I’m glad to end this week with great news for both fishermen and fish in the Gulf of Mexico.
On June 23, federal fisheries managers in the Gulf voted strongly in favor of keeping an innovative concept that is working well to provide recreational red snapper fishermen greater access while delivering greater economic stability for charter captains.
Amendment 40, known to fishermen as Sector Separation, allowed separate management of private recreational anglers and for-hire charter vessels that fish for red snapper. Approved by the Gulf of Mexico Fishery Management Council in 2014, it sought to ensure that conservation goals stay on target. It was designed to allow for greater precision in managing the unique needs of two very different sets of fishermen with accountability as the key. It limited the likelihood that the fishery as a whole took more fish out of our ocean than allowed by law.
Last month, a collection of maps representing one of the largest known efforts to assemble and disseminate spatial data for multiple species of marine life was released in New England. This powerful new information database characterizes over 150 marine species through map based visualizations.
These data enhance our fundamental understanding of marine species and where they exist in the ocean, bringing us a step closer to a more comprehensive assessment of marine resources. In the end, the goal is to better inform decision-makers who are tasked with improving ocean ecosystems and enhancing our ocean economy.
Reef-building corals find refuge from climate change in mangrove habitats. Photo credit: Caroline Rogers, USGS.
Dr. KimberlyYates will be a panelist at an ocean acidification roundtable we are hosting in Miami this week. There, she will join other scientists, Florida elected officials and local businesspeople in discussing what ocean acidification has in store for Florida’s marine life and its coastal communities. Follow the meeting on Twitter via #FL_OA on Friday, June 17!
OC: Your research focuses on several marine habitats in Florida: coral reefs, estuaries and mangroves. How are they coping with ocean acidification?
Dr. Yates: Most of what we know about how ocean acidification is affecting these environments comes from experimental research. We know some marine organisms will be negatively impacted, and some may benefit. For example, some species that form their skeletons and shells from minerals made of calcium carbonate, like corals and some shellfish, are negatively impacted. Ocean acidification slows the rate at which they grow their skeletons and shells, and can also cause calcium carbonate minerals to dissolve.
Other species like seagrasses and some marine algae benefit from ocean acidification because it increases their growth rates. Coral reefs have been degrading rapidly over the past few decades, and recent research shows that some reefs in the Florida Keys are beginning to dissolve during certain times of the year from ocean acidification…which was not expected to happen for another few decades. Estuaries and mangrove wetlands support many species of shellfish, and ocean acidification may negatively impact those species and the economies that depend on shell fisheries. We are still learning about how changes caused by ocean acidification are impacting these habitats.
Captain Scott Childress owns and navigates a commercial spear fishing vessel located in Hudson, Florida.
When Ocean Conservancy asked me to join them to visit elected officials on Capitol Hill to celebrate the 40th anniversary of Magnuson Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act (MSA), I was quick to say a resounding “yes,” but a little nervous about my new role.
What the heck would I—a commercial spear fisherman—say to congressmen? As it turned out, quite a lot. I have a unique perspective on fishing in the Gulf of Mexico and on the U.S. law that has served as “tough love” for America’s fisheries.
The Northeast Ocean Plan, the nation’s first regional ocean plan was released this week and is now open for public comment through July 25. See Ocean Conservancy’s press release here.
This plan is the culmination of four years of work by state and federal agencies, tribes, the Fishery Management Council, stakeholders and the public. New England has led the nation on collaborative ocean management since 2005 when it formed the Northeast Regional Ocean Council (NROC), the country’s first regional ocean partnership. In 2010, the issuance of President Obama’s National Ocean Policy opened the door for New England to create the Northeast Regional Planning Body (whose work NROC supports), and to move forward with regional ocean planning. The release of the draft plan this week is a major step towards more coordinated, science-based, and stakeholder-informed ocean management. It results in better data and information on a wide range of ocean uses and resources, improved communication and coordination amongst the twenty plus state and federal agencies with jurisdiction in the ocean, and decision-making processes that better engage stakeholders and ocean users. All with the goal of advancing ocean health and growing local economies.
San Franciso Bay Area Dungeness crabber Captain John Mellor
“We’re like the Giants. We’re your hometown team,” said Captain John Mellor last week as he described the San Francisco Bay Dungeness crab fishing fleet. Capt. Mellor’s pride in his work as a crabber is paired with a love for what he does. But, his feelings are mixed with fear for the future. A West-Coast wide toxic algae bloom shut down the fishery last year, leaving him out of work for five months. Fishermen and researchers are also worried that ocean acidification could represent a looming threat to the fishery that could cause future fishing disruptions.
2016 hasn’t been a good year for the West Coast Dungeness crab fishery. The fishing season that typically spans the winter months – worth $212 million in 2014 – got significantly delayed this year when Dungeness crabs tested high for domoic acid, which sickens humans, and managers shut down the fishery. The crabs had fed heartily on a giant toxic bloom of Pseudonitschia algae, which produce domoic acid, and which were thriving in an unusually warm body of water stalled offshore, affectionately called “the blob.” The bloom also shut down other West Coast shellfish fisheries, too. The lost harvests equal lost income for West Coast communities. San Francisco Bay Area crabber John Mellor says, “If crabs were to disappear from the picture, I think it would be the end of my fishing career at this point.”