Archive for the View from the Ocean Category

May 16 2020

Squid Fishing Season is Off to a Good Start in Monterey Bay, After a Dismal 2019

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

Copyright © 2020 Seafoodnews.com

Seafood News


Copyright © 2020 Milestone Communications,
By Parker Seibold
May 15, 2020

A good squid fishing season relies on a lot of factors, with water temperature, ocean currents and food source among the most important. Last year, for whatever combination of reasons, was a bad one.

The 2020-2021 commercial squid fishing season started on April 1 and dozens of boats can be seen dotting the horizon of Monterey Bay as the squid return, this year in better numbers.

“This has actually been one of the best Aprils we’ve had since 2010,” says Pete Guglielmo, a buyer and processor with Southern Cal Seafood, Inc. “Usually when the squid show up this early in the season, it’s proved to be a very good fishing season for the industry.”

As of May 8, 4,800 tons of the 118,000-ton seasonal catch limit had been landed in California, according to Katie Grady, an environmental scientist with the California Department of Fish and Wildlife. Around the same time last year, they’d brought in just over 1 ton. The preliminary total for 2019 shows the entire season’s catch was 15,000 tons.

The squid are also larger than they’ve been in the last several years, and in high demand. A majority of squid caught in Monterey Bay is exported. Because of shortages around the world last year, countries are buying what they can now that it’s available again. And with that, the price has gone from 50 cents per pound last year to 60 cents per pound.

It’s a good thing for local fishermen, says Anthony Russo, a skipper and owner of two fishing boats, because with the no commercial sardine fishing and tight restrictions elsewhere in the industry, many of them rely on squid.

“Sardines used to pull us through the bad years if the squid weren’t there,” he says. “If we wouldn’t have had a little bit of squid now it would have been really, really bad. Not just for the fishermen, but for the workers in the canneries and the markets. If they close, we don’t have anywhere to sell our fish.”


Source: SeafoodNews.com

 

May 5 2020

Monterey Bay: Squid are back in abundance

Commercial fishing boats fish for squid off Lovers Point in Pacific Grove in 2018. ( Monterey Herald archive)

MONTEREY — Squid boats dotting the Central California coastline have been joined by salmon fishermen and women as both seasons are now underway. While the salmon fishery is just getting started up, the squid fishery is already showing signs of a promising season.

“I can tell you that the squid seems to be going really well,” said Moss Landing Harbormaster Tommy Razzeca, “we have a bunch of vessels working out of the harbor.”

The squid fishery is among the most lucrative and productive in the state, frequently valued in the double-digit millions. According to the California Department of Fish and Wildlife, landings from California market squid (Doryteuthis opalescens) were over 34,000 short tons in the 2018-2019 season, generating more than $33 million in revenue.

But according to Diane Pleschner-Steele, the executive director of the California Wetfish Producers Association, these charming and elusive animals can be difficult to pin down. The statement has proven true in the last couple of years.

“We had a disastrous season last year,” Pleschner-Steele said, “they [the squid] took a hike.” Despite last year’s abundance in the Pacific Northwest, squid are sensitive to water temperature and California’s fishermen and women suffered the impact.

Katie O’Grady with the California Department of Fish and Wildlife says “the main factors driving squid availability to the fishery are likely prey abundance (krill and zooplankton) and water temperature,” but there are still many unknown factors that make the behaviors of these slippery sea-creatures hard to predict. Despite last year being a bad squid season, preliminary totals indicate more than $15 million in revenue came from the fishery.

According to NOAA’s Supervisory Research Fish Biologist John Field, the “most useful source of information on squid would usually come from our May-June midwater trawl survey…but we’ve not yet had that survey and in fact may not have it at all this year.” California SeaGrant reports that the squid catch generally decreases during El Niño years, but increases with cooler waters during La Niña, but numbers vary widely year to year.

“When the water is right, the squid will come here to the Monterey area,” according to Pleschner-Steel. Fortunately for calamari connoisseurs, “the water temperatures are colder, and that tends to encourage the productivity of squid.” Or rather, their reproductivity.

Spawning squid are targeted because they die shortly after they reproduce, and so fishing season — though technically open all year round — coincides with the spawning season. The catch is historically best in Southern California in fall and Central California in spring-summer.

Pete Guglielmo of Southern Cal Seafood says his five boats, split between Monterey Bay and Half Moon Bay, are doing well since they started up a few weeks ago.“It’s much better than the last two seasons, and it’s definitely on an increase,” he said. “It’s better and the size of the squid is bigger.”

Like any other business, there are a couple of new challenges due to the COVID-19 pandemic which the fishery needs to adjust to. “It’s a condition that it’s really hard to maintain social distancing on the boat,” said Pleschner-Steele.

To account for safety concerns during the CODID-19 pandemic, Guglielmo says the boats are keeping the crews onboard. It’s not uncommon to work long days for squid fishing   “They’re not coming ashore,” he said, while, “at the loading docks, all our workers are wearing masks and keeping their distance.” Truck drivers are also staying in their trucks so the squid gets loaded directly on and doors closed, limiting the number of people who come in contact with the seafood.

At the plant where fresh squid is packaged and frozen for shipping, the workers are also wearing gloves and masks, and Guglielmo says the nature of the way they package means they are already normally more than 6 feet apart. Then it gets shipped to Asia.

“There is still use for the product,” said Pleschner-Steele. “But a lot of our squid in the past — the volume has gone to China.”

Despite fewer ships making the international voyages between Asia and the western United States, there seems to still be enough demand for California market squid, thanks to those less successful prior seasons.

“There’s been a shortage for a couple of years so the buyers are there to buy, “ said Guglielmo, “It’s nice to have demand for our product right now.” Some of that squid makes its way back to the Monterey Bay area, though it can be exported all over the world.

According to Seafood Watch, California market squid caught with purse seines is a “Best Choice” seafood option because of its healthy stock and sustainable fishing practice. Purse seines are nets that hang vertically in the water, held open by weights and buoys. With the spawning squid congregated in large groups, instances of bycatch are few, and the entire population can replace itself every few months.

Even so, the California Department of Fish and Wildlife limits seasonal catch to 118,000 tonnes and requires weekend closures for periods of uninterrupted spawning. If the tonnage is met, the season comes to an end.

Until then, the boats in the water are a sign that Monterey is not ready to surrender its title as “Calamari Capital of the World” even when the world looks much different.

“We definitely understand the severity of COVID 19,” said Guglielmo. “We are making sure that we are working safely for our employees and the community.”


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

Apr 23 2020

Controversy descends on Pacific sardine fishery over stock surveys

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

Apr 10 2020

Pacific Fishery Management Council Approves Pacific Sardine Fishing Levels for 2020

“One thing everyone agrees on is the need to improve the sardine stock assessment,” stated Marc Gorelnik, vice chair of the Pacific Fishery Management Council. Conducting the meeting via webinar due to COVID-19 concerns, the Council approved management measures for Pacific sardines for the season July 1, 2020 through June 30, 2021, after considering reports from its Scientific and Statistical Committee (SSC), CPS Management Team and Advisory Subpanel and the public. Environmental groups pleaded for more precaution and much lower harvest limits, arguing that the stock assessment indicates that the stock is at low and declining levels, and the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) declared the northern sardine subpopulation as ‘overfished’ in 2019, so the Council must develop a rebuilding plan. However, the Council supported the recommendations of the SSC, management team and advisory subpanel, in light of the fact that the biomass estimate remained essentially the same as last year. So, they approved an Annual Catch Target of 4,000 metric tons for all uses, as in 2019.

“We greatly appreciate the expressions of concern from the management team and advisory subpanel, and the Council’s action based on those concerns,” said Diane Pleschner-Steele, Executive Director of the California Wetfish Producers Association (CWPA). “We thank the Council for hearing us,” she continued, adding, “This conflict is between what fishermen say is out there, based on what they see, and what biologists say, based on insufficient science.” Both fishermen and independent scientific surveys have documented sardine recruitment and growing abundance since 2015. The problem is that NOAA’s sardine acoustic trawl surveys have not seen it, and those surveys have largely driven the stock assessments in recent years.

The 2020 stock assessment reported no evidence of recruitment, but the model used to predict biomass has not updated the age data from the fishery since 2015, because the directed fishery has been closed since that time. To resolve this Catch-22, CWPA submitted an application for an Exempted Fishing Permit (EFP) to the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS). The Council unanimously supported this effort, along with the 2020 management measures.

If approved by NMFS, this EFP will allow CWPA to coordinate a closely controlled directed fishing effort to capture sardine schools throughout the year. The California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) has agreed to sample and age all the landings and provide that data for the next stock assessment.

Another thorny problem that California fishermen are facing is the current scientific assumption that all sardines found in water temperatures above about 62 degrees F are deemed to be ‘southern’ stock sardines that have migrated up from Mexico. Thus, these fish are subtracted from the ‘northern’ sardine stock assessment. This assumption and current management policy have frustrated fishermen, especially in Southern California, because all catches are deducted from the ‘northern’ sardine harvest limit.

This issue, and many more, arose during the Council’s sardine discussion. Environmental groups are now asking the Council to revise the entire management structure to provide more forage for other species. These groups discount the mounting evidence of recruitment and abundance, and ignore the fact that the fishery for the entire CPS complex, including sardine, amounts to less than two percent of the key forage pool, which also includes other forage species. Moreover, scientists widely acknowledge that environmental forcing drives the abundance of sardines and other CPS; these stocks rise and fall based on Mother Nature’s whims, with negligible impact from fishing.

This discussion will likely continue at future Council meetings, as environmental groups campaign to further reduce fishery catches for sardines and other CPS. Meanwhile, CWPA and California sardine fishermen, as well as sardine fishermen in the Pacific Northwest, are committed to conduct the research necessary to improve the sardine stock assessment. If the ‘northern’ sardine stock assessment accurately reflected the abundance of sardines reported by fishermen virtually yearlong (in water temperatures below 62 degrees F), northern sardines would not be considered ‘overfished.’

California fishermen and processors are grateful that the Council considered the issues and uncertainties raised and combined scientific underpinning with practicality and common sense. Balance is a key mandate of the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act. The Council and NMFS are required to consider the needs of fishing communities, not just biology, in developing rebuilding plans. The future of California’s historic wetfish industry hangs in the balance.


Original post: http://www.digitaljournal.com/

Apr 10 2020

Pacific council votes for status quo on California sardine fishery

A purse seiner off the California coast. California Wetfish Producers Association video image.

 

Regional managers are sticking with a 4,000 metric ton catch target for the 2020-2021 Pacific sardine fishery, after hearing from environmental groups who wanted a lower catch limit, and fishermen who say stock assessments discount inshore biomass.

“One thing everyone agrees on is the need to improve the sardine stock assessment,” said Marc Gorelnik, vice chair of the Pacific Fishery Management Council, which voted on sardine management measures during an April 6 council session – conducted remotely online in accordance with state coronavirus public health restrictions.

The upcoming season starting July 1 will have the same 4,000-ton target as the 2019-2020 season, after the council weighed reports from its scientific and statistical committee, sardine management team and advisors, and comments from the public.

Environmental groups wanted the council to lower the catch target to “buffer” the sardine stock and its role as a forage species for other marine life. The California Wetfish Producers Association has pressed its case that the stock assessment – based largely on NOAA surveys – is inadequate because it fails to account for fish inshore, where the group has advocated doing a new survey.

“We greatly appreciate the expressions of concern from the management team and advisory subpanel, and the council’s action based on those concerns,” said Diane Pleschner-Steele, the association’s executive director, in a statement after the council meeting. “This conflict is between what fishermen say is out there, based on what they see, and what biologists say, based on insufficient science.”

Fishermen contend their observations and independent scientific surveys have documented sardine recruitment and growing abundance since 2015, while the 2020 stock assessment reported no evidence of recruitment.

“The model used to predict biomass has not updated the age data from the fishery since 2015, because the directed fishery has been closed since that time,” according to the association. The council also voted this week to support the group’s application to NMFS for an exempted fishing permit, to allow on a closely controlled directed fishing effort to capture sardine schools throughout the year.

As proposed the cooperative project would use the California Department of Fish and Wildlife to sample and age all the landings and provide that data for the next stock assessment.

Fishermen and managers are also at odds over the definition of the California sardine stocks, where fish found in ocean temperatures are identified as a southern stock extending from waters off Mexico.

“These fish are subtracted from the ‘northern’ sardine stock assessment,” according to the association. “This assumption and current management policy have frustrated fishermen, especially in Southern California, because all catches are deducted from the ‘northern’ sardine harvest limit.”

If the northern sardine stock assessment was reflective of sardine abundance reported by fishermen in year-round waters the species would not be considered overfish, the group says.


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

Apr 8 2020

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

April 7, 2020

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Apr 8 2020

SARDINES IN CALIFORNIA

California Wetfish Producers Association Press Release:

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

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE-Sardine Spex

 


 

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

 

SARDINES IN CALIFORNIA ~ FISHERY IN CRISIS

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

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

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

Direct: https://youtu.be/uaps0Vz5XOA

Mar 12 2020

West Coast Waters Shift Toward Productive Conditions, But Lingering Heat May “Tilt” Marine Ecosystem

Burgeoning populations of anchovy and a healthy crop of California sea lion pups reflected improved productivity off parts of the West Coast in 2019. However, lingering offshore heat worked against recovery of salmon stocks and reduced fishing success, a new analysis reports.

The California Current Ecosystem Status Report explains that ocean conditions off the West Coast remain unusually variable. This has been the case since the arrival of a major marine heatwave in 2014 known as “The Blob.” NOAA Fisheries’ two West Coast laboratories, the Northwest Fisheries Science Center and Southwest Fisheries Science Center, issue the report each year to the Pacific Fishery Management Council.

“There is not a real clear picture here,” said Chris Harvey, co-editor of the report developed by the two laboratories’ Integrated Ecosystem Assessment approach. The approach integrates physical, biological, economic, and importantly social conditions of the California Current marine ecosystem into the decision-making process. “On the one hand, we have a lot of anchovy out there. On the other hand, we also have a lot of warm water. That is not usually a sign of improved productivity.”

Lingering Warm Waters

A marine heatwave rivaling “The Blob” emerged in the Pacific in the second half of 2019 but waned by the beginning of 2020. The repeated warm events have left a remnant reservoir of heat deep in offshore waters. That could help “tilt” the system in a way that favors future heatwaves.

“Since a similar buildup and then recession occurred during 2013-2014, and we continue to observe anomalously warm water far offshore and retention of heat by deeper waters, it is unclear if we may see a resurgence of another heatwave in the summer of 2020,” the report says.

Warm conditions off the West Coast are generally associated with less productive conditions. Colder water from the north injects more energy-rich plankton into the marine ecosystem. Young salmon entering the ocean in cooler conditions, for example, grow bigger faster and support stronger adult salmon returns to the rivers where they spawn.

Ecological and Economic Indicators

The annual analysis hinges on a series of ecological and economic indicators. They range from the size of krill—small crustaceans that form the base of the food chain—to trends in fishery landings in port communities. Krill density was very low off much of the West Coast in 2019, and commercial fishery landings dropped 8 percent in 2018 compared to the year before.

Highlights of trends for several economic and ecological indicators outlined in the California Current Ecosystem Status Report.

The 2020 State of the California Current report introduces a new ecological indicator known as the “habitat compression index.” It reflects how warm offshore waters run up against cold, deeper waters that well up near the coast. The result is a narrow, “compressed” band of coastal ocean with cool, productive waters that draw fish and their predators together.

Other recent research found that during the Blob years, the compressed habitat brought humpback whales closer to shore to feed on booming numbers of anchovy. That put many whales in the same waters where Dungeness crab fishermen set their traps, and record numbers of whales became entangled in the fishing lines.

The habitat compression index will provide a running barometer of how offshore heat is affecting nearshore waters and the species that depend on them. “We will continue to study this metric in relation to other indicators in hopes of understanding why coastal impacts in recent years have been so severe,” the report says.

Fisheries landings on the West Coast have seen big ups and downs in recent years. There have been large catches of hake but fewer landings of salmon and coastal pelagic species such as sardines. Commercial landings in 2018, the last year with data available, fell 8 percent, with declines in shrimp, market squid, and many groundfish species. Dungeness crab, however, is a bright spot, with increased landings in recent years.

“Through presenting ecosystem trends, our goal is to provide the Council and the public with a snapshot of the health of the California Current ecosystem,” said Toby Garfield, the co-editor of the report. “Understanding these changes is critical to preserving the productivity and sustainability of West Coast fisheries.”


Original post: https://www.fisheries.noaa.gov/

Feb 4 2020

Fisheries Management Is Actually Working, Global Analysis Shows

Increasing fish stocks around the world give credibility to strong management and the importance of fisheries data

Story modified from the original press release issued by the University of Washington 

Nearly half of the fish caught worldwide are from stocks that are scientifically monitored and, on average, these stocks are increasing in abundance. According to a new global analysis, effective management appears to be the main reason these stocks are at sustainable levels or rebuilding successfully.

The analysis, which incorporated fisheries data from around the world, was conducted by an international research team supported by the Science for Nature and People Partnership. Their results were published January 13th in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

The results show that fisheries management works when applied, and the solution for sustaining fisheries around the world is implementing effective fisheries management, the authors explained.

“There is a narrative that fish stocks are declining around the world, that fisheries management is failing and we need new solutions — and it’s totally wrong,” said lead author Ray Hilborn, a professor in the University of Washington School of Aquatic and Fishery Sciences. “Fish stocks are increasing in many places, and we already know how to solve problems through effective fisheries management.”

The project builds on a decade-long international collaboration to assemble estimates of the status of fish stocks — or distinct populations of fish — around the world, from Peru to the Mediterranean, and to Japan. This information helps scientists and managers know where overfishing is occurring or where some areas could support even more fishing.

The team’s database includes information on nearly half of the world’s fish catch, or about 880 fish stocks, providing perhaps the most comprehensive picture worldwide of the health and status of fish populations.

“The key is we want to know how well we are doing, where we need to improve, and what the problems are,” Hilborn said.

By pairing information about fish stocks with recently published data on fisheries management activities in about 30 countries, the researchers found that more intense management led to healthy or improving fish stocks, while little to no management led to overfishing and poor stock status.

“With these data, we could test whether fisheries management allows stocks to recover. We found that, emphatically, the answer is yes,” said co-author Christopher Costello, a professor of environmental and resource economics at University of California, Santa Barbara, and a board member with Environmental Defense Fund. “This gives credibility to the fishery managers and governments around the world that are willing to take strong actions.”

To be successful, management should be tailored to fit the characteristics of the different fisheries and the needs of specific countries and regions. The main goal should be to reduce the total fishing pressure when it is too high, and find ways to incentivize fishing fleets to value healthy fish stocks.

“There isn’t really a one-size-fits-all management approach,” Costello said. “We need to design the way we manage fisheries so that fishermen around the world have a long-term stake in the health of the ocean.”

Still, there are data-deficient areas of the world. Scientific estimates of the status of most fish stocks in South Asia and Southeast Asia are not available, and fisheries in India, Indonesia and China alone represent 30% to 40% of the world’s fish catch that is essentially unassessed.

“There are still big gaps in the data and these gaps are more difficult to fill,” said co-author Ana Parma, a principal scientist at Argentina’s National Scientific and Technical Research Council and a member of The Nature Conservancy global board. “This is because the available information on smaller fisheries is more scattered, has not been standardized and is harder to collate, or because fisheries in many regions are not regularly monitored.”

Hilborn and collaborators recently presented this work at the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations’ International Symposium on Fisheries Sustainability in Rome.

Other co-authors are from University of Victoria, University of Cape Town, National Institute of Fisheries Research (Morocco), Rutgers University, Seikai National Fisheries Research Institute Japan, CSIRO Oceans and Atmosphere, Fisheries New Zealand, Wildlife Conservation Society, Marine and Freshwater Research Center (Argentina), European Commission, Galway-Mayo Institute of Technology, Center for the Study of Marine Systems, Sustainable Fisheries Partnership, The Nature Conservancy, and the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations.

The research was funded by the Science for Nature and People Partnership (SNAPP), a collaboration between the National Center for Ecological Analysis and Synthesis at UC Santa Barbara, The Nature Conservancy, and Wildlife Conservation Society. Individual authors received funding from The Nature Conservancy, The Wildlife Conservation Society, the Walton Family Foundation, Environmental Defense Fund, the Richard C. and Lois M. Worthington Endowed Professorship in Fisheries Management and donations from 12 fishing companies.


Original post: https://www.nceas.ucsb.edu/

Jan 29 2020

‘Blob’ research shows ecological effects that halted fishing and hiked whale entanglements

Unprecedented environmental changes inspire new online tools to better spot them next time

NOAA Fisheries West Coast Region

An ecological pileup of unprecedented changes in the ocean off the West Coast beginning about 2014 led to record entanglements of humpback and other whales, putting the region’s most valuable commercial fishery at risk, new research shows.

The findings reflect a new management challenge brought about by a changing climate, recovering whale populations, and fishing pressure, according to the new research published in Nature Communications. The situation calls for new measures to alert fishermen to the risk of entanglements and help managers adjust to more rapid and frequent changes in the marine environment.

“We need to put information in the hands of those who can use it, at a time when it can make a difference,” said Jarrod Santora, a research scientist at NOAA Fisheries’ Southwest Fisheries Science Center (SWFSC) in Santa Cruz, California, and lead author of the research. “We are seeing changes coming at us in ways they never have before.”

Santora and his colleagues are developing a website that will use oceanographic data to forecast the areas where whales are most likely to be feeding off the West Coast. Crab fishermen could then use the information to help decide where–and where not–to set their traps. It may also help managers decide where and when to open–or close–fishing.

The new research teases out the ecological causes and effects that contributed to the spike in reported whale entanglements. Many involved traps set for Dungeness crab, said Nathan Mantua, a research scientist at the SWFSC and coauthor of the research. Reported entanglements have since dropped off but remain higher than before the increase.

“We had all these things that weren’t part of anyone’s experience come together in this remarkable three-year period,” he said.

Conflict Prompts Improved Communication

The entanglements have also prompted environmental lawsuits that threaten to restrict crab fishing. At the same time, though, the focus on entanglements has led to better communication and conversation between fishermen, environmental groups, and managers. Collaborative working groups have also developed tools to better anticipate and avoid entanglement risk.

“If the working group knew then what we know now, it wouldn’t have happened,” said John Mellor, a crab fisherman from San Francisco, referencing the increased entanglements. “The more we understand the whole picture, the better chance we have to mitigate the impacts.”

The driver behind many of the environmental changes was an unprecedented marine heatwave that took hold in 2014. It became known as “the warm Blob,” because of the large expanse of unusually high temperatures that dominated waters off the West Coast. The warm temperatures attracted subtropical species rarely seen in the region. The krill that humpback whales typically feed on grew scarce.

The whales switched to feed instead on high concentrations of anchovy that the warm, less productive waters had squeezed into a narrow band near the coast.

At the same time, the higher temperatures fueled a record bloom of toxic algae. It shut down crabbing on the West Coast from November 2015 through March 2016. When toxin levels eased and the Dungeness season finally opened, fishermen set multitudes of crab traps in that same narrow band where many whales were feeding.

NOAA Fisheries’ West Coast Region confirmed a then-record 53 whale entanglements in 2015 and 55 in 2016.

The scientists developed a new measure for ocean conditions called the Habitat Compression Index. It tracks the width of the productive band and how tightly species are coalescing there.

Whale Numbers Reflect Unprecedented Change

Research Biologist Karin Forney, also from the SWFSC and a coauthor of the research, lives in Moss Landing, California. She has a view of Monterey Bay and has long seen occasional humpback whales feeding just offshore. During the “the Blob” years, she would regularly see 30 to 40 whales from her front windows. Local whale watch boats made two to three trips a day to keep up with the demand.

Some 300 whales were counted at once in Monterey Bay.

“In our lifetimes living here, that was unprecedented,” she said. “We knew something dramatically different was pulling these whales closer to shore.”

She is also part of a NOAA team trained to free entangled whales.

“We were on call every day for weeks, with simultaneous reports of two or three entangled whales, so we could respond if they were sighted again,” she said. The team disentangled a few, while others were never seen again.

The lesson of the research, Forney said, is that scientists and fishermen must share information. They can help each other understand how complex environmental connections affect marine species and fisheries. Communication may be one of their most important tools as environmental changes come ever faster.

“Things are dynamic, and things are changing,” she said. “That is not going away.”

Humpback whales feed on anchovy off the Coast of California. New research shows that warm ocean temperatures pushed whales into the same water as crab fishermen, and whale entanglements increased. CREDIT: John Calambokidis/Cascadia Research Collective

 


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