Posts Tagged National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration

Sep 12 2013

Sam Rauch, NOAA acting administrator for fisheries, testifies about 10 year rebuilding timeline

Seafood News
SEAFOOD.COM NEWS [] Sept 12, 2013 – In Congressional testimony on Monday, NOAA Acting Assistant Administrator for Fisheries Sam Rauch responded to the latest NRC report calling for more flexibility in stock rebuilding timelines. A portion of his comments are below:

“We`ve heard concerns from stakeholders that the 10-year rebuilding timeline may be arbitrary and too restrictive.

In response to these concerns and similar concerns expressed by Members of Congress, in 2011 NOAA commissioned the National Academy of Sciences` National Research Council (NRC) to conduct a comprehensive evaluation of success in stock rebuilding and identification of changes made to fisheries management in response to rebuilding requirements. NOAA asked the NRC to study seven topics related to rebuilding to help us and the Councils better construct efficient and effective rebuilding plans.

The NRC rebuilding study was released on September 5, 2013. We are thankful for the in-depth and forward looking review provided by the NRC, and at present we are carefully analyzing the report`s details. The timing of the report fits nicely with our work to revise National Standard 1 Guidelines. Since the guidelines were last updated in 2009, a number of issues regarding the application of the guidelines have been identified by stakeholders and managers, and these issues may warrant revisions. An Advanced Notice of Proposed Rulemaking was published on May 3, 2012 to solicit public input, and several report findings reflect possible revisions to the guidelines similar to those currently being considered by NMFS. At this time, NMFS would like to acknowledge a few aspects of the report:

Read the full article here.

Sep 7 2013

National Research Council study finds rebuilding timelines for fish stocks inflexible, inefficient

Saving Seafood

WASHINGTON (Saving Seafood) September 6, 2013 — A new study from the National Research Council of the National Academies, “Evaluating the Effectiveness of Fish Stock Rebuilding Plans in the United States,” examines the ability of US fisheries management to reduce overfishing. Among other conclusions, the study, currently in pre-publication, finds that current stock rebuilding plans, which are based on eliminating overfishing within a specified time period, are not flexible enough to account for uncertainties in scientific data and environmental factors that are outside the control of fishermen and fisheries managers. It concludes that basing rebuilding on a timeline diminishes consideration for the socioeconomic impacts of the rebuilding plans.

The study was originally requested by Senator Olympia Snowe and Congressman Barney Frank in 2010, who wrote to NOAA asking them to fund the National Research Council’s work. The following are excerpts taken from pages 179 and 181 of the report:

The tradeoff between flexibility and prescriptiveness within the current legal framework and MFSCMA guidelines for rebuilding underlies many of the issues discussed in this chapter. The present approach may not be flexible or adaptive enough in the face of complex ecosystem and fishery dynamics when data and knowledge are limiting. The high degree of prescriptiveness (and concomitant low flexibility) may create incompatibilities between singlespecies rebuilding plans and EBFM. Fixed rules for rebuilding times can result in inefficiencies and discontinuities of harvest-control rules, put unrealistic demands on models and data for stock assessment and forecasting, cause reduction in yield, especially in mixed-stock situations, and de-emphasize socio-economic factors in the formulation of rebuilding plans. The current approach specifies success of individual rebuilding plans in biological terms. It does not address evaluation of the success in socio-economic terms and at broader regional and national scales, and also does not ensure effective flow of information (communication) across regions. We expand on each of these issues below and discuss ways of increasing efficiency without weakening the rebuilding mandate.

Read the full article here.

Aug 20 2013

Monterey Bay trawling deal hailed as a breakthrough: Fishermen, environmentalists long at odds

A “lava-in-water” effort to redefine trawling boundaries off the Central Coast may prove a turning point in the long-simmering relationship among commercial fishermen, environmentalists and the Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary.

The groups spent nearly a year negotiating a proposal that identifies areas the Pacific Fisheries Management Council should reopen and close to bottom fishing in the sanctuary. It was a task, participants said, that took its toll and tested the mettle of individual patience.

“There were times in it where everybody was pretty much fed up and ready to walk away, especially when the environmental groups got involved,” said Monterey fisherman Giuseppe Pennisi II.

“This was like mixing lava with water,” he said. “We had stuff boiling everywhere. We had to stop meetings and everybody go out and cool off.”

In the end, they came up with the hallmark of a good compromise: nobody got everything he wanted.

Sanctuary Superintendent Paul Michel described the outcome as a “precedent-setting, historic accomplishment.”

The “Essential Fish Habitat” boundaries were last set in 2006. Research since then identified new areas of coral and sponge that needed critical protection, said Michel.

At the same time, fishermen were unhappy with the hop-scotch effect of the boundaries. They were spending less time fishing than they were picking up and putting back nets to avoid protected areas.

“We just wanted to get some of our traditional places back that were just sand and mud,” said Pennisi. “Oceana just wanted real estate. They got back a lot more than what they gave up.”

Still, the third-generation fisherman credited the sanctuary’s Karen Grimmer, Monterey Harbormaster Steve Scheiblauer and Huff McGonigal of the Environmental Defense Fund for guiding the combatants to a “common goal” — more fish.

The proposal was submitted to the fisheries council July 31. That agency will submit its recommendation to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration for final approval, a process that could take two years.

Geoff Shester of Oceana said the process was so encouraging that his group, historically at odds with fishermen, is hoping to reach a future consensus that would open trawling to prized parts of Monterey Bay, which sits in state waters, in exchange for additional closures in federal waters.

Read the full article here.

Two 70-foot trawling-style boats are docked in Moss Landing. (VERN FISHER/Herald file)

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.

Jul 26 2013

Voyage to study effects of ocean acidification off U.S. West Coast

Scientists aboard the survey ship Fairweather will travel along the U.S. West Coast to study ocean acidification. (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration / July 25, 2013)

Scientists aboard the survey ship Fairweather will travel along the U.S. West Coast to study ocean acidification. (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration / July 25, 2013)

A team of scientists is setting out on a research expedition along the U.S. West Coast to study ocean acidification, the greenhouse gas-driven change in the chemistry of seawater that has been called climate change’s “evil twin.”

Chemists and biologists from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration will board the survey ship Fairweather next week, sailing from Canada to Mexico to collect samples of water, algae and plankton, officials said Thursday. The goal of the monthlong voyage is to better understand how marine ecosystems are responding to water that is becoming more acidic as a result of the buildup of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere.

“We will for the first time not only study the chemistry of acidification but also study at the same time the biological impacts,” Richard Feely, an oceanographer with NOAA’s Pacific Marine Environmental Research Laboratory, told reporters in a telephone briefing.

Oceans have absorbed about 25% of the greenhouse gases that have accumulated in the atmosphere from the burning of fossil fuels, buffering some of the effects of climate change, Feely said. But that comes at a great cost to marine life because when carbon dioxide dissolves in seawater, it lowers itsthe water’s. The gradual change in chemistry poses a particular threat to shellfish such as oysters and clams that require alkaline water to build their protective shells.

The research expedition could shed light on whether acidification is harming pteropods, marine snails that are especially sensitive to changing acidity and are a key food source for fish, birds and whales. Scientists also want to know whether acidification is making harmful algae blooms more toxic to marine life. Increased toxicity has been shown in laboratory experiments but not observed the field.

Read the full story here.

Jul 2 2013

Agency says Pacific great white shark not in danger of extinction

 A great white shark plies waters at Guadalupe Island in 2007. (Al Seib / Los Angeles Times / November 15, 2007)

A great white shark plies waters at Guadalupe Island in 2007. (Al Seib / Los Angeles Times / November 15, 2007)

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration announced Friday that the northeastern Pacific Ocean population of great white sharks is not in danger of extinction and does not warrant listing under the Endangered Species Act.

NOAA had been researching the health of the great white population since last year, when the environmental groups Oceana, Shark Stewards and the Center for Biological Diversity filed a petition calling for endangered species protection.

The petitioners were reacting to the first census of great whites ever attempted. Conducted by UC Davis and Stanford University researchers, and published in the journal Biology Letters in 2011, the census estimated that only

219 adult and sub-adult great whites lived off the Central California coast, and perhaps double that many were in the entire northeastern Pacific Ocean, including Southern California.

Read the full story here.

May 10 2013

Successful Managing Our Nation’s Fisheries Conference Brings Together Diverse Voices

Managing Our Nation's Fisheries Advancing Sustainability logoThe Managing Our Nation’s Fisheries 3 conference wrapped up today on a successful note, with conference participants developing 128 recommendations for improving fishery sustainability. The draft recommendations are online at and will be further elaborated in the conference proceedings.

The conference was coordinated by the eight Regional Fishery Management Councils and NOAA Fisheries, and was sponsored by both fishing industry and environmental groups. The conference aimed to identify both legislative and non-legislative measures to advance fishery sustainability in light of the coming reauthorization of the Magnuson-Stevens Fisheries Conservation and Management Act, which governs Federal fishery management in the United States. Most participants seemed to agree that the Magnuson-Stevens Act has been successful in managing U.S. fisheries, and that large-scale revisions would not be needed. For example, under the Act, 32 fish stocks that were previously labeled “overfished” have been rebuilt. However, there was also agreement that some changes are needed to keep the Act relevant, flexible, and responsive.

“These recommendations will be considered carefully as we move forward with Magnuson-Stevens Act reauthorization,” said Dave Whaley, Legislative staff for the House Natural Resources Subcommittee. “We do need to act carefully; we do not want to solve problems in one area of the country while creating new problems in other areas.”

The conference, held at the Mayflower Renaissance Hotel in Washington, D.C., began on May 6 with keynotes by Rep.Doc Hastings (R-WA); NOAA Assistant Administrator Eric Schwaab; chef, author and television host Barton Seaver; and Deadliest Catch skipper Keith Colburn. The conference continued May 8 and 9 with sessions on improving fishery management essentials, advancing ecosystem-based decision making, and providing for fishing community stability. Senator Mark Begich (D-AK) addressed the conference attendees on May 8. More than 600 people attended the conference.

Read the full story here.

May 9 2013

Big environmental push for new fisheries regs slowed at NOAA Managing Fisheries Conference in DC

Seafood News

After three days at the Managing our Nations Fisheries Conference in Washington DC, there is clearly no overriding fisheries reform issue that is going to get resolved quickly through new NOAA or congressional action.

This is a very positive outcome, and reflects a sense of stability about US fisheries management.

First, the conference was extremely well organized, and the full materials are available at the conference website:

The overall tone of the conference reflected the success that the 2006 revision of Magnuson has had in setting in place a sustainable approach to US fisheries. There was a recognition that applying harvest limits to virtually all fisheries, and implementing catch share type allocation systems in many fisheries, has had a hugely positive impact on eliminating overfishing, and on reducing bycatch and impacts on non-target species.

However, seven years after the 2006 bill, there are a number of things that the 8 regional management councils would like to see improved.

The conference did not come to any conclusions – but instead the discussions set the stage for the lobbying and back and forth with NOAA, and in Congress, that will result in updates to the National Standards – the enabling language on which the councils act – and on possible changes to the Magnuson bill when the new authorization is achieved.

Changes in NOAAs interpretation of the Act under their regulatory authority are likely to happen far more quickly, and with good result, that the changes to Magnuson Act itself, which will be a monumental multi-year task.

The following are some of the brief issue summaries and positions discussed at the conference.

Read full story here.

Sep 14 2012

Sea Level’s Rise Focus of Summit

Projections of dramatic change draw group to UCSD to strategize about vulnerabilities of affected areas

LA JOLLA — Climate researchers, social scientists and policy experts from across the Pacific Rim convened at UC San Diego last week to get ahead of seas projected to rise so dramatically that they could create some of the most visible effects of global warming.

Representatives from about 20 leading research universities and nonprofit groups in South Korea, Russia, Indonesia and elsewhere met to prepare for potentially catastrophic effects on 200 million people and trillions of dollars of coastal assets.

Sea levels off most of California are expected to rise about 3 feet by 2100, according to recent projections by the National Research Council. Higher seas create challenges for port cities from San Diego to Singapore, including the potential for dramatically increased damage to coastal roads, homes and beaches — especially during storms.

“All future development has to be assessed in regards to future rises in sea level,” Steffen Lehmann, professor of sustainable design at the University of South Australia, said during the conference. “Reducing the vulnerabilities of urban (areas) is the big topic, the big task ahead of us now.”

Potential responses include managing a retreat from eroding bluffs and reshaping coastal areas to buffer development from higher water levels. “The missing link (is) between the science and those guys in planning offices and architecture firms and city municipal offices,” Lehmann said.

David Woodruff, director of the University of California San Diego’s Sustainability Solutions Institute, organized the workshop to address that problem with cross-disciplinary discussions that move toward international action.

“We are trying to affect societal change,” he said. “The sooner we start scoping options, the less expensive it will be to save current infrastructure.”

The workshop was sponsored by the Association of Pacific Rim Universities, a consortium of 42 leading research institutions. Participants drafted a report about rising sea levels for top university leaders so they can make the topic a priority with national-level leaders around the Pacific Rim.

“I really think universities can play a key role,” said UC San Diego’s Charles Kennel. “They are right at the pivot point between connecting knowledge to action. … One of the places they need to transfer their knowledge to is adaptation to climate change.”

A warming climate causes sea levels to rise primarily by heating the oceans — which causes the water to expand — and by melting land ice, which drains water to the ocean. Sea levels at any given spot depend on a complex interaction of factors, such as ocean and atmospheric circulation patterns and tectonic plate movements.

Global sea level has risen about 7 inches during the 20th century, the National Research Council said.

While sea-level-rise projections aren’t a sure thing, they are widely accepted by mainstream scientists. Skeptics see it as a waste of money to plan for problems that may not materialize for decades, or may be more modest than predicted.

Read more on the Union-Tribune San Diego.

Aug 24 2012

New NOAA Ship Strengthens Ties between Scripps Oceanography and Southwest Fisheries Science Center

Collaborations between La Jolla institutions began more than 70 years ago and flourish today with a mix of strategic relationships Scripps Institution of Oceanography/University of California, San Diego

NOAA anticipates bringing the Reuben Lasker to the West Coast in 2013 and beginning operations in 2014. The ship will support scientific assessments of fish stocks and other marine life on the U.S. West Coast.

“Reuben Lasker represents an important investment by the American people in our ability to monitor the health of our ocean ecosystems,” said Bruce Appelgate, associate director of ship operations and marine technical support at Scripps. “This process of investment must continue in order to revitalize the United States research fleet, so that societally important issues can be properly understood.”

NOAA Ship Reuben Lasker, named after a pioneering fisheries biologist and Scripps adjunct professor, was launched on June 16. Credit: Val Ihde, Marinette Marine Corp.   

The new vessel honors the late Reuben Lasker, a pioneering fisheries biologist who served as director of SWFSC’s coastal fisheries division and worked in a key position as an adjunct professor at Scripps. Lasker fostered fundamental collaborations that formed a scientific bridge between Scripps and SWFSC.

“Reuben Lasker was arguably the father of West Coast fisheries oceanography,” said Dave Checkley, a Scripps professor of oceanography and director of the Cooperative Institute on Marine Ecosystems and Climate (CIMEC), a Scripps-led NOAA program established to study climate change and coastal ecosystems. “He brought his basic knowledge of insect biology to bear on plankton and fish, and combined this with oceanography to lead the Southwest Fisheries Science Center’s program on small pelagic fish, particularly anchovy and sardine.”

“He and his colleagues are renowned worldwide for their contributions to the biology of these fish and their ecology and fisheries oceanography. He, as much as anyone, fostered the close and productive collaboration between academia and fisheries.”

Checkley, who noted that Reuben Lasker served on his Ph.D. committee, said the namesake vessel furthers the close collaborations between Scripps and NOAA in fisheries oceanography that was formalized in 1949, following the collapse of California’s sardine fishery and the inception of the California Cooperative Oceanic Fisheries Investigations (CalCOFI) program, a unique partnership of the California Department of Fish and Game, NOAA Fisheries Service, and Scripps. CalCOFI stands as one of the world’s longest and most important marine monitoring programs and has provided valuable insights about various aspects of the waters off California and its inhabitants for more than 50 years.

“The Reuben Lasker will be one of NOAA’s state-of-the-art fisheries vessels and will not only enable the continuation of CalCOFI but enhance it with its superior capabilities,” said Checkley.

Read the full announcement via the Scripps Institution of Oceanography.