Posts Tagged Oceana

Mar 6 2014

Viewpoints: The state of sardine populations

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Sardines have been a hot news topic in recent weeks. Environmental groups and others have trumpeted that the sardine population is collapsing like it did in the mid-1940s.

The environmental group Oceana has been arguing this point loudly in order to shut down the sardine fishery. That’s why it filed suit in federal court, in a case now under appeal, challenging the current sardine management.

So what is the truth about the state of sardines? It’s much more complicated than environmentalists would lead you to believe.

In fact, 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 43 percent or more of the standing sardine stock. Plus, there was little regulatory oversight and no limit on the annual catch.

Today, the allowed annual U.S. catch totals roughly 5 percent and coastal sardine exploitation averages less than 15 percent of the northern stock.

Read the full story 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)

Apr 25 2013

Lower fishing limits rejected by judge

A federal judge has rejected an environmental group’s attempt to require the government to lower its catch limits on sardines, mackerel and other forage fish off the California coast.

The organization, Oceana, claimed that the plan approved by the National Marine Fisheries Service in 2010 was based on flawed data and allowed fishing at levels that would deplete offshore populations of several species. Those fish are part of the food chain for other fish, seabirds and whales.

But U.S. District Judge Edward Chen of San Francisco said Friday that the federal agency had simply reaffirmed, or in some cases tightened, the harvesting limits it had set for the same forage species in 2000.

Chen ordered the fisheries service to reconsider its catch levels for one species, the northern anchovy, saying the agency had reopened that subject in 2010 but failed to determine the limits needed to protect the fish. That decision is required, he said, by a 1976 conservation law designed to prevent overfishing.

But Chen said it was too late to challenge the rules the agency had established in 2000 – and reaffirmed in 2010 – for the Pacific sardine, the Pacific mackerel, the jack mackerel and the market squid. Oceana also challenged the fisheries service’s conclusion that its 2010 plan would cause no ecological harm and that a full environmental study was therefore not required. But the judge said the 2010 plan “by its very terms has no negative impact.”

Read the full San Francisco Chronicle article here.

Nov 21 2012

We are not the only ones who feel strongly about the allegations made by Oceana, here are some similar articles and places they are being published…

 

California Wetfish Producers Intervene in Lawsuit in Opposition to Oceana

The following was released by the California Wetfish Producers Association:

 Monterey, Calif. – Feb 22, 2012 – The California Wetfish Producers Association, a non-profit association promoting sustainable marine resources and fishing communities, announced today that it is working with a diverse group – including the City of Monterey and the Ventura Port District – to challenge a federal lawsuit by Oceana that would decimate California’s historic wetfish industry.

The group filed to intervene as defendants in the ongoing case by Earthjustice, representing Oceana, against the Secretary of Commerce, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and the National Marine Fisheries Service.

Saving Seafood

 

Squid and sardine fishing is no danger to species in Monterey Bay

The Monterey Bay region’s healthiest fisheries are under attack by extremists.  Touting studies with faulty calculations, activists have been trying to persuade federal regulators to massively curtail sardine limits, if not ban fishing outright. But the science doesn’t support their conclusions.

 Today’s fishery management of coastal pelagic species along the West Coast portion of the California Current Ecosystem is recognized as the most protective in the world, one of only a few areas that’s deemed sustainable by internationally recognized scientists.  This is not a newly implemented strategy.  The state and federal government established guidelines more than a decade ago for coastal pelagic species harvested in California and on the West Coast, maintaining at least 75 percent of the fish in the ocean to ensure a resilient core biomass for other marine species.

Saving Seafood

 

Oceana is wrong about forage fish

Regarding the recent op-ed by Oceana on forage fish management, this is just more incompetent baloney. I don’t know who is advising Oceana on these science questions, but it is plain that it didn’t comprehend the Lenfest report. This report clearly calls out West Coast forage fish management as highly precautionary and the best in the world.

Oceana’s science arguments, claiming that sardines are being overfished, have been subjected to peer review and don’t hold up. Oceana tried to get a forage bill through the Legislature last year, but it had so many problems it didn’t pass, thank goodness. Many of us are working with the Fish and Game Commission to develop a state forage policy that has a scientific basis. Oceana wants to kill our fisheries, even when they are sustainable.

Kathy Fosmark 
Alliance of Communities for Sustainable Fisheries

Monterey County Herald

 

Fishermen fight suit over forage limits; battle set over state’s dominant fisheries

Joined by Monterey officials, California’s wetfish producers are fighting a lawsuit that aims for greater protections for anchovies, sardines and squid, setting the stage for a major battle over one of the state’s dominant fisheries.

So-called “wetfish,” also known as forage fish, live near the bottom of the food chain but make up a substantial percentage of California’s commercial catch, including 97 percent of all landings in Moss Landing and Monterey. In December, environmentalists filed suit to change how the federal government manages those fisheries.

Mercury NewsSanta Cruz Sentinel

 

California is global leader in managing forage fish

More than 150 years ago, immigrant Chinese fishermen launched sampans into the chilly waters of Monterey Bay to capture squid. The Bay also lured fishermen fromSicily and other Mediterranean countries, who brought round-haul nets to fish for sardines.

This was the beginning of the largest fishery in the western hemisphere – California’s famed ‘wetfish’ industry, imprinted on our collective conscience by writers like John Steinbeck.

Who doesn’t remember Cannery Row?

Capitol WeeklyNorth County Times

 

What Makes A Fishery “Viable”?

To no one’s surprise, environmentalists and industry lobbyists are butting heads in a major legal wrangle over California’s “wetfish”–sardines, anchovies, mackerel, and market squid. As you may recall, the pretty little market squid is the state’s single biggest fishery:

And it’s not just humans who like to eat them–they’re a major food source for sea lions, seals, seabirds, sharks, etc. According to the Mercury News, Oceana is now suing to “force the federal government to consider impacts on the broader marine ecosystem when setting limits.” If Oceana wins, then when the Feds decide how many squid fishermen can catch, they would have to factor in the needs of all the other animals that like to eat squid.

Science 2.0

 

 

Nov 19 2012

D.B. Pleschner: Oceana claims controversy but knowledgeable; scientists disagree

D.B. Pleschner

 

The anti-fishing group Oceana is up to mischief again.

Members claim that when the Pacific Fishery Management Council voted last week to allow sardine fishing to continue in 2013, based on recommendations of their Scientific and Statistical Committee — a group of knowledgeable scientists who review all council actions to achieve best available science — a debate erupted (spurred largely by Oceana) about whether the sardine resource is in a state of collapse similar to what happened in the 1940s “Cannery Row” era.

But as usual, Oceana is attempting to obfuscate the truth to achieve its agenda of shutting down fishing.

The fact is there was no controversy among expert fisheries biologists over the setting of the 2013 sardine harvest limit, and the resource is not about to collapse. The controversy stemmed from the problem that the acoustic survey, one of three indices used to measure sardine abundance, estimated only 13,000 metric tons in the Pacific Northwest, during the same period the fishery was catching 50,000 metric tons, in the same general area and an aerial survey estimated 900,000 metric tons.

Because this was an “update” year, neither scientists nor the council had leeway to change the stock assessment, even though it likely underestimated the sardine population. In fact, scientists from around the globe have acknowledged that the West Coast sardine fishery is among the best managed in the world.

That’s because the management of Pacific sardines is very precautionary. We have a risk-averse formula in place that ensures when population numbers go down, the harvest also goes down. Conversely, when more sardines are available, more harvest is allowed.

For example, all the indices used to measure abundance — acoustics, daily egg production and an aerial survey conducted in the Pacific Northwest — ticked upward (or were stable) last year, which led to a higher harvest guideline in 2012.

In 2011, our sardine fisheries harvested only 5.11 percent of a very conservative stock estimate, leaving nearly 95 percent of the species for predators and ecosystem needs.

Does that sound like overfishing to you?

Apparently Oceana doesn’t understand what actually occurred during the historic collapse of the sardine fishery in the 1940s. But for those of us who care, it’s important to compare historical data with the present. This is especially important because sardine fisheries were “virtually unregulated” on the West Coast during the Cannery Row era, but since then the U.S. sardine fishery has operated under strict management rules.

Consider that the sardine biomass declined from 793,000 metric tons in 1949, when sardines abandoned the Pacific Northwest, to about 3,000 metric tons in 1965, and the exploitation rate for adult sardines during most of the period was more than 50 percent — far cry from the fishery today.

Because this year’s stock assessment declined, Oceana claimed the sky is falling on sardines, and demanded that the harvest rate for 2013 be cut to 2 percent — which would effectively close the fishery entirely. The Scientific and Statistical Committee and Pacific Fishery Management Council knew the truth and rejected Oceana’s demands.

As an author of the sardine harvest policy, Dr. Richard Parrish makes these important points about key differences between then and now:

  • Sardines have not abandoned the Pacific Northwest
  • Sea temperatures have not chilled to the levels seen in the late 1940s

 Present harvest guidelines were designed so that the council would not have to change the harvest rate every time the stock size changed.

The up-and-down flexibility in harvest guidelines, based on annual biomass estimates, is an important feature to achieve optimum yield — which considers fisheries as well as forage.

These scientific facts support the Coastal Pelagic Species Management Team, cientific and Statistical Committee and Pacific Fishery Management Council’s decision that the current harvest control rules for sardine (and other CPS) are precautionary and going forward will continue to protect our marine ecosystem and fishery.

We can’t afford to destroy sardine and other CPS fisheries, the backbone of California’s fishing economy.

 

D.B. Pleschner is executive director of the California Wetfish Producers Association, a nonprofit designed to promote sustainable wetfish resources.

Santa Cruz Sentinel

 

Mar 28 2012

For California Fishermen, Squid Means Big Money

Capt Nick Jurlin's crew hauls squid aboard the Cape Blanco on their round trip from San Pedro to the western side of Santa Catalina Island. The catch is abundant -- and valuable. (Bob Chamberlin, Los Angeles Times)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

     

 

 

 

 

 

Written by Tony Barboza, Los Angeles Times

Long before calamari reaches the table, crews set out from San Pedro and elsewhere to round up California’s most valuable catch. But environmentalists question whether the haul is too large.

 

As the sun sets over the ocean, the six crewmen on the Cape Blanco are starting a long night’s work off the far side of Santa Catalina Island, putting on orange slickers and hard hats to fish for the milky white mollusks that have become California’s most valuable catch.

Below the gentle waves off the side of the boat swims an immense school of market squid.

Capt. Nick Jurlin, pacing impatiently with a cigarette dangling from his mouth, is eager to pull in as much of it as possible.

Five nights a week, the third-generation fisherman from San Pedro steps into a pair of rubber boots and hunts for squid along the Southern California coast. The 50-year-old with spiky blond hair and wraparound sunglasses looks the part of a man who’s wrestled with nets in the salty air since he was a teenager — his arms are taut, his neck creased and weathered, his voice gravelly from going without sleep.

On a night like this, the 90-foot steel vessel can bring in as much as $50,000 worth of the seafood so popular worldwide that all but a fraction is shipped overseas to be served as calamari.

But for the Cape Blanco and dozens of squid fishing boats working out of ports like San Pedro and Monterey, the boom is an uncertain one. Doubts are emerging about how long one of California’s last remaining money fish will stay bountiful.

Though Jurlin and his crew are four hours from shore tonight, they are not alone.

Rocking in the waves around them are a dozen other purse seiners beginning the same ritual: encircling the darting mass of tentacled, hot dog-sized sea creatures with huge nets that will be cinched up like the drawstring of a purse.

A flotilla of smaller boats assists by following the swarms and coaxing them to the surface with 30,000-watt lanterns that light up the ocean with an otherworldly green and white glow.

On Jurlin’s signal, a deckhand swings a hefty metal bar above his head and slams it into a pelican hook, freeing a clunky metal skiff that plunges into the water and rumbles away, its motor filling the night air with exhaust.

Each man takes his position on the Cape Blanco’s deck, working among strained cables and ropes as thick as fire hoses. A hydraulic winch whirs, engines roar and propellers gurgle as a tangle of black netting, yellow floats and steel rings tumble into the water off the back of the boat. The skiff tows it all in a wide circle around the squid, trapping the school.

Most of the world’s market squid is harvested from California’s shallow waters, where they gather in enormous schools each year to mate, deposit their eggs on the seafloor and die.

Cold ocean conditions have drawn them in such numbers lately that fishermen have handily caught their 118,000-ton limit — enough to fill 60 Olympic-size swimming pools — and the state has shut them down early two years running. Surging demand in China, Japan, Mexico and Europe has boosted prices and launched a fishing frenzy worth more than $70 million a year.

The good times have drawn the attention of conservationists, who fear such abundant catches are threatening the foundation of a delicate marine food web. Groups like Oceana and Audubon California are pushing for new protections for squid, sardines, anchovies, herring and other small, schooling prey known as “forage fish.”

A bill moving its way through the California Legislature would require the state to leave more small fish in the water for seabirds, whales, dolphins and other natural predators to feed on.

Those like Jurlin, whose families have fished these waters for generations, say a smaller catch could be crippling.

::

During the squid season, Jurlin pushes off each afternoon from Terminal Island, where a few other purse seiners dock along a waterfront of weedy and abandoned lots where street names — Sardine, Cannery and Wharf — reflect a fish-packing industry that is largely gone.

He follows the squid from the Channel Islands to San Diego, setting out net after net and returning before dawn the next morning.

Tonight he motors along the backside of Catalina as his crewmen eat spaghetti and watch baseball in the galley. Many, like Jurlin, are the sons or grandsons of fishermen.

It isn’t long before they bring in their first net.

Frigid water falls in sheets from the net as it is pulled through a giant hydraulic pulley towering above the deck. The men pile it into a slippery mound, slowly corralling the squid closer to the boat.

Whether stacking rings or piloting the skiff, each crewman is dedicated to a single task. There is no conversation. It is dangerous, straining work, and they focus with intense precision.

By the time Jurlin and several deckhands reach over the side of the boat to gather the last bunches of loose net, their bright slickers are drizzled with black ink from the squid.

Fishing for squid can be good money, but it is unpredictable.

The boat’s owner, Tri Marine Fish Co., takes half the earnings, and the crew divides the rest. For a good night’s work, deckhands can earn well over $1,000 and the captain and engineer even more. On a bad night, they might catch enough to cover fuel.

In the off-season, the fishermen sew up nets, make repairs and paint the boats — without pay. A few months of the year, they make a little money fishing for sardines. But without squid, there are no big paychecks.

As luck would have it, the night’s first net bursts with an exceptional haul: 40 tons of squid.

“Everybody’s going to do real well tonight,” Jurlin tells the crew.

They lower a heavy metal pump into the thick stew, and the catch goes sloshing into the ship’s refrigerated wells below deck.

Once their catch is stowed, the crewmen hose off and light up cigarettes as the fog moves in.

::

A half century ago, the sardine was king of the sea.

In the 1930s and ’40s, the largest fishing industry in the Western Hemisphere centered on California’s harvest of the oily, silvery fish. Monterey was its capital, its crowded waterfront the backdrop for John Steinbeck novels such as “Cannery Row.”

But the boom went bust by mid-century as overfishing brought a devastating collapse.

Squid fishing exploded in the 1990s when worldwide demand jumped. Over the last decade, the California Department of Fish and Game has kept the fishery in check with catch limits, a ban on weekend fishing and a cap on the number of squid boats.

Squid come and go in cycles, streaming to shore when waters are cold and vanishing during warm El Niño periods. And they live just a year, making it difficult for scientists to assess the health of their population. Conservation groups, in saying current limits are too permissive, point to research saying those huge fluctuations make small species like squid particularly vulnerable to collapse.

The industry says California’s regulations already guard against overfishing and don’t need to be changed.

::

Standing at the helm in the dark, Jurlin studies a glowing grid of navigation screens and electronic fish finders.

He sips coffee and watches for diving birds and sea lions — nature’s squid detectors. He talks to himself to stay awake and keeps a running dialogue on the radio with friendly boats to gather intelligence on fishing spots.

Like many fishermen here, Jurlin is a descendant of immigrants, born into the profession.

His grandfather was an illegal immigrant from Croatia who jumped ship in Canada and made his way to San Pedro to fish almost a century ago. Jurlin’s father fished, and his grandmothers and mother packed tuna back when the San Pedro waterfront was alive with canneries.

Jurlin started working on Alaskan salmon vessels as a teenager and bought his first boat when he was 21.

Over the past 30 years, he and his wife have raised two daughters, bought a condo in downtown Long Beach and a second home in Arizona. Squid has paid for it all.

He has staked his future on being able to continue. When the first squid upswing hit 16 years ago, he bought his own seiner. During this boom he put his two sons-in-law aboard to learn the profession.

“We’ve been hitting it pretty good, but it’s sustainable,” he says. “We get a bad rap from the environmentalists. They’ll tell us there’s no fish, and we’ll come out here and see incredible amounts. They say we want to rape and pillage the ocean. But this is our livelihood.”

As is so often the case lately, Jurlin and his crew are catching so much squid so quickly that it strains buyers in San Pedro, who can only fit so much in their freezers.

So tonight, each vessel can load up with just 70 tons before returning to the docks, where workers will pump the squid ashore and slop it into plastic-lined boxes. Forklifts will wheel it into warehouse-sized blast freezers, where it will be prepared for shipment to Asia. From there, it will be processed and shipped around the world, some back to restaurants in California.

It’s just before midnight when the captain of a fellow squid boat, the Ferrigno Boy, radios to report he has caught too much. Could the Cape Blanco suck up the surplus?

“Okey-dokey,” Jurlin responds, setting down the radio. “That’s it. Another day in paradise.”

 
Read the article on Los Angeles Times.
 
 
Feb 27 2012

KION Radio: Monterey’s Harbormaster on Protecting Fishing in California

Steve Scheiblauer, Harbormaster of Monterey 

Steve Scheiblauer, Monterey’s harbormaster, discusses environmental groups efforts to stop a lawsuit that aims to massively curtail sport and commercial fishing in California on KION 1460 AM in Monterey, CA.

 
 

Listen to the interview online.