Posts Tagged Monterey Bay Aquarium

Sep 2 2015

Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary counts its victories.

 Point Sur Light Station: The Point Sur Light Station looks out over Point Sur State Marine Reserve, the most protected kind of marine protected area. – NOAA MBNMS


Nature shows so often follow the same script: The earth is amazing, but we humans are ruining it.

Big Blue Live, a PBS/BBC production, flips that script. It toasts Monterey Bay as a conservation success, a case study of how science-based ocean management is allowing a highly degraded ocean habitat to rebound.

That resilience will be on full, high-definition display when the show airs real-time footage of Monterey Bay sea life in the U.S. Aug. 31-Sept. 2.

Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary (MBNMS), which is co-hosting with Monterey Bay Aquarium, is taking the occasion to count its victories since its 1992 designation, which brought with it a host of federal protections.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s latest status report on MBNMS includes some encouraging news, announced in a press release today. Among the highlights:

– Populations of elephant seals, blue whales and gray whales are stable or increasing. The sanctuary now counts more than 30,000 resident elephant seals, which were once close to extinction. Humpback whale numbers have bounced back so well, the local sub-population is proposed for removal from the endangered species list.

– Sea-floor habitats in and near the Davidson Seamount, an underwater mountain about 75 miles southwest of Monterey, are almost “pristine.”

– The kelp forests that shelter and feed many of Monterey Bay’s marine creatures are “generally abundant and stable.”

– Abundant forage species are feeding both marine animals and people. Fishermen have landed more than a billion pounds of sardines, anchovies and squid since the sanctuary was designated 23 years ago. That includes a local squid harvest of 90 million pounds last year alone.

– Brown pelicans made it off the federal endangered species list in 2009, rebounding from a low of less than 1,000 breeding pairs in the 1970s to almost 11,700 regional pairs in 2006.

– Southern sea otters have bounced back from about 1,800 to 2,900 within the sanctuary since 1992. That’s great for other kelp-forest species, since otters eat the sea urchins that mow down kelp.

– Local beaches are cleaner, thanks to sewer system improvements and reduced stormwater runoff.

The report, however, is not entirely rosy. Sewage spills and high coliform counts still occasionally pollute local beaches. Regulators are still finding contaminants in local waters. Marine animals are getting tangled in fishing gear and eating plastic litter, while sand mining continues to erode the Monterey Bay shoreline.

And climate change continues to threaten the sea—especially ocean acidification, which happens when elevated CO2 levels from fossil fuel burning cause the ocean’s pH to decline. That chemical shift is affecting the ability of some creatures to form or maintain their shells, which has ripple effects through the food web.

The full report, according to NOAA, will be available online this fall.

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Oct 11 2013

‘Deadliest Catch’-22: Shutdown may ground crabbing fleet, spoil industry’s richest month

The pots are stacked and the boats are packed with crews craving fishing season’s most fruitful frenzy – the one-month, multimillion-dollar harvest of red king crabs from the ocean floors near Alaska’s shores.

Now, the dreariest catch: the federal shutdown means no crabbing permits are being granted to the boats’ skippers. Without those licenses, dozens of vessels will remain docked indefinitely, their captains legally barred from dropping baited traps, or “pots,” on the season’s opening day, Oct. 15. That would, in turn, leave the crabbing industry reeling and would financially swamp hundreds of fishermen, who earn half of their annual pay during the four-week king-crabbing spree.

Thanks to Capitol Hill’s political snag, the Super Bowl of fishing seasons may be delayed or canceled, spawning global crustacean frustration, from wholesale markets and restaurants touting their superior shellfish to the world’s most crucial crab consumers – Japanese citizens who mark an annual, pre-winter holiday by giving and devouring the gift of red king crabs.

“Tens of millions of dollars are potentially at risk if we can’t get the product to market in time for the holiday season in Japan,” said Mark Gleason, executive director of Alaska Bering Sea Crabbers, a trade association that represents most of the crab fishermen who work aboard 80 boats, some made famous through the TV show “Deadliest Catch.”

Read the full story here.

The Cornelia Marie and its crew work to catch King Crab on the Bering Sea during King Crab season on Deadliest Catch season six.

Sep 26 2013

Federal Agencies including Park Service Drop Private Certification Requirements for “Sustainable Seafood”; Will use NOAA FishWatch

Saving Seafood
WASHINGTON (Saving Seafood) September 25, 2013 — Both the National Park Service (NPS) and the General Services Administration (GSA) have changed their “sustainable seafood” guidelines to focus on data from NOAA FishWatch instead of third-party ratings and certifications from the Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) and the Monterey Bay Aquarium’s Seafood Watch program.

The GSA, a federal agency that supplies food to other government agencies, has updated their “Heath and Sustainability Guidelines” to be in accordance with NOAA’s federal sustainability data. Previously, the guidelines instructed vendors to “only offer fish/seafood identified as ‘Best Choices’ or ‘Good Alternatives’ on the Monterey Bay Aquarium’s Seafood Watch list or certified by the Marine Stewardship Council.”

The Agency’s seafood sustainability standards are modified in the guideline’s footnotes. Footnote 44 and footnote 44* indicate a clear change from their previous policy:

44. Examples of “Best Choices” do not imply government endorsement of these standards. Only endorsements made directly by governing agencies (e.g., USDA, FDA) should be considered government endorsements.

44.* The NOAA FishWatch Program defines sustainable seafood as “catching or farming seafood responsibly, with consideration for the long-term health of the environment and the livelihoods of the people that depend upon the environment.” Verifying the health and sustainability of U.S. and international fisheries is not always simple. Domestic fisheries are managed by State and Federal agencies under legally established fisheries management plans. International fisheries are managed under sovereign laws and international treaties. Guidance on how to make sustainable seafood choices is found on the NOAA FishWatch site at:

Read the full article here.

May 28 2012

Whole Foods Is Wrong Says Industry, Environmentalists, Scientists, Congress and Government Data

Note: The article below is a companion piece that compliments Ray Hilborn’s article, Eat Your Hake and Have It, Too. Although the focus of this article is on east coast species, there are also a few species on the west coast that have received less than favorable ratings on the Seafood Watch Card.


“I haven’t been judged by this many people since I forgot my canvas bags at Whole Foods.” 
– Character of Mitchell Pritchett, ABC’s “Modern Family”

by Bob Vanasse and John Cooke |  Saving Seafood Staff

WASHINGTON – For some time, Whole Foods Market has used green issues as part of its marketing effort, appealing to the legitimate concerns of its customers for environmental protection and sustainability.  On a recent episode of ABC’s hit series “Modern Family”, the character of Mitchell Pritchett, played by Jesse Tyler Ferguson, delivered a punch line about shopping-bag sanctimony in the store’s check out lines.  On Earth Day of this year, Whole Foods extended the sanctimony to their fish counters, announcing they would no longer allow their customers to buy fish rated “red” by the Monterey Bay Aquarium and the Blue Ocean Institute.

Since that policy was introduced on Earth Day, industry leaders, environmental advocates, fisheries scientists, and lawmakers have gone on record either directly opposing – or presenting information raising serious questions and doubts about – the “red” sustainability ratings.  In addition, information made public by the federal government, through the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS), directly contradicts many of the Monterey Bay Aquarium and Blue Ocean assertions.

Michael Conathan of the Center for American Progress wrote, “Whole Foods’ decision to cast its sustainability lot with national organizations that fail to account for the localized impacts of their policy pronouncements also speaks directly to the broader problem of the consolidation of our food-purchasing decisions. Policies set at a corporate level will inherently be made in the best interests of the company. Environmental health or animal cruelty issues may play a role, but at the end of the day the decision will come down to what’s best for the company’s bottom line.”

Ray Hilborn, professor of Aquatic and Fisheries Sciences at the University of Washington and author, along with his wife Ulrike Hilborn, of Overfishing: What Everyone Needs to Know, published in 2012 by Oxford University Press, is highly critical of the science behind Monterrey Bay Aquarium and Blue Ocean Institute’s ratings. In an op-ed in the New York Times, the Hilborns write that the ratings “are based on a misunderstanding of what constitutes a sustainable fishery. The fact is that we can harvest a certain fraction of a fish population that has been overfished, if we allow for the natural processes of birth and growth to replace what we take from the ocean and to rebuild the stock.”

They go on to write that American fisheries are some of the best managed in the world, and that in the last 11 years NOAA has declared 27 species rebuilt to healthy levels. They note that even species that are considered overfished are governed by catch limits to ensure sustainability, and “there were no apparent conservation benefits from the refusal of consumers to buy those overfished species.”

The Hiborns’ claims are backed up by data from NOAA’s Fish Watch, a program by NOAA Fisheries to provide seafood consumers with the most up-to-date information on seafood sustainability. According to NOAA, several of the red-rated (“avoid”) seafood species on Monterrey Bay Aquarium and Blue Ocean Institute’s seafood list are not as threatened as their ratings would suggest. Rather, these species are heavily regulated to ensure their conservation and rebuilding.

Read the full article on SavingSeaFood.