Posts Tagged fisheries

Jun 22 2015

Pacific Council Declares Petrale Sole and Canary Rockfish Now Rebuilt to Sustainable Level

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

Copyright © 2015

Seafood News

SEAFOODNEWS.COM  By Peggy Parker  –  June 22, 2015

The Pacific Fishery Management Council announced last week that two formerly overfished West Coast groundfish stocks—canary rockfish and petrale sole—have now been rebuilt ahead of schedule.

The stocks have been the subject of strict rebuilding plans that severely constrained West Coast fisheries for more than a decade. Managing groundfish fisheries in the last 15 years, under the canary rockfish rebuilding plan in particular, has been an immense challenge for the Council and the National Marine Fisheries Service and has caused significant disruption of fisheries.

“This is a huge achievement and reflects many hard decisions made by the Council and its advisors, as well as difficult sacrifices by the fishermen and communities that depend on groundfish,” said Council Chair Dorothy Lowman. “While five groundfish stocks are still rebuilding, the Council looks forward to new fishing opportunities based on the fact that these two stocks have completely recovered.”

Canary rockfish, prized by both recreational and commercial fishermen, were declared overfished in 2000 and a rebuilding plan was put in place in 2001, affecting groundfish fisheries off Washington, Oregon, and California Because canary rockfish coexist with so many healthy groundfish stocks, they have been known as a “bottleneck species” limiting many fisheries.

Canary rockfish are a long-lived, slow-growing species, making them difficult to rebuild. Under the plan, catch quotas were dramatically reduced and large area closures put in place, and the stock was expected to rebuild by 2057.  However, the new 2015 canary rockfish assessment adopted by the Council last week shows the coastwide canary stock has already been rebuilt. The managers credit strict protections and good ocean conditions.

“This a big deal,” said former council chair Dan Wolford. “We now have six times more canary rockfish than when we scaled back so many fisheries. This shows the Pacific Council’s conservation policies work.”

Petrale sole, an important species for commercial fisheries, were declared overfished in 2010 after an assessment showed that the stock had fallen below the overfished threshold. Beginning in 2011, a rebuilding plan was put in place to rebuild the stock by 2016. The petrale sole harvest limit was cut by half, and fisheries in which petrale sole could be caught incidentally were also reduced and area closures were implemented. A stock assessment conducted this year shows that the rebuilding plan was successful and the stock has increased over the target level.

“Petrale sole is known as our Cadillac flatfish,” said Ralph Brown, a long-time commercial fisherman from Bookings, Oregon. “Restaurants will love that these fish are now back so strongly.”

The petrale sole and canary rockfish assessments were developed by scientists at NMFS and the University of Washington (in the case of petrale) and were reviewed by the Council’s scientific advisory bodies. The recommendation to declare these stocks rebuilt will be forwarded to the National Marine Fisheries Service for approval.

New harvest specifications and regulations informed by these assessments are expected to be put in place beginning in 2017.

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Apr 14 2015

Feds lower boom: no sardine fishery next year

By Jason Hoppin, Monterey County Herald


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:

Apr 8 2015

Feds likely to shut down sardine fishing on West Coast

Please read the CWPA: Comment to PFMC.


JEFF BARNARD Associated Press Apr 4, 2015


West Coast fisheries managers will likely shut down sardine fishing this year as numbers decline, echoing a previous collapse that decimated a thriving industry and increasing worries that other species might be withheld from the commercial market.

Fishermen are resigned to not being able to get sardines, but they hope the Pacific Fishery Management Council will not be so concerned that it sets the level for incidental catch of sardines at zero, shutting down other fisheries, such as mackerel, anchovies and market squid, which often swim with sardines.

Sardines were a thriving fishery on the West Coast from World War I through World War II, and the cannery-lined waterfront in Monterey, California, became the backdrop for John Steinbeck’s 1945 novel, “Cannery Row.” The fishery industry crashed in the 1940s, and riding the book’s popularity, Cannery Row became a tourist destination, with restaurants and hotels replacing the canneries.

The industry revived in the 1990s, when fisheries developed in Oregon and Washington waters. Today, there are about 100 boats with permits to fish for sardines on the West Coast, about half the number during the heyday. Much of the catch, landed from Mexico to British Columbia, is exported to Asia and Europe, where some is canned, and the rest goes for bait. West Coast landings have risen from a value of $1.4 million in 1991 to a peak of $21 million in 2012, but are again declining.

“The industry survives fishing on a complex,” of species, said Diane Pleschner-Steele, director of the California Wetfish Producers Association, which represents 63 California-based fishing boats. “Sardines, up until this point, have been one very important leg of a three- or four-legged stool…. Now we don’t have sardines. Our fleet is scrambling.”

The latest estimates of how many Pacific sardines are schooling off Oregon, California and Washington have fallen below the mandatory cutoff line. The council cut harvests by two-thirds last year, and meets April 12 in Rohnert Park, California, to set the latest sardine harvest.

The conservation group Oceana is urging the council to immediately shut down sardine fishing, and not wait until the new season starts July 1. The group wants incidental catch limits set at zero, leaving as much food as possible in the ocean for sea lions and other wildlife, and speeding the rebuilding process for sardines.

Ben Enticknap of Oceana acknowledged that sardines naturally go through large population swings, but he argued that fishing since 2007 has exceeded their reproduction rate, exacerbating the numbers collapse.

“Previous stock assessments were way too optimistic and weren’t matching up with what was observed on the water,” Enticknap said. “The sea lions and sea birds have been starving since 2013, pelicans since 2010. Everyone knew something was going on because there wasn’t enough food to eat for these predators. Now this stock assessment comes out saying that the sardine population is much lower than they had previously expected.”

David Crabbe, a squid fishing boat owner and council member, said he would expect the council to allow incidental catch to reduce the impact on the fleet.

The latest stock assessments vary between 133,000 metric tons, and 97,000 metric tons, both below the 150,000 metric tons cutoff, and less than 10 percent of the 2006 peak of 1.4 million metric tons.

The stock assessment is conducted by boat. As the research boats cruise the water, an acoustic signal is emitted, which bounces back with information on what kinds and how many fish are nearby. Stock assessors also estimate how many sardine eggs are floating in the water, and how many sardines are spawning off California, said Kerry Griffin, a staff officer for the council.

Fishermen are unhappy with the stock assessments, Pleschner-Steele said. They say the acoustic gear is too deep in the water and misses fish on the surface, where they feed.

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Apr 8 2015

Comment to Pacific Fishery Management Council


“The reason that the sardine population has declined so rapidly in the last few years is exceedingly simple.  The story is easily seen in the figures I have attached here.

There was a very poor year-class in 2010 followed by 3 years of total recruitment failure.  Both the sardine stock assessment and the Acoustic-Trawl series clearly show this. End of story.

The sardine control rule did exactly what it was designed to do.   It has shut down the directed fishery after a series of poor recruitment years. — Richard Parrish

Sardine recruitment in billions of one-year-old fish; 2010 was a very poor reproductive year and it was followed by three years of complete reproductive failure (2011, 12, 13). The estimate for 2014 is a statistical forecast based on the average recruits per spawner. Few 2014 sardines have been observed. (Hill et al 2015 Sardine Stock Assessment)


The spawning stock biomass fell from about 600,000 mt in 2010 to a bit over 100,000 mt in 2015. With no recruitment, biomass drops very fast with or without a fishery. The same thing happened in the Japanese Sardine fishery about 20 years ago.

Here is the Acoustic survey data showing again the complete reproductive failure in the 2011-13 year classes.

Sea Lion pups are starving in Southern California and Oceana claims it is due to overfishing of sardine. Here are the food habits of sardine. They are 8th in abundance in the California sea lion diet.

table3 Lowry, M. S. and J. V. Carretta. 1999. Market squid (Loligo opalescens) in the diet of California sea lions (Zalophus californianus) in southern California (1981-1995). CalCOFI Rep. 40:196-207.

Here is the time series of sea lion pups. This is used as the primary population index. The most recent total estimate is as follows: (from CALIFORNIA SEA LION (Zalophus californianus ): U.S. Stock. Revised 12/15/2011)


The entire population cannot be counted because all age and sex classes are not ashore at the same time. In lieu of counting all sea lions, pups are counted during the breeding season (because this is the only age class that is ashore in its entirety), and the number of births is estimated from the pup count. The size of the population is then estimated from the number of births and the proportion of pups in the population. Censuses are conducted in July after all pups have been born. To estimate the number of pups born, the pup count for rookeries in southern California in 2008 (59,774) was adjusted for an estimated 15% pre-census mortality (Boveng 1988; Lowry et al. 1992), giving an estimated 68,740 live births in the population. The fraction of newborn pups in the population (23.2%) was estimated from a life table derived for the northern fur seal (Callorhinus ursinus) (Boveng 1988, Lowry et al. 1992) which was modified to account for the growth rate of this California sea lion population (5.4% yr-1, see below). Multiplying the number of pups born by the inverse of this fraction (4.317) results in a population estimate of 296,750.

Minimum Population Estimate

The minimum population size was determined from counts of all age and sex classes that were ashore at all the major rookeries and haul-out sites in southern and central California during the 2007 breeding season. The minimum population size of the U.S. stock is 153,337 (NMFS unpubl. data). It includes all California sea lions counted during the July 2007 census at the Channel Islands in southern California and at haul-out sites located between Point Conception and Point Reyes, California. An additional unknown number of California sea lions are at sea or hauled out at locations that were not censused.

Current Population Trend

Trends in pup counts from 1975 through 2008 are shown in Figure 2

Sea Lion Pups




Mar 7 2015 Replaces Reality, Regulation and History with Hyperbole

Original post: | © 2015 National Fisheries Institute | Published with permission.


A story this week on about the state of the seafood industry is packed with sensationalism and hyperbole, yet absent much of the real science, facts and figures that drive actual sustainability.

To begin, U.S. fisheries are among the world’s best managed and most sustainable. Though not referenced by name a single time in this article, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, NOAA, regulates U.S. seafood with headquarters in Washington D.C., five regional offices, six science centers and more than 20 laboratories around the country and U.S. territories.

Author John Roach, however, perpetuates doom and gloom throughout this piece, asserting “voids” left by cod, halibut and salmon that need to be filled by other fish. We’re guessing Mr. Roach isn’t aware that salmon shattered modern-day records in 2014, returning to the Columbia River Basin in the highest numbers since fish counting began at Bonneville Dam more than 75 years ago. Could you tell us again about that void?

Mr. Roach also intones a narrative of sustainability disaster for popular predators like tuna but forgot to mention groups like the International Seafood Sustainability Foundation (ISSF), a coalition created through a partnership between WWF, the world’s leading conservation organization, and canned tuna companies from across the globe to insure the long-term conservation and sustainable use of tuna stocks. In an article that claims the sky is falling for species like tuna it’s odd that ISSF gets nary a nod or even a mention.

Switching gears, Mr. Roach goes on to blame giant trawlers “armed” with technology and massive nets as part of the reason we’re “running low” on fish. As in any industry, technology gets better by the day, creating more efficient ways to do business. However, new technology is by no means exempt from standing national and global fishery regulations, such as catch-limits, by-catch laws, compliance, and so forth. To suggest that enhanced technology or “bigger or faster” boats are causing our fish supplies to dwindle ignores the impact of technology on sustainability and even regulatory oversight. There are pros and cons to every catch-method and there is no one-size-fits all solution to sustainability challenges but to blame technology without recognizing its contribution to solutions is folly.

Hyperbolic rhetoric about sustainability continues to be discounted by legitimate fisheries experts in the scientific community. In fact, one “report” forecasting empty oceans by 2048 was challenged by a number of independent researchers who described the study that promoted the statistics as, “flawed and full of errors.” Including Ray Hilborn, a professor of aquatic and fishery sciences at the University of Washington in Seattle whose research into the study lead him to say, “this particular prediction has zero credibility within the scientific community.” After Hilborn’ s analysis the author of the original study himself explained that his research was not in fact predicting worldwide fish stock collapse at all but merely examining trends. Articles like this track along precisely with the discounted, overblown storyline that gave birth to the empty oceans by 2048 nonsense.

Whether you’re a “natural optimist” or not, there is no question that seafood harvested from U.S. fisheries is inherently sustainable as a result of NOAA’s fishery management process and global fisheries management is far from the wild west scenario bandied about.  Things aren’t perfect and there’s work to be done but the “game” is not “almost over” and those who suggest it is, willfully propagate that narrative not because it’s accurate but because bad news sells.

Mar 7 2014

Assessing the Vulnerability of Fish Stocks in a Changing Climate

What is the Fish Stock Climate Vulnerability Assessment?
NOAA Fisheries, in collaboration with the NOAA Office of Oceanic and Atmospheric Research – “Earth System Research Laboratory, is finalizing a methodology to rapidly assess the vulnerability of U.S. marine stocks to climate change. The methodology uses existing information on climate and ocean conditions, species distributions, and species life history characteristics to estimate the relative vulnerability of fish stocks to potential changes in climate.

Climate change is already impacting fishery resources and the communities that depend on them.  Scientists are linking changes in ocean temperatures to shifting fish stock distributions and abundances in many marine ecosystems, and these impacts are expected to increase in the future.

To prepare for and respond to current and future changes in climate and oceans, fisheries managers and scientists need tools to identify what fishery resources may be most vulnerable in a changing climate and why certain fish stocks are vulnerable.  By providing this information, the methodology will be able to help fisheries managers and scientists identify ways to reduce risks and impacts to fisheries resources and the people that depend on them.  These kinds of climate change vulnerability assessments are increasingly being used to help assess risks to terrestrial and freshwater natural resources and man-made structures such as buildings and bridges.

Read the full article here.

Dec 24 2013

California fishers say quota system is all wet

The skipper of a fishing boat that has trawled Monterey Harbor for decades says he’s been docked since spring, unable to earn a living.

Jiri Nozicka says a federal quota system enacted to protect both fish and the commercial fishing industry has problems that he can’t navigate.

“How do I plan anything?” he asked, recently standing on the deck of the San Giovanni. “I can’t. It’s impossible.”

He’s not alone in criticizing the “catch shares” system and calling for changes. Commercial fishers, industry experts and government officials are among those who say that while fish populations are recovering, too few people in California are benefiting from that rebound in part because there aren’t enough qualified monitors to oversee the program.

“Financially, I can only say that multiple trips have been cancelled due to a lack of availability of these monitors, millions of pounds of fish have not been caught, processed and sold to markets and this is a loss of millions of dollars,” said Michael Lucas, president of North Coast Fisheries Inc., in a letter to federal regulators.

After Pacific Coast groundfish populations dropped dramatically in 2000 a federal economic disaster was declared, leading to the strict new quota system. The goal was to boost populations of black cod and dover sole and to revive the flagging industry.

Read the full article here.

Dec 17 2013

Fishing Green: Calif. Harvested Wetfish Fisheries are the most efficient in the world

As more Californians consider their total carbon footprint, as a way to reduce human impacts on climate change, more are looking at “food miles”:  how far their food travels between the time it is harvested and the time it gets to their plate. The Farm-to-Fork movement not only implies freshness, but that transportation from the farm to the consumer’s plate is a relatively short distance.

Fishing, like farming, can be green and sustainable. And California is leading the way in this effort, but distance is a misleading measure. Fishing green implies that fisheries are harvested at a sustainable level, keeping the fish populations healthy, while providing nutritious foods to millions of Americans and others worldwide. Beyond fishing below set quotas, there are three ways that fishing green can be achieved:

• Reduce the harvest of foods that have high energy costs in their production, capture or transportation

• Reduce harvest of high trophic level species that require a large amount of primary production to replace their numbers

• Support efficiency in the production of fishery resources

In the complete “Fishing Green” report by Richard Parrish, PhD, you will learn more about how California’s wetfish fisheries (coastal pelagic species such as sardine, mackerel and market squid) are among the most sustainable methods of food production.  Purse-Seine fisheries for small pelagic fishes and squid in California are the most fuel-efficient of all the fisheries, averaging 6 gallons per metric ton harvested.

Read more in the full report here.

Aug 2 2013

Saving Seafood Special Report: U.S. Seafood: Ratings and Realities

Saving SeafoodAs the National Park Service implements seafood guidelines for its vendors Saving Seafood examines the value, limitations, and pitfalls of third party ratings and certifications.

(Saving Seafood) August 1, 2013 — When the National Park Service (NPS) announced it would utilize third party seafood ratings and certification programs to set guidelines for vendors offering seafood options within U.S. National Parks, the agency revived a debate surrounding the eco-certification of U.S. seafood. Tomorrow, NPS is meeting with NOAA in an attempt to reconcile concerns and ensure that its new sustainable seafood guidelines aren’t detrimental to fishermen, processors, and consumers alike.

In June, the National Park Service (NPS) announced a new initiative to provide healthier and more sustainable food options in national parks across the United States. As part of the program, NPS created guidelines for “sustainable seafood,” stating that parks will “provide only [seafood options] that are ‘Best Choices’ or ‘Good Alternatives’ on the Monterey Bay Aquarium’s Seafood Watch list, certified sustainable by the Marine Stewardship Council (MSC), or identified by an equivalent program that has been approved by the NPS.”

In response, John Connelly, President of the National Fisheries Institute (NFI), wrote a letter to NPS, in which he asked that the Agency reconsider their guidelines. He stated that “any fish caught in U.S. waters is already ‘certified sustainable,’ based on rigorous NOAA oversight and does not need additional certifications.” His point speaks to the strict conservation standards in the Magnuson-Stevens Act (MSA), which are enforced by NOAA.

The Seafood Coalition, an ad hoc group representing members of the seafood industry across the U.S., followed up with their own letter. In it they asked: “Why would the NPS limit its vendors to those whose products are deemed sustainable by outside interests while ignoring [NOAA’s] FishWatch, an existing and proven program?”

Read the full story here.

May 31 2013

Magnuson Reauthorization must address food, jobs, and revenue, as well as fish says Ray Hilborn

Seafood News

Ray Hilborn is a Professor in the School of Aquatic and Fishery Sciences, University of Washington, and one of the world’s reknowned experts on fisheries. He has long advocated a broad view of the benefits of fisheries in the food system, and asked that we consider the ecological impacts of not fishing as well as those of fishing. This is a guest editorial written following the Managing Our Nation’s Fisheries Conference, held earlier this month in Washington, DC.

The recent Managing Our Nations Fisheries conference in Washington D.C. and the upcoming reauthorization of the Magnuson-Stevens Fisheries Management and Conservation Act has focused attention on the nation’s fisheries, how well they are doing, and what can be done to improve the contribution of U.S. fisheries to our national well-being. A logical first step in evaluation of our fisheries is to first ask what are the objectives of American fisheries management?

The text of the act begins with “To provide for the conservation and management of the fisheries, and for other purposes”, but then becomes more specific by stating that rebuilding fish stocks, ensuring conservation , protecting essential habitat are all intentions of the act. Also, the act makes it clear that one objective is to provide for “the development of fisheries which are underutilized or not utilized … to assure that our citizens benefit from the employment, food supply, and revenue which could be generated thereby.”

Read the full story here.