Posts Tagged sardine

Jun 7 2019

California Wetfish Producers Association Recognizes Ocean Week With Video on the Latest in Sardine, Anchovy Science

BUELLTON, Ca. — June 6, 2019 — This week, the National Marine Sanctuary Foundation (NMSF) is convening Capitol Hill Ocean Week in Washington, D.C. Additionally, President Trump has declared the month of June “National Ocean Month” in recognition of the importance of the ocean to the economy, national security, and environment of the United States.

For the duration of Ocean Week, Saving Seafood will share materials related to the sustainable and economically vital U.S. commercial fishing and seafood industries, including information tied directly to events being organized as part of the NMSF conference.

The following was released by the California Wetfish Producers Association:

In recent years, fisheries managers have made devastating cuts to California’s sardine and anchovy fisheries based on reports that populations of the two species have sharply declined. However, the California Wetfish Producers Association (CWPA) is marking Ocean Week 2019 with a video documenting new research that shows increasing populations of both species in nearshore waters.

The CWPA has been working in cooperation with the California Department of Fish and Wildlife and the Southwest Fisheries Science Center to develop sampling methods to assess sardine and anchovy in nearshore waters missed by NOAA’s acoustic trawl surveys. This research shows that both species are abundant in nearshore waters not surveyed by NOAA – in fact, approximately 70 percent of California coastal pelagic species landings are harvested in waters not surveyed in federal stock assessments.

More accurate biomass estimates and stock assessments for coastal pelagic species will benefit sustainable harvest policies, the fishermen and seafood processors who produce these species, and fishing communities and seafood consumers who rely on them.

“We’re doing [this research] partly to improve the science in cooperation both with federal and state fishery biologists,” says Diane Pleschner-Steele, executive director of CWPA, in the video. “And we’re doing it to save our lives.”

Watch the video here

About the California Wetfish Producers Association
The non-profit California Wetfish Producers Association (CWPA) was established in 2004 to promote sustainable fisheries and foster cooperative research. Voluntary membership includes the majority of wetfish harvesters and processors operating in California.

Aug 19 2013

California Wetfish Producers Association

CWPA Logo - June 2013California’s fishing industry was built largely on ‘wetfish’, so called because historically these fish were canned ‘wet from the sea’, with minimal preprocessing. Sardines, mackerel, anchovy and market squid (now called coastal pelagic species) have contributed the lion’s share of California’s commercial seafood harvest since the turn of the 20th century.

The enterprise of immigrant fishermen founded California’s wetfish industry, building up the ports of Monterey and San Pedro, San Diego and San Francisco. Today’s wetfish industry is a traditional industry with a contemporary outlook: streamlined and efficient, but still peopled by fourth and fifth-generation fishing families. Today the sons and daughters continue the enterprise begun by their fathers and grandfathers 100 years ago.

Transformed from its storied beginning, California’s wetfish industry remains an essential part of the state’s fishing culture, as well as a key contributor to our fishing economy, producing more than 80 percent of the volume and 40 percent of dockside value of all commercial fishery landings statewide.

Coastal pelagic species are also among the Golden State’s most important seafood exports. In a state that imports more than 86 percent of its seafood, the wetfish complex contributes close to 80 percent of all seafood exports, helping to offset the seafood trade imbalance.

This industry has invested in cooperative research since the beginning of the California Cooperative Fishery Investigations (CalCOFI) in the 1940s, when wetfish fishermen assessed their harvest to help fund the research partnership developed among the California Department of Fish and Game, Scripps Institution of Oceanography and the Southwest Fisheries Science Center (SWFSC).

Wetfish industry leadership established the nonprofit California Wetfish Producers Association (CWPA) in 2004, including fishermen and processors who produce most of the harvest statewide. CWPA’s mission promotes education, communication, and cooperative research to ensure sustainable fisheries.

Today CWPA’s research program continues the CalCOFI tradition, collaborating with the California Department of Fish and Wildlife and Southwest Fishery Science Center to expand knowledge of coastal pelagic species.

Read the full story here.

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 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


Oct 24 2012

Silvery fish bend a law of physics

Silvery fish such as herring, sardine and sprat are “breaking” the basic physics law of reflection, according to a study from the University of Bristol published this week in Nature Photonics.

Silvery fish. (Photo: Monterey Bay Aquarium/Rick Browne)

Reflective surfaces polarize light, but PhD student Tom Jordan and his supervisors Professor Julian Partridge and Dr Nicholas Roberts in Bristol’s School of Biological Sciences have discovered that these silvery fish have defeated this basic law of reflection, which helps protect them from predators.

Until now, it was believed that the fish’s skin, which contains “multilayer” arrangements of reflective guanine crystals, would fully polarize light when reflected, thereby reducing reflectivity and making them more visible to predators.

Full story here.

Oct 17 2012

DFG and Partners use Aircraft and Submersible Camera to Count Pacific Sardine

Department of Fish and Game (DFG) pilots and biologists, along with partners, used new technological tools above and below the water to study the sardine fishery.

DFG, in partnership with the California Wetfish Producers Association, flew over Southern California waters in DFG’s Partenavia P68 Observer aircraft to complete surveys for Pacific sardine in coastal waters. Also for the first time, DFG confirmed the aerial identification of the fish from a vessel positioned on the schools, using a submersible video camera. During the August surveys, DFG biologists photographed schools of sardine to capture distribution and abundance.

“These surveys will help DFG to manage this sustainable fishery and add to our limited understanding of sardine distribution throughout the Southern California Bight,” said Michelle Horeczko, Senior Environmental Scientist on the Coastal Pelagic Species Project. “Data from these surveys may also be used by West Coast scientists as part of a new effort to look at the full range of sardine data from Canada to Mexico.”

Continue reading full story here.


Mar 11 2011

Reuters Video: Millions of Dead Fish Puzzle Californians

Aug 25 2010

Sardine study assisted by local scientists, pilots, fishermen

Comprehensive count will help determine fishing season

By TODD GUILD, Watsonville Register-Pajaronian
Aug. 24, 2010

In an effort to give scientists and the fishing industry a comprehensive picture of sardine populations along the West Coast, two fishing boats from Moss Landing and one small plane from Watsonville are taking part in a large-scale study of the small fish that once powered the Monterey Bay’s economy.

Since July, a team of scientists has been plying the waters along the West Coast to study the sardine schools, a project intended to give researchers a better picture of the populations of sardines and allow the fisheries industry to better regulate sardine fishing seasons.

The sardine season, which is loosely scheduled from January through August but is largely determined by tonnage caught, has closed for the year, however. The West Coast sardine survey will include fishermen with special permits and spotter planes that will fly and photograph transects at 15-mile intervals from Cape Flattery in Washington to San Diego.

The study was launched when government reports of sharply-declining populations over the past three years contrasted with sardine harvesters’ reports of huge schools.

According to Dr. Doyle Hanan, a retired senior marine biologist from the California Department of Fish and Game who is heading up the California portion of the study, the sardine fishery is considered one of the more sustainable ones. Few other species are accidentally caught and the population of sardines is so high that there is little chance of overfishing, he said.

Still, the study, which is estimated to cost more than $5 million and is funded by the California Wetfish Producers Association and the Pacific Fisheries Management Council, is an important one that will give scientists and the sardine industry the most detailed picture to date of the populations extending from Canada to Southern California, Hanan said.

“We want to ensure that we know how many fish are out there, and that we’re harvesting them at a sustainable level,” Hanan said.

During the study, a fleet of small planes mounted with high-resolution cameras will fly over the ocean along the length of the West Coast and as far out as 76 miles to look for telltale signs of large schools of sardines.

Researchers will then estimate the total surface areas of the schools, then boats to take samples of the fish, which will be measured and weighed.

Allen Hewett of Aptos is the pilot helping with the Central Coast portion of the study. As he flies 4,000 feet above the water, he said he looks for signs of the sardines, such as huge flocks of birds and pods of whales feasting on the little fish.

“When you see 80 tons of sardines from the air, it’s something to see,” he said.

The two boats participating in the study have been given special permission to catch and sell the sardines, but profits from the sales will help fund the study, Hanan said.

Another team of boats and planes are helping with the Southern California study, while an additional team works the area north of the Oregon border.

“The scientific goal of our groundbreaking project is to photo-document and measure the schools of sardines extending the length of the Pacific coast, and ultimately to understand their migration patterns to ensure sustainability,” said Diane Pleschner-Steele, executive director of CWPA. “This aerial survey will dramatically increase our knowledge of the Pacific Coast sardine population and could also improve future fishing opportunities, which have suffered greatly in recent years.”

Results will be compiled and presented at a sardine stock assessment review panel in September and may be used to help determine the estimated abundance of the Pacific sardine resource and help fisheries management officials determine the 2011 harvest guideline.