Ocean Currents » Corey Ridings http://blog.oceanconservancy.org News, opinions, photos and facts from Ocean Conservancy Thu, 27 Apr 2017 13:00:06 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=3.4.2 Manliest Catch: The Lack of Women in Fisheries and Why Diversity Makes Us Stronger http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2017/03/09/manliest-catch-the-lack-of-women-in-fisheries-and-why-diversity-makes-us-stronger/ http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2017/03/09/manliest-catch-the-lack-of-women-in-fisheries-and-why-diversity-makes-us-stronger/#comments Thu, 09 Mar 2017 14:00:06 +0000 Corey Ridings http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/?p=13873

In honor of International Women’s Day, we’re celebrating stand out #WomeninConservtion all week long. Here, Corey Ridings, a Policy Analyst with our Sustainable Fisheries team, reflects on the representation of women in fisheries management

Our ocean fish populations are managed in a unique system where stakeholders take a lead role in crafting management strategies. But historical patterns have resulted in significant underrepresentation of women in this process.

America’s federal fisheries are largely managed by a group of stakeholder councils that include 116 voting members across eight regions. The original vision for this system, outlined in 1976 by Congress, was bold and idealistic: directly include those with local interests and regional experience in the management process. Membership includes state managers, federal agency representatives and stakeholders nominated by state Governors and appointed by the Secretary of Commerce.

While this politicized system has its successes and failures, for better or worse it is a rare example of the public managing its own natural resource. However, in reality, most Councils do not look like the public they represent and serve: less than one in five members are women, and almost all are socially-identified as white.

This lack of diversity is not limited to the Council meeting room, but is also common on the decks of commercial fishing boats across the country. Of 185,263 commercial fishermen in federal fisheries, we can list nearly all the women by name. Exclusion isn’t just a matter or physical ability, but in many cases is based solely on cultural norms.

This is not just a hypothetical issue for me–I have experienced it firsthand. As an observer in the Alaskan groundfish fleet, I had the rare opportunity to live and work on a commercial vessel. I loved it. The raw beauty of the ocean, the Alaskan landscape, the pain of physical labor and the extreme isolation that is almost impossible to find today. I’ve also worked in fisheries policy, first in Congress and now as an advocate for sustainable fisheries. While the opposite of isolation, it is a joy to work with scientists, managers and industry representatives who have devoted their lives to sustainable fisheries.

That’s why this matters. American fishing communities need governance that supports them and the stocks they fish for, and a healthy ecosystem that sustains both. To do this requires using more than fifty percent of your talent pool and allowing in women. If Seahawks coach Pete Carroll left half of his team on the bench, he’d never win.

On the West Coast we’re seeing a “graying of the fleet,” where the average age is likely above fifty and young fishermen are few and far between, and this trend is mirrored in other regions. American fisheries are among the strongest in the world, largely due to laws that keep fish stocks at healthy levels and protect the environment, but this achievement was hard-won over decades of lessons learned from overfishing and the consequent harm to communities and the environment. Today’s management success is fraught and regionalized, especially in the face of climate change.

It’s time to include women. Opening up our fishing fleet to nearly twice as many more people who can bring creativity and a fresh approach could fundamentally improve the way we fish and eat seafood. Bringing more women into the meeting room does the same; studies have shown the benefit of women in governance. Among them, women are more democratic in their governance style with increased emphasis on consensus building and collaboration.

The economic case for including women is obvious, but as an American the case for equality is even more important to me. Diversity in our fisheries will only make us stronger.

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This is How the Government is Preparing for Climate Change http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2016/06/28/this-is-how-the-government-is-preparing-for-climate-change/ http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2016/06/28/this-is-how-the-government-is-preparing-for-climate-change/#comments Tue, 28 Jun 2016 13:00:35 +0000 Corey Ridings http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/?p=12374

The National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) just took a huge step in preparing our ocean, fisheries and coastal communities for climate change. This type of foresight and required coordination is difficult, and hasn’t happened as often as it should in the past. The Western Regional Action Plan (WRAP) lays out why and how NFMS will develop, use, and apply science that helps West Coast fishery managers prepare for climate change.

In recent years, the California Current experienced a “climate change stress test.” Extremes such as rapidly warming waters contributed to a downturn in forage species like sardine, a northern shift of some fish stocks, and concerning mortality events for predator species like sea lions. These events are early signs of how more fundamental and permanent change will manifest themselves. Long-term changes cascade through the food web, affecting marine life as small as plankton at the base of the food chain, to top predators such as sharks. Humans are not immune; the shape of economically and culturally important fish stocks will shift (see an example from the Atlantic Ocean), and we’ll be forced to change the way we fish and eat.

The WRAP takes us further than ever before in addressing approaching ocean changes. NMFS identifies a better understanding of climate variability as critical to fulfilling their mission, and recognizes the significant impacts environmental change has on public trust resources. Ocean Conservancy, Wild Oceans, and others have asked NMFS to follow-through on their plan, and provided recommendations that will help move the plan forward. Help us thank NMFS and let them know their work matters.

According to Dr. John Stein and Dr. Cisco Werner, Directors of the Northwest and Southwest Fisheries Science Centers:

Climate variability drives the ecosystems of the California Current. Our multi-pronged WRAP approach will help us anticipate likely changes in distribution and abundance of our West Coast marine species and guide our response.  This effort complements our existing ecosystem management approaches, including NOAA’s Integrated Ecosystem Assessment and Climate Vulnerability and Analysis to meet the demands for climate-related information and support NMFS and regional decisions.“ 

In implementing the WRAP, we urge NMFS to prioritize science that draws clear lines to management; science in and of itself will not prepare our fisheries and dependent communities for climate change. This process is not linear, but an iterative conversation between NMFS scientists, managers, and the public. In order to accomplish this, NMFS must also better understand the social and economic underpinnings of a healthy ecosystem. That means better incorporating humans into the way we think about ecosystem and fisheries science.

We look forward to implementation of the WRAP, and realizing a more robust ecosystem and healthy fisheries as a result. We also recognize this is just one part of a larger vision for managing our fisheries as part of a resilient and thriving California Current – more coordinated strategies are needed from NMFS as well as other federal agencies, state governments, and concerned citizens.

This blog was co-authored by Ocean Conservancy’s Corey Ridings and Wild Oceans’ Theresa Labriola.

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A Weekend with the FisherPoets http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2016/03/09/a-weekend-with-the-fisherpoets/ http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2016/03/09/a-weekend-with-the-fisherpoets/#comments Wed, 09 Mar 2016 14:30:02 +0000 Corey Ridings http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/?p=11592

Every year a crowd of fisherman and fishing community members gather in Astoria, Oregon, to share stories, recite poetry and sing music. FisherPoets, founded by a small group of Pacific Northwest fisherman in 1998, is an opportunity for the commercial small-boat community, friends and locals to gather together away from the docks. No trips to the store, no scrubbing of decks, no mending of nets. Just friends, family and plenty to drink.

Performers come from as far away as Maine, Connecticut and Arkansas, but most are residents of the Western Coast of the U.S. and Canada. Six venues open their doors for Friday and Saturday evening, including the Astoria event center, a sizable hall where the culminating poetry contest is held. Several thousand people attend the event, making it weekend highlight for usually quiet town most commonly known as the place where the Goonies was filmed. Lack of treasure-laden pirate ships aside, the weekend could not have been more fun.

Check out images from the event below!

Right on the waterfront The Columbia Theater I see a door and I want it painted fish. Fish is more than just a dish in Astoria, it visibly permeates the culture of the town. At the Silver Salmon Grille a friendly face invites patrons in. A waterfront view of Astoria, Oregon Not everyone was at FisherPoets. Astoria has transformed into a weekend destination for Portlanders and anyone visiting the Pacific coast, but part of its tourist appeal is the working waterfront. Fish processing plants and industry still inhabit the downtown boardwalk. Here, a pilot goes out to a barge and helps it maneuver into the Columbia. These guys did plenty of barking and fishing, but I never saw them at the event… Mark Lovewell, a reporter and photographer from Martha’s Vineyard, Massachusetts, who professionally focused on the commercial island fleet for over twenty years, performs a sea shanty at the Astoria Event Center. Nancy Cook, a former fisheries observer, MCs at the Voodoo Room Saturday night.  She performed an “observer operetta” the previous evening, bringing down the house with an all-too-relatable story of observer romance. Maria Finn shocks and awes with stories of commercial fishing in Alaska. Maria is releasing a novel based on her experiences, and Amy set-nets for salmon in Bristol Bay in the summer. Alan Lovewell, founder and CEO of Real Good Fish, shares stories about the importance of sustainable fisheries and what helping maintain a viable fleet in California means to him. Real Good Fish is a community supported fishery based in Moss Landing, California, which seeks to support local small-boat fisherman by providing a stable market of fresh, sustainable, locally-caught fish to residents of the Monterey Bay and Greater Bay Area.
Images courtesy of Corey Ridings

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How to Protect Endangered Albatross http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2015/12/09/how-to-protect-endangered-albatross/ http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2015/12/09/how-to-protect-endangered-albatross/#comments Wed, 09 Dec 2015 14:30:59 +0000 Corey Ridings http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/?p=11199

The National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) has some exciting news for seabirds: Streamer lines are now required in the Pacific Coast Groundfish Fishery! Break out the squid and champagne! Ok, just kidding on the champagne, but as a species that often mates for life, the short-tailed albatross knows something about romance.

This final rule means that fishing vessels 55 feet or longer now require streamer lines to deter seabirds from becoming hooked or caught in fishing line, and that the endangered short-tailed albatross—along with other West Coast bird species—is now better protected. The rule was recommended by the Pacific Fishery Management Council in 2013 due to the impact the Pacific groundfish fishery has on the albatross, whose population size is an estimated 600 nesting pairs, significantly down from historical numbers in the millions.

The survival of this species is threatened by multiple stressors, including changes in food concentration and location, contact with fishing vessels and plastic debris. A paper released in 2013 showed high levels of interaction between the Pacific Coast Groundfish Fishery and the albatross; the albatross, unable to see hooks or fishing line, can accidentally ingest the hooks or become entangled in fishing line.

Streamer lines, used widely in Alaska with high rates of success, were naturally part of the solution. They are relatively low cost and easy for fisherman to use, and were shown to significantly help keep albatross away. In fact, they are already being used voluntarily by some fisherman in the fleet.

Here’s how they work: Bright orange tubing is vertically suspended from a line above the water. The birds are startled by the color and movement, and the baited hooks are safe as they go into the water. This keeps the birds from getting entangled in the fishing line or encountering a hook. Bait is preserved and fishing line remains untangled, making life easier for fisherman and bird alike.

NMFS’s action finalizes a good example of how science, good management, and fishermen initiative can allow low-tech, inexpensive equipment to put a major dent in a real problem. Seabirds face many uncertainties as their environment changes, but this final rule gives them a better chance for survival, and hopefully many more years of winged romance.

For more about the short-tailed albatross’ amazing recovery, please see an inspiring story by our colleagues at Audubon.

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A Canary in the Ocean Coal Mine http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2015/06/19/a-canary-in-the-ocean-coal-mine/ http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2015/06/19/a-canary-in-the-ocean-coal-mine/#comments Fri, 19 Jun 2015 15:30:17 +0000 Corey Ridings http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/?p=10336

Another crucial U.S. fish stock is rebuilt, reinforcing the importance of a strong Magnuson-Stevens Act

Earlier this week federal managers of West Coast U.S. fish stocks found that canary rockfish is rebuilt. This is great news for fishermen, seafood consumers, and conservationists, as it means a healthy population that puts more fresh seafood on American plates and supports a stronger ocean ecosystem. Canary rockfish is important in its own right as a species, but this finding allows for increased fishing of other fish populations that swim alongside it – canary is common as bycatch, or non-targeted species that also get caught in fishing gear, and increased catch levels will enable greater fishing opportunities of other species.

The Pacific Fishery Management Council, the federal group that co-manages our nation’s fisheries off of Washington, Oregon, and California approved the analysis done by NOAA Fisheries today, starting what will most likely be a revision of catch limits, and an official update to the “Status of Stocks,” NOAA Fisheries’ official score-keeping tabulation of stocks nationally.

A rebuilt population declaration comes as a bit of a surprise; canary rockfish were in year 15 of an updated 29-year rebuilding plan. Canary was found to be overfished in 2000 after unsustainable fishing pressure in the 1980s and 1990s and a rebuilding plan that reduced catch and set limitations on fishing gear was put in place to rebuild the population from less than 6% of the historic population size. That means this good news of rebuilding shouldn’t have arrived until 2029. But better data, an improved model for assessing the health of the species, and good recruitment (the number of eggs that survive to become young fish in a given year and replenish a population, a highly variable feature in many fish), and a commitment to rebuilding by managers and fishermen led to this outcome sooner than expected. Some top-notch science, a boost from nature, and a robust rebuilding strategy paid off.

Although this good news is cause for celebration, it is also a reminder of why we must remain vigilant. A changing climate and unstable ocean conditions mean shifts in fish stock productivity, and likely other ecosystem changes we have yet to foresee.

Ironically, Congress is in the midst of rolling back the mandate for rebuilding programs such as this one. If the Magnuson-Stevens Act reauthorization bill that passed the House of Representatives earlier this month becomes law, successes such as this will become rarer. Opponents want “flexibility” to increase fishing opportunities and continue overfishing today; however this short-sighted approach would push rebuilding even further into the future, costing fishermen, seafood consumers, and the ecosystem in the meantime.

A rebuilt canary population should be more than just a happy tweet, but also a timely reminder of what rebuilding can accomplish and a warning to stay strong on critical requirements of the law.

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Quietly, Without Fanfare, Another Step Forward in Protecting the World’s Largest Fish http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2015/02/19/quietly-without-fanfare-another-step-forward-in-protecting-the-worlds-largest-fish/ http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2015/02/19/quietly-without-fanfare-another-step-forward-in-protecting-the-worlds-largest-fish/#comments Thu, 19 Feb 2015 17:32:18 +0000 Corey Ridings http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/?p=9912

In June of 2013 the international body that manages tuna fish in the Eastern Pacific Ocean drafted and approved a resolution to protect whale sharks. The resolution isn’t groundbreaking; the New York Times didn’t report, Anderson Cooper wasn’t on the scene, and Greenpeace didn’t raise the flag. In fact, in the year it took to make U.S. compliance official via rulemaking in September 2014, even the fish-heads and whale shark lovers here at Ocean Conservancy barely noticed. This is a good thing.

Too often fisheries management is mired in relatively small, but high-profile, fights. The fact that the Inter-American Tropical Tuna Commission (IATTC) quietly prohibited tuna fishermen, who hail from many nations around the Pacific, from using whale sharks as de facto Fish Aggregating Devices (FADs) marks another small but important step towards saving some of the world’s most iconic species and preserving a healthy ocean.

FADs are physical objects placed in the ocean by fisherman that encourage fish to congregate around them. They make catching multiple fish at a single time easier. In this case some fishermen were using a live “FAD,” aka the whale shark, as a way to catch fish. Unfortunately they were catching the whale shark at the same time. But no longer, at least by international agreement.

It is perhaps fitting that such a small victory was regarding such a large animal. Whale sharks are the world’s largest fish, and are objectively one of the most beautiful creatures that live in the ocean. Often confused with whales (for obvious reasons) they are striking creatures with highly distinctive coloration and grow as large as school buses. They are listed as vulnerable by the International Union for Conservation of Nature, with fishermen in some parts of the world still targeting them for food. Their life history traits make them especially vulnerable to overfishing though, and beyond new measures like the one made by the IATTC, additional efforts around the world are needed to ensure their survival. Fortunately, other small, lower-profile efforts are already underway in other parts of the world…

Donsol, Philippines. The World Wildlife Fund for Nature (WWF), in collaboration with the local government, operates an eco-tourism program where domestic and foreign tourists swim with whale sharks, while ensuring conservation measures are met… Former local fishermen are employed as guides, and boat operators spend the season motoring snorkel-clad tourists between whale sharks and the beach. Donsol, a sleepy town on the southern tip of the island of Luzon, has emerged as a destination resort town with whale shark tourism supporting much of the local economy. Hand-painted whale sharks grace the walls of the local elementary school, and the smell of delicious Bicolano cooking (think seafood meets coconut and chili pepper) wafts from the town center. Donsol serves as an example of how some species are worth more in the water than in a net to the local community – the economic effects from tourists and the value of the whale sharks to the natural ecosystem outweigh the money to be gained through the sale of whale shark as meat.

This model is taking root across the globe, as coastal towns like Donsol support themselves economically and conserve natural resources at the same time. These communities are well-aware of the conservation threats and consequences that exist in their waters, but lack of local opportunity can leave people with little choice, but to harvest local resources as a matter of survival. Local innovations are now giving people other choices.

The ocean needs these small, barely noticed victories, as they add up to a larger picture of a world that cares deeply about the state of our oceans. They are politically inexpensive, but they matter. They also important because they are forward-looking – resolving and preventing issues that are relatively small now, but could become a much larger threat if allowed to continue and grow. A single platform cannot provide the depth or breadth needed to solve a problem as large and complex as preserving the ocean’s biggest fish. Diplomats and bureaucrats making quiet, low-profile advances, and coastal communities trying something new in hopes of economic security and conservation, these are vastly different arenas and actors but both necessary. They aren’t sexy, and don’t get much attention, but are vital to ocean politics and management that can maintain a thriving ocean.

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“Shifts Happen”: Maine’s Fishing Communities Talk Climate Change http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2013/08/12/shifts-happen-maines-fishing-communities-talk-climate-change/ http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2013/08/12/shifts-happen-maines-fishing-communities-talk-climate-change/#comments Mon, 12 Aug 2013 21:00:14 +0000 Corey Ridings http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/?p=6502 Lobster boats in Maine

Photo: rkleine via Flickr

On a recent day that would otherwise have been perfect for fishing, a group of Maine fishermen and lobstermen opted to remain indoors. They gathered to discuss an issue serious enough to tie up the boats: the future of fishing in the face of climate change.

Increasing carbon pollution and its impacts on the ocean is something that may seem distant and far away for many. But fishermen are seeing changes now and living new realities today. Members of Maine’s fishing communities met recently to discuss these changes during a workshop hosted by the Island Institute, a Maine group dedicated to sustaining local coastal communities.

Shifting fish populations due to warming waters are bringing new species to Maine and pushing others out. Lobsters are more plentiful than ever, a would-be boon except for an excess of “shedders” (also thought to be because of a warming ocean) that sell for a much lower rate than the usual hard-shelled individuals.

Green crabs, an invasive species, have moved north as waters have warmed, and are eating their way through the local shoreline, leading local clammer Walt Coffin to conclude, “We’ll be out of business in two years.”

Ocean acidification is another issue fishermen are contending with today. This process is occurring because of excess carbon pollution being absorbed by the ocean, resulting in an increase in the ocean’s acidity, which spells trouble for shell-building animals. While not as immediate or visible as a swarm of invasive crabs, it also has the potential to seriously damage local industries and cripple economically important fish stocks.

We already know that ocean acidification has caused alarming losses in the Pacific Northwest shellfish industry, and the East Coast is becoming equally concerned about how acidification will impact commercially important fish species.

There is no easy answer, but there is agreement from industry, scientists and conservationists alike—we can and must do something to ensure a future for our iconic fishing and shellfish industries in the face of these threats.

Change can’t come from the waterfront alone though. Local, state and federal leadership is needed to tackle a problem of this proportion. The Maine legislature illustrated this in June, when it passed a resolution recognizing ocean acidification as “a threat to Maine’s coastal economy, communities and way of life.” The resolution cites reasons for action including the high susceptibility of the Gulf of Maine to ocean acidification and the value of fisheries to Maine’s economy (over $600 million in 2012 for those who are counting).

In light of all the challenges the New England fisheries are facing, it’s hard to even think about a future threat so dark and seemingly hard to address as climate change and ocean acidification. But the workshop was inspiring despite the dire predictions. It is clear that solutions are out there, members of the fishing community want to take action and management can respond.

In summing up the meeting that day, speaker Mike Fogarty said, “shifts happen.” The real question is how we respond to them.

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