Posts Tagged fish stocks

Apr 24 2015

Another View: Sardine population isn’t crashing

Sardine CollapseFreshly caught sardines awaiting sorting at West Bay Marketing in Astoria, Ore. On April 15, federal regulators approved an early closure of commercial sardine fishing off Oregon, Washington and California to prevent overfishing. Alex Pajunas Associated Press file

By D.B. Pleschner | Special to The Bee

Environmental groups such as Oceana complain that the sardine population is collapsing just as it did in the mid-1940s. They blame “overfishing” as the reason and maintain that the fishery should be shut down completely (“Starving sea lions spotlight overfishing,” Viewpoints, April 14).

In truth, Pacific sardines are perhaps the best-managed fishery in the world. The current rule – established in 2000 and updated last year with more accurate science – sets a strict harvest guideline. If the water temperature is cold, the harvest rate is low. And if the population size decreases, both the harvest rate and the allowable catch automatically decrease.

It’s inaccurate and disingenuous to compare today’s fishery management with the historic sardine fishery collapse that devastated Monterey’s Cannery Row. During 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.

Since the return of federal management in 2000, the harvest rate has averaged about 11 percent, ranging as low as 6 percent. Scientists recognize two sardine stocks on the West Coast: the northern 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 a quarter of the rate during the historical sardine collapse. The so-called “sardine crash due to overfishing” mantra now peddled by Oceana isn’t anything of the sort. It’s simply natural fluctuations that follow the changing conditions of the ocean, reflected in part by water temperature.

California’s wetfish industry relies on a complex of coastal species including mackerel, anchovy and 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. This industry produces on average 80 percent of total fishery catches, and close to 40 percent of dockside value. A total prohibition on sardine harvests could curtail the wetfish industry and seriously harm California’s fishing economy.

D.B. Pleschner is executive director of the California Wetfish Producers Association.


Read the original post: www.sacbee.com

Apr 23 2015

Sardines are gone, long live the mackerel, with six recipes

ii7ccskn-recipe-dbMackerel baked with bay and lemon | Gary Friedman / Los Angeles Times

 *corrected figures of jack mackerel catch

There will be no California sardines in the market this summer. But, as much as we’ll miss them, that’s probably a good thing.

Monday the Pacific Fishery Management Council, the group responsible for setting catch limits for California fishermen, closed the sardine fishery completely, citing a 91% drop in sardine population. Beginning July 1, there will be no sardines caught from Mexico to British Columbia.

Although this may conjure up visions of Cannery Row and earlier sardine collapses, this closure could actually be a blessing in disguise. So rather than mourning it as a disaster, use it as an opportunity to expand your fishy horizons.

Unlike many fisheries, which remain relatively steady from year to year if managed properly, sardines have always been extremely cyclical — even before fishermen started catching them. Scientists analyzing ocean bed sediment have found evidence of sardine population collapses dating at least 1,700 years.

The most famous of these, of course, came in the 1940s and 1950s and drove the many Monterey Bay sardine canners out of business (inadvertently paving the way decades later for a terrific aquarium and tourist enclave).

In the 1930s, California fishermen caught as much as 700,000 tons of sardines; by the mid 1960s that had plummeted to only 1,000 tons. But just as people began talking about possible extinction, the fish came roaring back. As recently as 2012, there were nearly 100,000 tons caught.

The difference between then and now is that today there is a strong enough fisheries management program to at least minimize the human influence on this natural cycle. Sardines may come and go, but if fishermen keep catching them, they can turn a downturn into a disaster — as happened in Monterey. Closing the fishery is a way to let the population recover.

If you’re a sardine lover, though, what are you to do? First, you may still see imported sardines at Japanese fish markets such as Mitsuwa and Marukai, though they’ll probably be a little more expensive.

Perhaps a better solution is to swing with the cycle. Fish folk have long known that sardine and mackerel populations ebb and flow complementarily — when sardines are plentiful, mackerel tend to be scarce, and vice versa.

And sure enough, just as the jack mackerel catch off California crashed a couple of years ago (in 2011, only 60 tons were caught), the last few years have seen a tremendous rebound. In 2013, the last year for which statistics are available, almost 900 tons were caught.

Mourn the sardine, certainly, but take this opportunity to embrace the mackerel. Here’s six recipes to get you started.


Read the original post: www.latimes.com

Apr 22 2015

Ray Hilborn: Analysis Shows California Sardine Decline Not Caused by Too High Harvest Rate

Posted with permission from SEAFOODNEWS — Please do not repost without permission.


SEAFOODNEWS.COM [SeafoodNews]  (Commentary) by  Ray Hilborn April 22, 2015

California_sardine

Two items in the last weeks fisheries news have again caused a lot of media and NGO interest forage fish. First was publication in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of a paper entitled “Fishing amplifies forage fish population collapses” and the second was the closure of the fishery for California sardine.  Oceana in particular argued that overfishing is part of the cause of the sardine decline and the take home message from the PNAS paper seems to support this because it showed that in the years preceding a “collapse” fishing pressure was unusually high.


However what the PNAS paper failed to highlight was the real cause of forage fish declines.  Forage fish abundance is driven primarily by the birth and survival of juvenile fish producing what is called “recruitment”.  Forage fish declines are almost always caused by declines in recruitment,  declines that often happen when stocks are large and fishing pressure low.  The typical scenario for a stock collapse is (1) recruitment declines at a time of high abundance, (2) abundance then begins to decline as fewer young fish enters the population, (3)  the catch declines more slowly than abundance so the harvest rate increases, and then (4) the population reaches a critical level that was called “collapsed” in the PNAS paper.

 

Looking back at the years preceding collapse it appears that the collapse was caused by high fishing pressure, when in reality it was caused by a natural decline in recruitment that occurred several years earlier and was not caused by fishing.


The decline of California sardines did not follow this pattern, because the harvest control rule has reduced harvest as the stock declined,  and as fisheries management practices have improved this is now standard practice.  The average harvest rate for California sardines has only been 10% per year for the last 10 years, compared to a natural mortality rate of over 30% per year.  Even if there had been no fishing the decline in California sardine would have been almost exactly the same.


In many historical forage fish declines fishing pressure was much higher, often well over 50% of the population was taken each year and as the PNAS paper highlighted, this kind of fishing pressure does amplify the decline.  However many fisheries agencies have learned from this experience and not only keep fishing pressure much lower than in the past, but reduce it more rapidly when recruitment declines.


So the lesson from the most recent decline of California sardine is we have to adapt to the natural fluctuations that nature provides.  Yes, sea lions and birds will suffer when their food declines, but this has been happening for thousands of years long before industrial fishing.  With good fisheries management as is now practiced in the U.S. and elsewhere forage fish declines will not be caused by fishing.


Ray Hilborn is a Professor in the School of Aquatic and Fishery Sciences, University of Washington specializing in natural resource management and conservation.  He is one of the most respected experts on marine fishery population dynamics in the world.


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Apr 21 2015

Environmental changes stress West Coast sea lions

Males and female California sea lions respond differently to lack of food

 

In Southern California hundreds of starving sea lion pups are washing up on beaches, filling marine mammal care centers that scarcely can hold them all.Meanwhile thousands of adult male The next link/button will exit from NWFSC web site California sea lions are surging into the Pacific Northwest, crowding onto docks and jetties in coastal communities.

How can animals from the same population be struggling in one region while thriving in another? The answer lies in the division of family responsibilities between male and female sea lions, and the different ways each responds to an ever-changing ocean.

“We’re seeing the population adjust to the environment as the environment changes,” said Sharon Melin, a sea lion biologist with the The next link/button will exit from NWFSC web site Alaska Fisheries Science Center in Seattle.

The environmental changes affecting the sea lions can be traced to unusually weak winds off the West Coast over the last year. Without cooling winds, scientists say, the Pacific Ocean warmed as much as two to five degrees (C) above average. What started as a patchwork of warm water from Southern California to Alaska in 2014 has since grown into a vast expanse, affecting everything from plankton at the bottom of the food chain to sea lions near the top.

“The warming is about as strong as anything in the historical record,” said Nathan Mantua, who leads the Landscape Ecology Team at the Southwest Fisheries Science Center.

Female sea lions struggle to find food for pups

The Channel Islands rookeries where nearly all California sea lions raise their young off Southern California sit in the middle of the warm expanse. Female sea lions have strong ties to the rookeries. They take foraging trips of a few days at a time before returning to the rookeries to nurse their pups.

But the unusually warm water has apparently shifted the distribution of their prey, making it harder for females to find enough food to support the nutritional needs of their pups. The next link/button will exit from NWFSC web site Their hungry pups, it now appears, are struggling to gain weight and have begun striking out from the rookeries on their own. Many do not make it and instead wash up on shore dead or emaciated.

Since the early 1970s the California sea lion population underwent unprecedented growth. The species is protected by the 1972 The next link/button will exit from NWFSC web site Marine Mammal Protection Act and is estimated to number about 300,000 along the U.S. West Coast. But the growth has slowed in recent years as ocean conditions have turned especially unfavorable for juvenile survival. That could lead to population declines in coming years, biologists say.

“We are working on data to look at whether the population might be approaching its resource limits,” Melin told reporters in The next link/button will exit from NWFSC web site a recent conference call.

Sea lions serve as an indicator of ocean conditions because they are visible and are sensitive to small environmental and ecological changes, Melin said. The warm temperatures may well be affecting other species in less obvious ways.

“There are probably other things going on in the ecosystem we may not be seeing,” she said.

Male sea lions live like bachelors

Unlike female sea lions, males have no lasting obligations to females or young. After mating at the rookeries in midsummer, they leave the rookeries and roam as far as Oregon, Washington and Alaska in search of food.

“They’re bachelors,” said Mark Lowry of the Southwest Fisheries Science Center in La Jolla, California. “They just go wherever they can to find something to eat.”

Male sea lions search out prey with high energy content, especially oily fish such as herring and sardines, said Robert DeLong, who leads a program to study the California Current Ecosystem at the Alaska Fisheries Science Center. Increasing numbers have found their way to the mouth of the Columbia River to feed on increasingly strong runs of The next link/button will exit from NWFSC web site eulachon, also called smelt, and have taken up residence on docks and jetties near Astoria, Oregon.

“More sea lions learned last year and even more will learn this year that this is a good place to find food,” DeLong said of the Columbia River. “They’ve learned these fish are there now and they won’t forget that.”

DeLong and Steve Jeffries, a research biologist with the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife, attached satellite-linked tracking tags to 15 sea lions feeding on salmon near Bremerton, Washington, in November and December. Four of those sea lions are now at the mouth of the Columbia, Jeffries said.

Counts around Astoria rose from a few hundred in January to nearly 2,000 in February, exceeding numbers in previous years at the same time. The count includes some animals from the eastern stock of The next link/button will exit from NWFSC web site Steller sea lions, removed from the List of Endangered and Threatened Wildlife in 2013. The California sea lions also feed on spring Chinook salmon and steelhead. Some of the Chinook and steelhead stocks are listed under the Endangered Species Act and The next link/button will exit from NWFSC web site NOAA Fisheries is working with state officials to address sea lion predation.

By the beginning of May, the male sea lions depart for the summer breeding season at the rookeries in Southern California.

“It’s like flipping a switch,” DeLong said. “Suddenly it’s time to go.”

Poor feeding conditions may continue

The warm expanse of ocean extends to depths of 60 to 100 meters, Mantua said, and will likely take months to dissipate even if normal winds resume. Biologists expect poor feeding conditions for California sea lions will likely continue near their rookeries while warm ocean conditions persist. A more typical spring and summer with strong and persistent winds from the north would cool the water and likely improve foraging conditions along the West Coast.

The The next link/button will exit from NWFSC web site tropical El Nino just declared by NOAA is one wild card that may affect West Coast ocean conditions over the next year. If the El Nino continues or intensifies through 2015, it would favor winds and ocean currents that support another year of warm conditions along the West Coast.

FAQ on sea lion strandings in Southern California:
The next link/button will exit from NWFSC web site http://www.westcoast.fisheries.noaa.gov/mediacenter/3.6.2015_faq_ca_sea_lion_strandings_1pm.pdf
For more information on field research in the sea lion rookeries, see:
The next link/button will exit from NWFSC web site www.afsc.noaa.gov/News/CA_sea_lions.htm
For information on deterring problem seals and sea lions:
The next link/button will exit from NWFSC web site www.westcoast.fisheries.noaa.gov/protected_species/marine_mammals/deterring_qa.html

 

FatandSkinnyPups nursing (1)An underweight sea lion pup nurses on the rock near the top of the photo while pups closer to normal weight nurse on the ground below. Credit: NOAA Fisheries/Alaska Fisheries Science Center

Click here to view the slideshow.


Read the original post: http://www.nwfsc.noaa.gov

Apr 21 2015

Sardine Assessment Shows Cyclic Decline in Population

Pacific sardines are known for wide swings in their population: the small, highly productive species multiplies quickly in good conditions and can decline sharply at other times, even in the absence of fishing. Scientists have worked for decades to understand those swings, including a decline in the last few years that led to the Pacific Fishery Management Council‘s The previous link is a link to Non-Federal government web site. Click to review NOAA Fisheries Disclaimer recommendation on April 13th to suspend commercial sardine fishing off the West Coast for the first time in decades..

An updated stock assessment The previous link is a link to Non-Federal government web site. Click to review NOAA Fisheries Disclaimer by NOAA Fisheries’ Southwest Fisheries Science Center (SWFSC) was the basis for the Council’s action. Stock assessments are research tools that estimate the status and size of the sardine population. The Council uses the assessments to set fishing quotas.

Models that support the sardine assessment combine NOAA data on past and current abundance of sardine eggs, larvae and mature fish with other data on sardine biology and fishery catches. The data on sardine abundance come from two SWFSC research vessel surveys conducted off the West Coast each year.

These surveys employ two methods to estimate the current size of the sardine population. They use underwater acoustic equipment (like sonar) to estimate the size of fish schools, followed by the use of trawl nets to verify the species comprising the schools. Additionally, the surveys employ devices that measure the density of sardine eggs in the water as a gauge of sardine spawning. Scientists can then calculate how large the spawning population must be to produce the measured density of sardine eggs.

These data feed a computer model to estimate sardine population trends and provide the foundation for projections of the total population of sardines off the West Coast in the next fishing year.

“The assessment produced this year suggests that cool ocean water temperatures off the West Coast beginning around 2007 may have reduced the survival of juvenile sardine resulting in a population decline”, said Kevin Hill, a fisheries biologist who oversees the stock assessment for the SWFSC. The number of surviving young fish appears to have dropped to the lowest levels in recent history and has likely remained low in 2014. This has led to a steady decline in the fishable sardine stock biomass, which is defined as the total volume of sardines at least one year old. This is the measure the Council relies on when setting fishing quotas.

“The environment is a very strong driver of stock productivity. If ocean conditions are not favorable, there may be successful spawning, but fewer young fish survive to actually join the population,” Hill said. “Small pelagic fish like sardine and anchovy undergo large natural fluctuations even in the absence of fishing. You can have the best harvest controls in the world but you’re not going to prevent the population from declining when ocean conditions change in an unfavorable way.”

The current decline adds to a series of ups and downs that illustrate the boom-and-bust nature of sardine populations. The sardine biomass rose from about 300,000 metric tons in 2004 to a high point of more than 1 million in 2008 and is predicted to decrease to an estimated 97,000 metric tons by this coming July.

Because of these swings in sardine populations, the Council’s management framework for sardines includes built-in mitigation measures and safeguards to exponentially reduce fishing pressure as the stock declines.  One of these Council measures is a cessation in directed fishing on sardines when the biomass falls below 150,000 metric tons. “The fishing cutoff point is included in the guidelines adopted by the Council and is designed to maintain a stable core population of sardines that can jump-start a new cycle of population growth when oceanic conditions turn around,” Hill said.

In the course of reviewing the 2015 updated assessment, it became evident that the final model used in the 2014 assessment did not correspond to the best fit to the data. The data were reanalyzed and a better fit to the 2014 model was achieved. This re-examination resulted in a lower 2014 biomass estimate of 275,705 metric tons, down from the previous estimate of 369,506 metric tons, which is still above the fishing cutoff value of 150,000 metric tons.

The revised model applied to the 2015 assessment resulted in a biomass estimate of 97,000 metric tons, which is below the fishing cutoff.  As a result, the Council decided to close the 2015-2016 sardine fishing season and requested that NOAA Fisheries close the remainder of the 2014-2015 sardine fishing season. The sardine population is presently not overfished and overfishing is not occurring; however, the continued lack of recruitment observed in the past few years could decrease the population, even without fishing pressure.

The NOAA Ship Bell M. Shimada is currently conducting a new sardine survey off the West Coast to collect updated information on the size and location of the sardine stock. In addition, a large-scale 80-day survey this summer will collect data on sardine and whiting (hake) populations from the Mexican border to Canada. This new information will support the next stock assessment SWFSC prepares for the Council and NOAA fisheries managers.

Learn more:

Pacific sardine stock assessment
Executive summary The previous link is a link to Non-Federal government web site. Click to review NOAA Fisheries Disclaimer
Full report  The previous link is a link to Non-Federal government web site. Click to review NOAA Fisheries Disclaimer

In the Field: Spring Sardine Survey 2015
Pacific Fishery Management Council Coastal Pelagic Species The previous link is a link to Non-Federal government web site. Click to review NOAA Fisheries Disclaimer
California Cooperative Oceanic Fisheries Investigations (CalCOFI)
Video – Coastwide Sardine Survey

Green Seas Blue Seas – Interactive Guide to the California Current 

For more information, please contact: Michael.Milstein@noaa.gov or Jim.Milbury@Noaa.gov (West Coast Regional Office Public Affairs), Dale.Sweetnam@noaa.gov (Southwest Fisheries Science Center) and Joshua.Lindsay@noaa.gov (West Coast Regional Office)


Read the original post https://swfsc.noaa.gov

Apr 18 2015

Editor’s View: Pacific Sardine Closure Shows Management Works, but Oceana and Pew Won’t Accept That

Posted with permission from SEAFOODNEWS — Please do not repost without permission.


SEAFOODNEWS.COM [Editor’s View] by John Sackton – April 14, 2015

 

sardineskiff_westcoast

Yesterday the Pacific Fisheries Management Council closed the directed West Coast sardine fishery for the first time in 30 years. The move was widely expected, as fishery managers adopted a precautionary plan to shut the fishery during cyclical periods of low abundance.
 

This year’s stock estimates, which have been revised downward based on likely recruitment failure in 2014, range from 97,000 to 133,000 metric tons, significantly below the 150,000 ton spawning stock threshold set by the council.

 

Sardines are a cyclical fish, with population boom and bust that is closely related to water temperature. A period of several years of colder water off California has led to poor recruitment, and a stock collapse. Although waters in southern areas have warmed in the past two years, there has not yet been a response in increased sardine populations.

 

“While this is a sad day for all those dependent on a healthy sardine fishery, it is actually a good thing that this Council is addressing the problem directly, something you don’t always see across the nation or certainly, internationally, ” said Council member Frank Lockhart of National Marine Fisheries Service.

 

“This Council cutback on salmon with extensive closures a decade or so ago, and the Klamath and Sacramento stocks rebuilt fairly quickly. This Council also cut back on lingcod and other groundfish catches in the recent past, and those stocks are also rebuilt. This action today paves the way for the sardine population to rebuild as soon as the ocean cycles permit. ”

 

Sardines are subject to large natural population swings associated with ocean conditions. In general, sardines thrive in warm water regimes, such as those of the 1930s, and decline in cool water years, like the 1970s. After reaching a recent year peak of about one million metric tons in 2006, the sardine biomass has dropped to an estimated 97,000 metric tons this year.

 

Council Vice Chair Herb Pollard said, “The Council’s Fishery Management Plan has done its job. When the sardine stock declines to this point, the directed commercial fishery stops. This is a testimony to the precautionary provisions the Pacific Council has locked into our management regime. ”

 

In essence, the Pacific Fishery Management Council not only has a precautionary system in place for sardines, they have a strong track record of rebuilding other fisheries though application of the same principles.

 

So it is strange that organizations like Ocean and Pew rush to the press to call the Sardine closure a failure of fishery management.

 

“It turns out the sky was falling,” said Geoff Shester, California program director for Monterey-based Oceana.

 

“There’s a management failure here, ” he said. Oceana filed a lawsuit in 2011 demanding the council take more action to lower the fishing rates than it did. A judge refused to hear the case on grounds that it was not filed in a timely fashion, but the case is now on appeal.

 

“They didn’t respond fast enough to the decline, ” said Shester, who blamed overfishing for worsening an already bad situation. “Now we find ourselves in a crisis situation. ”

 

The problem for Oceana is that it is well known that in fisheries like sardines and anchovy, populations skyrocket and then collapse. The pacific sardine spawning biomass was over 1 million tons about ten years ago, and is now less than 10% that size. Tinkering with fishing levels would not change this outcome – but would shut down many other West coast fisheries.

 

One of the problems for NGO’s is that the best scientific data is still only an estimate – and subject to revision and updates. That is why the Council is being so cautious. Sardines are hard to count in the water column, and the council well could have overestimated the size of the 2014 recruits. But they took the most conservative number, recognizing their survey may have overstated the population, and that their prior year estimates of 2014 may have been too high.

 

The council was able to act because it has the resources and scientific support to effectively monitor the west coast sardine populations.

 

Yet the current bill for the reauthorization of Magnuson in the House of Representatives would take away the requirements for sound scientific advice – and the funding for such research, from most other areas of the country.

 

When Oceana goes to the press and says the Pacific Sardine Closure is a result of management failure, when in fact it is managers successfully reacting to scientific data, they undermine public confidence in fisheries management.

 

On the West Coast, such management has brought back salmon runs that were shut in emergency action; it has rebuilt Pacific Whiting Stocks, it has halted and reversed the critical decline in certain species of rockfish, and as a result, virtually all Pacific Coast groundfish are now not only MSC certified, but celebrated by Chefs who follow the advice of the Monterey Bay Aquarium.

 

And Oceana calls this a record of failure!
 
Paul Shivley, Portland, Oregon-based project manager for The Pew Charitable Trusts, said he was pleased overall with the council’s action but disappointed it allowed so much “incidental” fish to be caught.

“What they’ve created is a situation where the rebound will inevitably be slower because of how much they left for incidental fisheries,” Shivley said, but did not address the fact that many healthy fisheries require some amount of sardine bycatch.  When will his message of support be unqualified, saying the management system has worked.

 
We do have a problem in that some in Congress make the argument that since money for science is not available, they change the law to throw out or weaken the requirements to use best available science in a precautionary way, and instead go back to managing the nation’s fisheries after they collapse, and not before.

 

When NGO’s are so focused on smashing a gnat on pavement with a hammer, they completely miss the steamroller coming towards them.  Instead of rallying their followers to support the successful record of fishery managers, they mislead their followers with the argument that the managers have failed – and the corollary argument that they are not worth fighting for.

 

This is selfish and irresponsible. Now matter how good they are Oceana and the other NGO’s cannot replace the successful system of fishery management based on sound science that we currently have in the US – one of the most stringent management regimes in the world.

 

But their take no prisoners attitude towards this system – never crediting its success; never telling their followers how important it is to maintain government resources and support for this system – is irresponsible. It means they are putting their own goals of building up their organization above the real steps needed to maintain sustainable fisheries. It is a stance they may come to regret.
 


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Apr 16 2015

Council Votes to Close 2015-2016 Pacific Sardine Fishery


 
Regarding Council action yesterday to close what’s left of the 2014-15 sardine fishery, the Council recommended that NMFS close the directed fishery in the fastest way possible, using current rule making authority.   This action stopped short of declaring an emergency, which would require justification and new rule making which could take more than a month.  The Council explanation was that this closure was recommended as an added layer of precaution, considering the recent sharp decline observed in the sardine biomass due to lack of recruitment in the past few years.  Given the recent uptick in directed landings in both OR and CA, it is expected that the closure could be implemented in about a week.

 This action, as well as the 2015 stock assessment, did not – and could not under current rules – take into consideration the recent spawning activity observed off the Oregon coast and the small fish now appearing in both California and Oregon, an indication that recruitment is now occurring.

 


 
 

Rohnert Park, California – The Pacific Fishery Management Council today announced the closure of the 2015-16 Pacific sardine directed fishery, beginning July 1.Pacific Council members heard from scientists that the abundance forecast for the 2015-2016 season, scheduled to start July 1, was significantly below the 150,000 metric ton threshold for a directed fishery. They also heard testimony from fishery participants and environmental groups before reaching a decision to close the directed fishery. Small amounts of sardines may be taken incidental to target fishing on other stocks, and a much reduced harvest amount was allocated to the Quinault Indian Nation along the mid-Washington coast.

“While this is a sad day for all those dependent on a healthy sardine fishery, it is actually a good thing that this Council is addressing the problem directly, something you don’t always see across the nation or certainly, internationally,” said Council member Frank Lockhart of National Marine Fisheries Service. “This Council cutback on salmon with extensive closures a decade or so ago, and the Klamath and Sacramento stocks rebuilt fairly quickly. This Council also cut back on lingcod and other groundfish catches in the recent past, and those stocks are also rebuilt. This action today paves the way for the sardine population to rebuild as soon as the ocean cycles permit.”

Sardines are subject to large natural population swings associated with ocean conditions. In general, sardines thrive in warm water regimes, such as those of the 1930s, and decline in cool water years, like the 1970s. After reaching a recent year peak of about one million metric tons in 2006, the sardine biomass has dropped to an estimated 97,000 metric tons this year. (Biomass is the (estimated) weight of a stock of fish.)

Council Vice Chair Herb Pollard said, “The Council’s Fishery Management Plan has done its job. When the sardine stock declines to this point, the directed commercial fishery stops. This is a testimony to the precautionary provisions the Pacific Council has locked into our management regime.”

“We know boats will be tied up, but the goal here is to return this to a productive fishery,” said Council member David Crabbe.

The Council takes a precautionary approach to managing Pacific sardines. When the fish are abundant, more fishing is allowed; but as the stock size declines, the amount of allocated to harvest decreases. When the biomass is estimated at or below 150,000 metric tons, directed commercial fishing is shut down.

Although directed commercial fishing will close, the Council will allow up to 7,000 tons of sardines to account for small amounts taken as incidental catch in other fisheries (such as mackerel), live bait harvest, Tribal harvest, and research. However, if the allocated amount of incidental harvest is reached, those other fisheries will also be shut down.

On Wednesday, April 15, the Council will consider whether to take the additional step of making changes to the remaining months of the current season, which ends June 30.
Background

The sardine biomass is assessed annually, and the fishing year runs July 1 through June 30. Although sardine fishing doesn’t generate the money that some other fisheries do, it is an important source of income for communities up and down the west coast.

Sardine productivity is generally linked to ocean temperatures, but it’s not a perfect relationship. For example, temperatures in the Southern California Bight have risen in the past two years, but we haven’t seen an increase in young sardines as expected.

The allowable harvest in recent years has been as high as 109,000 metric tons (2012), but has dropped as the biomass has dropped. In 2013 the harvest guideline was 66,495 mt, in 2014 it was 23,293 mt. Exvessel revenues were $21.5 million in 2012. Sardine exports were valued at $44 million in 2010 and $34.8 million in 2011.
Council Role

The Pacific Fishery Management Council is one of eight regional fishery management councils established by the Magnuson Fishery Conservation and Management Act of 1976 for the purpose of managing fisheries 3-200 miles offshore of the United States of America coastline. The Pacific Council recommends management measures for fisheries off the coasts of California, Oregon, and Washington.

All Council meetings are open to the public.

Apr 15 2015

Status of Stocks 2014 Report to Congress: Overfishing and Overfished Stocks Hit All-Time Lows

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Today, NOAA Fisheries is pleased to announce the release of the 2014 Status of U.S. Fisheries report to Congress and the regional fisheries management councils. The number of stocks on the overfishing and overfished lists dropped to an all-time low, and we continued to rebuild stocks.

In 2014, six stocks cam off the overfishing lists and 2 stocks are no longer listed as overfished. Additionally, stock assessments show three stocks have rebuildt–bringing the total number of stocks rebuilt since 2000 to 37.  This progress demonstrates that our science-based approach to determining stock status and managing for sustainability is working. We continue to look for ways to strengthen the fishery management process and address the role of complex ecosystems and climate implacts on U.S. fisheries. We look forward to working with you to build on our efforts and identify opportunities to further strengthen the long-term biological and economic sustainability of our nation’s fisheries.

 

stocksVisit the NOAA Fisheries website for more details and the report. Additional supporting data is available online through the Office of Sustainable Fisheries.

Warm Regards,

Laurel Bryant
Chief, External Affairs
NOAA Fisheries Communications
Laurel.Bryant@noaa.gov
www.nmfs.noaa.gov

Apr 14 2015

Feds lower boom: no sardine fishery next year

By Jason Hoppin, Monterey County Herald

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Rohnert Park >> For the first time in 30 years, boats operating along the West Coast will be banned from pursuing the fish that helped build Cannery Row: sardines.

Meeting Sunday in Rohnert Park, federal fishery regulators canceled the 2015-16 sardine fishery, which was set to begin July 1. For the first time since 1986 — when the sardine fishery was nurtured back to life following an 18-year fishing ban that stretched back to the collapse of Monterey Bay’s fishing industry — fishermen will have to make their livelihoods elsewhere.

“We know boats will be tied up, but the goal here is to return this to a productive fishery,” said David Crabbe, a Carmel fisherman and member of the Pacific Fishery Management Council who voted in favor of the ban.

On Wednesday, regulators will also vote on an emergency closure of the remaining sardine season through June 30, a vote that would largely impact Oregon fishermen.

The moves are a sign the West Coast sardine population, which rises and falls with natural cycles, has reached a nadir. Fishery regulators estimate there are less than 97,000 metric tons of sardines off the coasts of California, Oregon and Washington, far below the minimum of 150,000 tons needed to sustain even a modest fishery.

Sardines have become a flashpoint in an ongoing debate between environmentalists, regulators and commercial interests in how to best manage the ocean’s resources. Since they are prey for larger fish, such as salmon and tuna, not to mention birds and marine mammals, they have taken on a much greater role in debates about the ocean’s ecosystem than their lowly status would seem to warrant.

Sunday’s vote was a victory for environmental groups, which have been adamant for years that more needs to be done to manage a fish that is critical to the ocean’s food chain.

“It turns out the sky was falling,” said Geoff Shester, California program director for Monterey-based Oceana.

Fishing interests weren’t happy about the vote, which had been expected after initial sardine assessments showed the numbers are very low. But they supported it.

“This is a harvest control rule that we support,” said Dianne Pleschner-Steele, executive director of the California Wetfish Producers Association. “It is doing exactly what it’s intended to do.”

Area fishermen hauled in more than 820 tons of sardines in 2013, according to state figures. It is Monterey Bay’s second-largest fishery, far behind market squid.

Despite closing the fishery, the council will allow 7,000 tons of sardines to be fished by native tribes, taken for recreational bait or taken by boats seeking other species, such as anchovies or mackerel.

Paul Shivley, Portland, Oregon-based project manager for The Pew Charitable Trusts, said he was pleased overall with the council’s action but disappointed it allowed so much “incidental” fish to be caught.

“What they’ve created is a situation where the rebound will inevitably be slower because how much they left for incidental fisheries,” Shivley said.

That catch allows fishermen to continue fishing other fish, with nets often scooping up a number of species at once. If the 7,000-ton limit is reached, other fisheries could be shut down as well to protect sardines.

“The council, thankfully, is allowing a small incidental catch so that we can at least do our other fisheries,” Pleshner-Steele said, later adding: “It’s going to be a hard year for the fleet. There’s no doubt about it.”

Pew is also urging the council to take a closer look at anchovies, which can also be abundant in Monterey Bay. He is concerned sardine boats would turn their attention to that fishery, which is monitored by regulators but not capped.

“What we’re asking the council to do is update their stocks assessment and get a better handle on anchovies before it becomes a free-for-all,” Shivley said.

Oceana maintains that sardines have been overfished for years, citing a council recalculation that lowered the maximum amount of sardines that could be sustainably fished.

“It’s a step in the right direction,” Shester said of the fishery closure. “But irreversible ecosystem damage has already occurred that will persist for decades.”

Pleshner-Steele strongly rejected the overfishing allegation, saying sardines rise and fall naturally.

“Fishing has a minimal impact. It does have some. In the long term, this fishery is managed excruciatingly precautionary,” she said.

Fishermen maintain there are more sardines in the sea than federal assessments show, an argument Shester rejects.

“The reality is, neither scientists nor fishermen nor all those starving sea lion mothers can go find them,” Shester said. “Show us the fish, if that‘s the explanation.”

For months, starving sea lion pups have washed up on California beaches, with no signs of slowing. Federal scientists blame changes in ocean conditions, and Pleschner-Steele said El Niño and overpopulation is to blame, not fishing.

“Sure, there’s (no fish) in the water for those young pups to eat. But that doesn’t mean the fishermen took them,” she said.


Read the original story: http://www.montereyherald.com

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 http://www.montereyherald.com 04/04/15