Posts Tagged California

May 27 2021

Biden Administration Sees Victory in CA Offshore Wind; Fishermen See Deception

Windmill park green energy during sunset in the ocean, offshore wind mill turbines Netherlands

Photo Credit: fokkebok/iStock/Getty Images Plus


The White House announcement Tuesday of fast-tracking large areas in California to offshore wind brought with it the sharp-edged blade of betrayal to fishermen trying to work with federal agencies to retain their livelihoods.

In Washington, D.C., far away from the areas being discussed, the White House convened National Climate Advisor Gina McCarthy, California Gov. Gavin Newsom, Interior Secretary Deb Haaland and Under Secretary for Defense for Policy Dr. Colin Kahl for the announcement of the first commercial scale offshore wind energy areas off the Pacific Coast. The Biden administration hailed it as a significant milestone to achieving the goal of creating good-paying, union jobs through the deployment of 30 gigawatts of offshore wind by 2030, the administration said in a press release. These initial areas for offshore wind development in the Pacific Ocean could bring up to 4.6 GW of clean energy to the grid, enough to power 1.6 million American homes, according to the White House.

Specifically, the Department of the Interior, in coordination with the Department of Defense, identified an area (“the Morro Bay 399 Area”) that will support three gigawatts of offshore wind on roughly 399 square miles northwest of Morro Bay, the White House said. The Department of the Interior is also advancing the Humboldt Call Area as a potential Wind Energy Area, located off northern California.

The White House said the Department of Defense played a critical role in identifying the areas because it engages in testing, training and operations essential to national security off the California coast. The DoD objected to some of proposed areas in the past but was working with the state and Interior in the past.

“Tacking the climate crisis is a national security imperative and the Defense Department is proud to have played a role in this important effort,” Under Secretary for Defense Policy Dr. Colin Kahl said in the press release. “… Throughout this effort, the Defense Department has worked tirelessly with the White House, the Department of the Interior, and the state of California to find solutions that enable offshore wind development while ensuring long-term protection for testing, training, and operations critical to our military readiness.”

But the announcement shocked the seafood industry. The area is larger than expected and effectively negates good-faith efforts to work with the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management and state agencies. The seafood industry has tried to elevate the importance tof fishing and processing and the need to identify important harvesting and natural resource areas prior to establishing an area for wind turbines.

“The fishing industry has been told these areas work best for offshore wind developers, but no one has asked us what areas would work best for us,” Pacific Coast Federation of Fishermen’s Associations Executive Director Mike Conroy said. “There has been no effort to engage with or partner with fishermen, no planning process to evaluate fisheries data and spatial needs to inform this development, nor is there a clear process for how to do that through permitting now that we have missed the opportunity to plan effectively. The areas announced today are large areas; and with additional Call Areas likely to be identified off California and Oregon later this year, a comprehensive, upfront, cumulative effects analysis should be required.”

The administration’s move mirrors those by BOEM on the East Coast with the recent approval of the Vineyard Wind offshore wind project. The pattern of excluding the seafood industry is not new. Fishermen and processors on the West Coast have seen similar BOEM patterns.

Another case in point: BOEM announced this week it would hold a California Renewable Energy Intergovernmental Task Force meeting on June 24 and sent a notice to the seafood industry to join. The public is invited to “listen and attend on June 24, 2021, to discuss both central and northern California offshore wind planning areas considered for future leasing and next steps in the BOEM leasing process moving forward,” the notice said.

However, that’s also the first day of the Pacific Fishery Management Council meeting.

“It is inexcusable that BOEM, who has claimed to engage closely with the Council, would schedule a Task Force meeting during the Council’s meeting,” the PCFFA said. “The fishing community will now have to choose between attending the Council meeting and participating in discussions fostering our sustainable fisheries or attending a meeting where they will be told that dire consequences are possible for the fisheries the Council manages.”

Morro Bay fishermen were particularly angry.

“We’re totally against this,” Tom Hafer, president of the Morro Bay Commercial Fishermen’s Organization, was quoted as saying in a New York Times story. “We’ve been consulting with the Castle Wind people for a long time, and we helped pick the spot and developed a memorandum of understanding on an area that we thought would be sustainable for us. That was about 120 square miles. This is 399 square miles. We’re going to lose a whole bunch of fishing grounds. There will be cables in the water. We don’t know how the whales will react. There are a lot of unknowns. People don’t realize how massive this project will be.”

The Responsible Offshore Development Alliance noted the seafood industry’s efforts.

“The California and broader Pacific fishing communities have raised multiple direct requests and concerns to BOEM, the Pacific Fishery Management Council, and others that merit prompt attention,” RODA said in a press release.

These include:

  • Expanded fisheries representation on BOEM Intergovernmental Task Forces;
  • Greater opportunities for public input;
  • Additional resources for fisheries-related research and environmental review;
  • Performance of full environmental analyses at the onset of project siting;
  • Enhanced interstate coordination;
  • Implementation of an inclusive marine spatial planning process prior to lease decisions;
  • Advancement of science processes and products that include fishermen’s traditional knowledge; and
  • Decisions based on appropriate time series and data sets with sufficient timelines to gather such data, which is largely unavailable at present.

The Pacific Council will likely discuss meaningful engagement with BOEM again at its June Council meeting.

Susan Chambers

Posted with permission from SeafoodNews

Dec 23 2019

California coastal waters rising in acidity at alarming rate, study finds

A commercial fishing boat heads out of Morro Bay. A study released Monday found that waters off the California coast are acidifying faster than the rest of the ocean. (Al Seib / Los Angeles Times)


Waters off the California coast are acidifying twice as fast as the global average, scientists found, threatening major fisheries and sounding the alarm that the ocean can absorb only so much more of the world’s carbon emissions.

A new study led by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration also made an unexpected connection between acidification and a climate cycle known as the Pacific Decadal Oscillation — the same shifting forces that other scientists say have a played a big role in the higher and faster rates of sea level rise hitting California in recent years.

El Niño and La Niña cycles, researchers found, also add stress to these extreme changes in the ocean’s chemistry.

These findings come at a time when record amounts of emissions have already exacerbated the stress on the marine environment. When carbon dioxide mixes with seawater, it undergoes chemical reactions that increase the water’s acidity.

Across the globe, coral reefs are dying, oysters and clams are struggling to build their shells, and fish seem to be losing their sense of smell and direction. Harmful algal blooms are getting more toxic — and occurring more frequently. Researchers are barely keeping up with these new issues while still trying to understand what’s happening under the sea.

Scientists call it the other major, but less talked about, CO2 problem.

The ocean covers more than 70% of the Earth’s surface and has long been the unsung hero of climate change. It has absorbed more than a quarter of the carbon dioxide released by humans since the Industrial Revolution, and about 90% of the resulting heat — helping the air we breathe at the expense of a souring sea.

Here in California’s coastal backyard, some of the nation’s most economically valuable fisheries are also the most vulnerable. Scientists for years have worried that the West Coast would face some of the earliest, most severe changes in ocean carbon chemistry.

Many have noted how West Coast waters seemed to acidify faster, but there was little historical data to turn to. Ocean acidification has become a field of research only in recent decades, so information has been limited to what scientists have since started monitoring and discovering.

This study, published Monday in the journal Nature Geoscience, came up with a creative way to confirm these greater rates of acidification. Researchers collected and analyzed a specific type of shell on the seafloor — and used these data to reconstruct a 100-year history of acidification along the West Coast.

“This is the first time that we have any sort of record that takes it back to the beginning of the [last] century,” said Emily Osborne, a NOAA researcher and lead author of the study. “Prior to this, we didn’t have a time series that was long enough to really reveal the relationship between ocean acidification” and these climate cycles.

The study analyzed almost 2,000 shells of a tiny animal called foraminifera. Every day, these shells — about the size of a grain of sand — rain down onto the seafloor and are eventually covered by sediment.

Scientists took core samples from the Santa Barbara basin — where the seafloor is relatively undisturbed by worms and bottom-feeding fish — and used the pristine layers of sediment to create a vertical snapshot of the ocean’s history.

Seen under a microscope, these colorful spots are foraminifera shells taken from the mud of core samples off the California coast. Scientists studied these shells dating back 100 years to measure acidification rates in the ocean. (NOAA)


The more acidic the ocean, the more difficult it is for shellfish to build their shells. So using a microscope and other tools, the research team measured the changes in thickness of these shells and were able to estimate the ocean’s acidity level during the years that the foraminifera were alive.

“We can read the deposits like pages in a book,” said Osborne, a scientist for NOAA’s Ocean Acidification Program. “In Santa Barbara, there are just beautifully preserved laminated records of the seafloor that allow us to generate these high-resolution reconstructions.”

Image of a foraminifera shell magnified 650 times by a scanning electron microscope. (NOAA)


Using these modern calibrations, the scientists concluded that the waters off the California coast had a 0.21 decline in pH over a 100-year period dating back to 1895 (the lower the pH, the greater the acidity, according to the logarithmic pH scale of 0 to 14 ). This is more than double the decline — 0.1 pH — that scientists estimate the ocean has experienced on average worldwide.

From these records, Osborne could see clear changes whenever El Niño or other climate cycles shifted the ocean’s chemistry more dramatically. The data revealed an unexpected connection to the Pacific Decadal Oscillation, a warming and cooling cycle involving strong winds that pull warmer surface water on or offshore. The swings in upwelling of more nutrient- and carbon-rich waters alleviated or amplified the acidification.

This climate pattern has already been connected to shifts in sea level rise and other effects along the West Coast. More data and better understanding of these connections will help scientists adjust their models as they project what to expect in the future.

So there’s this bottom-up pressure from the oscillation, as well as the top-down stress of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere getting absorbed by surface water, Osborne said. “This makes the extremes even more extreme. It’s like a double whammy for this region of the world.”

Restoring the ocean’s kelp forests and other marine vegetation will help sequester some of this carbon, but ultimately, how much worse this all gets depends on the choices people make in the next decade. Efforts to rein in human-produced greenhouse gases play a significant role in temperature, wind patterns, acidification and how fast the sea will rise.

“While the ocean has served a very important role in mitigating climate change by absorbing CO2 from the atmosphere, there’s a capacity at which the ocean can’t absorb anymore,” Osborne said. “From this study, and so many other published studies, there’s no question that the answer is to curb our carbon emissions.”

Original post:

Jul 28 2017

Oceanographic influences on the distribution and relative abundance of market squid paralarvae (Doryteuthis opalescens) off the Southern and Central California coast


Joel E. Van Noord | Emmanis Dorval


July 2017



Market squid (Doryteuthis opalescens) are ecologically and economically important to the California Current Ecosystem, but populations undergo dramatic fluctuations that greatly affect food web dynamics and fishing communities. These population fluctuations are broadly attributed to 5–7-years trends that can affect the oceanography across 1,000 km areas; however, monthly patterns over kilometer scales remain elusive. To investigate the population dynamics of market squid, we analysed the density and distribution of paralarvae in coastal waters from San Diego to Half Moon Bay, California, from 2011 to 2016. Warming local ocean conditions and a strong El Niño event drove a dramatic decline in relative paralarval abundance during the study period. Paralarval abundance was high during cool and productive La Niña conditions from 2011 to 2013, and extraordinarily low during warm and eutrophic El Niño conditions from 2015 to 2016 over the traditional spawning grounds in Southern and Central California. Market squid spawned earlier in the season and shifted northward during the transition from cool to warm ocean conditions. We used a general additive model to assess the variability in paralarval density and found that sea surface temperature (SST), zooplankton displacement volume, the log of surface chlorophyll-a, and spatial and temporal predictor variables explained >40% of the deviance (adjusted r2 of .29). Greatest paralarval densities were associated with cool SST, moderate zooplankton concentrations and low chlorophyll-a concentrations. In this paper we explore yearly and monthly trends in nearshore spawning for an economically important squid species and identify the major environmental influences that control their population variability.

— download the full paper —


Apr 8 2015

D.B. Pleschner: Sardines are not being overfished


In recent weeks, sardines have been a hot news topic again. Environmental groups like Oceana complain that the sardine population is collapsing just like it did in the mid-1940s. They blame “overfishing” as the reason and maintain that the fishery should be shut down completely.

Today, in truth, Pacific sardines are perhaps the best-managed fishery in the world — the poster fish for effective ecosystem-based management. The current harvest control rule — established in 2000 and updated last year with more accurate science — sets a strict harvest guideline that considers ocean conditions and automatically reduces the catch limit as the biomass declines.

If the temperature is cold — which hampers sardine recruitment — the harvest rate is low. And if the population size decreases, both the harvest rate and the allowable catch automatically decrease.

Current management sets aside a 150,000 metric ton reserve off the top of the stock assessment and automatically closes the directed fishery when the biomass estimate falls below that level, which it did in the latest stock assessment, after four years of abnormally cold La Niña ocean conditions.

In fact, the truth is much more complicated than environmentalists would lead you to believe. It’s inaccurate and disingenuous to compare today’s fishery management with the historic sardine fishery collapse that devastated Monterey’s Cannery Row.

In the 1940s and ‘50s, the fishery harvest averaged more than 43 percent of the standing sardine stock. Plus, there was little regulatory oversight and no limit on the annual catch.

Today, based on the latest stock assessment, the U.S. exploitation rate has averaged about 11 percent, ranging as low as 6 percent, since the return of federal management in 2000.

Here’s where complications begin because scientists recognize two stocks on the West Coast: the northern or “cold” stock ranges from northern Baja California to Canada during warm-water oceanic cycles and retracts during cold-water cycles.

A southern or “temperate” stock ranges from southern Baja to San Pedro, in Southern California. The federal Pacific Fishery Management Council manages only the northern stock.

Doing the math, our current fishery harvest is less than one-quarter of the rate observed during the historical sardine collapse.

In fact, the current sardine harvest rule is actually more precautionary than the original rule it replaced. It does this by producing an average long-term population size at 75 percent of the unfished size, leaving even more fish in the water, vs. 67 percent in the original rule. The original harvest rule reduced the minimum harvest rate to 5 percent during cold periods. The present has a minimum rate of 0 percent during cold periods.

The so-called “sardine crash due to overfishing” mantra now peddled by Oceana isn’t anything of the sort. It’s simply natural fluctuations in biomass that follow the changing conditions of the ocean, reflected in part by sea temperature.

In April, the council will discuss the most recent sardine assessment report and decide on future management measures. It is important to understand that the sardine stock assessment is a conservative estimate based on acoustic surveys that miss sardines in the upper 10 meters of the water column, above the down-looking acoustic transducer, and in shallow near-shore waters where survey vessels cannot go. It’s really a question of scale, fishermen say. While they acknowledge sardines’ downward trend, fishermen question the accuracy of the total number of sardines that the stock assessment estimates.

California’s wetfish industry relies on a complex of coastal pelagic species including mackerels, anchovy and market squid as well as sardines. Sardines typically school with all these species, so a small allowance of sardine caught incidentally in these other fisheries will be necessary to keep wetfish boats fishing and processors’ doors open.

Sardines are critically important to California’s historic wetfish industry as well as the Golden State. This industry produces on average 80 percent of total fishery landings, and close to 40 percent of dockside value. A total prohibition on sardine landings could curtail the wetfish industry and seriously harm California’s fishing economy.

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


Posted in 04/04/15

Mar 13 2015

Trawling has “negligible” effect on soft-bottom

petralesolePetrale sole, a flatfish caught by trawling on soft-bottom seafloor. Credit: The Nature Conservancy

A groundbreaking new study recently conducted by California fishermen, The Nature Conservancy and CSU Monterey Bay indicates that bottom trawling only has a “negligible effect” on the seafloor and fish habitat in certain types of soft sea bottom.

Trawling is continually criticised by environmental advocates for the damage it causes to rocky marine habitats and the long-lived animals that occur in them. However, important questions remain about the extent of any damage to sandy and muddy environments.

During the three-year study, fishermen trawled patches of the ocean floor off Morro Bay. Those areas were analysed by underwater photos and video and compared with nearby areas that were untouched.

Their peer-reviewed work, published in the Fishery Bulletin, found that California’s largely soft-bottom seafloor saw little lasting impacts from trawling with a small-footrope trawl.

The researchers say that their study adds to a growing body of literature from around the world showing trawling impacts are context-dependent – the impacts depend on the type of gear used, the types of habitats trawled and how often trawling occurs.

The scientists point out that their study does not imply that all soft-bottom habitats should be open to trawling; but, with new research and technology, “we can fine-tune our fishery regulations to protect truly vulnerable habitats.”

One of the researchers, Dr. James Lindholm has been studying marine ecosystems for 20 years and this autumn he will conduct a similar experiment off Half Moon Bay using trawling nets of different sizes. Commercial fishermen will also be involved.

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Mar 12 2015

OSU and NOAA Researchers Expect Low Oxygen Waters to Expand off West Coast Affecting Fisheries

Copyright © 2015 | Posted with permission

Seafood News

SEAFOODNEWS.COM [SeafoodNews] – March 12, 2015

When low-oxygen “dead zones” began appearing off the Oregon Coast in the early 2000’s, photos of the ocean floor revealed bottom-dwelling crabs that could not escape the suffocating conditions and died by the thousands.

But the question everyone asked was, “What about the fish?” recalls Oregon State University oceanographer Jack Barth. “We didn’t really know the impacts on fish. We couldn’t see them.”

Scientists from NOAA Fisheries’ Northwest Fisheries Science Center and Oregon State have begun to answer that question with a new paper published in the journal Fisheries Oceanography. The paper finds that low-oxygen waters projected to expand with climate change create winners and losers among fish, with some adapted to handle low-oxygen conditions that drive other species away.

Generally the number of fish species declines with oxygen levels as sensitive species leave the area, said Aimee Keller, a fisheries biologist at the Northwest Fisheries Science Center and lead author of the new paper. But a few species such as Dover sole and greenstriped rockfish appear largely unaffected.

“One of our main questions was, ‘Are there fewer species present in an area when the oxygen drops?’ and yes, we definitely see that,” Keller said. “As it goes lower and lower you see more and more correlation between species and oxygen levels.”

Deep waters off the West Coast have long been known to be naturally low in oxygen. But the new findings show that the spread of lower oxygen conditions, which have been documented closer to shore and off Washington and California, could redistribute fish in ways that affect fishing fleets as well as the marine food chain.

The lower the oxygen levels, for example, the more effort fishing boats will have to invest to find enough fish.

“We may see fish sensitive to oxygen levels may be pushed into habitat that’s less desirable and they may grow more slowly in those areas,” Keller said.

Researchers examined the effect of low-oxygen waters with the help of West Coast trawl surveys conducted every year by the Northwest Fisheries Science Center to assess the status of groundfish stocks. They developed a sturdy, protective housing for oxygen sensors that could be attached to the trawl nets to determine what species the nets swept up in areas of different oxygen concentrations.


Jan 16 2015

The Pacific Sardine Fishery: Then and Now

giantkelpSardines and giant kelp, Channel Islands

The Pacific sardine (Sardinops sagax caerulea) is a small pelagic fish found throughout the Pacific Ocean. In California, the Pacific sardine fishery has historically been one of the largest commercial fisheries in the state. The fishery began in the early 1900s, peaked in the late 1930s, and then declined rapidly in the 1940s during a well-known population downturn fueled by oceanic regime changes and fishing pressure. A moratorium was placed on the Pacific sardine fishery from 1967 to 1986. Then, beginning in the 1990s, Pacific sardine landings increased as the population recovered.

Today, the Pacific sardine fishery continues to contribute to California’s economy. In 2013, the fishery for Pacific sardine was the fourth largest commercial fishery in the state of California by volume. These landings were valued at over $1.5 million dollars.

pacificsardinePacific sardine

Since 2000, the commercial fishery off California, Oregon, and Washington has been managed by the Pacific Fishery Management Council under the Coastal Pelagic Species Fishery Management Plan. The commercial fishing season for Pacific sardine runs from July 1 through June 30 of the following year. The season is split up into three periods: July 1 – September 14, September 15 – December 31, and January 1 – June 30, each with an assigned harvest limit. Based on 2014 landings information to date from the second period (September 15- December 31), the preliminary harvest amount for the third period (January 1 – June 30, 2015) will be 5,084 metric tons.

For more information about coastwide Pacific sardine landings, please visit the NOAA Fisheries Pacific sardine landings web page. For more information about Pacific sardine history, research, and management, please visit CDFW’s Pacific sardine web page.

Original post by Anna Holder, CDFW Environmental Scientist  — CDFW file photos

Dec 12 2014

Dungeness landings likely down 50% in California, 40% in Oregon; lowest volumes in 8 years

Posted with permission of SEAFOODNEWS.COM | by John Sackton December 11, 2014


The crabs are great.  Its just that there aren’t that many of them.

The Oregon Dungeness fishery opened on time on December 1st, after a short season in the San Francisco Bay area, called district 10.

But boats are simply not finding many crabs.

dungeness-estimateGraph: Seafood Datasearch, based on state and federal data

One fishermen, describing the northern California / Oregon fishery which opened December 1st, said “North of District 10 was the worst opener I can remember.  We knew it would be bad, but not this bad.”

Larger vessels that have the ability to move to other fisheries are now leaving the crab fishery, as the catch rates can no longer support their operations.

Meanwhile, the price at the dock has risen to $3.50, and most packers have extended that retroactively back to December 1st, when the fishery opened with an initial price of $3.10.

The upshot is that harvesters are now predicting the Oregon fishery to be down about 40% from last years 14.3 million pounds, and California is likely to be down 50%.

This means that coast wide, certainly for December and Janaury, it is looking like the lowest total landings for dungeness in the last eight years.

Hugh Link, Executive Director of the Oregon Dungeness Crab Commission, said fishermen keep records and know if they are up or down year over year, and that he definitely has the sense that there are fewer Dungeness crabs coming into pots this year, even though fish tickets are still being tallied from the first few days of the season.

Meat fill has been excellent, the fishery opened on time, and there was agreement on price. Only the crabs have not shown up.

The fishery is highly cyclical, so it is quite likely in a few years we will again be talking about heavy supplies of Dungeness.  But for this year, the section and crabmeat supplies will be very tight, and what crab is landed later in the year should be going mainly to the live market.

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Dec 9 2014

NGO critics of California’s sardine rules miss that better science mean conservative management

Seafood NewsPublished with permission of SEAFOODNEWS.COM

By D. B. Pleschner [Opinion]  Dec 8, 2014

Recently the Pacific Fishery Management Council voted to change the sardine harvest control rule, increasing the upper limit of the sardine harvest fraction from 15 to 20 percent. The decision came after an exhaustive set of scientific workshops and analysis involving more than 60 people, held over the past two years to respond to a research paper that suggested that sea surface temperature (SST) measured at Scripps Pier in southern California, which had been employed as a proxy for sardine recruitment, was no longer correlated with recruitment success.

But apparently this fact was lost on environmental activists, who cried foul to the media, claiming that sardines are crashing, and the management response to the crisis is to just fish harder.

Claims that the Council voted for a more aggressive fishing rate miss the point: nothing could be further from the truth. But the truth is complicated.

We know that California’s sardine population is strongly influenced by ocean temperatures: warmer waters tend to increase sardine productivity, while colder waters tend to decrease it.

“The northern sardine stock has been declining for several years due to poor recruitment, and there is concern that it will decline further in the next couple of years, ” says Dr. Richard Parrish, one of the authors of the original sardine control rule. “Although no one can predict the environmental conditions that will occur in the future, the pessimistic view is that the northern stock will continue to decline and the optimistic view is that the present warm water conditions will herald increased recruitment. “

“Whichever occurs first, ” he adds, “the past, present and management team-­‐ recommended sardine harvest control rules were all designed to automatically regulate the exploitation rates both by reducing the quota and reducing the harvest rates as the stock declines, and by shutting down the fishery if the biomass falls below 150,000 mt. ”

The original sardine analysis, made in 1998, was updated by a new analysis that found offshore sea temperatures slightly better correlated with sardine productivity than the measurements made at Scripps Pier. Population simulations made with the updated information that included the population increase in recent decades show that the sardine stock is about 50% more productive than thought in 1998. The management team therefore recommended raising the upper bound of fishing fraction from 15 to 20 percent to account for the new best available science.

But that doesn’t mean that the catch quota for the coming year will be raised. This is a long-­‐term harvest control rule that simply follows better scientific modeling efforts.

The new rules will determine fishing rate just as before: If the temperature is cold, the harvest will be kept low; if the population size decreases both the harvest rate and the allowable catch will automatically decrease. In fact the new sardine harvest rule proposed by the sardine management team and enacted by the Council is actually more precautionary than the original rule it is replacing. It does this by producing an average long-­‐term population size at 75 percent of the unfished size, leaving even more fish in the water, vs. 67 percent in the original rule.

The original harvest rule reduced the minimum harvest rate to 5 percent during cold periods. The present, very complicated rule, has a minimum rate of 0 percent during cold periods.

What’s more, the harvest fraction will only be applied after subtracting 150,000 mt from the sardine biomass estimated in the next year’s stock assessment. The new harvest rule will still keep fishing limits low in cold-­‐water, low-­‐biomass conditions. The fraction won’t increase unless and until field surveys demonstrate more sardines and the ocean temperature increases substantially above recent levels.

Bottom line: The California sardine may be the best-­‐managed fishery of its type in the world -­‐ the poster fish for effective ecosystem-­‐based management.

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

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Dec 8 2014

Squid harvest has been bountiful in Monterey Bay


Fans of calamari have much to be thankful for this holiday season.

The squid fishery in California remains robust, and this year’s catch has been unusually strong in Monterey Bay. In a typical season only about 20 percent of market squid are caught off Northern California. But this squid season – which runs from April to March – more than half of the state’s catch have come from north and central coast waters.

“We really had quite a banner year,” said Monterey harbormaster Stephen Scheiblauer.

By initial estimates, at least 75 percent of the northern California squid catch came from waters in and around Monterey Bay. Scientists and squid fishermen do not fully understand the reason for this flip.

“For Monterey, it was amazing,” said Diane Pleschner-Steele, executive director of the California Wetfish Producers Association.

There have been other seasons where northern California outshone southern California in squid hauls. But, since 1980, all of those years have preceded or fallen during El Nino climate shifts, which bring warm water to the California coast, starting with southern California and moving north. It’s believed squid follow the cooler water.

“These squid really respond to ocean conditions,” said Pleschner-Steele.

The state is not currently in an El Nino pattern. But, it is possible that recent El Nino-like shifts in ocean conditions drove market squid further north.

“The last couple of years, especially in northern California, have been good for squid,” said Neil Guglielmo, captain of the 70-foot fishing vessel Triumphal.

Since squid season began April 1, commercial boats have hauled nearly 60,000 tons of market squid through northern California ports, with a dock value of approximately $38.3 million. This is the largest squid season north of Point Conception in history and more than double the previous record set in the 2002-2003 season. This year, Eureka reported its first squid landings.

“We fished squid this year where we never fished before,” said Guglielmo.

For much of this season, Guglielmo took the Triumphal from its home port near Ventura up the coast to Monterey and points further north to haul in squid. He reported squid as far north as Crescent City.

“We just followed them up there,” said Guglielmo. “There was so much squid.”

This season was also a record for Monterey Bay, with an estimated 45,000 tons of squid caught in its waters, according to marine biologist Briana Brady with the California Department of Fish and Wildlife.

These record hauls also bring welcome economic benefits to ports. The local squid industry supports approximately 1,500 seasonal and full-time jobs, according to Scheiblauer. Ten squid fishing boats are based in Moss Landing and Monterey. In addition to landing fees at wharfs and the dock value of catches, the squid season brings economic benefits in the form of room and board for crew, fuel for boats, ice, cold storage facilities, transportation and processing for each boat’s catch. The Monterey area includes three resident buyers for squid.

“They’re still a big part of our culture and economy,” Scheiblauer said.

Ample food supplies and undisturbed spawning grounds help sustain market squid along the California coast. But, based on past squid fishing seasons, their numbers can still fluctuate along 10-15 year cycles, according to Brady.

Market squid are relatively small, often measuring about a foot in length, and prefer to eat small invertebrates, plankton or each other. Their short 6-10 month lifespan makes it difficult for biologists to estimate the size of the entire market squid population off of California to manage the fishery sustainably.

Instead, beginning in the last decade, regulators crafted a squid fishery management policy around a handful of core regulations. No more than 118,000 tons of squid can be harvested in California waters during the annual season. This limit was based off of annual squid harvests in the late 1990s and early 2000s.

“We’re happy with that maximum cap,” said Pleschner-Steele. “It’s a good, conservative number.”

The state also uses a limited-entry permit system for squid fishing to control the number of fishing boats in California waters. In addition, marine protected areas in southern California and Monterey Bay keep approximately one-third of squid spawning grounds along the coast off limits to fishing. Finally, no commercial vessel may fish for squid between noon Friday and noon Sunday. This weekly moratorium gives squid in non-protected areas opportunities to spawn, according to Scheiblauer.

As of Nov. 20, the statewide catch for market squid is nearly 115,000 tons. Since the maximum squid harvest cannot exceed 118,000 tons, this season is drawing to an early close. Under a voluntary co-management agreement between the squid fishing industry and Fish and Wildlife, larger fishing vessels ceased harvesting squid last month so smaller boats can “mop up” the remaining allotment of squid.

Based on reports from squid fishermen, this year there will still be plenty of squid left behind. But, in the wake of this season’s unusual squid bounty for northern California, no one is willing to predict what might be in store for next year. In two previous El Nino cycles, desolate squid harvests in northern California followed one or two years of largesse.

“You could have a boom year like this year and next year there’ll be nothing,” said Scheiblauer.

But, even after those turbulent oscillations, the squid fishery stabilized around a sustainable mean. That long-term trend gives others cause for cautious optimism.

“If the water doesn’t go crazy,” said Guglielmo, “I think we’ll be fine.”

James Urton can be reached at 726-4453.

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