The Blog Aquatic

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The Blog Aquatic

News, opinions, photos and facts from Ocean Conservancy

About Ellen Bolen

Ellen Bolen is Ocean Conservancy's Director of Fishery Conservation.

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The House Draft Fisheries Bill Doesn’t Add Up

Posted On February 27, 2014 by

Photo: Sara Thomas

In elementary school, we learned through basic math that 1 + 1 = 2 and 2 x 2 = 4. As we grew up, math became more complicated with different variables and formulas, but we always knew that 1 + 1 = 2 and 2 x 2 = 4. Fisheries math is not all that different.

Each year, scientists at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration use fishery math and science to determine how many fish can be removed from fisheries in a sustainable manner, and the number of fish that can be removed is called the annual catch limit (ACL). If species fall below a level that is sustainable, managers put in a rebuilding plan – a roadmap to rebuild the stock to a healthy level.

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Something Fishy in Congress

Posted On January 17, 2014 by

Red Snapper fish

Fish might not be the cutest animals in the ocean, but healthy fish populations are critical for the ocean and coastal communities. In the past decade, we’ve made meaningful progress toward ending overfishing in U.S. waters and rebuilding fish populations. And we have a little law with a long name to thank: the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act (MSA).

Why is this law so important? Fisherman Clem Tillion can tell you the story of what he’s experienced firsthand. Clem moved to Alaska after World War II and says that “by the late 1950s, nearly all the salmon fisheries were down to just a ghost of their past.” But, thanks to the protection of fish habitat under the MSA, by 2011 Alaska’s salmon fisheries had rebounded.

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Ocean Conservancy Welcomes Eileen Sobeck to NOAA Fisheries

Posted On January 16, 2014 by

Granite Point, Point Lobos, California

© Feo Pitcairn

Yesterday, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) named Eileen Sobeck as the new assistant administrator for NOAA Fisheries, better known as the National Marine Fisheries Service. As assistant administrator, she will oversee the management and conservation of all marine life within the U.S. exclusive economic zone, from coastal habitat to bluefin tuna and everything in between. Given the breadth of her job, it’s a good thing that Ms. Sobeck is no stranger to NOAA or ocean issues. She worked in the NOAA Office of the General Counsel from 1979 to 1984, and she currently serves as the acting assistant secretary of the Department of the Interior’s Office of Insular Affairs.

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U.S. Is Successfully Ending Overfishing and We Can’t Afford to Stop Now

Posted On September 9, 2013 by

A fisherman catches red snapper

Photo: Tom McCann / Ocean Conservancy

Together Americans are solving a problem—overfishing—and we can’t afford to stop now. Ending overfishing means sustainable fishing for generations to come. It means healthy seafood on our dinner plates and sustained livelihoods across the country.

Our nation’s vital fisheries law, the Magnuson-Stevens Fisheries Conservation & Management Act, has already helped rebuild fish populations like New England scallops, Mid-Atlantic bluefish, Pacific lingcod and Gulf red snapper. A new report by the National Research Council says 43 percent of overfished populations have been rebuilt already or will be rebuilt within a decade. And if we continue to allow the Magnuson-Stevens Act to work, another 31 percent of these populations are on track toward rebuilding as well.

The report also highlights the challenges and complexities of trying to evaluate fisheries science and make decisions about catch limits and other management measures. In the face of those challenges, however, we are seeing success and must continue on this path for the long haul.

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Don’t Mess With Success

Posted On July 23, 2013 by

fishermen load scallops onto a boatThanks to the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act, our nation now benefits from dozens of rebuilt fish populations. But even as we have seen remarkable progress made, we have also seen an increase in political challenges that threaten this crucial law.

This vital US. fishing law is due to be reauthorized this year, and this morning the Senate will hold a hearing to discuss the progress made under the law and next steps for U.S. fisheries management.

Lawmakers should strengthen the law to ensure continued progress in transitioning our fisheries to long term sustainability. Just one example of recent efforts: last week’s historic decision to increase red snapper catch limits in the Gulf due to success in restoring the population back to healthy levels.

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10 Key Facts About Red Snapper

Posted On May 20, 2013 by

Red snapper (Lutjanus campechanus) are one of the Gulf of Mexico’s signature fish.  They are extremely popular among recreational fishermen and a prized offering at restaurants and seafood markets, as well as a top predator in the Gulf ecosystem. Recently there has been a great deal of debate about the health and management of this important fish. Ocean Conservancy, along with Pew Charitable Trusts, has released a report about the law that is saving American fisheries, including red snapper. Here are few handy facts about this iconic fish:

  1. Red snapper can grow to about 40 inches, weigh up to 50 pounds and live more than 50 years.
  2. Red snapper begin to reproduce when they are about two years old, spawning from May to October along rocky ledges or coral reefs.
  3. Fertilized eggs float on the surface and hatch within a day. Only a month later, the young fish settle out of the water column in shallow waters, and as they get older, they move to structured habitat where they will mature and eventually move to the deeper waters of the Gulf. Continue reading »

Trash Talk on Capitol Hill

Posted On December 17, 2012 by

That’s not an oil slick — it’s debris from last year’s Japanese tsunami that washed into the ocean. Credit: U.S. Pacific Fleet flickr stream

There’s plenty of trash talk on Capitol Hill these days – but probably not the kind you are thinking about. It’s not talk about the fiscal cliff or the elections, it’s all the recent talk on the Hill about ocean trash. Recently we heard that the government of Japan gave the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration $5 million to address the ongoing problem of marine debris that resulted from the 2011 tsunami, the President’s disaster request for Superstorm Sandy included a request for funds to assess marine debris and, perhaps the trashiest conversation of all, the House and Senate passed the Marine Debris Reauthorization Act.

Last Wednesday night, after months of hard work by staff in both chambers – and on both sides of the aisle – the Senate passed the Marine Debris Reauthorization Act as part of the Coast Guard Reauthorization bill.  The House passed the bill last week.  Perhaps you are wondering what reauthorization even means. (I’m not sure schoolhouse Rock covered this portion of lawmaking.)

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