Posts Tagged overfishing

Jul 8 2014

Unraveling the Mystery of the Great White Shark

Sharks have swarmed the media this summer and it’s not even Shark Week yet.

This undated photo provided by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration shows a great white shark encountered off the coast of Massachusetts. The white shark population has grown about 42 percent in the western North Atlantic Ocean since its predicted lowest point around 1990, according to a new study.

A great white shark swims off the coast of Massachusetts. Studies show the predators’ population is returning to the waters in great numbers.


When men are caught taking selfies with a great white shark right outside of New York City, you know something’s a little fishy.

Fisherman Steve Fernandez said he and his friends were not far from 116th Street when they caught a baby white shark. They took pictures before releasing it back into the water about a mile off Rockaway Beach June 22, Fernandez told the New York Post.

“As soon as we saw it, there’s no mistaking it. It’s basically a miniature version of the shark you seen in the movie ‘Jaws,’” he said.

This wasn’t the only great white shark caught swimming just a little too close to the Big Apple.

In another recent spotting, a photographer used a drone to film a young great white greeting paddle boarders in Manhattan Beach in June. But a recent study provides some insight into these occurrences: After years of decline, the great white shark population is finally on the rise.
The study, conducted by researchers from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and published June 11 by PLOS ONE, analyzed shark records from 1800 to 2010 and found the abundance of great whites has increased about 42 percent in the northwest Atlantic Ocean since its predicted lowest point around 1990, according to lead author Tobey Curtis.

Curtis tells U.S. News researchers think there may be a white shark nursery in the waters off New York, which could explain why the city seems to be a hangout spot for young sharks. Conservation efforts are largely to thank for the predators’ return over the past couple of decades, he adds.

But while the great white shark population is rising, other shark populations are dropping, Curtis says. Their decline is partly due to lack of conservation efforts, but some species also fall victim to fisherman more easily than white sharks because they are less resilient. Larger white sharks are able to escape and survive nets and hooks more easily than other sharks, such as hammerheads, he says.

A separate study published by PLOS ONE in June suggests the great white shark population is also surging in California waters.

The recent research contradicted a previous study published in the journal Biology Letters suggesting there were only 219 mature and sub-adult white sharks in “central California” and only about 438 in the entire eastern North Pacific Ocean. After finding such low numbers, the researchers tried to get the sharks protected under the Endangered Species Act, which would help prevent the species from being traded, sold, captured or disrupted, according to the National Wildlife Federation.

The newest research published in PLOS ONE suggests there are actually 2,400 white sharks just in California waters, meaning that the species is not in danger of extinction.

“That we found these sharks are doing OK, better than OK, is a real positive in light of the fact that other shark populations are not necessarily doing as well,” George Burgess, director of the Florida Program for Shark Research and the study’s head author, told The Los Angeles Times.

This September 18, 2012, photo provided by OCEARCH shows scientists tagging a great white shark named Mary Lee off Cape Cod, Massachusetts. The shark was tracked south to the Florida coast but as of Thursday, January 31, 2013, was again off Long Island, N.Y. OCEARCH, a nonprofit group that studies sharks and other large marine species, says little is known about the migration patterns of great whites.

This September 18, 2012, photo provided by OCEARCH shows scientists tagging a great white shark named Mary Lee off Cape Cod, Mass.

Among the great white sharks dominating the waters is a 14-foot, 2,300-pound fish dubbed “Katharine” by the scientists who are tracking her, reported ABC News.

Greg Skomal, a program manager and senior biologist at the Massachusetts Division of Marine Fisheries, says Katharine is one of 39 great white sharks he and other researchers are watching in the Atlantic Ocean.

Sharks like Katharine, who was tagged off Cape Cod last August, provide critical information about great whites’ breeding habits so people can learn how to protect them, says Chris Fischer, another one of the scientists tracking her.

Skomal says they began the study in 2009 and for a while they believed they had figured out the sharks’ migratory pattern: In the summers, they moved north and in winters, back down south.

But some, like Katharine, have broken this rule: Instead of moving north this summer, Katharine traveled to the Gulf of Mexico. Skomal says roughly 25 percent to 30 percent of the great white sharks they are tracking have more complex behaviors and follow more dynamic movements than once thought.

But before Katharine starting heading toward Texas, another shark – not a great white – left its mark in Galveston. Tooth marks lined the upper part of 14-year-old Mikaela Medina’s back after a shark bit her on June 8. She didn’t feel the pain, she told KHOU-TV, but went to shore to have her mother take a look.

“I just felt like something bumped into my back,” she said.

One day later, a 16-year-old boy was reportedly bitten by a shark at Cape Henlopen State Park in Delaware.

According to the International Shark Attack File, directed by Burgess at the Florida Museum of Natural History, Texas and Delaware are not common states for shark attacks. Of the 47 unprovoked attacks in the U.S. last year, almost half occurred in Florida. Most of the others took place in Hawaii and South Carolina, according to the research.

Despite the odd locations of the attacks, Burgess says there seem to be fewer attacks worldwide this year compared to last year.

He says there have been 26 attacks so far this year, with two fatalities, one in South Africa and one in Australia. Sixteen of the attacks were in the U.S., with no fatalities. The ratio of attacks each year is low compared to the amount of times humans and sharks are near one another.

Humans and sharks are actually very close to each other on a regular basis, says Burgess.

“Certainly anyone whose spent any time in the sea, just recreationally in the surf zone, has been within 10 or 15 feet of a shark at some point in their lifetime,” he says.

At any given time, “hundreds or perhaps thousands” of people are that close to a shark, he adds.

In fact, statistics show that sharks have a lot more to fear than humans do.

Burgess says humans are killing about up to 37 million sharks per year, while sharks only kill around four or five humans each year. Most sharks are dying when fisheries aiming for another type of fish catch them by mistake and have to throw them overboard, he says.

However, Burgess warns that if people do not learn more about shark safety, the number of shark attacks on humans are sure to increase. Naturally, a larger population, increased tourism and water activities means more bites, even if the shark population remains the same, he says.

In this undated photo provided by the University of California, Davis, a white shark investigates a fake seal decoy used by UC Davis researchers in the Pacific Ocean near San Francisco. They are the most feared predator in the ocean, but the state of California thinks great white sharks might need a little protecting of their own. On Wednesday, Feb. 6, 2013, the Fish and Game Commission will consider advancing the candidacy of the giant sharks to the California Endangered Species list.

A recent study shows the shark population is growing in California waters, contradicting previous research.

Humans are not a normal part of a shark’s diet, he says, but sharks can mistake people for fish in certain situations.

One way of avoiding an unexpected encounter is to stay in a group. Sharks, like other predators, look for the weak stragglers in the pack who linger behind, and tend to attack prey that looks to be alone, Burgess says.

And if your parents have ever told you not to take a midnight swim in the ocean, they were right. Sharks feed the most from dusk until dawn – and you don’t want to end up being a midnight snack.

The last bit of advice Burgess provides is to ditch your rings and bracelets before hitting the waves. To sharks, shiny jewelry can look like fish scales, reflecting light as you move in the water. Burgess urges people to remember that, when they enter the ocean, it’s like entering the wilderness. Most people don’t think about it, he says, but they are invading other species’ territory.

“Can you imagine walking into the Serengeti in your bikini, barefoot and not worrying about the big animals that can do you harm?” he asks.

Still, he adds, the ocean is a “pretty nice host.”

“Although we wander in their naked and stupid, most of us come out just fine,” he says.


Original story:

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.

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 22 2013

Squid season closes as fishery reaches harvest limit early

After a banner year, squid season ended at noon Friday.

That’s when the California Department of Fish and Wildlife expected fishermen to reach the seasonal harvest limit of 118,000 tons. The department tracks catches and closes the season when the limit is reached.

This year marked the earliest closure since the harvest limit was imposed in 2005. The fishery has reached the limit for the past several years, but not until November or December. A new season starts each April.

While squid fishing tends to have its busiest months during the fall and winter in Southern California, that changed this year.

“The squid showed up early in the summer months in Southern California,” said Briana Brady, a senior environmental scientist with Fish and Wildlife.

The fishing industry also worked hand-in-hand with the state this year to accurately track the daily catch, said Diane Pleschner-Steele, executive director of the nonprofit California Wetfish Producers Association based in Buellton.

Processors are required by law to report numbers twice a month. But this year, they sent in totals daily to help keep a more accurate count, she said.

Preliminary figures showed market squid landings had hit nearly 109,000 tons on Tuesday.

Read the full article here.

Squid - Juan Carlo, Ventura County Star

Sep 18 2013

VIDEO: Dr. Ray Hilborn on Federal Fisheries Management and Magnuson-Stevens Reauthorization

Saving Seafood

WASHINGTON (Saving Seafood) — September 17, 2013 — Last Wednesday, Dr. Ray Hilborn, of the University of Washington School of Aquatic and Fishery Sciences, testified before the House Committee on Natural Resources during a hearing on the reauthorization of the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act. Following his testimony on Capitol Hill, in which he adhered to the Congressional hearing’s five minute time limit, Dr. Hilborn sat down with Saving Seafood’s Executive Director Bob Vanasse for an in-depth discussion of his recommendations, and to give his presentation in full.

Dr. Hilborn explains how an emphasis by fisheries managers on eliminating overfishing has led government agencies to ignore other important aspects of the Magnuson-Stevens Act, which mandate the protection of fisheries resources alongside concerns for the socio-economic well being of fishermen and their communities.

Dr. Hilborn aruges that  that the U.S. has largely “solved” the problems surrounding overfishing and that underutilization of the resource should be of greater concern to fisheries managers.

The video begins with Dr. Hilborn’s evaluation of U.S. fisheries policy under the Magnuson-Stevens Act, his recommendations for the reauthorization, and concludes with a question and answers.

Watch the full video here.

Read the original post here.

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 10 2013

In the U.S., Good News on Fisheries

Discovery News
Around the world, the status of fish and fisheries is grim indeed. Approximately 85 percent of global fish stocks are either over-exploited, fully-exploited, depleted or recovering from depletion. But rigorous management efforts have resulted in some American fisheries making a comeback.

The new report by the National Research Council assessed 55 fisheries and found 10 that have been rebuilt and five that showed good progress toward rebuilding; only nine continue to experience overfishing. What about the rest? Eleven have not shown strong progress in rebuilding but are expected to rebuild if fishing levels remain reduced and a whopping 20 were not actually over-fished despite having been initially classified as such.

The report comes with a neat interactive online graphic to track the fate of fish populations in different regions over the years. By selecting particular species or geographic areas, users can watch, as for example, yelloweye rockfish becomes steadily overfished, as chinook salmon numbers – especially susceptible to changing environmental conditions – swing wildly back and forth, and the likes of lingcod, George’s Bank haddock, king mackerel and Bering Sea snow crab stage their marches toward recovery.

The report is fairly technical, so for a summary – and an explanation of what it means in practical terms for U.S. fish consumers – Discovery News turned to Chris Dorsett, Director of Ecosystem Conservation Programs for the Ocean Conservancy.

“If you look at a map of the United States and where overfishing is still occurring, it’s almost exclusively an east coast problem,” he points out. “And when I say east coast, I mean Gulf of Mexico as well. Where we have not seen success in terms of species recovering based on management actions, that could be due to climatic factors, which aren’t particularly good for productivity. It could be due to management regimes that aren’t particularly effective. But what exacerbates the issue is that, when you drive a population to an extremely low abundance level, environmental variability plays an even more meaningful role in the recovery of that population, so recovery is a little less predictable.”

As the classic case in point, Dorsett points to cod fisheries off Canada, which collapsed in the 1990s and subsequently saw catches slashed essentially to zero. Despite such drastic measures, neither the fish population nor the fishery has shown signs of recovery.

As the NRC report notes, however, there remains some variation: fishing pressure is still too high for some fish stocks, and others have not rebounded as quickly as plans projected. To a large extent, argues Dorsett, that’s a function of natural variability in fish populations and their environments, as well as differences in the ways fisheries have been managed over the years.

In general, though, the news remains positive, increasingly so, and is reflected in the choices available to consumers.

Read the full article here.

May 6 2013

Managing our Nation’s Fisheries Conference looks to be a free for all in Washington DC next week

Seafood News



SEAFOOD.COM NEWS by John Sackton – May 2, 2013

The third Managing our Nations Fisheries Conference opens next week in Washington DC, and it promises to be a free for all with members of all the US regional management councils, NOAA, Commercial and recreational fishing associations, Pew, the Walton Family Foundation, Greenpeace and other NGOs, as well as dozens of Washington fisheries lobbyists and congressional staffers.

The conference is looking at changes in Magnuson, including requirements for more flexibility; it is looking at ecosystem management, and habitat and forage fish protection.

The conference is convened by the eight Regional Fishery Management Councils and hosted by the Pacific Fishery Management Council.

According to the sponsors, this conference follows up on the highly successful Managing Our Nation’s Fisheries conferences held in 2003 and 2005. Managing Our Nation’s Fisheries 3 will focus on how concepts, policies, and practice of fishery sustainability can be advanced to a higher level.

The discussion will address Magnuson-Stevens Act reauthorization issues, as well as adjustments to current management that do not require legislation to implement. The conference will provide a forum for information exchange and an opportunity to hear a wide range of perspectives on the sustainability of fish stocks and ecosystem functions, and the fishing communities that depend on them.

Pew, a co-sponsor of the conference, is trying to get the drop on the agenda with the release of a position paper next monday making the argument that fisheries are still at risk, despite huge successes in eliminating overfishing in the U.S.

Their position is that Many of our ocean ecosystems are severely compromised by decades of overfishing, habitat- damaging practices and indiscriminate fishing gear that captures and kills vast amounts of non-target ocean wildlife. In short, they are not recognizing the huge gains that have been made by US fisheries managers.

Rather than focus on how to maximize stability and economic benefit for rebuilt fisheries, Pew and the NGOs are likely to advance an agenda calling for action in three areas:

-More protection for essential fish habitat and to minimize by catch. This will likely take the form of increased efforts for gear restrictions on bottom trawling, as well as expansion of areas of marine reserves.

-Plans to maintain resilient ocean ecosystems. Managing on an ecosystem basis is key to the future of successful fishery management, yet this approach can be abused if it does not modify existing species specific goals.

The open question for ecosystem management is whether it means preserving the essential stability of an ecosystem while allowing for individual species variability, or whether it means extending the idea that all species should be at their maximum potential beyond commercial and recreational species to all animals and plants in the ecosystem.

There is a real issue to be faced as to whether human modifications to an ecosystem are acceptable to marine environmental groups or not.

-Finally, the NGOs are focusing on forage fish – species such as Menhaden, herring and sardines on the West Coast; whose stocks have largely been sustainably managed, but that now are being targeted for increased protections.

I will be at the conference, and mostly looking for the underlying assumptions to the arguments being made. The adoption of hard TACs and harvest control limits in the last reauthorization of Magnuson has proved to be a key factor in the success of US fisheries Management. Now the issues seem to turn more on a need for increased flexibility and a recognition that we have moved beyond overfishing, and now should concentrate on maximizing the benefits and maintaining healthy ecosystems.

Those who advocate for increased restrictions – whether in habitat, elimination of fishing gear, or enhanced protection of forage fish, have to make the case as to why, when our fisheries have successfully recovered, we are still being asked to address these issues in a crisis mode.



John Sackton, Editor And Publisher News 1-781-861-1441

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Copyright 2013

Source: News

May 3 2013

NOAA issues status of stocks report; overfishing continues to decline in US

Seafood News



SEAFOOD.COM NEWS  by John Sackton May 2, 2013

NOAA released its 2012 status of the stocks report to Congress this morning, showing continued progress in eliminating overfishing and rebuilding stocks in the U.S.

Overfishing declined 30% between 2011 and 2012.  In 2011, 14% of the stocks where NOAA has data were being overfished.  In 2012, that percentage dropped to 10%.

Once overfishing is ended, a stock will typically recover to its MSY biomass.  Stocks are classified as overfished when they are below the level needed to sustain harvests at the Maximum sustainable yield level.  The number of stocks classified as overfished dropped from 21% to 19%, a decline of 10%.

Acting Assistant Administrator for NOAA Fisheries Sam Rauch said “It was another record-setting year for  our marine fisheries. Today, we are reporting that six more stocks were declared rebuilt in 2012, bringing the total number of stocks rebuilt since 2000 to 32. This year’s rebuilt stocks include Southern Tanner crab, Acadian redfish, windowpane, yellowtail flounder, coho salmon, and pink shrimp. ”

“In addition, overfishing is at an all-time low with 10 additional stocks removed from the overfishing list since last year.  The details behind these record-setting trends are included in NOAA Fisheries’ new 2012 Report on the Status of U.S. Fisheries which is available online.

He also noted “It is critical that we recognize the sacrifices that have been made and will be made to achieve these gains.”  So far, Congress has been very reluctant to acknowledge that the gains in fisheries sustainability have a price that has been borne almost exclusively by the seafood industry.



Apr 6 2013

Pacific coast forage fish protection strongest in the world

D.B. Pleschner

Recent stories may have left some people with the wrong impression regarding the Pacific Fishery Management Council’s upcoming decision on April 9 to adopt the Pacific Coast Fishery Ecosystem Plan (FEP).

These stories have implied rampant overfishing of forage species like sardines that the FEP supposedly will address by reducing catch limits on these fish in order to maintain a food source for bigger species like salmon and albacore.

However, this simply isn’t true.

The council authorized development of the FEP to “enhance the Council’s species-specific management programs with more ecosystem science, broader ecosystem considerations and management policies that coordinate Council management across its Fishery Management Plans (FMPs) and the California Current Ecosystem (CCE).”

The FEP’s first initiative proposes to protect unmanaged lower trophic level forage species such as Pacific sandlance and saury, which are currently not fished, by “prohibiting the development of new directed fisheries on forage species that are not currently managed by the Council, or the States, until the Council has had an adequate opportunity to assess the science relating to any proposed fishery and any potential impacts to our existing fisheries and communities.”

In contrast, anchovy, sardines and market squid, officially known as coastal pelagic species (CPS),

are already well managed under both federal and state fishery management plans, which prescribe precautionary harvest limits.

Consider the visionary management of Pacific sardines, the poster fish for ecosystem-based management. A risk-averse formula is in place that ensures when population numbers go down, the harvest also goes down. Conversely, when more sardines are available, more harvest is allowed, but the maximum cap is set far below the maximum sustainable harvest level.

In 2011, the U.S. West Coast 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? Of course not, and scientists agree.

A 2012 study by a panel of 13 scientists from around the world known as the Lenfest Forage Fish Task Force concluded that while overfishing of forage species is problematic on a global scale, the West Coast is not being overfished.

Indeed they noted that the Pacific Coast is, “ahead of other parts of the world in how it manages some forage fish.” The region has “stricter monitoring and more conservative limits that could serve as a buffer against future crashes.”

Knowledgeable people know that this is no accident. Fishing families have historically worked with regulators to protect our wetfish fisheries.

In fact, more than a decade ago, the Pacific Fishery Management Council adopted a management strategy for CPS 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. The sardine protection rate is even higher.

California also implemented a network of no-take marine reserves throughout our state’s waters. Reserves established at specific bird rookery and marine mammal haul-out sites — for example near the Farallon Islands, Año Nuevo, and Southern California’s Channel Islands — were enacted to protect forage fish. More than 30 percent of traditional squid harvest grounds are now closed in reserve.

Hopefully these facts will prevail and dispel the hype. California has been recognized by internationally respected scientists as having one of the lowest fishery harvest rates in the world. It’s one of only a few areas deemed “sustainable.” (Rebuilding Global Fisheries, Science 2009).