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The Blog Aquatic

News, opinions, photos and facts from Ocean Conservancy

Beyond Nemo: How Are Dory and Bruce Doing?

Posted On October 22, 2014 by

Photo: Matthew Potenski

Traditional fishery management has been a lot like the movie Finding Nemo, where fishery managers focus on the life of a single species of fish. But, as we saw in the movie, single species of fish do not live alone; they depend on habitat like anemones, they encounter predators like Bruce, and there are human impacts such as removing fish from reefs. Our current management system often fails to consider the bigger picture: the habitats that ocean wildlife require at each stage of life, their roles as predator and prey (Bruce’s attitude on fish as ‘friends not food’ doesn’t really hold true in the ocean), the natural variations in populations in different places and at different times, such as sea turtle migrations, and of course the critical and varied impacts of humans—climate change, pollution, ocean acidification, cultural uses, and demands for food and recreation.

In short, we need an ecosystem approach—a modern, big-picture system that maintains the overall health of the ocean ecosystem by explicitly considering the above. Ensuring the long-term viability of fish populations and communities that depend on them requires a greater focus on the fitness and resilience of the ecosystems that support productive fisheries.

The good news is that U.S. fishery managers are recognizing the need to consider the whole ecosystem. A new report by the NOAA Science Advisory Board takes stock of the shift toward ecosystem-based fishery management across the nation. The report found that the use of ecosystem science in fishery management varies greatly by region, and the last several years have proven to be a time of experimentation in the ecosystem approach. We’re getting there, but we’re not there yet.

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Help is on the Way for the Nassau Grouper

Posted On September 4, 2014 by

The Nassau grouper can be found all over the Americas, but it’s facing extinction in nearly all of its habitats.  After years of hard work and outreach, the U.S. government is stepping up to the plate to help this critically important species. The National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) has announced that the Nassau grouper will be protected under the Endangered Species Act as a threatened species.

Nassau grouper are large reef dwelling fish, historically found in the Western North Atlantic from Bermuda, Florida, Bahamas, Yucatan Peninsula, and throughout the Caribbean to southern Brazil, including coral reef habitats in the Gulf of Mexico and up the Atlantic coast to North Carolina. However, the species is imperiled due to human exploitation and inadequate regulatory protection. The primary threat to Nassau grouper is overfishing from gill nets, long-lines, bottom trawls, and other fishing activities, both intentionally and as by-catch. Despite a fishing ban in U.S. waters for decades, Nassau grouper are commercially extinct in the U.S.

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Stop Congress from Fishing for Trouble

Posted On July 31, 2014 by

© 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.

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Fishermen and Scientists Work Together to Track Sick Fish

Posted On July 21, 2014 by

University of South Florida Professor Steven Murawski began studying diseases in fin fishes after the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill when Gulf of Mexico fishermen began reporting a surge in fish with visible lesions. Credit: C-Image. Caption from phys.org

Fishermen are on the water every day, which means they are often the first to notice when something changes. After the BP Deepwater Horizon oil disaster, we heard reports from fishermen that they were catching more fish with lesions than they had ever seen before. Immediately after hearing these reports, Dr. Jim Cowan at LSU began investigating the frequency, location and cause of the reported lesions. Many other scientists have collected data on this same issue, and last week a group from the University of South Florida published the first round of results in a scientific journal.

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Former Bush and Obama Officials Agree: Congress Must Stop Magnuson-Stevens Roll Backs

Posted On May 9, 2014 by

“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.

A Victory for Fish and Turtles in the Gulf of Mexico

Posted On November 15, 2013 by

sea turtle swimming near Florida

Photo: Lisa Kelly, Photo Contest 2013

In a significant step forward in restoration of the Gulf of Mexico’s natural resources, the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation (NFWF), in partnership with the five Gulf states and two federal agencies, announced over $100 million for restoration projects across the Gulf. A total of 22 projects will restore a number of Gulf habitats and species, ranging from coastal dunes in Texas, to oyster reefs in Alabama and shorebird nests in Mississippi.

Funding for these projects comes from the criminal settlement against Transocean and BP, which were finalized late last year. These funds must be used to remedy the harm caused to our natural resources in the Gulf due to the BP Deepwater Horizon oil disaster, and these are some of the first fine monies to be put toward restoration. (Click here to read more about the ongoing civil trial and what’s at stake.)

We are particularly excited about two projects in Florida that support restoration of offshore Gulf species: enhanced reef fish (think: red snapper) health assessments and turtle-friendly beach lighting. Marine restoration projects like this are part of the comprehensive approach that Ocean Conservancy advocates.

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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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