The Blog Aquatic » Ivy Fredrickson http://blog.oceanconservancy.org News, opinions, photos and facts from Ocean Conservancy Thu, 28 Aug 2014 17:32:30 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=3.4.2 Let the Sun Continue to Shine on Fishery Management http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2013/03/12/let-the-sun-continue-to-shine-on-fishery-management/ http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2013/03/12/let-the-sun-continue-to-shine-on-fishery-management/#comments Tue, 12 Mar 2013 22:39:52 +0000 Ivy Fredrickson http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/?p=5130

Sunrise over fishing boat docks in Bayou La Batre, Alabama. Bethany Kraft / Ocean Conservancy

Sunshine Week is upon us! Sunshine week  (March 10-16) is a national initiative to promote a dialogue about the importance of open government and freedom of information. Participants include news media, civic groups, libraries, nonprofits, schools and others interested in the public’s right to know.

Governing in the sunshine is especially important for sustainably managing our nation’s fishery resources. Every year, fishery managers make decisions about how to manage fish populations, and they rely on input from fishermen, scientists, community groups and others to help make smart choices. Information gathered on the water about what fish are caught, where they are caught, and interactions with other ocean wildlife is essential for the public to understand how fish populations are being managed and how those decisions affect ocean ecosystems. Access to this information is necessary for everyone, including fishermen, to participate effectively in the management process, and to ensure that our fisheries are managed responsibly and sustainably for the benefit of present and future generations.

However, public access to fishery management information is currently being threatened. The National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) is considering sweeping changes to its rule regarding confidentiality of information under the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act (MSA). Unfortunately, it’s the opposite of governing in the sunshine. The proposed changes would unnecessarily stifle public participation in the management of public trust ocean resources, including depleted fish populations and protected species. The proposed rule would take the unprecedented and unwarranted leap from protecting personal privacies to withholding basic required information from the owners of the resource: the public. As currently written, the proposed rule could make nearly all essential fisheries data inaccessible to the public, and would prohibit access to critical information that forms the fundamental basis for fishery management decisions. The rule is still pending.

Our nation’s ocean wildlife and fish are public trust resources managed on all of our behalf by NMFS. These resources belong to the American public, and the entire nation has a stake in the jobs and revenues generated from them. U.S. fish populations alone support hundreds of thousands of jobs in the tourism, fishing and seafood industries. Commercial and recreational fishing generates $183 billion per year for the U.S. economy and supports more than 1.5 million full and part-time jobs. Moreover, millions of taxpayer dollars are invested each year in fisheries management including the collection of data by professional observers on fishing vessels. As noted by the Sunlight Foundation, this rule change would restrict access to information from publicly-funded fisheries observer programs, which are funded to the tune of some $40 million each year.

NMFS should withdraw this flawed proposal and replace it with one that ensures public access to fisheries information. The desire to streamline the federal fisheries data processing system is laudable, but the proposed rule presents an unjustified expanded cloak of secrecy that could undermine transparency and stifle public participation. In honor of Sunshine Week, we must continue to urge NMFS to preserve public access to fishery management information as the law intends. A new proposal must preserve transparency, participation and collaboration so that researchers, scientists and members of the public can contribute to the successful management of our nation’s publicly owned ocean resources.

 

]]>
http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2013/03/12/let-the-sun-continue-to-shine-on-fishery-management/feed/ 5
Lessons Learned from Exxon Valdez: The Devilish Details of Why We Must Keep BP on the Hook http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2013/03/06/lessons-learned-from-exxon-valdez-the-devilish-details-of-why-we-must-keep-bp-on-the-hook/ http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2013/03/06/lessons-learned-from-exxon-valdez-the-devilish-details-of-why-we-must-keep-bp-on-the-hook/#comments Wed, 06 Mar 2013 19:18:19 +0000 Ivy Fredrickson http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/?p=4883

A sea otter swimming near the Exxon Valdez

There was a great deal of excitement in the courtroom across the street from Ocean Conservancy’s Gulf restoration office during BP’s first week at trial. Objection after objection from BP’s legal team have been over ruled by Judge Barbier, a culture of BP putting profit before safety has steadily emerged, and BP has found itself in perhaps one of the world’s largest finger pointing game with Halliburton and Transocean. The trial has allowed everyone the opportunity to begin learning exactly why 11 men died and oil began gushing into the Gulf of Mexico when the Deepwater Horizon caught fire and sank. But as we learn about the past, we must also think about our future.

We know the people of the Gulf Coast and the coastal and marine ecosystems of the Gulf could feel the effects of the BP oil disaster for years, maybe even decades. That’s why it’s critical that however BP settles up , either in or out of court, the resolution of this disaster must keep options open for addressing any damages that may not be discovered until well into the future. One way to do this is to include a reopener clause in any form of a resolution.

A reopener clause is a sweetener to facilitate resolution of the case.  It represents an additional sum of money that may be accessed in the future, thus “reopening” the issue, but only if additional injuries not known at the time of the settlement manifest. It has advantages for both sides. With a reopener clause, the federal and state parties can rest assured that if any environmental problems from the spill show up later, the government isn’t left empty handed. The polluter, BP, can seek comfort in the fact that it won’t be held accountable for potential injuries that have yet to be proven or even hypothesized at this time. This may sound logical and simple, but the devil is in the details.

After the Exxon Valdez oil spill in Alaska, the settlement over natural resource damages included a reopener clause, which would require Exxon to pay an additional $100 million to fund restoration or rehabilitation of resources whose injuries were not foreseeable at the time of the settlement in 1989. However, nearly 25 years later and despite ongoing attempts, the reopener funding has never been accessed, in part because the government has been unable to meet the very high standard set by the clause.  The Exxon Valdez reopener read: “. . . injury to the affected population, habitat, or species could not reasonably have been known nor could it reasonably have been anticipated by any Trustee from any information in the possession of or reasonably available to any Trustee on the Effective Date.”

One of the main problems with this language is the word “anticipated.” The Trustees did not in fact anticipate that the Pacific herring population would collapse in 1993 or that there would still be essentially unweathered, buried oil on beaches in 2001, more than a decade after the spill. By rejecting anything that could have reasonably been anticipated, the clause denies a reopener claim for anything but an injury that was unprecedented or wholly new to science. If, for example, there was any mention in the pre-settlement scientific literature of oil persisting on a decadal scale or of impacts to fish at a population level, such mention could be cited as a reason to not invoke the reopener clause. The result of the Exxon Valdez reopener is that Trustees were left with no recourse for injuries from the spill that became evident after settlement.

The problematic “anticipated” language should not be included in reopener language for the BP spill case. Instead, the clause must put the focus on the ability to scientifically detect injury.

We suggest reopener language such as this: “Injury to the affected ecosystem, population, habitat, or species was not manifest or could not reasonably have been documented scientifically from information in the possession of or reasonably available to any Trustee on the Effective Date.” With this clause, rather than having to anticipate injury, the Trustees would have to prove that the injury could not have been scientifically documented at the time of settlement.

As with the recovery of Prince William Sound in the months, years and decades after the Exxon Valdez spill, it will take many years to understand the impacts to the natural resources of the Gulf of Mexico from the BP disaster. Including an effective reopener clause in any form of resolution to the BP oil disaster will help to protect the Gulf of Mexico, one of the world’s greatest natural treasures.

]]>
http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2013/03/06/lessons-learned-from-exxon-valdez-the-devilish-details-of-why-we-must-keep-bp-on-the-hook/feed/ 6
Oil in the Court: Quick Facts on BP Trial Set to Start Next Week http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2013/02/20/oil-in-the-court-quick-facts-on-bp-trial-set-to-start-next-week/ http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2013/02/20/oil-in-the-court-quick-facts-on-bp-trial-set-to-start-next-week/#comments Wed, 20 Feb 2013 20:45:35 +0000 Ivy Fredrickson http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/?p=4709

Restoring the Gulf of Mexico – A brown pelican flies off Elmer’s Island, Louisiana with an oil rig in the background. Photo: Cheryl Gerber

As the likelihood of a settlement in the civil case against BP for the Deepwater Horizon disaster shrinks, here are a few basic facts about what to expect when the big trial kicks off in New Orleans next week as scheduled.

The trial is being handled in three separate phases: (1) the incident phase; (2) the source control/discharge phase; and (3) the final phase addressing oil containment issues like the use of skimmers, dispersant and boom.

Phase One of the trial is scheduled to start this coming Monday, Feb. 25. It’s called the “Trial of Liability, Limitation, Exoneration, and Fault Allocation.” It is a non-jury trial, meaning Judge Barbier is the decisionmaker. It will focus on the lead-up to the disaster and is designed to determine the causes of BP’s well blowout.  It should answer the question of gross vs. simple negligence.  The United States intends to prove gross negligence or willful misconduct at the Phase One trial. Yesterday, BP issued a statement about its intentions to “vigorously defend” itself against the gross negligence allegations .   This is very important for determining the fines for violations of the Clean Water Act, which will in turn influence how much money is available for restoration of the Gulf of Mexico through the RESTORE Act passed last year.

Phase Two will address efforts to stop the flow of oil from the well.  The dates for Phases Two and Three of the trial have not been set.   We will be keeping a close watch on the proceedings.

Read what we’ve said previously about what a good resolution to this case should look like.

]]>
http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2013/02/20/oil-in-the-court-quick-facts-on-bp-trial-set-to-start-next-week/feed/ 0
Why The Nassau Grouper Needs Endangered Species Protection http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2012/12/13/why-the-nassau-grouper-needs-endangered-species-protection/ http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2012/12/13/why-the-nassau-grouper-needs-endangered-species-protection/#comments Thu, 13 Dec 2012 14:59:22 +0000 Ivy Fredrickson http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/?p=3862
Nothing exemplifies the challenges of managing reef fish quite like the woeful tale of Nassau grouper. Once an iconic emblem of healthy Caribbean reefs (see Carmen Yeung’s recent post on endangered corals) and a staple of subsistence fisheries, this shallow water grouper is now threatened with extinction throughout most of its natural range.

Despite its large range — and area through the Caribbean and some of North and South America’s Atlantic Ocean — several characteristics of this grouper species make it particularly vulnerable to depletion:

  • These fish grow slowly,
  • don’t reproduce until later in life,
  • appear in shallow waters close to shore and thus human populations, and
  • they are popular at the dinner table.

While these things don’t necessarily condemn a fish to threatened or endangered status, one particular trait of the Nassau grouper does: They reproduce only once per year at the same place, at the same time and they do so by the tens of thousands. Or they did.

Fishermen, islanders and visitors of the Caribbean in the 1960’s and 1970’s tell stories of swarms of spawning Nassau grouper so large and dense they filled your entire underwater view — every year, once per year, at the same time, in the same place.

But the same behavior that makes for one incredible scuba dive also makes for one profitable and easy fishing trip, and one by one the seemingly endless aggregations of spawning Nassau grouper were fished out of Caribbean waters. Those same locations that were filled with fish in the 1960’s now have one or two lonely fish coming back to them on their annual pilgrimage. Even with some protections against fishing, the aggregations have never returned and fishermen and fishery managers alike learned all too late that sometimes you can’t unring the bell.

Here in the United States, the Nassau grouper has been protected from directed fishing effort for years and we still have yet to see a measurable recovery. Maybe we never will. The federal government recently announced it will conduct a review of all the available information on Nassau grouper and determine if listing under the Endangered Species Act (ESA) is warranted. This is a long process that may be able to help bring an iconic population back to health.

ESA listing is – by its very definition – a management and recovery tool of last resort. Ideally, we would like to see Nassau grouper populations managed responsibly and rebuilt to healthy levels so the species doesn’t need to be listed under the ESA. Letting fish populations dip so low that they require this last resort action is bad for all involved: the fish, the fishermen, the tourists and local economies. For the sake of Nassau grouper, let us hope that ESA listing works and that we do not have to contemplate its use for any of our other reef fish species.

]]>
http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2012/12/13/why-the-nassau-grouper-needs-endangered-species-protection/feed/ 1
A Sea Turtle Escape Plan http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2012/06/19/a-sea-turtle-escape-plan/ http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2012/06/19/a-sea-turtle-escape-plan/#comments Tue, 19 Jun 2012 17:34:39 +0000 Ivy Fredrickson http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/?p=1103

A loggerhead sea turtle escapes from a fishing net fitted with a Turtle Excluder Device (TED). Credit: NOAA

Sea turtles need help. All sea turtles in U.S. waters are on the Endangered Species List as either threatened or endangered. They are often bycatch—unwanted animals caught in nets and other fishing gear. This is one of the most serious threats to the recovery and conservation of sea turtle populations.

But, an escape plan has been hatched. Turtle excluder devices, or TEDs, prevent turtles from becoming entangled and drowning in shrimp fishermen’s nets. TEDs are a set of bars fitted into the neck of a net with an escape hatch. When a sea turtle is caught in a net with a TED, it is stopped against the bars and escapes through the hatch. Shrimp and other critters fishermen want to catch pass through the bars and are collected at the end of the net. TEDs have been used successfully in U.S. shrimp fisheries since the late 1970s, but unfortunately not everyone uses TEDs.

Last month, the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) proposed a new rule to protect sea turtles in the Gulf of Mexico by closing a TED loophole. In the Gulf of Mexico, certain shrimp fishing vessels that operate in coastal waters in Louisiana, Mississippi, and Alabama have been historically exempt from the requirements to use TEDs on their nets if they limit the time a net is underwater. Unfortunately, new information shows that tow time restrictions are not an effective measure for protecting sea turtles. Furthermore, the tow time rule is difficult to enforce and is largely self-policed.

The new rule would require all inshore shrimp fishing boats use TEDs in their nets. This should reduce incidental bycatch and mortality of sea turtles and aid in their recovery. Providing sea turtles with an escape plan will reduce the number of deaths from accidental drowning in trawls, helping populations recover.

This new rule is extremely contentious, particularly in coastal Louisiana, and for good reason. Shrimper nets aren’t entirely to blame for the perils of Gulf sea turtles. The BP oil disaster negatively impacted Gulf sea turtle populations. There are unknown long-term effects of BP’s disaster on the five species of sea turtles in the Gulf. BP must be held accountable for all impacts of the disaster on marine life. But in the meantime, we must ensure that we’re using all practicable and effective tools to prevent more deaths of endangered and threatened sea turtles in Gulf waters.

TEDs in skimmer trawl nets. The set of bars allows shrimp to pass through while stopping turtles and allowing them to escape. Credit: NOAA

Potential resources exist to help shrimp fishermen purchase and install TEDs and receive training on their use. Offering initial installation and training of proper TED operation and maintenance will help the shrimp industry adapt to the new regulations and promote compliance. Ocean Conservancy is working with partners to identify funding for successful implementation.

The Gulf Coast is a place where the culture, economy and wildlife all depend on each other, and the health of the ecosystem. With this new rule, inshore shrimp fleets can maintain their culture and secure their future. Catching shrimp in more sustainable ways not only makes Gulf shrimp appeal to a worldwide environmentally conscious audience, but helps secure a balanced ecosystem and preserve our natural heritage.

]]>
http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2012/06/19/a-sea-turtle-escape-plan/feed/ 1