Posts Tagged National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration

May 7 2014

Warmer ocean spurs feasting along coast


Warmer ocean spurs feasting along coast

Large schools of baitfish off the coast of Point Reyes, presenting a feast for birds and sea mammals and a strange sight for locals last month, may have been lured north and inland because of warmer ocean temperatures this year.

A fisheries scientist at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration said it was too early to tell if the oceanographic conditions might indicate a coming El Niño, since those conditions can be highly variable from year to year; however, last month NOAA reported that the chances of an El Niño event kicking off by this summer exceed 50 percent.

An avian ecologist with Petaluma-based Point Blue said that “off the charts” numbers of pelicans in the area last month might also point to abnormal ocean conditions and a coming El Niño event.

El Niño is a weather event that occurs roughly every three to seven years, when sea surface temperatures in the middle or western Pacific warm by about 1 degree Fahrenheit; it can spur severe weather events around the world, including storms, floods and droughts. And not all El Niños are the same; some can be stronger, others weaker. The event can last from about nine months to two years. Although they are not caused by climate change, there is evidence that modern climate change is increasing their frequency and ferocity.

On April 19, countless big sardines laid trapped in tiny channels amid the mudflats of Bolinas Lagoon at low tide, drawing the attention of a local birder who watched pelicans gorge en masse for an hour or so. Bolinas resident Burr Heneman wrote to a North Bay birding listserv that he had only seen such a massive baitfish event in Bolinas a few times in the past 40 years, and never in the spring—only in July or August, and only with anchovies. He told the Light that the sardines have been in and around the lagoon for roughly a week before his sighting, and noted that others have seen sardines in Drakes Bay.

“Brown Pelicans swarmed the shallow channels, awkwardly using their bills and pouches as dip nets,” Mr. Heneman wrote. “The pelicans were so thick that the cormorants had trouble maneuvering among them. More dead or still-flopping sardines were on the mud flats than the gulls and terns could eat, though they kept trying. And the sardines I saw were so large (10”-12”?) that even the gulls were having trouble getting outside of them. Or else the gulls were just too full to get another fish down… A great show. An hour later, water covered the flats, and the action was over.”

Mary Jane Schramm, a spokeswoman for the Gulf of the Farallones National Marine Sanctuary, which has jurisdiction over the Bolinas Lagoon, said last week that she has received reports of whales, dolphins and seabirds taking advantage of the unusually abundant baitfish in Bolinas Bay and off Duxbury Reef.

Large sardines typically spawn in southern California in spring and migrate up the California coast starting in April, but might not typically reach this area until June, said Russ Vetter, a senior scientist at NOAA’s Southwest Fisheries Science Center. But the ocean as recently as two weeks ago was roughly two degrees warmer than is considered normal. Although within the past week he said waters have cooled down, the warmer waters could have both dissuaded the fish from traveling too far south over the winter and spurred the sardines to spawn earlier.

Reports early this year described a decline of the sardine fishery off the southern California coast, likely due to large-scale oceanographic cycles that switch every 20 or 30 years between favoring sardines or anchovies. Fishing crews reportedly struggled to find sardines and typically picked up larger and more mature ones when they caught any at all (so the presence of larger sardines in recent sightings here isn’t surprising).

Sardines don’t typically come so close to the coast when they pass through the area because of the inhospitable cold waters brought to the surface by upwelling. That’s the process by which winds from the northwest—combined with the south-flowing California current and the earth’s rotation—push surface water west and pull nutrient-rich cold water to the top. The nutrients and sunlight fuel the growth of algae, creating food for baitfish, which are then eaten by other sea life and birds.

In some areas along California’s coast, upwelling occurs in thinner bands. But off the coast of Point Reyes and a few other spots, such as Point Arena and Big Sur, it can extend out a few hundred miles, which accounts for the diversity of sea life around two nearby marine sanctuaries, Cordell Bank and the Farallones.

Although measurements by the Bodega Marine Lab in Bodega Bay show that upwelling began in March—within the normal range—there were fits and starts. There was a relaxation at the end of March, and water temperatures at Point Reyes were warm in the first half of April. But they cooled down by the end of the month, with recent nearshore winds, according to NOAA data provided by Ben Becker, a marine ecologist at the Point Reyes National Seashore.

Mr. Vetter said that upwelling had generally begun late across the state, but it was too early to know whether California’s upwelling would be weak or normal this year, and that more will be known in another month or so. He added that weaker upwelling generally accompanies El Niño events.

Some of the birds that feasted on the sardines, such as gulls, are typically in the area at this time of year and took advantage of an easy meal. But an avian ecologist with Point Blue, Dave Shuford, wrote to the Light that the number of pelicans seen at Bolinas Lagoon was highly unusual for this time of year. That could reflect breeding failures elsewhere, he said, or it could be a harbinger for El Niño.

“Although occurrence of pelicans in the [hundreds] is not unprecedented in the Point Reyes area in April, the numbers seen the other day appear to be: [a friend] counted about 2,600 pelicans at Bolinas Lagoon on Sunday, which is off charts, I think, for April. Usually the early occurrence of pelicans in this area reflects warm water conditions like El Niño,” he wrote.

A professor of wildlife ecology at the University of California, Davis, Daniel Anderson, said he has heard of other unusual influxes of pelicans along the southern California coast.

A forthcoming scientific paper actually links the mild winter and drought on the West Coast and the frigid winter endured by those in the East both to climate change and a coming El Niño, the Associated Press reported Tuesday, although many scientists hesitate to link singular or very recent weather events to broad shifts like climate change.

View the original article:

Apr 11 2014

El Niño/Southern Oscillation (ENSO) Diagnostic Discussion

issued by
and the International Research Institute for Climate and Society
10 April 2014

ENSO Alert System Status: El NiñoWatch

Synopsis: While ENSO-neutral is favored for Northern Hemisphere spring, the chances of El Niño increase during the remainder of the year, exceeding 50% by summer.

ENSO-neutral continued during March 2014, but with above-average sea surface temperatures (SST) developing over much of the eastern tropical Pacific as well as near the International Date Line (Fig. 1).


The weekly SSTs were below average in the Niño1+2 region, near average but rising in Niño3 and Niño3.4 regions, and above average in the Niño4 region (Fig. 2).


A significant downwelling oceanic Kelvin wave that was initiated in January greatly increased the oceanic heat content to the largest March value in the historical record back to 1979 (Fig. 3) and produced large positive subsurface temperature anomalies across the central and eastern Pacific (Fig. 4).



Also during March, low-level westerly wind anomalies were observed over the central equatorial Pacific. Convection was suppressed over western Indonesia, and enhanced over the central equatorial Pacific (Fig. 5). Although these atmospheric and oceanic conditions collectively reflect ENSO-neutral, they also reflect a clear evolution toward an El Niño state.


The model predictions of ENSO for this summer and beyond are indicating an increased likelihood of El Niño this year compared with last month. Most of the models indicate that ENSO-neutral (Niño-3.4 index between -0.5oC and 0.5oC) will persist through much of the remainder of the Northern Hemisphere spring 2014 (Fig. 6), with many models predicting the development of El Niño sometime during the summer or fall.


Despite this greater model consensus, there remains considerable uncertainty as to when El Niño will develop and how strong it may become. This uncertainty is amplified by the inherently lower forecast skill of the models for forecasts made in the spring. While ENSO-neutral is favored for Northern Hemisphere spring, the chances of El Niño increase during the remainder of the year, and exceed 50% by the summer (click CPC/IRI consensus forecast for the chance of each outcome).

This discussion is a consolidated effort of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), NOAA’s National Weather Service, and their funded institutions. Oceanic and atmospheric conditions are updated weekly on the Climate Prediction Center web site (El Niño/La Niña Current Conditions and Expert Discussions). Forecasts for the evolution of El Niño/La Niña are updated monthly in the Forecast Forum section of CPC’s Climate Diagnostics Bulletin. The next ENSO Diagnostics Discussion is scheduled for 8 May 2014. To receive an e-mail notification when the monthly ENSO Diagnostic Discussions are released, please send an e-mail message to:

Climate Prediction Center
National Centers for Environmental Prediction
NOAA/National Weather Service
College Park, MD 20740

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.

Mar 7 2014

El Nino predicted to return this year with implications for weather and fisheries

Seafood News
A warming of the central Pacific Ocean this year will change weather worldwide, US forecasters predict.

The warming, called an El Nino, can mean an even hotter year coming up and billions of dollars in losses for food crops.

Australia and South Africa should be dry while parts of South America become dry and parts become wet in an El Nino. Peru suffers the most, getting floods and poorer fishing.

But it could bring good news for some parts of the planet, leading to fewer Atlantic hurricanes and more rain next winter for drought-stricken California and southern US states. It could also bring and a milder winter for the frigid US north next year, meteorologists say

The National Oceanic Atmospheric and Administration issued an official El Nino watch today. An El Nino is a warming of the central Pacific once every few years, from a combination of wind and waves in the tropics. It shakes up climate around the world, changing rain and temperature patterns.

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.

Nov 14 2013

State-of-the-art fishery research vessel Reuben Lasker completed for NOAA to commission in 2014

Seafood News
SEAFOOD.COM NEWS [] November 13, 2013 – NOAA has taken delivery of Reuben Lasker, the agency’s newest high-tech fisheries survey vessel from Marinette Marine Corporation, a Fincantieri company. The 208-ft. ship will primarily support fish, marine mammals and turtle surveys off the U.S. West Coast and in the eastern tropical Pacific Ocean.

“Reuben Lasker represents a significant milestone in the agency’s efforts to provide world-class marine science platforms,” said Rear Adm. Michael S. Devany, director of the NOAA Office of Marine and Aviation Operations and the NOAA Corps. “This state-of-the-art ship will play a key role in supporting NOAA’s mission and serving the nation.”

Built at MMC’s shipyard in Marinette, Wisc., and funded through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, Reuben Lasker is the fifth in a series of Oscar Dyson-class ships built for the agency. The ship is equipped with the latest technology for fisheries and oceanographic research, including advanced navigation systems, acoustic sensors, and scientific sampling gear.

“MMC has a long, established history of delivering exceptionally crafted and complex vessels,” said Chuck Goddard, MMC’s president and CEO. “The talented and skilled workers of MMC are proud to deliver this high quality vessel to NOAA in support of its important mission.”

The ship is also engineered to produce much less noise than other survey vessels, allowing scientists to study fish populations and collect oceanographic data with fewer effects on fish and marine mammal behavior. The ship’s comprehensive environmental sampling capabilities will enable researchers to gather a broad suite of marine life data with unprecedented accuracy.

Read the full article here.

Oct 25 2013

Sustainable Seafood – A U.S. Success Story

NOAA   FishWatch

The United States is a recognized global leader in responsibly managed fisheries and sustainable seafood. And you can help too!

This video introduces consumers to, which provides easy-to-understand, science-based facts to help users make smart, sustainable seafood choices.

Through this video, you’ll learn more about “sustainability” and what NOAA is doing to ensure that our seafood is caught and farmed responsibly with consideration for the health of a species, the environment, and the livelihoods of the people that depend on them.

Have you ever thought about where that piece of salmon on your plate came from? It could have been caught in a wild fishery or harvested from an aquaculture operation. Maybe it’s from the United States, or maybe it was imported from another country, like Canada or Chile?

Read the full story here.

Oct 24 2013

Eastern Steller sea lions removed from Endangered Species Act list

Seafood News

SEAFOOD.COM NEWS [Cordova Times] By Margarate Bauman – October 24, 2013 – Steller sea lions within the eastern distinct population segment, east of Prince William Sound, will be removed from the Endangered Species Act list, Jim Balsiger, administrator for NOAA Fisheries’ Alaska region said Oct. 23.

This is the first species NOAA has delisted, citing recovery, since the eastern North Pacific gray whale was taken off the list of threatened and endangered species in 1994.

The delisting will take effect 30 days after publication of the final rule in the Federal Register.

Balsiger said the agency is delighted to see the recover of this population segment of Steller sea lions, and that they would work with the states and other partners to monitor the population to ensure its continued health.

NOAA officials said delisting is warranted because the species has met the recovery criteria outlined in its 2008 recovery plan and no longer meets the definition of a threatened or endangered species under the act.

Best available scientific information indicates the eastern Steller sea lion population has increased from an estimated 18.040 animals in 1979 to an estimated 70,174 animals in 2010, the most recent year for which data are available.

Eastern Steller sea lions will continue to be protected under the Marine Mammal Protection Act. With delisting, federal agencies proposing actions that may affect the eastern Steller sea lions are no longer required to consult with NOAA Fisheries under Section 7 of the ESA. NOAA Fisheries will continue to monitor the effects of proposed projects on the eastern population to ensure existing measures under the Marine Mammals Protection Act provide necessary protection to maintain recovery status, Balsiger said.

NOAA has developed a post-delisting monitoring plan for this population. As a precautionary measure, the plan will be in effect for a decade, twice the required five year time period under the ESA.

Read the full story here.

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.

Sep 17 2013

New Website Brings to Light State’s Rich Coastal and Ocean Data Inventory

CA Dept of Technology - Ocean Protection Council
SACRAMENTO, Calif. – Today the Ocean Protection Council (OPC) and the California Department of Technology launched the California Coastal Geoportal. The goal of the Coastal Geoportal is to help users learn about coastal and marine environments by facilitating the discovery and distribution of geospatial data layers. The data is accessible through the California Geoportal, the state’s go-to resource for geospatial information.

“California’s wealth of ocean and coastal information is now easily available,” said California’s Secretary for Natural Resources and Ocean Protection Council Chair John Laird. “This will lead to smarter decision-making at all levels of government as we plan for the future of our coastal communities.”

The new Coastal Geoportal provides state agency staff and the public with a user-friendly website for finding high priority coastal and marine datasets, such as aerial photos, marine protected areas, and coastal habitats, with links to the data sources. Users can view the data on a map using the Coastal Viewer, share maps, and overlay multiple data layers to see what is happening on our shoreline and out in our ocean. The Coastal Geoportal also includes a list of tools and resources where one can discover other related data holdings and tools, including the NOAA Sea Level Rise Viewer and California’s ocean observing data. This increased access to datasets will improve the use of scientific information in coastal and ocean resource management decision making.

“Today’s technology brings us many new ways to share information about the ocean and coastal environments; it allows us to collaborate with the public to achieve the goal of protecting our marine ecosystem for the future of California,” said California Lieutenant Governor and Ocean Protection Council Member Gavin Newsom. “The launch of the Coastal Geoportal is a solid step towards embracing this new technology and meeting that goal.”

The Coastal Geoportal was developed by the OPC and the Department of Technology with significant input from the California Coastal and Marine Geospatial Working Group, other state agency staff, and nongovernmental partners. This was done in response to AB 2125 (Ruskin, 2010), which directed the OPC to increase access to scientific information.

Read the full announcement here.