The Blog Aquatic » Ellen Bolen http://blog.oceanconservancy.org News, opinions, photos and facts from Ocean Conservancy Tue, 12 Aug 2014 18:48:05 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=3.4.2 Stop Congress from Fishing for Trouble http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2014/07/31/stop-congress-from-fishing-for-trouble/ http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2014/07/31/stop-congress-from-fishing-for-trouble/#comments Thu, 31 Jul 2014 13:00:35 +0000 Ellen Bolen http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/?p=8813

© Wesley Hitt / Alamy

We’ve made incredible progress in reversing overfishing. This has been good for both the environment and jobs in fishing. Through smart fishery legislation, we’ve been able to bring back fish populations that were crashing due to years of overfishing.

But all of our progress is about to be destroyed! In the House of Representatives, Rep. Hastings (R-WA) is working to reverse the very legislation that has brought our ocean and fishermen such success. Rep. Hastings is trying to pass legislation that would create a new law that would allow overfishing and would eliminate deadlines to rebuild fish populations.


We can’t let this happen. Decades of progress will be reversed if this new legislation is passed. Will you help protect our ocean from overfishing?

Please take action today and tell your Congressional Representative to vote NO to Rep. Hastings’ legislation when it comes to the floor.

Healthy fish populations are essential to ocean ecosystems and to the local economies that depend on them. Please take action today! Together, we can truly make a difference.

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Former Bush and Obama Officials Agree: Congress Must Stop Magnuson-Stevens Roll Backs http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2014/05/09/former-bush-and-obama-officials-agree-congress-must-stop-magnuson-stevens-roll-backs/ http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2014/05/09/former-bush-and-obama-officials-agree-congress-must-stop-magnuson-stevens-roll-backs/#comments Fri, 09 May 2014 20:25:22 +0000 Ellen Bolen http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/?p=8258

“Healthy oceans and well-managed fisheries improve coastal economies, enhance recreational fishing opportunities and provide fresh, local seafood to consumers.”

Hard to argue with that logic, right? We need well-managed fisheries to support millions of American jobs, and a healthy ocean environment. We have legislation in the United States, the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act (MSA) that does an excellent job of managing our fisheries for people and the environment. This is why it’s surprising that there are some members of Congress who are trying to roll back key components of the MSA. Two former Assistant Administrators in charge of Fisheries at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) took to Roll Call this week to argue that the MSA needs to remain strong. It’s hard to argue with their logic.  Dr. Hogarth served under President Bush from 2001 – 2007.  Mr. Schwaab held the same position under President Obama from 2010 – 2012.

Read their full article here.

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The House Draft Fisheries Bill Doesn’t Add Up http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2014/02/27/the-house-draft-fisheries-bill-doesnt-add-up/ http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2014/02/27/the-house-draft-fisheries-bill-doesnt-add-up/#comments Thu, 27 Feb 2014 14:00:37 +0000 Ellen Bolen http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/?p=7583

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.

Counting fish clearly isn’t nearly as easy as Dr. Seuss made it out to be (one fish, two fish, red fish, blue fish), but the simple equation of “science-based annual catch limits + adequate rebuilding timelines = healthy and sustainable fisheries” is generally accepted among members of the fishing community. No matter which way we frame it, science-based catch limits and adequate rebuilding timelines are key components to keep our fisheries healthy and the fishing industry in business.

But this equation is in jeopardy, and so are fish populations.

On Friday, Feb. 28, the House Natural Resources Committee will hold a hearing on the reauthorization of the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act (MSA), the primary law governing our nation’s fisheries. A draft bill proposed by Chairman Doc Hastings, however, would alter the formula that we know is working for our fisheries.

The Hastings proposal would subtract out some of the science-based provisions that have led to success on the water while adding in several exemptions to promote short-term economic gains. This equation does not equal success for our fisheries, coastal communities or the long-term viability of the fishing industry.

Overall, the reauthorization of the MSA + the Hastings language = The Empty Oceans Act.

Some may think that this equation is a bold statement, but all you have to do is look at the numbers in the draft language to realize that it’s true:

  • 5 – The number of years the draft bill would allow overfishing to occur
  • 3 – The number of fisheries that are exempted from applying ACLs
  • 4 –  The number of other environmental laws that are affected by Chairman Hastings’ draft by placing the interests of the fishing industry over those of endangered species, sensitive habitat and the environment
  • 5 – Exemptions to the successful rebuilding provisions in the House draft bill that regional fisheries management councils can use to delay rebuilding
  • 7 – The number of types of data – collected with taxpayer dollars on a public resource – not available to the public
  • 30 – The number of pages of Chairman Hastings’ draft bill it took to roll back almost 20 years of progress, including:
    • 32 fish stocks that have been fully rebuilt due to the reauthorization provisions in current law
    • 20 fish stocks that are no longer experiencing overfishing since 2007 due to science-based ACLs, a cornerstone of sustainable fisheries
    • 0 – The number of ways the draft bill builds upon the successful formula for sustainable fisheries and improves fisheries management

These numbers just don’t add up to successful and sustainable fisheries. These numbers add up to depleted fisheries and long-term economic consequences for fishermen and coastal communities. We don’t need to subtract from the law. We need to add provisions to help us manage fisheries in a dynamic and changing ocean.

All these numbers add up to are empty nets.

Take action and tell your members of Congress to reject the proposed language drafted by Hastings in order to protect our nation’s fisheries.

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Something Fishy in Congress http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2014/01/17/something-fishy-in-congress/ http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2014/01/17/something-fishy-in-congress/#comments Fri, 17 Jan 2014 14:02:17 +0000 Ellen Bolen http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/?p=7361

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.


Fisherman Donny Waters describes the success of the law’s science-based catch limits as “basically like putting your money in the bank and letting it compound.”

Ocean Conservancy has played a critical role in making the MSA a stronger tool for fish management and conservation. But today, we need your help to make sure Congress doesn’t cut the protection it has been providing to ocean ecosystems. Right now, Congress has introduced draft legislation that could roll back the progress we’ve made.

Your representative is critical to preventing this from happening. We need you to take action today.

Congress is only accepting public comment for a limited time, and may shut down your chance to be heard at any moment. Please, take action now to tell Congress to protect fish populations that are critical to the health of ocean ecosystems and to the local economies that depend on them.

The MSA has proven that it’s an effective tool to rebuild and protect healthy fish populations. Please, help us ensure that this success story continues for generations to come.

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Ocean Conservancy Welcomes Eileen Sobeck to NOAA Fisheries http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2014/01/16/ocean-conservancy-welcomes-eileen-sobeck-to-noaa-fisheries/ http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2014/01/16/ocean-conservancy-welcomes-eileen-sobeck-to-noaa-fisheries/#comments Thu, 16 Jan 2014 20:40:44 +0000 Ellen Bolen http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/?p=7354 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.

Ms. Sobeck takes the helm at a critical time for U.S. fisheries. During the past decade, significant progress has been made to end overfishing and rebuild dwindling fish populations in the United States. This progress, important from both ecological and economic standpoints, resulted from the implementation of the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act by fishery managers, regional officials and fishermen. But now that act is at risk as lawmakers attempt to weaken some of its key conservation provisions. Ms. Sobeck’s leadership within NOAA will be critical to ensure that we build upon the progress that we have made and prepare our fisheries and fishing communities for the impacts of a changing climate.

She will officially start in her new role on January 27. In the meantime, we thought you might like to get to know her a little better, especially her history with coastal and marine conservation:

  • She has an ocean sea slug species named after her! Two scientists named a species of nudibranch (a sea slug) in her honor after she assisted them with fieldwork in Papua New Guinea. The species is named Hallaxa hileenae. Hileen is the Papua New Guinea pidgin name for Eileen.
  • She was the co-chair of the U.S. Coral Reef Task Force. The task force worked to develop tools and methods to assess the impacts of climate change and ocean acidification on coral reefs.
  • She isn’t afraid to get her hands dirty for conservation. When she visited the Sarbanes Ecosystem Restoration Project as the deputy assistant secretary for Fish and Wildlife and Parks at the Department of the Interior, Sobeck volunteered to take over the painstaking task of painting 200 decoys which were critical for waterbird nesting season and Chesapeake Bay restoration.
  • She likes to get up close with the marine environment. She is an avid scuba diver, having recently returned from a trip to Indonesia.
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U.S. Is Successfully Ending Overfishing and We Can’t Afford to Stop Now http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2013/09/09/u-s-is-successfully-ending-overfishing-and-we-cant-afford-to-stop-now/ http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2013/09/09/u-s-is-successfully-ending-overfishing-and-we-cant-afford-to-stop-now/#comments Mon, 09 Sep 2013 20:20:14 +0000 Ellen Bolen http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/?p=6609 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.

On Wednesday, Ocean Conservancy’s Director of Ecosystem Conservation Programs, Chris Dorsett, will be testifying to this effect in front of Congress. He’ll be speaking about the broader success of the Magnuson-Stevens Act as well as some of the recommendations put forth in the National Research Council report, such as the need to look beyond one fish population at a time, taking into account the entire ecosystem in which they live.

In the case of successful fisheries management, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. Our best option is to avoid depleted populations in the first place by preventing overfishing. To ensure continued progress in transitioning our fisheries to long-term sustainability, lawmakers should only be strengthening this law.

You can read more about the fisheries successes we’ve seen so far in “The Law That’s Saving American Fisheries: The Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act,” a report produced by Ocean Conservancy and The Pew Charitable Trusts. This primer and collection of stories explains how successful fishermen from Alaska to Maine have helped turn around decades of overfishing.

Here’s an excerpt:

Clem Tillion: The courage to keep fisheries healthy

When Clem Tillion settled in Alaska after World War II, he found out what happens when government ducks the hard decisions that keep fisheries healthy. He became one of many citizens of the northern territory who fought successfully for statehood so that they could start fixing the damage. They made sacrifices to restore broken-down salmon populations, enduring years of closures that cut into their primary livelihood. It was gritty, commonsense conservation.

And it worked. Fish stocks struggled back to health, then roared to new peaks, and Alaskans prospered as never before. Along the way, Tillion joined a generation of coastal leaders who knew firsthand that rigorous controls on catch were the only way to protect the resources that would feed their children and grandchildren.

Those hard-earned lessons would eventually become the backbone of Alaska’s famously abundant modern fisheries—and the reason so many American fisheries are on the mend today.”

Check out the full report to read more of these stories and learn how we can protect the future of fish.

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Don’t Mess With Success http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2013/07/23/dont-mess-with-success/ http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2013/07/23/dont-mess-with-success/#comments Tue, 23 Jul 2013 12:30:42 +0000 Ellen Bolen http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/?p=6368 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.

Ocean Conservancy worked with The Pew Charitable Trusts to produce a report that highlights some of the successes we’ve seen due to the Magnuson-Stevens Act.

“The Law That’s Saving American Fisheries: The Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act” is a primer and collection of stories that highlight pioneers of American fishery management as well as innovators who are opening fishing frontiers.

In addition to driving many coastal economies, the fish featured in the stories of this report are some of the most popular fish to end up on our plates, like salmon, red snapper and scallops.

Here’s an excerpt from the report that helps tell the story of how successful fishermen from Alaska to Maine helped turn around decades of overfishing:

Glen Libby: Port Clyde: The little port that could—and still can

Decades after the collapse of New England’s top fish populations, including cod and flounder, only a few communities continue the region’s rich fishing tradition. The tiny enclave of Port Clyde in Maine is one of them, and Glen Libby is a reason.

“It was either make this work or quit, and I’m too stubborn to quit,” he says. Libby has been fishing for groundfish and shrimp out of Port Clyde for almost 40 years. His father fished there before him, and his brother Gary and son Justin have followed the family tradition.

Libby’s humility aside, credit Port Clyde’s survival to more than stubbornness. Libby and his peers have learned to deal with hardship, creating opportunities amid a legacy of beaten-down fish stocks.

A former member of the New England Fishery Management Council, Libby helped found the Maine Coast Fishermen’s Association, which has rallied the tenacious few remaining draggers in Port Clyde and other small ports to find ways of adapting. Inventive and determined, fishermen in this port are using the tools afforded them under the Magnuson-Stevens Act to earn a sustainable living …

Check out the full report to read more of these stories and learn how we can protect the future of fish.

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