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/

Jan 25 2020

Dungeness crab larvae already showing effects of coastal acidification

This infographic shows the location of larval Dungeness crab sampling in 2016, examples of impacts from ocean acidification, as well as photos of a larval (left) and adult (right) crab. Credit: Nina Bednarsek, SSCWRP.

 

A new NOAA-funded study has documented for the first time that ocean acidification along the US Pacific Northwest coast is impacting the shells and sensory organs of some young Dungeness crab, a prized crustacean that supports the most valuable fishery on the West Coast.

Analysis of samples collected during a 2016 NOAA research cruise identified examples of damage to the carapace, or upper shell, of numerous larval Dungeness crabs, as well as the loss of hair-like sensory structures crabs use to orient themselves to their surroundings.

The study was published in the journal Science of the Total Environment.

Impacts to wild crab mirror results of laboratory study

Prior to this study, scientists thought that Dungeness crab were not vulnerable to current levels of ocean acidification, although a laboratory study conducted on Dungeness crab larvae by NOAA’s Northwest Fisheries Science Center in 2016 found that their development and survival suffered under pH levels expected in the future.

“This is the first study that demonstrates that larval crabs are already affected by ocean acidification in the natural environment, and builds on previous understanding of ocean acidification impacts on pteropods,” said lead author Nina Bednarsek, senior scientist with the Southern California Coastal Water Research Project. “If the crabs are affected already, we really need to make sure we start to pay much more attention to various components of the food chain before it is too late.”

What is ocean acidification?
Ocean acidification refers to a reduction in the pH of ocean water, primarily caused by the uptake of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere over long time spans. When CO2 is absorbed by seawater, a series of chemical reactions occur resulting in the increased concentration of hydrogen ions. This increase causes the seawater to increase its acidity and causes carbonate ions to be less abundant.

Carbonate ions are an important building block of structures such as sea shells and coral skeletons that rely on using calcium carbonate for structural growth. Decreases in carbonate ions can make building and maintaining shells and other calcium carbonate structures difficult for calcifying organisms such as oysters, clams, sea urchins, crabs, corals, and some kinds of shelled plankton, such as pteropods.

Close examination reveals patterns of damage
In this study, examination under a high-magnification, scanning electron microscope revealed that the corrosive conditions of coastal waters had affected portions of the fragile, still-developing external shell and legs of the tiny, almost translucent post-larval Dungeness crabs, leaving tell-tale features, such as abnormal ridging structures and scarred surfaces. This could, in turn, impair larval survival by altering swimming behaviors and competence, including the ability to regulate buoyancy, maintain vertical position, and avoid predators.

One of the more important findings of this study was that crabs showing signs of carapace dissolution were smaller than other larvae. This was disconcerting, scientists said, because the damage during the crab’s larval stages could cause potential developmental delays that could increase energy demands and interfere with maturation.

Sensory organ damage seen for the first time
In a surprising discovery, the team found that the low pH water in some coastal areas damaged the canals where hair-like bristles called mechanoreceptors stick out from the shell. These receptors transmit important chemical and mechanical sensations to the crab, and may help crabs navigate their environment. Examination showed that carapace dissolution destabilizes the attachment of the mechanoreceptor anchor, resulting in them falling out in some individuals.

This is a new aspect of crustacean sensitivity to ocean acidification that has not been previously reported. The team hypothesize that the absence or damage of mechanoreceptors within their neuritic canals may in part explain potential aberrant behavioral patterns, such as slower movement, less tactile recognition, and prolonged searching time, as well as impaired swimming, that have been observed in various crustacean species exposed to low pH conditions in laboratory settings.

“We found dissolution impacts to the crab larvae that were not expected to occur until much later in this century,” said Richard Feely, Senior Scientist with NOAA’s Pacific Marine Environmental Laboratory and one of the co-authors of the study.

Combining observations and modelling work, the research team, which included scientists from JISAO, NOAA’s cooperative institute at the University of Washington, from the University of Connecticut, and from Quebec, Britain and Slovenia, demonstrated that the impacts of dissolution were the most severe in the coastal habitats, where crabs grow and mature.

Previous research has indicated that Dungeness crab may also be vulnerable to future declines due to lack of availability of prey – including bivalves such as clams and other bottom-dwelling invertebrate species.

More research needed
Bednarsek emphasized that more research will be needed to determine whether the external dissolution seen in crabs at this early life stage could carry over into later life stages, including the reproductively active adult stage, and what the potential consequences may be for the population dynamics.

“If these larval crab need to divert energy to repair their exoskeletons, and are smaller as a result, the percentage that make it to adulthood will be at best variable, and likely go down in the long-term,” she said.

Ocean acidification is a major concern for West Coast fishery managers, said Rich Childers, Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife’s ocean acidification policy lead. “These data and results give state and tribal fishery managers and policy makers information that’s vital for harvest and conservation planning.”

The research was supported by the NOAA’s Ocean Acidification Program and NOAA’s Pacific Marine Environmental Laboratory.

NOAA Research News, 23 January 2020. Article.


Original post: https://news-oceanacidification-icc.org/

Jan 17 2020

Fish populations around the world are improving

Fish populations around the world are improving

January 16, 2020 — The following was released by Sustainable Fisheries UW:

Let’s enjoy some unequivocal, inarguable good news: a paper published today in PNAS, Hilborn et al. 2020, shows that on average, scientifically-assessed fish populations around the world are healthy or improving. And, for fish populations that are not doing well, there is a clear roadmap to sustainability. With Australia on fire and scares of World War III, the start of 2020 and the new decade has been awful; hopefully Hilborn et al. 2020 can kickstart a decade of ocean optimism.

Hilborn et al. 2020 counters the perception that fish populations around the world are declining and the only solution is closing vast swaths of ocean to fishing. Instead, Hilborn et al. 2020 argues that increasing scientific, management, and enforcement capacity will lead to more abundant and sustainable oceans. The major takeaway of the paper is that fishery management works—when fisheries are managed, they are sustained. The key is following the science-to-management blueprint. Scientific data collection and fishery assessment comes first, then fishing regulation and enforcement of fishing policies. With the blueprint in place, most fisheries around the world are sustainable or improving.

The paper uses updates to the RAM Legacy Stock Assessment Database, a decades-long project to assemble data on fish populations that are scientifically assessed. As of 2019, the database contains data on 882 marine fish populations, representing about half of reported wild-caught seafood. In 2009, the database contained data on only 166, representing a much smaller proportion of global seafood. Researchers have spent the last 10 years adding to the database, and with today’s publication, update the global status of fish stocks. They found that, on average, fish populations are above target levels. Not every stock is doing well, but on average, things are much better than they were 2 decades ago. How nice: an environmental story where things are better now than they were in the past!

The paper describes the global status of fish stocks, but it also tells the story of fishery sustainability from the past 50 years.

Read the full story at Sustainable Fisheries UW


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Saving Seafood | 202-595-1212 | savingseafood.org

Jan 15 2020

Release — Fisheries management is actually working, global analysis shows

FROM: Michelle Ma
University of Washington
206-543-2580
mcma@uw.edu
(NOTE: Researcher contact information at end)

EMBARGOED BY THE PROCEEDINGS OF THE NATIONAL ACADEMY OF SCIENCES
For public release at 12 p.m. Pacific / 3 p.m. Eastern on Monday, Jan. 13, 2020

Fisheries management is actually working, global analysis shows

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

That is the main finding of an international project led by the University of Washington to compile and analyze data from fisheries around the world. The results were published Jan. 13 in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

“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 UW School of Aquatic and Fishery Sciences. “Fish stocks are not all declining around the world. They 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. This information helps scientists and managers know where overfishing is occurring, or where some areas could support even more fishing. Now the team’s database includes information on nearly half of the world’s fish catch, up from about 20% represented in the last compilation in 2009.

“The key is, we want to know how well we are doing, where we need to improve, and what the problems are,” Hilborn said. “Given that most countries are trying to provide long-term sustainable yield of their fisheries, we want to know where we are overfishing, and where there is potential for more yield in places we’re not fully exploiting.”

Over the past decade, the research team built a network of collaborators in countries and regions throughout the world, inputting their data on valuable fish populations in places such as the Mediterranean, Peru, Chile, Russia, Japan and northwest Africa. Now about 880 fish stocks are included in the database, giving a much more comprehensive picture worldwide of the health and status of fish populations.

Still, most of the fish stocks in South Asia and Southeast Asia do not have scientific estimates of health and status available. 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.”

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

These 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.

“With the data we were able to assemble, 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 really gives credibility to the fishery managers and governments around the world that are willing to take strong actions.”

Fisheries management should be tailored to fit the characteristics of the different fisheries and the needs of specific countries and regions for it to be successful. Approaches that have been effective in many large-scale industrial fisheries in developed countries cannot be expected to work for small-scale fisheries, especially in regions with limited economic and technical resources and weak governance systems, Parma said.

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.”

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.

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

The research was funded by the National Center for Ecological Analysis and Synthesis Science for Nature and People Partnership. 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.

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For more information, contact Hilborn at rayh@uw.edu, Parma at anaparma@gmail.com and Costello at costello@bren.ucsb.edu.

More information is available at Sustainable Fisheries UW, an effort to communicate the science, policies and human dimensions of sustainable fisheries.