Aug 1 2019

A Deep Dive into the San Diego Fishing Industry

A little market, some big boats, and a $2 billion project are poised to revive San Diego’s commercial fishing industry

“The beginning was tough—they didn’t trust us,” says Yehudi “Gaf” Gaffen, CEO of Protea Waterfront Development, referring to San Diego’s fishermen and women. “For decades they’ve been discriminated against and business has been taken away from them. People take advantage of them.”

Gaffen and his company have won the bid to redevelop the San Diego harbor. Their $2 billion “Seaport San Diego” plan will historically alter the future of the city’s waterfront—70 acres, to be almost exact. The fate of local fishers lies largely in his hands.

And a little fish market on a little dock may be the reason both Gaffen and the fishers themselves are so keenly aware of their vital importance.

Right: Seaport developer Yehudi “Gaf” Gaffen photographed at the docks.

The Glory Days

There’s a decent chance San Diego’s fishermen and women have stopped reading this story by now, because it starts with a quote from a developer. Fishers have historically viewed developers as their most feared predator. In a city like San Diego, the water’s edge is the gold vein, the bounty, the most valuable thing. And while many players are involved—the San Diego Unified Port District, the California Coastal Commission, the people of San Diego (who own the land)—the fight over it usually boils down to fishers versus developers. Boats versus hotels. Bait versus brunch.

Tuna Harbor—located at the end of G Street, sharing a parking lot with the Fish Market restaurant, the USS Midway, and the American Tuna Boat Association—is one of two remaining spots along San Diego Bay dedicated to commercial fishing (the other is Driscoll’s Wharf). Longtime San Diego fisherman David Haworth stands on the edge and points at things. To parking spots that read “Reserved for Commercial Fishermen.” To the swarm of pedestrians and tour buses clogging the lot. To an aging dock where lobster traps and nets are stacked like a working-class art installation. To the 100 or so boats, where men with reptilian skin tanned like news anchors repair, well, everything.

Customers wait in front of Tuna Harbor Dockside Market at 7 a.m., an hour before it opens.

“This is our Alamo,” he says, then laughs, acknowledging what happened at the Alamo.

San Diego was once known as the Tuna Capital of the World. At its peak in the early 1970s, the harbor was littered with gargantuan tuna boats, some with helicopters on the top deck for spotting fish. Every major cannery, including Bumble Bee, was based here. The industry employed over 4,000 people, the city’s third-largest employer behind the Navy and aerospace.


The Long Climb Back

Then fishing famously died, for many reasons. But mostly dolphins. During the gold rush for yellowfin and albacore tuna, nearly six million dolphins were killed, according to Sarah Mesnick, an ecologist in the Marine Mammal and Turtle Division of the Southwest Fisheries Science Center (SWFSC). Dolphins dying in nets was an international PR nightmare. Even suburban kids and moms thought bad thoughts about our fishing folk.

In response, the US passed the Marine Mammal Protection Act of 1972, severely limiting how American fishers could earn their living. In survival mode, boats fled San Diego and changed flags—to Mexican, Ecuadorian, Western Samoan, anything but American. Abroad, they found governments who didn’t care much about bycatch (dolphins, sea turtles, etc.), quotas designed to preserve the ocean’s stock, or labor rights. A lot of them still don’t. “We know, because we fish next to them every day,” Haworth says.

San Diego’s harbor gradually replaced commercial fishing spots with cruise ships, yachts, recreational fishing boats, floating museums. The decimation of the industry did have some positive outcomes, though: Over the past 50 years, the US has become a world leader in sustainable fishing.

“The dolphin mortality has dropped dramatically, from hundreds of thousands a year to under a thousand,” Mesnick says. Fishing’s not an exact science. If you drop a hook in the water, something’s going to bite it. But from a statistical standpoint, less than a thousand is basically zero.

Left: Peter Halmay, uni diver and president of the San Diego Fishermen’s Working Group

Bluefin tuna—once the poster child for overfishing—are rebounding far stronger than official projections. An expert who agreed to speak anonymously said the US could raise its bluefin quotas right now. But the political nature of the fish has led government agencies to be extremely conservative, which means a couple more years. San Diego’s rockfish were nearly fished out in the ’80s, when everyone in restaurants ordered the red snapper (the menu misnomer for rockfish). Mesnick says they’ve rebounded, and local fishers are reporting huge stocks.

American sustainability efforts were carried out by commercial fishers. And the price was paid by commercial fishers. The half dozen I spoke with agreed that the restrictions were necessary after centuries of unregulated overfishing. “But we were told ‘short-term pain for long-term gain,’” says Peter Halmay, a 78-year-old uni diver and president of the San Diego Fishermen’s Working Group. “We’ve been under very strict guidelines for the last 20 years. And the stocks came back way faster than people anticipated. There’s going to be a movement to open up these groundfish to pay back these fishermen for preserving it.”

The Import Problem

The current reward for commercial fishers’ sustainability efforts? Of the 7.1 billion pounds of seafood Americans eat annually, over 90 percent is imported. Theresa Talley, researcher at Scripps Institution of Oceanography, published a report that found only eight percent of San Diego’s 86 seafood markets consistently carried local fish. This is bad news in many, many ways.

“US fleets pay more for gas, pay higher NOAA fees, regulatory fees, workers’ comp fees… the list goes on,” says Paddy Glennon of Superior Seafood, a decades-long proponent of sustainable seafood. “They don’t have that in Mexico. In Mexico they can fish for sea bass 11 months out of the year. Our fishermen get a month and a half. I love our brethren across the border, but they’re playing by a whole different set of rules.”

“The thing that’s sad about America,” says Haworth: “Our negotiators are terrible. At one point we were allowed to catch 900 tons of bluefin. Then our negotiator came to us and said he agreed to reduce it to 600 tons—for two years. What kind of negotiating is that? Meanwhile Mexico got 6,000 tons and Japan got 15,000 tons. Our whole quota isn’t even one load for other countries.”

Countries outside the US—not just Mexico, but in Asia, Africa, everywhere—can undercut American fishers by charging a much lower price. “You go into any wholesaler and you’ll see 80 percent Mexican sea bass, 20 percent American,” Glennon says.

That gives light to the ultimate cruel irony: Americans’ desire for sustainable, ethically caught seafood has resulted in Americans eating far more unsustainable, unethically caught seafood. An aphorism I heard over and over again during my research: Instead of asking why American seafood is so expensive, customers should be concerned about why imported seafood is so cheap.

Dave Rudy, owner of Catalina Offshore Seafood, says that US fisheries and management are the best in the world. “But consumers still look for low prices. We have to constantly remind them that low-priced fish is not the best thing for you, and supporting local fishermen is important.”

SWFSC’s Mesnick points to the dozen or so American fishers using drift gill nets to catch swordfish; they are often targeted by environmental nongovernmental organizations, or ENGOs. “These are the same fishermen who’ve been involved in fisheries management and research and reduction of bycatch,” she says. “They work with scientists to fish where they’re not hurting marine mammals and turtles. These are very advanced fishermen with very advanced gear. If you shut them down and still want to eat swordfish, you’re importing the swordfish from places who have none of that. So you’re hurting the species.”

San Diego fisherman Kelly Fukushima calls it “the transfer effect.” “Every time you punish a local fisherman, you increase the amount of bad habits you have to import,” he says. In our fight to save the turtles, we’re eating more turtles in imported seafood.

Or, as Glennon puts is: “That 59-cent can of tuna is not just tuna.”

“Another mall on the water would be a huge disgrace to the harbor.” —Yehudi “Gaf” Gaffen

Commercial fishers make their living by being out on the water, not by attending meetings or launching publicity campaigns. Meanwhile, the ENGO Oceana launched a video series casting a negative light on commercial fishing. The titles include “Lauren Conrad Wants to Save the Sea Turtles,” “January Jones Is Scared FOR Sharks,” and “Miranda Cosgrove Wants to Keep Dolphins Singing.”

A representative for Oceana told me they’re supportive of American fishermen and women, and they’re all after the same goal: sustainable seafood. But every fisherperson I talked to took issue with ENGO’s portrayal of them (so did the scientists). They argue that they’re not the problem, and haven’t been for some time. The problem lies with dubiously regulated fleets overseas. And videos using January Jones don’t seem intended for the market in, say, Samoa.

As one of the most sustainable sushi chefs in the country—Rob Ruiz of The Land & Water Co.—once told me: “One of the most endangered species in our waters is a fisherman.”

To change this and tell their real story, fishers needed a public place. And in California they found it at markets like Dory Fleet Fish Market in Newport Beach, and Tuna Harbor Dockside Market in San Diego.

Big Changes for the Bay

Protea Development’s $2 billion plan to make over the waterfront is expected to break ground in 2024. Called Seaport San Diego, the project envisions more public parks, open spaces, and new stores and restaurants where Seaport Village and the nearby Tuna Harbor Dockside Market currently stand on the marina.

According to the developer’s website, the plan includes 400,000 square feet of retail space, an aquarium, hotels, a veterans’ museum, and a 480-foot tower with an observation deck. Protea Development and the San Diego Fishermen’s Working Group signed a memo of understanding in late 2018 that Tuna Harbor will remain in the redevelopment plan, and that improvements will be made to the harbor to allow commercial fishing to thrive, such as a new processing plant and a bridge where visitors can watch fishing boats offload their catch.

The Little Market That Could

Every Saturday, a little pier near Seaport Village is lined with tables. Each table is teeming with one of the over 130 species caught by San Diego fishers. There’s urchin, black cod, mackerel, rock crab, spider crab, yellowtail, bonito, halibut, mahi-mahi, skipjack, wahoo, mongchong, opah, bluefin—you name it. A fisherman talks to a few customers, explaining what a sheepshead is, how to cook it. His wife stands nearby holding their newborn.

In 2014, San Diego fishers began efforts to sell their catch directly to consumers, just as farmers do at farmers’ markets. It required the passage of a bill (AB 226, aka “Pacific to Plate”), but Tuna Harbor Dockside Market finally opened for business in 2015 with a whimper: five fishers filling about a tenth of the pier outside Chesapeake Fishing Company.

“We just wanted to make sure the public had access to 100-percent sustainable, traceable fish,” says Fukushima.

“I thought we were gonna replace some of the middlemen,” says Halmay, one of Tuna Harbor’s founders. “Then I realized that wasn’t the goal. The goal was to simply show that fishing exists in San Diego.”

The market made fishing cool again. —Kelly Fukushima

Market attendance was slow, but they kept showing up each weekend rain or shine. Then San Diego’s Asian communities discovered it, particularly Filipinos (San Diego is home to the country’s second-largest Filipino population). In many Asian cultures, seafood is an almost-daily staple. Fresh seafood is not a delicacy inasmuch as a standard. Asian customers also supported the diversity of seafood found at the market.

“We have different species that different ethnic communities like,” says Halmay. “About 60 percent of our customers are Asian, and they know how to cook dogfish and mackerel. Your white La Jolla customer is buying the spot prawns.”

Just as monocultures like corn and soy have devastated farmlands, a country that eats only a few species of fish creates a dangerous imbalance in the oceans. In 2015, only 10 fish species made up 90 percent of American seafood sales (salmon and shrimp alone accounted for 55 percent). Overfishing a single species—tuna—led to the collapse of San Diego’s fishing fleet in the ’70s.

“Like a lot of things in life, being diverse and moderate is good,” explains Mesnick. “Tuna are top predators. You can’t just eat the lions of the sea. Eating through the food chain is good for your health and the sea.”

The next wave to discover Tuna Harbor were the chefs. JoJo Ruiz remembers being picked up by Paddy Glennon for his first trip to the market. They arrived before dawn and met all the fishers and their families. “It’s changed my entire cooking career and my life,” Ruiz says. “A lot of chefs say the same thing. If it wasn’t for the market, we’d still be using langoustines and turbot, stuff flown from all over the world.”

Chef JoJo Ruiz at Hotel Del Coronado’s new Sere~a restaurant, demonstrating their whole-fish presentation. | Photo: Justin McChesney-Wachs

Ruiz, executive chef at Lionfish and the new Serea at Hotel del Coronado, credits the market for his being named a James Beard Smart Catch Leader for sustainable seafood. At Sere~a, he presents local fish whole to diners, lets them look their dinner in the eye and choose one, and then the kitchen fillets and cooks it for them. He swears not only by the ethics of sustainability and connecting people to their food source (“I want my son to have the same seafood I have”), but also by the taste.

“Fresh, local vermilion rock cod is 10 times better than frozen red Thai snapper used at most restaurants,” he says. “Local halibut as a crudo is better than Alaskan halibut. Have you seen the claws on spider crabs? They’re giant; big as my wrist.”

There’s a parallel between Tuna Harbor Dockside Market and San Diego’s famed Chino Farm. It was Chino delivering the produce for the early farm-to-table movement. Alice Waters and Wolfgang Puck were regulars. Now Tuna Harbor is fueling the boat-to-throat movement, with regular customers from some of San Diego’s top seafood spots—Juniper & Ivy, Ironside, Wrench & Rodent, The Land & Water Co., The Fishery, The French Gourmet, and Saiko Sushi.

“In my 20 years of commercial fishing, I’ve never seen such a big increase in the demand for local fish,” Fukushima says. “The market really revitalized the fishing industry. It’s attracted a lot of people to the waterfront and made fishing cool again. Fishing was seen as something only outcasts or criminals or people without real jobs do. At the market they see the fishermen, meet their families, see them working together.”

It’s that humanizing element—and the ability to be an “attraction,” with people coming down to watch boats unload fish, snapping pics for the Insta—that may have motivated Yehudi Gaffen to make commercial fishers a focal point of his redevelopment plan.

Left: Ironside Fish & Oyster Bar’s chef de cuisine, Mike Reidy

The Future Is Now

The seaport plan includes hotels, a veterans’ museum, restaurants, almost 400,000 square feet of retail, an aquarium, and a 480-foot “Spire” observation deck. If all goes well, they’ll break ground in early 2024. But the plans and discussions that will guide these tectonic shifts are happening right now. Waterfront businesses must speak up, or risk being left out.

“Another mall on the water would be a huge disgrace to the harbor,” Gaffen says. “Another Disneyland would do a disservice and have no place. There has to be authenticity of a waterfront project.”

When the port first asked for redevelopment proposals, Haworth says they warned the fishers. “They said, ‘Listen, guys, you better negotiate with the developer, because we don’t have any money for Tuna Harbor. If you want it revitalized you better make the deal.”

The initial discussions with Gaffen were heated. Fishermen and women are notoriously defensive of their territories, because their territory has been taken from them—once allotted nine acres on the harbor, they’re currently down to 3.9. So Halmay and a few others formed the San Diego Fishermen’s Working Group. They started showing up to seaport plan meetings and port meetings, having productive sessions with Gaffen and his son-in-law, an ex–Navy SEAL named Alex Buggy.

Nick Haworth and his father, David Haworth. David’s father, retired, is also a fisherman.

“Where there’s two fishermen there’s usually six opinions,” Gaffen laughs.

“Forming the fishermen’s group let us speak with one voice,” Halmay says. “We had to stop fighting fires and build a fire station first. The working group is that fire station.”

For instance, they sent Gaffen’s first proposal back with some curious markups. “The first few designs and drawings came back and they had them labeled HS1 and HS2,” he explains. “And I remember saying ‘What is that?’ It was Horseshit 1 and Horseshit 2. On a fisherman’s list of people they trust, we’re not on it.”

Gaffen and the seaport plan have to balance every interest, not just the fishing community’s—yachts want space in the harbor, people want parks, tour buses want parking, restau­rants have wants, hotels have wants. So many wants. Plus there’s the money issue. Unlike other governing agencies, the port doesn’t receive any public funding. They depend on money from leases, and commercial fishing has not been an eco­nomic boom for San Diego since the collapse. Not compared to, say, a luxury hotel. Not even close.

“If it wasn’t for the market, we’d still be using langoustines and turbot, stuff flown from all over the world.” ——JoJo Ruiz, Executive Chef, Sere~a and Lionfish

It was so fortuitously timed that Tuna Harbor Dockside Market has grown into a legitimate attraction. But even that was small potatoes until—seemingly out of nowhere—the big boats started showing up again.

“These tuna boats came in at just the right time,” Halmay says. “Just as Gaf was asking us, ‘How do we know you’re going to have this demand?’—here they came! I said, ‘Hey guys, here’s your demand!’”

The three big boats—carrying between 20,000 and 40,000 pounds of tuna—belong to Hawaiian Fresh Seafood, which just relocated to San Diego from Honolulu. Owner Frank Porcelli (a grad of Poway High) says he has plenty more boats he’s ready to bring in, many from the overcrowded Honolulu Harbor. But in order to accommodate this growth, San Diego desperately needs more infrastructure—slips, storage for traps and nets, ice machines, loading docks, cranes, and so on.

In September 2018, Gaffen and the Fishermen’s Working Group signed a memo of understanding. In it, Gaffen promises a list of items to “facilitate the revitalization of San Diego’s commercial fishing industry”—making improvements to Tuna Harbor, building a new processing plant, a bridge where visitors can watch fish be offloaded, and most importantly keeping yachts and recreational boats out of their “Alamo.”

Some are skeptical. The seaport plan to build a veterans’ museum and a processing plant on the G Street Mole (not to mention the new Manchester Group hotel across the street) will bring more traffic to what is already one of San Diego’s most congested parking lots. “They’re trying to stuff 10 pounds of [stuff] into a five-pound bag,” Fukushima says. Nearly all fishermen I talk to doubt whether Gaffen and the seaport plan can pull this off without grinding commercial fishing to a halt.

Gaffen and Buggy are confident they can. They’ll build a workable space for San Diego’s fishers—and help establish the city as the capital of sustainable seafood.

“It’s a differentiator and it’s authentic,” Gaffen says. “Com­mercial fishing is starting to come back. It’s a vital security need. If we can catch local, sustainable seafood for our community and restaurants—it’s a legacy I’d be really proud of.”

Original post:

Jul 6 2019

Oceana sues over anchovy

Thank you for your objective reporting! it is worthwhile to emphasize also that despite Oceana’s allegations of ‘overfishing’, the central anchovy stock has demonstrated that it returned from an estimated low level to historic abundance in the presence of the small allowed fishery… A growing body of independent science now finds that this small fishery has negligible impact on the ecosystem, and in fact, harvest limits could be doubled without causing harm to ecosystem function. (Olsen et al 2018) In addition, the recent NMFS final rule was endorsed by both the SSC and PFMC as ‘best available’ science for the short term. The PFMC is continuing work and will again recommend updating the reference points when they have new / better data. 

Diane Pleschner-Steele


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

Copyright © 2019


Conservation Group Sues NMFS Over West Coast Anchovies For a Second Time

July 5, 2019

The more things change, the more they stay the same. In this case, NMFS issued a final rule regarding management of the central subpopulation of anchovy off California, and the conservation group Oceana sued. NMFS applied best available science and approved
policy to update the rule using recent biomass estimates, as directed by the Court, and re-filed it last month. Oceana sued again last week.

The lawsuit against the National Marine Fisheries Service was filed over the agency’s “continued failure to prevent overfishing, use the best available science, or account for the food needs of ocean animals in managing anchovy,” Oceana said in a press release.

The rule established a multi-year, unchanging catch limit for anchovy that does not account for the frequent, and sometimes rapid, cycles of booms and busts in the size of this population, Oceana said. The final rule is a near carbon copy of an earlier proposal by the Fisheries Service in 2016 that was struck down in court because it did not use best available science and did not prevent overfishing.

Oceana, represented by Earthjustice, said NMFS continues to manage certain fish populations, including northern anchovy, by setting multi-year catch limits that stay in place regardless of the population’s status. The complaint, filed in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District Court of California, claims that in failing to actively manage the anchovy population based on current population size, NMFS has again failed to use the best available science, prevent overfishing and ensure adequate forage fish for dependent predators,
the press release said.

The recent NMFS final rule employed the same harvest policy as originally approved and updated the reference points based on recent years of anchovy biomass estimates. The new overfishing limit, which represents a long-term average maximum sustainable yield, is close to the original estimate. The acceptable biological catch and annual catch limit also conform with the original harvest policy, which is based on 25% of the OFL. The anchovy population is acknowledged to be close to historic abundance, which is why the numbers are similar, industry members say.

The NMFS acoustic trawl survey method on which the management levels are based is at the heart of the issue. Both the California Wetfish Producers Association and the West Coast Pelagic Conservation Group say the survey does not capture an accurate picture of the anchovy biomass; for example, it misses the nearshore the survey does not capture an accurate picture of the anchovy biomass; for example, it misses the nearshore areas that anchovy frequent as well as the upper 10 meters of the water column, the acoustic “dead zone.” The model used to estimate anchovy biomass also is missing critical age information from earlier decades.

“… despite Oceana’s claim that acoustic trawl surveys are ‘state of the art’ science, the 2018 Acoustic Trawl Methods Review down-weighted the AT survey biomass estimates to a ‘relative’ index of abundance because it omits a substantial portion of the biomass inshore of the existing survey tracks, as documented by our collaborative [California] Department of Fish and Wildlife aerial surveys,” CWPA Executive Director Diane Pleschner-Steele said in an email.

Both the CWPA and WCPCG have developed collaborative methods to survey the nearshore areas for forage fish utilizing exempted fishing permits. The groups are working with both state and federal researchers to get a fuller picture of the anchovy — and other pelagic species — stock. Oceana representatives have said the acoustic trawl survey, with the state-of-the-art technological equipment, does represent the best available science. Industry members argue that the best equipment and a model that relies primarily on that data does not represent the “best science” since it cannot survey many areas where the anchovy spend much of their time.

“We remain frustrated that the Fisheries Service continues to ignore state of the art fish population surveys produced by their own scientists when deciding how many anchovies fishermen can catch on an annual basis,” Geoff Shester, Oceana California Campaign Director and Senior Scientist, said in a statement, noting that predators such as other fish, whales, pelicans, sea lions depend on anchovies and other forage fish species.

“Oceana has dismissed concerns industry has expressed about the survey, such as lack of data on the inshore components of the stock,” WCPCG member Mike Okoniewski said in an email. “While industry is actually working collaboratively with the science centers and state agencies to explore alternative survey methodology … , we wonder why Oceana would rather litigate, than collaborate with ongoing efforts the science staff and industry are undertaking to gain a better knowledge about the population size and behavior of our coastal pelagic stocks?”

Meanwhile, Pleschner-Steele said California fishermen have ben seeing abundant anchovy since 2015. At least now NOAA’s acoustic surveys are beginning to validate fishermen’s observations to a degree, but the still missing nearshore component is a problem that has been recognized as necessary to fully assess the central anchovy stock. The stock historically fluctuated between very high and very low abundance, even absent any fishing activity. The Pacific Fishery Management Council and NMFS have established a very precautionary management approach by capping the harvest at 25 percent of the estimated OFL. The harvest rule is based on a long-term average biomass, not a single-year stock assessment. Even with a 25,00 mt harvest cap, fishermen have landed far less, averaging only 8,000 mt per year or less.

“Industry will always have more ‘sea’ time than the survey or research ships. Our livelihoods depend on what we observe,” Okoniewski said. “While we are not scientists we do first hand surveillance of these stocks and their environment. This has motivated us to work more closely with the scientific staff, and in most cases this has been reciprocated by the science community. Coastal Pelagic stocks are difficult to survey and fishery observations often differ from scientific observations. We believe it is best to work together to resolve some of these differences in observation.”

Susan Chambers



Jun 7 2019

California Wetfish Producers Association Recognizes Ocean Week With Video on the Latest in Sardine, Anchovy Science

BUELLTON, Ca. — June 6, 2019 — This week, the National Marine Sanctuary Foundation (NMSF) is convening Capitol Hill Ocean Week in Washington, D.C. Additionally, President Trump has declared the month of June “National Ocean Month” in recognition of the importance of the ocean to the economy, national security, and environment of the United States.

For the duration of Ocean Week, Saving Seafood will share materials related to the sustainable and economically vital U.S. commercial fishing and seafood industries, including information tied directly to events being organized as part of the NMSF conference.

The following was released by the California Wetfish Producers Association:

In recent years, fisheries managers have made devastating cuts to California’s sardine and anchovy fisheries based on reports that populations of the two species have sharply declined. However, the California Wetfish Producers Association (CWPA) is marking Ocean Week 2019 with a video documenting new research that shows increasing populations of both species in nearshore waters.

The CWPA has been working in cooperation with the California Department of Fish and Wildlife and the Southwest Fisheries Science Center to develop sampling methods to assess sardine and anchovy in nearshore waters missed by NOAA’s acoustic trawl surveys. This research shows that both species are abundant in nearshore waters not surveyed by NOAA – in fact, approximately 70 percent of California coastal pelagic species landings are harvested in waters not surveyed in federal stock assessments.

More accurate biomass estimates and stock assessments for coastal pelagic species will benefit sustainable harvest policies, the fishermen and seafood processors who produce these species, and fishing communities and seafood consumers who rely on them.

“We’re doing [this research] partly to improve the science in cooperation both with federal and state fishery biologists,” says Diane Pleschner-Steele, executive director of CWPA, in the video. “And we’re doing it to save our lives.”

Watch the video here

About the California Wetfish Producers Association
The non-profit California Wetfish Producers Association (CWPA) was established in 2004 to promote sustainable fisheries and foster cooperative research. Voluntary membership includes the majority of wetfish harvesters and processors operating in California.

Jun 4 2019

How much U.S. Seafood is Imported?

According to the latest science, 35-38% of seafood consumed in the U.S. is produced domestically, meaning 62-65% is imported.

The commonly quoted statistic that “90% of seafood consumed in the United States is imported” is out of date and should stop being cited. In this post, I explain the origins of the 90% myth, the scientific paper that produced the updated numbers, and the implications for U.S. trade and seafood markets.

Where did the 90% statistic come from and why is the new estimate more accurate?

A lot of seafood farmed or caught in the United States is sent overseas for processing, then sent back. Due to varying trade codes that get lost in the shuffle of globalization, these processed seafood products are often mistakenly recorded as ‘imported,’ despite being of U.S. origin.

For example, pollock, the fish used in McDonald’s Filet-o-fish sandwich, is caught throughout U.S. waters near Alaska. Once onboard, a significant portion is sent to China (the U.S.’s largest seafood trade partner) to be cleaned, gutted, and processed into filets. After processing in China, the fish is sent back to the U.S. and sold in restaurants and grocery stores. Pollock is not a Chinese fish, but the trade codes used when sending them back from China signify them as Chinese-origin and they are recorded as imported or foreign seafood.

Recording fish caught in the U.S. but processed in China has led to a significant overestimation of Americans’ so-called ‘seafood deficit’, or the ratio of foreign to domestic seafood consumption in the U.S.

Unfortunately, the misleading 90% deficit statistic has become commonplace, mostly due to coverage of Oceana’s seafood fraud campaign that stoked consumer anxiety about imported seafood. Distorted import data had been taken at face value for several years because no one had pieced together the conversion factors that account for processing and return export/import—until three scientists, Jessica Gephart, Halley Froehlich, and Trevor Branch, published their work in PNAS in May 2019.

Knowing the conversion factor for seafood products caught or farmed in the U.S. is the key to accurately estimating the amount of domestic seafood processed abroad. Froehlich describes a conversion factor as a number that can be used to back-calculate a processed seafood item to its pre-processed weight. Basically, when pollock are sent back to the U.S. after being processed in China, a conversion factor can be applied to estimate how much fish was originally sent and domestic seafood statistics can be corrected. When U.S. seafood is processed abroad but consumed in the U.S., it should be counted as domestic seafood consumed domestically.

Scientists compiled live weight conversion factor data from NOAA, FAO, and CEPII; then, along with estimates for the amount of seafood processed abroad and imported again, an accurate percentage of domestic seafood consumed domestically was derived. The updated number (35-38%) is over three times higher than commonly reported.

Allison Horst (University of California, Santa Barbara, CA)

The vexing 90% statistic + Twitter = paper

The story of how this paper came to be is different than most other scientific collaborations. Both Gephart and Froehlich had tried to reconcile the 90% statistic in the past, but “neither of us completely followed the breadcrumbs because it was never a primary focus of our typically global research,” according to Froehlich.

“I first heard this statistic while working on my PhD and studying global seafood trade. The data I was looking at did not agree with this statistic, but I assumed I must be missing something and pushed it off,” said Gephart.

Years later, a discussion on twitter reignited their curiosity and got the researchers in touch. Froehlich explains, “It started with an article posted on Twitter around US imports and what should seemingly be a quite simple question from Trevor about the percent of exports. After all three of us engaged on Twitter (along with several other scientists in the mix), it was clear none of us seafood scientists in fisheries or aquaculture could really, fully trace the numbers completely.”

After connecting on Twitter, Gephart reached out to Froehlich and Branch and the three of them began working together to find the correct seafood consumption numbers. Twitter, for all its faults, is still valuable as a connector of people. You can still read through the original discussion from last year that led to the collaboration. Academic conversations that lead to published papers usually happen in hallways, closed meetings, and private conferences; ‘Science Twitter,’ a community of scientists sharing and conversing online, functions like a multidisciplinary scientific conference that everyone can attend. Twitter can stoke collaboration among scientists, but it also makes science more accessible to the public—an important feature when the science has significant political implications.

United States Seafood Trade

Misleading statistics in fisheries and marine conservation usually circulate with the ebb and flow of the news cycle, but the ‘90% imported seafood’ statistic has unique political implications. Gephart, Froehlich, and Branch noted in their paper:

In recent years, the former US Secretary of State, current US Secretary of Commerce, and members of Congress have all cited the number to call for new policy measures addressing seafood sustainability and dependence on foreign seafood

“I kept hearing this number [90%] repeated and it started to bother me that I couldn’t figure out where the number came from. Then, under the current administration, reducing the seafood trade deficit became a priority and this statistic was being used to support a range of policy changes. If this number was going to be used as support for proposed policies, it felt important to know where the number came from, whether it was right, and whether it is even a good indicator for sustainable fisheries policy,” Gephart told me.

Essentially, the misleading 90% statistic has been used to justify recent nationalist/protectionist shifts in U.S. foreign policy: President Trump has lamented the U.S.’s trade deficit with China since he began running for president in 2014. Now in power, he has escalated a trade war that has hit the seafood industry especially hard. For example, Maine lobster (a popular seafood item in China) is now at a 45% price disadvantage compared to Canadian lobster due to the U.S. and China raising tariffs on each other’s imports. Many in the Maine lobster fishery have been laid off as a result.

The most mind-numbing implications are the tariffs on “foreign” seafood from China. Remember the pollock example above? It is now potentially tariffed twice, “once going to China and another when it enters back into the states as a processed good,” explained Froehlich. “It’s a bit of cutting off the nose to spite the face for the U.S., which is not helping fishers, farmers, or consumers.”

Although it has received less attention and relief efforts than agriculture, US seafood is front and center in the trade war.

NOAA has said the U.S. will not tax domestic seafood on the way back from China, but there is currently no way it can differentiate it from other seafood. China has exempted seafood for processing and export, but a retaliatory tariff is a card they still hold.

We haven’t seen a misleading fishery statistic taken quite so far politically, but with correct statistics available now, hopefully the Trump administration will flout their history and work towards a policy that benefits working class people like those in the U.S. seafood industry.

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May 31 2019

Keep eating fish; it’s the best way to feed the world

The famous ocean explorer, Sylvia Earle, has long advocated that people stop eating fish. Recently, George Monbiot made a similar plea in The Guardian – there’s only one way to save the life in our oceans, stop eating fish – which, incidentally, would condemn several million people to starvation.

In both cases, it’s facile reasoning. The oceans may suffer from many things, but fishing isn’t the biggest. Earle and Monbiot’s sweeping pronouncements lack any thought for the consequences of rejecting fish and substituting fish protein for what? Steak? That delicious sizzler on your plate carries the most appallingly large environmental costs regarding fresh water, grain production, land use, erosion, loss of topsoil, transportation, you name it.

Luckily for our planet, not everyone eats steak. You’re vegan, you say, and your conscience is clean. An admirable choice – so long as there aren’t too many of you. For the sake of argument and numbers, let us assume that we can substitute plant protein in the form of tofu, made from soybeans, for fish protein. Soybeans need decent land; in fact it would take 2.58 times the land area of England to produce enough tofu to substitute for no longer available fish. That extra amount of decent arable land just isn’t available – unless we can persuade Brazil, Ecuador and Columbia to cut down more of the Amazon rainforest. We would also add 1.71 times the amount of greenhouse gases that it takes to catch the fish.

And, again for the sake of argument, were we to substitute beef for fish, we would need 192.43 Englands to raise all that cattle and greenhouse gases would rocket to 42.4 times what they are from fishing.

But aren’t there alternatives that we can eat with a clean conscience? It depends. First, we must accept the inescapable truth that everyone has to eat. You and I and another few billion humans right down to the single cell organisms. The second inescapable truth arises from the first but is often ignored, is that there is no free lunch. The big variable in this business of eating is deciding the appropriate price to the environment.

There are costs to each mouthful. By the time you swallow it, that mouthful has racked up a huge amount of unseen costs: production of greenhouse gases, pollution of air and waterways, soil erosion, use of freshwater, use of antibiotics, and impacts on terrestrial and aquatic biodiversity.

After extensive studies, it turns out that some fish have the lowest green house gas footprint per unit of protein.

However, it doesn’t have to be that costly. Ocean fisheries don’t cause soil erosion, don’t blow away the topsoil, don’t use any significant freshwater, don’t use antibiotics and don’t have anything to do with nutrient releases, that devastating form of pollution that causes algal blooms in freshwater and dead zones in the ocean. After extensive studies, it turns out that some fish have the lowest green house gas footprint per unit of protein. Better even than plants. Sardines, herring, mackerel, anchovies and farmed shellfish all have a lower GHG footprint than plants, and many other fisheries come close.

A ringing endorsement of fish over meat came in 2013, when Andy Sharpless, the CEO of the conservation group Oceana, pointed out that you can sustainably produce food from the sea at low environmental cost. In his book, The Perfect Protein: The Fish Lover’s Guide to Saving the Oceans, Sharpless says, “What if there was a healthy, animal sourced protein, that both the fats and the thins could enjoy without draining the life from the soil, without drying up our rivers, without polluting the air and the water, without causing our planet to warm even more, without plaguing our communities with diabetes, heart disease and cancer?” His answer was to eat fish.

There has been plenty of criticism of commercial fisheries, mostly focused on the impacts on marine ecosystems – fishing certainly reduces the abundance of fish in the ocean, and also non-target species like marine birds, mammals and turtles. But consider the alternative.

Suspend, for a minute, your image of food from the land as it appears to most of us in grocery stores or farmers’ markets – beautifully arranged vegetables, tasty bread, pretty cuts of meat as well as pre-cooked, pre-packaged, eternally preserved fast food. Then cast your minds to how and from where it comes, the raw material from a field. The land as it once was has been totally transformed by farming, replacing original habitat by clearcutting every type of existing flora and replacing it with exotic species, that would be grains, vegetables and fruit trees. Farming, be it agrobusiness or subsistence, essentially eliminates the habitat for indigenous species, and thousands of them have gone extinct because of food production, whereas no marine fish is known to have gone extinct from fishing. The ocean will remain the ocean, though of course we have to manage fish stocks well. We should press our governments to manage fisheries sustainably and minimize the environmental impacts of fishing.

Let’s give a final thought to the reality of boycotting fish and commercial fishing. The need for protein in this world is huge, and we certainly must not waste it. Fishing fleets are guided by quotas set by management and what Earle and Monbiot might boycott, will be shipped and gratefully eaten elsewhere.

Featured image: “Pile of Fish” by Oziel Gómez. Free for use via Pexels.

Ray Hilborn is a professor in the School of Aquatic and Fishery Sciences, University of Washington, specializing in natural resource management and conservation. He has co-authored several books and has published over 300 peer reviewed articles. His latest book, co-authored with Ulrike Hilborn, is Ocean Recovery: A sustainable future for global fisheries?

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May 22 2019

Squid Research Update 2018-19

Methodological Overview

The California Wetfish Producer’s Association (CPWA) in collaboration with NOAA’s Southwest Fisheries Science Center (SWFSC) and the California Department of Fish and Wildlife has been conducting a long-term data collection program targeting California Market Squid paralarvae in Southern California since 2011, and in Monterey since 2014. Sampling sites occur at fixed and known squid spawning and aggregation sites and were selected through a collaborative process involving the squid fishing community, government managers, and independent scientists. These sites are in shallow waters, generally between 40-100 meters, over sandy substrate and often within one km from shore. Sampling effort targets the winter hatching season in southern California, sampling occurs in December, January, and February. Summer surveys are also conducted in SC and Monterey. Depending on funding availability, additional surveys are conducted in spring and autumn. To date, over 1,000 net tows have been collected during 42 survey efforts spanning nine years. Sampling is done on chartered fishing vessels and paralarvae are captured via bongo nets with a 505-micron mesh. Zooplankton volume and preservation, paralarval sorting and identification and other lab work are conducted at the SWFSC. Paralarval ageing is conducted with SWFSC personnel in an on-going project. Paralarval condition is measured by obtaining an average weight for paralarvae at a given station location, as well as measuring lengths of all individuals at a station location, or from 10 randomized individuals if >10 individuals occur at a station.

Overview – Early Winter 2018

Market squid paralarval abundance in Southern California (SC) during the winter of 2018 remained very low compared to the long-term mean, and especially compared to paralarval densities found during previous La Niña time periods (prior to 2015), indicating lingering effects from the historic 2015-16 El Niño. The 3-month mean SC paralarval density index (PDI) for the December 2018, and January and February, 2019 winter paralarval hatching season was 3.17 paralarvae per 1,000 m3 of filtered sea-water (± 19 SD). This is down from 7.43 (± 46.9) the previous hatching season (2017-18). The long-term SC winter mean PDI is 51.3 (± 342). Measurements of productivity, both zooplankton displacement volume (ZPDV) and surface chlorophyll (SCHL) declined from the previous year. ZPDV has steadily declined since the onset of the strong El Niño in 2014. Surface chlorophyll concentrations have recovered slightly from the El Niño, but are lower than last year, and still much lower than the previous period of high productivity (Fig. 1). Local sea surface temperature (SST) and the Ocean Niño Index (ONI) both saw cooling periods in 2017, but have warmed slightly during 2018 and 2019.


Late Winter Hatching Season, 2019

Paralarval abundance, temperature, and ocean productivity began the 2018-19 winter hatching season similarly to previous years, marked by very low abundance, warmer ocean temperatures, and reduced productivity. However, February, 2019, marked a dramatic change. A series of strong winter storms drove coastal upwelling, which cooled surface waters, increased ocean mixing, nutrient availability, zooplankton abundance, and yielded a significant increase in paralarval abundance (Table 1, Fig. 2). Zooplankton biomass and availability seems to be particularly important for market squid, likely due to the high energetic demands required by squids (O’Dor 1982). General Additive Models were used (also see Van Noord & Dorval 2017) to evaluate the importance of oceanographic variables on determining variability in paralarval density for the 2018-19 season. Sea surface temperature, ZPDV, SCHL, and four geographic variables (separating the coast from the Channel Islands and north from south at Santa Monica Bay) explained 48% of the variability in paralarval abundance. Sea surface temperature and ZPDV were particularly important in the model (Fig. 3). Greater paralarval density was associated with lower SST and moderate to high ZPDV.


Monterey Bay Area and Summer Sampling

The Monterey Bay Area was sampled in June, 2018 (n=15) and the paralarvae density index was 10.5 (± 7.18). This was the highest paralarvae abundance measured during the 2018-19 season. Southern California was sampled in June, 2018 and the PDI measured 0.45 (± 0.04). This was the second consecutive year that Monterey PDI values were the highest recorded in a given fishing year, indicating the population’s center of distribution may still be north following the anomalous warm water event during 2015-16, indicating that squid are seeking cooler ocean waters and greater food availability.

May 15 2019

The Keeling Curve Hits 415 PPM

Watch the new video released by Scripps Oceanography

Scripps scientists measured a record level of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere: 415 parts per million, on Sunday, May 12, 2019. This daily record, the Keeling Curve, is considered the foundation of modern climate change research. Geochemist Charles David Keeling joined Scripps in 1956 and built a manometer and other equipment to isolate the carbon dioxide in air samples. In 1958, the average carbon dioxide concentration of the first measurement was 316.16 parts per million. In 2013, the CO2 concentration surpassed 400 ppm for the first time in human history.

May 14 2019

These Days, It’s Not About the Polar Bears

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


By Benjamin Ryan  May 12, 2019

Climate science has struggled mightily with a messaging problem.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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May 3 2019

What is the Real Cost of Protein?

With headlines published in the media like “Two-Thirds of the World’s Seafood is Over-fished” and “Science Study Predicts the Collapse of All Seafood Fisheries by 2050,” what is really the state of the ecosystems in the Earth’s oceans?

Will we deplete the ocean’s resources in the near future? or do we have time to make adaptions to ensure the vitality of fisheries?

At the event in Seattle, Foodable Host Yareli Quintana sat down with Dr. Ray Hilborn, professor of Fishery Sciences at the University of Washington who has been researching the topic of conservation and quantitative population dynamics of seafood for the last eight years.

Hilborn starts out by pointing out that there a two environmental challenges when it comes to seafood supply.

First, it’s the substantial fuel used to catch the fish, which generates carbon foot and then, the impact on biodiversity. As specific fish populations continue to be caught, this is changing the ecosystem of the ocean.

The seafood conservation expert also clears up a common misconception that our ocean is being depleted.

“Within the last 20 years the abundance of stock has really turned around in many places, there are certainly exceptions where that’s not true though,” says Hilborn.

But that doesn’t mean that chefs shouldn’t be concerned about what fish product that they are serving.

Each type of seafood makes a different impact on the environment. For example, Maine lobster generates a lot of energy to catch, while sardines, oysters, and mussels, on the other hand, make a really low impact.

Oyster and mussels feed themselves and most of the environmental cost comes from feed production.

Then there’s the problem of food waste, which is a challenge for restaurants, but more so, for consumers eating at home.

“One of the big issues of fish and food, in general, is waste. Globally, about 30 percent of food is wasted. In rich countries like the U.S., that’s mostly at home…So it’s important to be more careful about making sure you buy what you need and use it,” says Hilborn.

Watch the Seafood Talk Session above to learn more about the sustainability, research and management practices that are being worked on and adjusted every day in order to do right by nature and to feed the masses.

Original post:

Apr 9 2019

San Pedro Fishermen Help Add to Sardine Stock As­sess­ments



Based out of San Pedro harbor, Nick Juril got his first fishing boat in 1982 and has been making a living ever since with a variety of catches including squid, mackerel, and sardines.

“I grew up with the fishery,” said Juril on the deck of his current boat, Eileen. “[It] goes back to my dad’s childhood. There’s still a handful of us left and we’re still, you know, hanging on. It would be a shame to see it go away.”

Sardine stock assessments are based primarily on acoustic trawl surveys conducted by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. According to the administration, the sardine biomass has fallen short of the 150,000 metric ton threshold needed for commercial fishing to commence. Therefore, the Fisheries Management Council has prohibited a directed sardine fishery since 2015 to allow for stocks to bounce back.

“In 2014/2015 we weren’t seeing a lot. But since the water kind of changed, the water warmed up a little bit, there’s a lot of sardines around right now,” explained Juril. “So, we’re hanging on, but not having the sardines has been really, really tough.”

Joe Ferrigno, one of Juril’s neighboring fishermen, says the loss of the sardine catch has taken as much as half of his business away.

“There was some years we fish sardines all year long,” said Ferrigno. “Now, we go farther, and we work a lot harder to try to catch a little bit of squid to make up for it.”

Besides human consumption, sardines also feed the pet food market and act as live bait in the multi-billion-dollar recreational fishing industry. They are also a food source for larger marine life, like sea lions which can be seen coming into harbor looking for fish.

Juril says the acoustic trawl surveys are flawed because they do not take near shore measurements, which is where he says fishermen are seeing stocks of sardines.

“These fisheries are managed on best available science,” said Juril, “and when the science is bad, it’s not doing anybody any good.”

Juril has been working in conjunction with the Department of Fish and Wildlife to do near shore aerial surveys. A spotter plane will take images once a school is spotted and radio back to the boat with location. The school is then scooped up with the boat’s purse nets and the yield will be measured and correlated to the images so that future estimates can be made more accurately.

“Most, or almost all almost all, of [the sardines] are always fished from 25 meters into surf line,” explained Juril.

Another neighbor, Jamie Ashley, is a bait hauler, also participating in the aerial surveys. The Pacific Fishery Management Council does allow for a few thousand tons of sardines to be harvested as live bait, but Ashley is worried that too could be shut down.

“If we can’t get sardines, we’re out of business,” Ashley said. “There’s nothing else to catch. There’s nothing else to use for bait so we’re done.”

“The corns ripe, ready to pick,” said Juril. “There’s corn all over the place and some scientists are saying, ‘No corn this year. Can’t pick it. Sorry.’ So we’re trying to do what we can do to add to the science so that they do have better information and we can get a better assessment of abundance.”

Juril will haul other catches like squid and continue the near shore surveys hoping to add to stock assessment data and end the moratorium on sardines, but scientists aren’t optimistic and worry sardine stocks will take years to recover.

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