Archive for the View from the Ocean Category

Sep 10 2018

Wait, So How Much of the Ocean Is Actually Fished?

September 10, 2018 — The following is excerpted from an article published today by The Atlantic. More information about this paper is available at Sustainable Fisheries UW

How much of the world’s oceans are affected by fishing? In February, a team of scientists led by David Kroodsma from the Global Fishing Watch published a paper that put the figure at 55 percent—an area four times larger than that covered by land-based agriculture. The paper was widely covered, with several outlets leading with the eye-popping stat that “half the world’s oceans [are] now fished industrially.”

Ricardo Amoroso from the University of Washington had also been trying to track global fishing activity and when he saw the headlines, he felt that the 55 percent figure was wildly off. He and his colleagues re-analyzed the data that the Global Fishing Watch had made freely available. And in their own paper, published two weeks ago, they claim that industrial fishing occurs over just 4 percent of the ocean.

How could two groups have produced such wildly different answers using the same set of data? At its core, this is a simple academic disagreement about scale. But it’s also a more subtle debate that hinges on how we think about the act of fishing, and how to measure humanity’s influence on the planet. “I think this discussion really shows how little we know about the world’s oceans and why making data publicly available is so important for stimulating research,” says Kroodsma.

As ships traverse the oceans, many of them continuously transmit their position, speed, and identity to satellites. This automatic identification system was originally developed to prevent collisions, but by training Google’s machine-learning tools on the data, the Global Fishing Watch (GFW)—a nonprofit founded by Oceana, SkyTruth, and Google—can identify different kinds of fishing vessels, and work out where they’re dropping their lines and nets.

They quantified that activity by dividing the oceans into a huge grid of around 160,000 squares. Each of these squares had sides that span half a degree of latitude, and an area of around 3,100 square kilometers. And in 2016, around 55 percent of them included some kind of fishing activity. “You’re dividing the ocean into 160,000 cells, and you’re seeing fishing activity in half of them,” says Kroodsma. “One reason this resonated with people is that however you slice it, that’s impressive.”

Actually, it’s misleading, says Ricardo Amoroso from the University of Washington. He and his colleagues had spent years trying to measure the impact of trawlers and based on their early results, the GFW’s estimates smelled fishy. The problem is that they divided the ocean into such large squares that if a single boat drops a net in an area the size of Rhode Island, that area would count as “fished” in a given year.

Fortunately, the GFW made all their data freely available, so Amoroso’s team could analyze it at finer resolutions. When they divided the ocean into smaller squares that are 0.1 degrees of latitude wide and take up around 123 square kilometers, they found that fishing activity occurs in just 27 percent of them. And when they used even smaller squares that are 0.01 degrees wide and 1.23 square kilometers in area—the size of a city block—just 4 percent of the ocean is “fished.”

Read the full story at The Atlantic

Aug 24 2018

MARK HELVEY: Protect California’s Drift Gillnet Fishery

August 24, 2018 — WASHINGTON — California’s drift gillnet (DGN) fishery has come under attack in recent months. One of the most prominent media attacks was a July Los Angeles Times editorial “Dead dolphins, whales and sea turtles aren’t acceptable collateral damage for swordfishing,” which irresponsibly called for the shut down of the fishery. Like many similar critiques, it overlooked the ways DGN fishermen have worked to reduce bycatch and the unintended consequences of shutting down the fishery.

It is first important to note that the DGN fishery operates legally subject to all bycatch minimization requirements in federal law. This includes not just the Magnuson-Stevens Act—the primary federal fishing law—but also the Marine Mammal Protection Act and the Endangered Species Act (ESA). These statutes are precautionary and conservation-minded, and help make U.S. fisheries some of the most environmentally conscious and best managed in the world.

DGN fishermen have collaborated extensively with NOAA’s National Marine Fisheries Service over the years to further reduce bycatch. Since 1990, the fishery has operated an observer program to effectively monitor bycatch. It has deployed devices such as acoustic pingers to ward off marine mammals from fishing gear, has established the Pacific Offshore Cetacean Take Reduction Plan to further reduce marine mammal interactions, and has implemented time/area closures to reduce interactions with endangered sea turtles.

These measures have led to significant progress in reducing bycatch. For example, no ESA-listed marine mammals have been observed caught in the DGN fishery since the 2010-2011 fishing season and no listed sea turtles since the 2012-2013 season.

As mentioned in the Times editorial, there is indeed good news from fisheries deploying new, experimental deep-set buoy gear. But it is just that – experimental, and it is still unclear whether it will become economically viable. And while fishermen hope that it does, the volumes produced won’t make a dent in the over 80 percent of the 20,000 metric tons of swordfish consumed annually in the U.S. that comes from foreign fisheries.

Often missing from the discussion of the drift gillnet fishery is that most foreign fisheries are far less regulated and are much more environmentally harmful than any U.S. fishery. Should the U.S. DGN fishery be shut down, it will only further increase our reliance on this imported seafood. All U.S. fishermen abide by the highest levels of environmental oversight relative to their foreign counterparts, meaning that U.S. caught seafood comes at a fraction of the ecosystem impacts occurring abroad.

Californians need to understand this and help protect U.S. fisheries that are striving to do things the right way. California’s DGN fishermen provide seafood consumers with a local source of sustainably-caught, premium quality swordfish. We should thank them by keeping them on the water.

Mark Helvey had a 30-year career with NOAA’s National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) before retiring in 2015.  He served as the last Assistant Regional Administrator for Sustainable Fisheries with the NMFS Southwest Region in Long Beach, representing the agency on fishery conservation and management for highly migratory and coastal pelagic species on the west coast.


Read the original post: https://www.savingseafood.org/tag/pacific/

Aug 24 2018

Southern California Coast Emerges as a Toxic Algae Hot Spot

— Posted with permission of SEAFOODNEWS.COM. Please do not republish without their permission. —

Copyright © 2018 Seafoodnews.com

Seafood News


 

SEAFOODNEWS.COM [University of Southern California] August 23, 2018

A new, comprehensive survey led by USC scientists shows the Southern California coast harbors some of the world’s highest concentrations of an algal toxin dangerous to wildlife and people who eat local seafood.

Episodic outbreaks of algae-produced toxins make headlines every few years when stricken marine animals wash ashore between Santa Barbara and San Diego. The USC research is the most thoroughgoing assessment yet and reveals the growing scale of the problem over the last 15 years. The researchers say their findings can help protect human health and environment by improving methods to monitor and manage harmful algal blooms.

The findings are a “smoking gun” linking domoic acid produced by some types of algae to deaths of marine birds and mammals, according to David Caron, a biologist at the USC Dornsife College of Letters, Arts and Sciences, and postdoctoral researcher Jayme Smith, the study’s main authors.

“We are seeing an increase in harmful algal blooms and an increase in severity,” Caron said. “The Southern California coast really is a hot spot and our study also shows that the concentrations of particulate domoic acid measured in the region are some of the highest – if not the highest – ever reported.”

The findings appear in Harmful Algae.

Domoic acid is produced by microscopic Pseudo-nitzschia, needle-like diatoms in the water; half of the species in its genus can produce the neurotoxin. It can stain the ocean, a condition generically called “red tide,” although this particular toxin is brown. The substance accumulates in shellfish and moves up the food chain, where it attacks the nervous system of fish, birds, seals and sea lions. It can cause amnesic shellfish poisoning (ASP) in people. ASP symptoms include rapid onset of headaches, abdominal pain, cramping, nausea or vomiting; severe symptoms include permanent short-term memory loss, seizures, coma or shock in 48 hours. Although human fatalities are rare, the California Department of Public Health monitors coastal waters and shellfish for the toxin.

The research encompasses the years 2003 to 2017 between Santa Barbara and the Mexico border, and includes new samples and tests collected over the past three years to supplement historical data. The study suggests that while natural processes lead to the formation of blooms, they could be exacerbated by nutrients discharged from man-made sources, including runoff and sewage outfalls.

Among the key findings:

Pseudo-nitzschia is the culprit behind domoic acid. It’s been present along the Southern California coast for decades, but its role in wildlife mortality is recent and increasing.
The world’s highest domoic acid measurement in water occurred near San Pedro in March 2011. It was 52.3 micrograms per liter – about five times higher than a level of concern.
Through the years, researchers found a strong correlation between domoic acid in the water and impaired marine wildlife on shore.
Domoic acid is ever-present offshore, either in shellfish or the water. Some years it’s abundant, while other years it’s scarce.
Conditions are worse in the spring, due to seasonal upwelling of nutrients that spur plankton growth. The toxin is less abundant in the summer and winter.
Domoic acid in shellfish can occur at high concentrations off the coast of San Diego, Orange and Los Angeles counties, but it tends to be more prevalent in Ventura and Santa Barbara counties due to local environmental conditions.
Man-made sources of nutrients contribute to algal blooms, but that doesn’t explain disparities in time and location of some of the domoic acid outbreaks. Other environmental factors are likely in play.
The algae and its toxin diminish on the West Coast when water temperatures exceed 68 degrees Fahrenheit, apparently due to temperature sensitivity of the microorganisms.
Also, a warming Pacific Ocean appears to be helping spread Pseudo-nitzschia species farther north. For example, harmful algal blooms have been widespread along the west coast of North America from Central California to Alaska in the past two years, according to the study. Separately, harmful algae blooms have been reported along the Gulf Coast this summer and the governor of Florida declared a state of emergency for affected counties last week.

The USC study brings together diverse data and observations that shed light on the environmental conditions that promote harmful algal blooms. Of note, an extreme drought across the U.S. Southwest between 2014 and 2016 resulted in very low concentrations of domoic acid off the Southern California coast. The findings imply a link between surface waters flowing to the ocean, or other drought-related conditions, and coastal algal blooms.

Those nuances and uncertainties need further exploration to explain the regional and year-to-year variations favoring toxic algae – key steps before more reliable health forecasts can occur, the USC scientists say.

“Our findings summarize our present level of understanding with respect to this important animal and human health risk in Southern California waters and identify several avenues of research that might improve understanding, prediction and eventually prevention of these harmful events,” Smith said.

Study authors include Smith as lead and corresponding author, Caron as senior author, as well as Paige Connell, Erica L. Seubert, Avery O. Tatters and Alyssa G. Gellene of USC; Richard H. Evans of the Pacific Marine Mammal Center; Meredith D.A. Howard of the Southern California Coastal Water Research Project; Burton H. Jones of the Red Sea Research Center, King Abdullah University of Science and Technology, in Saudi Arabia; Susan Kaveggia of the International Bird Rescue in Los Angeles; Lauren Palmer of the Marine Mammal Care Center in Los Angeles; Astrid Schnetzer of North Carolina State University; and Bridget N. Seegers of the NASA Goddard Space Flight Center and the GESTAR/Universities Space Research Association.

Photo credit: Restless Mind Media/Fotolia


Linda Lindner
Urner Barry 1-732-240-5330 ext 223
Editorial Email: Editor@seafood.com
Reporter’s Email: llindner@urnerbarry.com

Copyright © 2018 Seafoodnews.com

Aug 10 2018

Warming waters and migrating fish stocks could cause political conflict

Climate change is driving fish species to migrate to new areas, and in the process they’re crossing political boundaries – potentially setting up future conflicts as some countries lose access to fish and others gain it, according to a recent study published in the journal Science.

Already, fish and other marine animals have shifted toward the poles at an average rate of 70 kilometers per decade. That rate is projected to continue or even accelerate as the planet warms.

When fish cross into new territory, it might prompt competitive harvesting between countries scrambling to exploit disappearing resources.

“Conflict leads to overfishing, which reduces food, profit, and jobs that fisheries can provide, and can also fracture international relations in other, non-fishery sectors,” Malin Pinsky, the lead author of the study and an assistant professor of biology at Rutgers University, told SeafoodSource.

The study looked at the distribution of nearly 900 commercially important marine fish and invertebrates, examining how their movements intersect with 261 of the world’s Exclusive Economic Zones. By 2100, more than 70 countries will see new fish stocks in their waters if greenhouse gas emissions continue at their current rates.

Cutting greenhouse gas emissions could reduce the scale and number of these migrations by half or more, Pinsky said.

Conflict over shifting fish stocks is not unheard of. In the 2000s, migrating mackerel in the northeast Atlantic caused such a rift between Iceland and other nations that it played a role in derailing attempts to join the European Union. In the eastern Pacific, a bout of warm ocean temperatures in the 1980s and 1990s shifted salmon spawning patterns, prompting a scuffle between U.S. and Canada.

Pinsky listed the United Sates, Iceland, Britain, Russia, and countries in East Asia as some that will have to start sharing significantly more.

“I worry in particular about East Asia, where maritime relations are already tense over disputed borders,” Pinsky said.

Many countries may end up getting up to 30 percent of their catch from new fisheries that have migrated into their exclusive economic zones by 2100, according to the study. Australia and fisheries around the Bering Sea may get an even higher percentage.

But tropical countries seem likely to suffer significantly, since fish will move out and others won’t move into the replace them.

“Fish in general are moving to higher latitudes, which means new species aren’t moving into countries near the equator,” Pinsky said. “We think that means there will be fewer fish in the tropics, but we don’t know for sure yet.”

Some species might adapt to warmer waters, and some evidence suggests that is likeliest to happen in the tropics, where fish won’t also have to compete with new species, Pinsky said. “However, we don’t yet know if they can adapt fast enough to keep up with rapidly warming waters,” he said.

The Gulf of Maine is already experiencing major migrations. Lobster are moving towards Canada, cod are shifting deeper, and black sea bass are showing up north of Cape Cod.

“The Gulf of Maine is really ground zero for mitigating and adapting to climate-induced change,” Marissa McMahan, a senior fisheries scientist at Manomet, a New England science nonprofit that works on environmental issues, including by partnering with fishermen, told SeafoodSource.

While some fishermen can adapt to migrating fish, others struggle. Large offshore trawlers that had targeted sea bass in areas like North Carolina are steaming as much as 10 hours north just to catch sea bass, McMahan said. But smaller inshore boats that use fish pots to catch sea bass can’t do that, suffering greater effects from the shifting fish.

Fishermen are responding to climate-driven species shifts in different ways. Some are targeting underutilized or undervalued species. Younger fishermen, in particular, seem more willing to look at the potential of aquaculture to diversify their income.

“That way their entire livelihood doesn’t depend on a fishery that could collapse if the species shifts,” she said. But most fisheries are closed or have limited entry, making it difficult to get a license, she added. “So if you’re a lobstermen looking to diversify into another wild harvest fishery, there are very few options.”

Manomet is helping fishermen prepare. The group has worked with soft-shell clam harvesters to develop farming techniques, and is researching the viability of quahog aquaculture. They are working on developing fisheries and markets for invasive green crab, so fishermen can benefit from them economically.

As fish migrate to new waters, better data is needed to really assess stocks. Fishermen and their observations need to be included, McMahan said.

“They are on the front lines, so to speak, and witness the changes we are talking about each and every day. The amount of knowledge they posses about these ecosystems and stocks is unparalleled,” McMahan said.


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

Jul 12 2018

House Passes MSA Reauthorization with Support of NCFC Members

 

WASHINGTON — July 12, 2018 — The following was released by Saving Seafood’s National Coalition for Fishing Communities:

Yesterday the House passed H.R. 200, the Strengthening Fishing Communities and Increasing Flexibility in Fisheries Management Act, which modifies and reauthorizes the Magnuson-Stevens Act.

Members of Saving Seafood’s National Coalition for Fishing Communities from around the country have been invested in improving MSA for years, and weighed in with their comments and concerns at various points in this process.

Many of these concerns were addressed during the committee process and in the discussion of amendments. Several Members of Congress cited support from NCFC members for the bill during the debate on the House floor.

From Rep. Bradley Byrne of Alabama:


Let me tell you, there are over 170 groups that have signed on to being supportive of this bill. I do not have time to read all the names to you, but let me just read a few: the Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation…the National Coalition for Fishing Communities…and the Guy Harvey Foundation. This is a very broadly, deeply supported bill among people who are actually fishing. Now, it may not be supported by people who don’t fish and who don’t know anything about fishing, but for those of us who do fish…we like it.

From Rep. Garret Graves of Louisiana:

…Mr. Chairman, this bill is bipartisan. It’s why we have bipartisan support for this legislation. We have co-sponsors. It’s why the Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation, the National Coalition for Fishing Communities…American Scallop Association, Garden State Seafood Association, West Coast Seafood Processors Association, North Carolina Fisheries Association, Florida Keys Commercial Fishing Association, Gulf Coast Seafood Alliance, Southeastern Fisheries Association and many, many others that have a genuine stake in the sustainability of our fisheries [support this legislation].

In the debate over a proposed amendment from Reps. Jared Huffman of California and Alcee Hastings of Florida that would be detrimental to commercial fishing, Rep. Don Young of Alaska, author of the bill, quoted from a letter signed by several of our members and submitted the day before the vote. The amendment was ultimately defeated.

According to a letter authorized by the National Coalition for Fishing Communities…I want to submit for the record, if I could, the letter to the leadership of the House and to myself where they say… “We believe it will undermine the MSA, impede reforms that are desperately needed, and attack jobs in coastal communities around the country, including California and Florida,” the home states of Mr. Huffman and Mr. Hastings. I suggest this amendment is uncalled for and frankly will gut the bill and the MSA, period.


Original post: savingseafood.org

Jul 10 2018

NOAA launches drones to sail the West Coast, survey anchovies, sardines and other fish

(Photo: Courtesy of John Gussman)

A bright orange and yellow drone boat will set sail in August, skimming down the West Coast as it collects data on fish and possibly changes the way experts study the ocean.

It’s one of five on a summer-long expedition to test the drones’ accuracy in assessing West Coast fish stocks. Those surveys help set limits on just how much fish can be caught each year.

“You want to use the best available science to come up with the best estimate of what the stock is, so that you can give a fair shake to the fishermen,” said Toby Garfield, director of environmental research division at Southwest Fisheries Science Center.

Typically, the surveys are done by ship. But the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration teamed up with Oceans Canada and Saildrone Inc. to test out the drones.

This is one alternative to collecting the data – one that may be able to go places ships can’t or to better estimate how many fish are out there, Garfield said.

Satellite imagery changed the way researchers looked at the ocean, he said, and “tools like Saildrone will give us another way to actually sample” it.

Two drones were launched last week from Neah Bay, Washington, and a second pair will be launched shortly. All four of those will follow the route of the NOAA ship Reuben Lasker.

Operators control the unmanned watercraft remotely from Saildrone’s headquarters in Alameda, California. Plans call for the drones to collect acoustic data on hake and pelagic fish, like sardines and anchovy, for up to 100 days.

 

Five Saildrones will be launched on the West Coast this summer. (Photo: Courtesy of John Gussman)

 

“Our ship is out there now. It’s out doing an 80-day survey from Vancouver Island down to the Mexican border,” Garfield said. “The two pairs are going to replicate that tract.”

Researchers will then compare the ship’s information to what’s collected by the drones to see if the new technology could be used to replicate some of the ship’s surveys.

They already know there will be differences, including that the drones will move slowly, about 1 or 2 knots.

There’s also a chance the drones could come closer to shore than the ships, which could help expand the surveys. Whether that’s possible depends on a lot of variables from the abundance of kelp to the number of recreational boats on the water.

That’s where the fifth drone comes in.

“That’s the one we’re going to try to use to explore whether we can come farther into shore,” Garfield said.

They’ll also want to use that drone to test whether it could sail in front of the ship to pinpoint the best spots to sample and, if instead of chasing the fish, they could use the drone in one area to track them as they swim by.

The fifth drone is scheduled to launch off Alameda on Aug. 13 and will be sailing for about six months. But it may not reach Ventura County.

“Originally, we were going to have the Saildrone operate all the way down to San Diego,” Garfield said Tuesday.

But the company had concerns about the traffic in the Santa Barbara Channel, as well as light winds in the summertime.

They’re going to make a decision closer to the date of the launch, he said. “It’s really going to depend on conditions.”

To follow the drones’ progress, go to NOAA’s blog at https://www.nwfsc.noaa.gov/news/blogs.


Original post and video: https://www.vcstar.com/

Jun 29 2018

Stuck on imports: U.S. seafood trade deficit increased in 2017

The U.S. imported more than 6 billion pounds of seafood valued at more than $21.5 billion in 2017. NOAA photo.

Samuel Hill  June 26, 2018

The United States imported more foreign seafood than ever in 2017, according to NOAA.

The U.S. imported more than 6 billion pounds of seafood valued at more than $21.5 billion in 2017. U.S. exports paled in comparison — more than 3.6 billion pounds of seafood were exported, valued at $5.4 billion.

According to NOAA, the United States imports more than 90 percent of the seafood the public consumes, despite its own active industry. The amount of seafood exported for processing and reimported is unknown, but considered “significant” by NOAA.

Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross has identified reducing this deficit as a priority for the government. One prominent strategy would be increasing the amount of aquaculture-based farming Jennie Lyons, a NOAA spokeswoman, told the Associated Press.

The United States trades in seafood with countries all over the world, and the countries it buys the most from include Canada, China and Chile. Major buyers of U.S. seafood include China, Japan and South Korea.

While markets in China have been growing, those markets are at risk as an all-out trade war seems plausible between China and the United States. On June 15, U.S. and Chinese officials announced a bundle of tariffs, each targeting the other nation’s exports.

President Donald Trump announced a 35 percent tariff on all Chinese goods containing “industrially significant technologies,” an estimated $50 billion worth of Chinese goods. China responded with retaliatory 25 percent tariff on various U.S. exports, including many seafood products. Roughly 170 seafood products have been targeted, including salmon, lobster, shrimp, cod, tuna, pollock, oysters, scallops, Dungeness and snow crab, blackcod and geoduck.

Seafood and fishing industry leaders from all U.S. coasts spoke out against the latest tariffs soon afterward, saying the policy will cost American jobs.


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

Jun 28 2018

Saildrone launch begins test to improve West Coast fisheries surveys

June 2018

Contributed by Michael Milstein

Two autonomous Saildrones launched from Neah Bay, Wash., Tuesday on a summer-long partnership between Saildrone Inc., NOAA Fisheries and Fisheries and Oceans Canada (DFO) to find out whether the wind and solar-powered vehicles can improve the efficiency and accuracy of fisheries surveys off the West Coast.

The two Saildrones will first head to the northern end of Vancouver Island and will then turn south, following a series of transects along the Coast south to San Francisco. Two other Saildrones will join the project fleet next week from Alameda, Calif., following transects from San Francisco south to the Southern California Bight. (See map.)

They will gather acoustic data on Pacific hake (whiting) and pelagic species such as sardines, anchovy and mackerel that make up many of the West Coast’s most important commercial fisheries. Fishermen unloaded 558 million pounds of hake worth about $47 million in ports such as Astoria, Ore., and Westport, Wash., in 2016.

The NOAA ship Reuben Lasker will also follow the transects and gather similar acoustic data for comparison. The Lasker is specially equipped with advanced echosounders for accurately surveying fish populations.

Technicians prepare the first two Saildrones for launch from Neah Bay, Wash. NOAA Fisheries/NWFSC

A fifth Saildrone launching from Alameda in August will test its value for conducting focused fisheries surveys, such gathering data in near-shore areas that large NOAA research ships cannot safely reach. The fifth vehicle will focus particularly on historically important areas for fisheries, such as Monterey Bay and off the San Francisco Bay Area.

“This partnership is putting some of the most important new marine technology to work for the West Coast,” said Toby Garfield, Acting Deputy Director of NOAA Fisheries’ Southwest Fisheries Science Center in La Jolla, Calif., and part of the team directing the fifth Saildrone. “The more complete and accurate data we have, the better decisions our fisheries managers can make in real terms of catch levels and seasons.”

The first two Saildrones left Neah Bay about 1 p.m. Tuesday. The vehicles were operating normally, scientists said, but must travel to Canadian waters before they begin collecting data on their transects heading south. The Saildrone team extended its thanks to the Makah Tribe, which authorized the launch from its marina in Neah Bay.

The northernmost surveys are particularly important for hake, a deep-water fish that supports an international fishery that the United States and Canada manage jointly under the Pacific Whiting Treaty. DFO scientists are assisting in management of the mission.

Please follow the progress of the West Coast Saildrone fisheries mission on the blog “Unmanned! Saildrone Expedition 2018.”

NOAA Fisheries’ Alaska Fisheries Science Center has been testing Saildrone technology, along with NOAA Research’s Pacific Marine Environmental Laboratory in Alaska for the past three years to gather oceanographic data, acoustic data on endangered North Pacific right whales, information on walleye pollock, and for prey surveys within the foraging range of a declining population of northern fur seals. This year, the focus in Alaska will be on studying abundance and distribution of Arctic cod in the Chukchi Sea.

The launch of Saildrones along the West Coast demonstrates NOAA Fisheries’ continued commitment to embrace new technologies to maximize efficiencies and advance its mission.

Teams ready a Saildrone for launch from Neah Bay, Wash. NOAA Fisheries/NWFSC


Originally posted: https://www.nwfsc.noaa.gov/

Jun 20 2018

Judge rules for Oceana in California anchovy dispute

Just how many anchovies are there off the northern coast of California and are there enough to fish commercially?

Environmental activist group Oceana and the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) have different answers to those questions, and a federal judge’s ruling recently favored Oceana’s view, reducing opportunities for California fishermen.

At issue is the science that NMFS relied on in reaching a 2016 decision to set the total allowable catch (TAC) for northern California anchovy at 25,000 metric tons. The agency set that limit — even though landings typically only total less than a third of that, 7,300t — judging the stock’s maximum sustainable yield to be 123,000t, and calculating an acceptable biological catch of 100,000t. The TAC was set, conservatively, the agency said, at a fourth of that level.

However, after the 2016 rule was adopted, Oceana sued NMFS in federal court arguing that the rule violated principles established in the the Magnuson-Stevens Act because the agency failed “to articulate the scientific basis for this catch limit”.

In January, judge Lucy Koh approved Oceana’s motion for summary judgment vacating the 25,000t TAC rule. NMFS had asked judge Koh to amend that judgement but last week, she declined to do so. When contacted by Undercurrent News, representatives of NMFS’ parent agency, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), said that its lawyers were reviewing the judgment. It has not decided if it will appeal.

NMFS is currently working on new assessments of the stock to inform future TAC decisions.

Precipitous decline?

In its lawsuit, Oceana, claiming that the anchovy stock had “declined precipitously”, argued that NMFS hadn’t conducted a stock assessment for the species since 1995 and that the true size of the northern anchovy biomass averaged between 10,000t to 15,000t from the 2009 to 2011 period.

It made this claim in part due to a piece of independent research authored by Alec MacCall, which looked at densities of anchovy eggs and larvae.

NMFS argued that that the MacCall study had shortcomings.

“These egg/larval data were collected by the California Cooperative Oceanic Fisheries in a fairly small portion of the range of the stock between San Diego and Point Conception, California,” NMFS lawyers argued, adding that the model used in the study did not take into account anchovies that didn’t spawn during the period studied or laid their eggs elsewhere.

But the judge wrote that “defendants’ arguments fail to discredit the MacCall Study”, and said that because the 25,000t TAC wasn’t based on “best available science”, it would be vacated.

Wetfish worries

Speaking to Undercurrent about the ruling, Diane Pleschner-Steele, the executive director of the California Wetfish Producers Association, also characterized the MacCall study as flawed. Her group’s members have seen a “huge abundance” of anchovy despite concerns that the stock has collapsed.

Pleschner-Steele said that her group worked last year with the California Department of Fish and Wildlife to perform an aerial survey of anchovy stocks.

“The department’s plane flew along the coast inside the area that the NOAA acoustic trawl survey was transecting at the same time, and our spotter pilot estimated tonnage of the schools he observed,” she wrote.   “We documented tens of thousands of tons of coastal pelagic species — both sardine and anchovy —  that the NOAA cruise did not see or factor into its assessment because they survey largely offshore and don’t come into nearshore waters.   This is now recognized as a problem, and we’re hopeful that we can improve stock assessments over time.”

The California ‘wetfish’ industry that traditionally relied on squid harvesting but supplements that fishery with anchovy, sardines and mackerel. Unfortunately for the fishermen, the sardine fishery has been closed to directed commercial fishing — although an incidental fishery is allowed — and mackerel landings have been low in recent years.

“Things are still pretty tenuous. Right now the only fishery we have is squid,” she said.

Original article:  https://www.undercurrentnews.com/ | Contact the author jason.smith@undercurrentnews.com

Jun 11 2018

Choice matters: The environmental costs of producing meat, seafood

Three beef heifers looking into the sun with blue sky background

Which food type is more environmentally costly to produce — livestock, farmed seafood, or wild-caught fish?

The answer is, it depends. But in general, industrial beef production and farmed catfish are the most taxing on the environment, while small, wild-caught fish and farmed mollusks like oysters, mussels and scallops have the lowest environmental impact, according to a new analysis.

Growing oysters at a farm in Thailand. jomkwan/Istock/Thinkstock

The study appears online June 11 in the journal Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment, and its authors believe it is the most comprehensive look at the environmental impacts of different types of animal protein production.

“From the consumer’s standpoint, choice matters,” said lead author Ray Hilborn, a University of Washington professor in the School of Aquatic and Fishery Sciences. “If you’re an environmentalist, what you eat makes a difference. We found there are obvious good choices, and really obvious bad choices.”

The study is based on nearly a decade of analysis, in which the co-authors reviewed hundreds of published life-cycle assessments for various types of animal protein production. Also called a “cradle-to-grave” analysis, these assessments look at environmental impacts associated with all stages of a product’s life.

Of the more than 300 such assessments that exist for animal food production, the authors selected 148 that were comprehensive and not considered too “boutique,” or specialized, to inform their new study.

As decisions are made about how food production expands through agricultural policies, trade agreements and environmental regulations, the authors note a “pressing need” for systematic comparisons of environmental costs across animal food types.

“I think this is one of the most important things I’ve ever done,” Hilborn said. “Policymakers need to be able to say, ‘There are certain food production types we need to encourage, and others we should discourage.’”

Broadly, the study uses four metrics as a way to compare environmental impacts across the many different types of animal food production, including farm-raised seafood (called aquaculture), livestock farming and seafood caught in the wild. The four measures are: energy use, greenhouse gas emissions, potential to contribute excess nutrients — such as fertilizer — to the environment, and the potential to emit substances that contribute to acid rain.

A fishing boat off the coast of Ireland.FrankMirgach/Istock/Thinkstock

The researchers compared environmental impacts across food types by using a standard amount of 40 grams of protein — roughly the size of an average hamburger patty, and the daily recommended protein serving. For example, they calculated how much greenhouse gas was produced per 40 grams of protein across all food types, where data were available.

“This method gives us a really consistent measurement people can relate to,” Hilborn said.

The analysis showed clear winners that had low environmental impacts across all measures, including farmed shellfish and mollusks, and capture fisheries such as sardines, mackerel and herring. Other capture fish choices with relatively low impact are whitefish like pollock, hake and the cod family. Farmed salmon also performed well. But the study also illuminated striking differences across animal proteins, and the researchers advise that consumers must decide what environmental impacts are most important to them when selecting their food choices.

Some of the additional findings include:

  • Overall, livestock production used less energy than most forms of seafood aquaculture. Farmed catfish, shrimp and tilapia used the most energy, mainly because constant water circulation must be powered by electricity.
  • Catfish aquaculture and beef produce about 20 times more greenhouse gases than farmed mollusks, small capture fisheries, farmed salmon and chicken.
  • Mollusk aquaculture — such as oysters, mussels and scallops — actually absorb excess nutrients that are harmful to ecosystems. In contrast, livestock beef production rated poorly in this measure, and capture fisheries consistently scored better than aquaculture and livestock because no fertilizer is used.
  • Because livestock emit methane in their manure, they performed poorly in the acid rain category. Farmed mollusks again performed the best, with small capture fisheries and salmon aquaculture close behind.
  • For capture fisheries, fuel to power fishing boats is the biggest factor, and differences in fuel use created a large range of performance in the greenhouse gas category. Using a purse sein net to catch small schooling fish like herring and anchovy uses the least fuel and, perhaps surprisingly, pot fisheries for lobster use a great deal of fuel and thus have a high impact per unit of protein produced. Dragging nets through water, known as trawling, is quite variable and the impact appears to be related to the abundance of the fish. Healthy stocks take less fuel to capture.
  • When compared to other studies of vegetarian and vegan diets, a selective diet of aquaculture and wild capture fisheries has a lower environmental impact than either of the plant-based diets.

In the future, the researchers plan to look at biodiversity impacts as another way to measure environmental costs. The analysis also mentions a range of other environmental impacts such as water demand, pesticide use, antibiotic use and soil erosion that were addressed in some of the studies they reviewed, but not consistently enough to summarize in the study.

Co-authors are Jeannette Banobi, a former UW research assistant in aquatic and fishery sciences; Teresa Pucylowski and Tim Walsworth, former UW graduate students; and Stephen Hall of Avalerion Capital.

The study was partially funded by the Seafood Industry Research Fund.

###

For more information, contact Hilborn at rayh@uw.edu.