely to expand northward, forcing the fishing industry and the biologists studying squid to adapt as well!

###

Media Contact:
Kirsten Macintyre, CDFW Communications, (916) 804-1714.


Original post: https://wildlife.ca.gov/Science-Institute/News/the-value-of-californias-market-squid

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

Aug 31 2020

Fidelity of El Niño Models and Simulations Matter for Predicting Future Climate

A new study led by University of Hawai’i at Mānoa researchers and recently published in the Nature Communications journal revealed that correctly simulating ocean current variations hundreds of feet below the ocean surface – the so-called Pacific Equatorial Undercurrent – during El Niño events is key in reducing the uncertainty of predictions of future warming in the eastern tropical Pacific.

The issue of prediction is not so much one of timing, but of degree or severity.

Trade winds and the temperatures in the tropical Pacific Ocean experience large changes from year to year due to the El Niño-Southern Oscillation, or ENSO, affecting weather patterns across the globe. For instance, if the tropical Pacific is warmer and trade winds are weaker than usual – an El Niño event – flooding in California typically occurs and monsoon failures in India and East Asia are detrimental to local rice production. In contrast, during a La Niña the global weather patterns reverse with cooler temperatures and stronger trade winds in the tropical Pacific.

These natural climate swings affect ecosystems, fisheries, agriculture, and many other aspects of human society. Changes to pink shrimp production and the location of market squid on the West Coast are frequently related to El Ninos.

Computer models that are used for projecting future climate correctly predict global warming due to increasing greenhouse gas emissions as well as short-term year-to-year natural climate variations associated with El Niño and La Niña.

“There is, however, some model discrepancy on how much the tropical Pacific will warm,” Malte Stuecker, co-author and assistant professor in the Department of Oceanography and International Pacific Research Center at UH Mānoa said in a press release. “The largest differences are seen in the eastern part of the tropical Pacific, a region that is home to sensitive ecosystems such as the Galapagos Islands. How much the eastern tropical Pacific warms in the future will not only affect fish and wildlife locally but also future weather patterns in other parts of the world.”

Researchers have been working for decades to reduce the persistent model uncertainties in tropical Pacific warming projections.

Many climate models simulate El Niño and La Niña events of similar intensity. In nature, however, the warming associated with El Niño events tends to be stronger than the cooling associated with La Niña. In other words, while in most models El Niño and La Niña are symmetric, they are asymmetric in nature.

In this new study, the scientists analyzed observational data and numerous climate model simulations and found that when the models simulate the subsurface ocean current variations more accurately, the simulated asymmetry between El Niño and La Niña increases–becoming more like what is seen in nature.

“Identifying the models that simulate these processes associated with El Niño and La Niña correctly in the current climate can help us reduce the uncertainty of future climate projections,” corresponding lead author Michiya Hayashi, a research associate at the National Institute for Environmental Studies, Japan, and a former postdoctoral researcher at UH Mānoa said in the release. “Only one-third of all climate models can reproduce the strength of the subsurface current and associated ocean temperature variations realistically.”

“Remarkably, in these models we see a very close relationship between the change of future El Niño and La Niña intensity and the projected tropical warming pattern due to greenhouse warming,” Stuecker noted.

That is, the models within the group that simulate a future increase of El Niño and La Niña intensity also show an enhanced warming trend in the eastern tropical Pacific due to greenhouse warming. In contrast, the models that simulate a future decrease of El Niño and La Niña intensity show less greenhouse gas-induced warming in the eastern part of the basin. The presence of that relationship indicates those models are capturing a mechanism known to impact climate. In turn, that signifies those models are more reliable. This relationship totally disappears in the two-thirds of climate models that cannot simulate the subsurface ocean current variations correctly.

“Correctly simulating El Niño and La Niña is crucial for projecting climate change in the tropics and beyond. More research needs to be conducted to reduce the biases in the interactions between wind and ocean so that climate models can generate El Niño-La Niña asymmetry realistically,” added Fei-Fei Jin, co-author and professor in the Department of Atmospheric Sciences at UH Mānoa.

“The high uncertainty in the intensity change of El Niño and La Niña in response to greenhouse warming is another remaining issue,” said Stuecker. “A better understanding of Earth’s natural climate swings such as El Niño and La Niña will result in reducing uncertainty in future climate change in the tropics and beyond.”

Graphic: Future increase of El Nino and La Nina intensity leads to enhanced warming in the Eastern Tropical Pacific, left. Future decrease of El Nino and La Nina Intensity leads to less warming in the eastern tropical Pacific, right. Credit: Data from NOAA.


Posted with permission of Seafood News

Susan Chambers
SeafoodNews.com
1-541-297-2875