Posts Tagged anchovy population

Jun 20 2018

Judge rules for Oceana in California anchovy dispute

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

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

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

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

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

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

Precipitous decline?

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

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

NMFS argued that that the MacCall study had shortcomings.

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

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

Wetfish worries

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

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

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

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

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

Original article: | Contact the author

Dec 5 2016

D.B. Pleschner: Extremists manufacture anchovy ‘crisis’ where none exists

By D.B. Pleschner

Guest commentary

When the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) recently reapproved the 2017 annual catch limit for the central stock of anchovy at 25,000 metric tons (mt), environmental extremists immediately cried foul.

Press releases with doomsday headlines claimed that the anchovy catch limit is now higher than the total population of fish in the sea. Environmentalists claim the anchovy resource has “collapsed” and the current catch limit is dangerously high.

But is the anchovy population really decimated, or are these alarmists simply manufacturing another anti-fishing crisis?

Their claims are based on a paper by Alec MacCall, pegging the central anchovy stock at about 18,000 mt. However, the paper analyzed egg and larval data collected over time in California Cooperative Fishery Investigations (CalCOFI) surveys, conducted in the Southern California Bight — and the conclusion is fundamentally flawed. Other scientists now acknowledge that the CalCOFI cruises do not cover the full range of anchovy, missing both Mexico and areas north of the CalCOFI survey track, as well as the nearshore, where a super-abundance of anchovy now reside, say fishermen.

The CalCOFI survey was designed to track sardine, not anchovy. It misses the nearshore biomass where age 0-1 anchovy live and huge schools of anchovy have been observed since 2013. But the MacCall analysis deliberately omitted nearshore egg-larval data. In addition, peak spawning for anchovy is February-March, but CalCOFI surveys run in January and April, as did the MacCall analysis, thus both captured only the tails of spawning.

Clearly, current data are inadequate to develop an accurate anchovy population estimate. At the November 2016 Pacific Fishery Management Council meeting, scientists, the management team and most council members agreed.

In reality, anchovies are now amazingly abundant from San Diego to Northern California. Scientific data as well as fishermen’s observation bear this out:

• Recent NOAA field surveys documented increased anchovy recruitment and multiple year classes, although data from the 2016 summer survey are still undergoing analysis.

• A 2015 NOAA juvenile rockfish cruise report found evidence of record numbers of anchovy larvae and pelagic juveniles, and saw an abundance of anchovy again in 2016.

And consider reports from fishermen like Neil Guglielmo, who fished anchovy from Half Moon Bay to Monterey in the summer of 2016. He saw thousands of tons of anchovy — school after school running from San Francisco to the Farallon Islands, and down the coast to Monterey and beyond. Similar comments come from many fishermen who fish nearshore waters the length of the California coast.

The big increase in anchovy abundance in nearshore waters in recent years has precipitated a record whale-watching spectacle, recounted in media reports from San Francisco to San Diego. And while doomsday press releases and news stories regurgitate environmentalist claims that the anchovy resource has “collapsed,” Monterey Bay Whale Watch posted a video on Facebook of dozens of sea lions and a humpback whale feasting on thousands of anchovies — only two miles from Monterey Harbor!

The bottom line is that anchovy management employs an extremely precautionary approach, capping the allowed harvest at 25 percent of the average overfishing limit estimated to be harvested sustainably over the long term.

So why are ENGOs lobbying to cut the harvest limit to 7,000 mt, drastically lower than the federal limit, even though the draconian reduction would inflict serious harm to California’s historic fishing industry, especially in Monterey?

Scientists acknowledge that anchovy abundance is highly variable, and that variability occurs even without a fishery. Given multiple lines of evidence of anchovy recruitment, clearly there is no biological crisis, but there could be a serious socioeconomic problem if the small anchovy harvest limit is further restricted.

As the Pacific Fishery Management Council deliberates anchovy management, we hope a credible and thorough scientific assessment process and best available common sense will prevail. Evidence of recent anchovy recruitment must be factored into future management decisions; politics should not drive the outcome.

D.B. Pleschner is executive director of the California Wetfish Producers Association, a nonprofit dedicated to research and to promote sustainable wetfish resources.

Originally published:

Nov 23 2015

Ocean activists, fishers and scientists differ on heavy anchovy declines

Longtime bait fisherman, Mike Spears near the net aboard the In-Seine off the shores of Marina del Rey.

A new, beautifully produced but troubling public service announcement from Oceana features “Glee” television actress and singer Jenna Ushkowitz diving with sea lions off Santa Barbara.

Fishing, she says, decimated Southern California’s historically booming stocks of Pacific sardine and Northern anchovy, a major food source for top ocean predators. Those stocks have dropped dramatically in the past decade, prompting reduced fishing quotas as starved sea lion pups and California brown pelican chicks die in record numbers.

“Sea lions rely on forage fish for survival. But years of overfishing have put this important food source in jeopardy,” Ushkowitz narrates while underwater footage shows her swimming through kelp. “Join Oceana and help protect forage fish in the Pacific. … We need to stop this and replenish.”

The West Coast’s leading fishery scientists, however, disagree. They believe the fish are most likely enduring natural population fluctuations and are on the cusp of making a big comeback.

Oceana, a nonprofit advocacy organization favored by celebrities such as Leonardo DiCaprio, insists that fishing is the primary problem. The group lobbied aggressively to close the West Coast anchovy fishery, delivering nearly 40,000 letters from concerned citizens nationwide to the Pacific Fishery Management Council, a 14-member body that sets fishing policy for California, Oregon and Washington, before its meeting last week.

“We are greatly concerned that management of the commercial forage fisheries off California, Oregon and Washington is leaving ocean wildlife without enough fish to eat,” said Oceana’s form letter to the council, signed by thousands of citizens. “Approximately three times as many sea lions washed ashore in 2015 compared to 2013. Similarly, California brown pelicans have been abandoning their nests due to lack of forage fish.”

Oceana helped to close the Pacific sardine fishery earlier than usual this year by stoking public concern about declining stocks of the important food source. They hoped to do the same for Northern anchovies, but the council decided to allow anchovy fishing to continue this season until the current, relatively low quota of 25,000 metric tons is reached.

Sardine fishing will not resume until researchers complete another assessment of their population numbers, though fishers report seeing tons of them in the water.

Corbin Hanson, a fisherman who supplies Tri Marine Fish Co. on Terminal Island with catch from his family-run fishing boat, the Eileen, said anchovies and sardines are plentiful.

“Anchovies are still here in large volumes,” Hanson said. “I was just driving through them (Thursday) night. To say there are no anchovies in this water is absurd. It comes from such an obtuse perspective on our ecosystem.

“The anchovy population ebbs and flows a lot and, as fishermen, we know that it’s going to come back. The volatility in the anchovy stocks is present with or without commercial fishing.

“I don’t find it comforting that organizations (like Oceana) can make knee-jerk decisions about our coastal ecosystem when they’re not even on the water. The research they’re using to formulate their opinion isn’t even recent.”

Researchers agree environmental changes, not fishers, caused the population crash. New evidence points to a record-breaking boom in young anchovies and sardines farther north this year in Central and Northern California, and on the Oregon border, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Southwest Fisheries Science Center. Researchers say that they appear to have eluded study because the fish changed their spawning times and locations with the sustained warmer ocean temperatures.

But the intense public scrutiny prompted fishery managers last week to re-evaluate how they count the fish in an effort to find out whether overfishing is truly a problem. They will hold a spring workshop to determine the best, most accurate way to estimate their numbers. They’re hoping to strengthen partnerships with Canadian and Mexican fishery managers to best estimate how many fish are out there. These fish are difficult to track because they often don’t travel in schools, and they move quickly with changing environmental conditions, researchers say.

Historically, they’ve relied on landing data, and the acoustic-trawl method of using echo-sounding and sonar beams to develop underwater maps of fish densities. They also collect egg samples to determine how many fish are likely to be born in a season, and take aerial and ship surveys.

“The fish move north, south, onshore, offshore, up and down in the water column. They’re here one day and gone the next. And they’re subject to big population swings, so it’s hard to get a true picture of the biomass at any time,” said Kerry Griffin, a staff officer for the council.

“There are weird things going on in the ocean right now, with the ‘warm blob,’ El Niño, ocean acidification and toxic algae up and down the coast,” Griffin said. “We are gradually incorporating ecosystem-based management into our fishery-management plans.

“And paying more attention to environmental and oceanic patterns is the first step to getting a better understanding of relationships between species and the environment.”

Read the original post:

Nov 15 2015

Letters: Plentiful anchovies far from collapse

Plentiful anchovies far from collapse

I’ve been fishing for more than 50 years up and down the West Coast and I’m shocked at all the hysterical claims I’ve read in the media recently about the anchovy “collapse.” Much of the hype stemmed from an anchovy study still in peer review, but the truth of the matter is that its conclusions are disastrously wrong!

I’m one of a handful of fishermen who fish anchovy in Monterey. I’m on the water nearly every day and I’ve seen a big surge in the anchovy population in recent years. Anchovies now stretch from the “pinheads” fishermen see in Southern California all the way up the coast past Half Moon Bay, where a large group of whales was recently spotted feeding on anchovies.

Our fishery simply skims the surface of anchovy schools that often run hundreds of feet deep. The allowed anchovy harvest is limited at 25,000 tons, leaving 75 percent of the biomass in the ocean as forage. Bottom line: There are plenty of anchovies in the sea.

I hope sanity prevails when the Pacific Council meets to decide the fate of the few Monterey fishermen who need to fish anchovy to pay our bills.

— Aniello Guglielmo, Camarillo


Nov 15 2015

Letters, Nov. 12, 2015: Anchovy population has not collapsed

Anchovy population has not collapsed

I’ve been fishing in Monterey and along the West Coast for more than 30 years and I’m one of only about eight fishermen who fish anchovy in Monterey Bay. I’m shocked at the recent outcry in the media that claims the anchovy population has collapsed!

Environmentalists who are calling for the immediate closure of our local anchovy fishery are basing their claims on a flawed study that deliberately omits data from recent years showing a huge upswing in the anchovy population.

Our sonars mark schools that are hundreds of feet thick, but our nets just skim the surface of these schools. Fishermen up and down the coast are seeing the same thing: anchovies are everywhere.

It’s time to stop pointing fingers at fishermen and get out and see what’s really going on in the ocean.

— Tom Noto, Salinas