Ocean Currents » fisheries management http://blog.oceanconservancy.org News, opinions, photos and facts from Ocean Conservancy Fri, 28 Apr 2017 22:26:28 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=3.4.2 This is How the Government is Preparing for Climate Change http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2016/06/28/this-is-how-the-government-is-preparing-for-climate-change/ http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2016/06/28/this-is-how-the-government-is-preparing-for-climate-change/#comments Tue, 28 Jun 2016 13:00:35 +0000 Corey Ridings http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/?p=12374

The National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) just took a huge step in preparing our ocean, fisheries and coastal communities for climate change. This type of foresight and required coordination is difficult, and hasn’t happened as often as it should in the past. The Western Regional Action Plan (WRAP) lays out why and how NFMS will develop, use, and apply science that helps West Coast fishery managers prepare for climate change.

In recent years, the California Current experienced a “climate change stress test.” Extremes such as rapidly warming waters contributed to a downturn in forage species like sardine, a northern shift of some fish stocks, and concerning mortality events for predator species like sea lions. These events are early signs of how more fundamental and permanent change will manifest themselves. Long-term changes cascade through the food web, affecting marine life as small as plankton at the base of the food chain, to top predators such as sharks. Humans are not immune; the shape of economically and culturally important fish stocks will shift (see an example from the Atlantic Ocean), and we’ll be forced to change the way we fish and eat.

The WRAP takes us further than ever before in addressing approaching ocean changes. NMFS identifies a better understanding of climate variability as critical to fulfilling their mission, and recognizes the significant impacts environmental change has on public trust resources. Ocean Conservancy, Wild Oceans, and others have asked NMFS to follow-through on their plan, and provided recommendations that will help move the plan forward. Help us thank NMFS and let them know their work matters.

According to Dr. John Stein and Dr. Cisco Werner, Directors of the Northwest and Southwest Fisheries Science Centers:

Climate variability drives the ecosystems of the California Current. Our multi-pronged WRAP approach will help us anticipate likely changes in distribution and abundance of our West Coast marine species and guide our response.  This effort complements our existing ecosystem management approaches, including NOAA’s Integrated Ecosystem Assessment and Climate Vulnerability and Analysis to meet the demands for climate-related information and support NMFS and regional decisions.“ 

In implementing the WRAP, we urge NMFS to prioritize science that draws clear lines to management; science in and of itself will not prepare our fisheries and dependent communities for climate change. This process is not linear, but an iterative conversation between NMFS scientists, managers, and the public. In order to accomplish this, NMFS must also better understand the social and economic underpinnings of a healthy ecosystem. That means better incorporating humans into the way we think about ecosystem and fisheries science.

We look forward to implementation of the WRAP, and realizing a more robust ecosystem and healthy fisheries as a result. We also recognize this is just one part of a larger vision for managing our fisheries as part of a resilient and thriving California Current – more coordinated strategies are needed from NMFS as well as other federal agencies, state governments, and concerned citizens.

This blog was co-authored by Ocean Conservancy’s Corey Ridings and Wild Oceans’ Theresa Labriola.

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What Inspires a Spear Fisherman to go to Capitol Hill? http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2016/06/10/what-inspires-a-spear-fisherman-to-go-to-capitol-hill/ http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2016/06/10/what-inspires-a-spear-fisherman-to-go-to-capitol-hill/#comments Fri, 10 Jun 2016 17:47:45 +0000 Guest Blogger http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/?p=12264

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.

I’m a small businessman. I run a boat with two to three divers for trips of two to three days each. On a good trip, we’ll pull in 2000 lbs. of fish. It’s a small enterprise, but my crew and I work full-time thanks to fisheries management that has allowed fish species to rebound.

MSA was definitely an act of “tough love” that called on all of us to make sacrifices so that we would have sustainable fisheries in the long run. It means our children and grandchildren will be able to fish and enjoy seafood.

As a commercial spear fisherman, I work below the waves, so I see more than those who fish with hook and line. Now that the revised MSA has been in effect for a decade, I’m seeing stocks come back—and it’s fascinating. I see a broader range of age and size of fish:  The younger year classes are thriving, and I’m seeing a huge jump in bigger, older, grouper. In other words, they aren’t all being caught as soon as they mature. There is a healthy population now, and the physical environment is looking lusher as well. It is an improvement for the ecosystem as a whole.

But some groups don’t see it that way. They want fewer restrictions, less monitoring and longer seasons. They want to take the teeth out of the law. In my mind that would be the worst thing we could do. It took years of restraint and hard work to rebuild the fish stocks, and we shouldn’t undo that now.

Talking fish on the Hill. From left: Andres Jimenez, William Ward, Brad Kenyon, Representative David Jolly, Captain Scott Childress, George Geiger

This is what I discussed with the Florida delegation, particularly Congressman David Jolly (R-FL). Talking with him, I realized members of Congress are really interested in your perspective. They see you as a person in the fishery with hands-on knowledge. You have the information they need.

But you do need to be prepared.

Here is my advice for how to get the most out of a trip to Capitol Hill:

  1. Capitol Hill can be overwhelming, even to an adrenaline junky like me. The halls are bustling and someone is always running in or out of rooms. Everyone is on a schedule, so when you’re visiting your elected officials, be punctual.
  2. In order to communicate with your U.S. Representative or Senator, you have to take the time to bring your concerns to their staff. Staff members are extremely intelligent and knowledgeable, and members of Congress rely heavily on them for information on the issues that matter to their districts and states.
  3. Finally, working on the Hill is about building relationships. It doesn’t happen overnight. You have to get to know the people as well as the issues. I was talking with one staffer about spear fishing and at some point he said, “I do like to dive.” That was my opportunity. I said, “Well next time you’re in the district, I’ll take you out.” I hope he’ll take me up on that offer.

In the end, I’m glad I went to Washington, D.C. and met with the Florida delegation. They represent me and make decisions on a wide range of legislation that impact small and large fisheries businesses. Our elected representatives need to hear our voice on issues that matter most to us. In my case, it’s the benefits I’ve experienced as a result of America’s law on fisheries management.

Would I make the trip to Capitol Hill again? Yes, and I hope you’ll join me.

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MSA: 40 Years of Rebuilding Fishing Communities http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2016/04/13/fish-town-usa/ http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2016/04/13/fish-town-usa/#comments Wed, 13 Apr 2016 14:17:47 +0000 Jeff Barger http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/?p=11912

Bright lights, shops bursting with souvenirs, the laughter of children, the smell of caramel popcorn complete with sunlight sparking rays off the emerald saltwater as America’s largest charter boat fishing fleet bobs in the marina—the “world’s luckiest fishing village” is open for business.

Fish, bait, boat

The lure of Destin—starting back to when Leonard Destin came to this Florida peninsula in the 1840s—has always been fish. Slowly, over the next century, others came. And with time and a growing community, came bigger boats and technological advances. By the 1960s, the once massive schools of fish that inspired Leonard to set up his first fishing camp were history. Boats were going out further for longer and hauling in less and less fish. They were competing fiercely on the water with other vessels—including those flying under foreign flags—for a resource that was fast-disappearing.

Rebuilding a national resource

In 1976, led by Senators Warren Magnuson (D-WA) and Ted Stevens (R-AK) , Congress passed the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act (MSA) establishing the nation’s first marine fisheries conservation legislation. It extended U.S. jurisdiction from 12 to 200 nautical miles from shore, and emphasized scientific management for the long-term profitability of our nation’s fisheries. The act has gone through two authorizations, with the most recent one in 2006 adding science-based rebuilding timelines and annual catch limits to strengthen the legislation.

A journey to sustainable fisheries

Over the past four decades, fishing communities have had to make some tough decisions, often sacrificing short-term gains for long-term benefits. Focusing on the long game is yielding rich results. Thanks to the foresight of fishermen, scientists and decision makers, the US has a thriving coastal economy and one of the best fisheries management systems in the world.

On April 13, 2016, the Magnuson-Stevens Act embarks on its 40th year of supporting America’s journey to sustainable fisheries.

It continues to be championed by those that have invested in its promise, including generations of fishermen and coastal communities like Destin, Florida. It is helping the “world’s luckiest fishing village”—and America—prosper by rebuilding fisheries and putting an end to overfishing, ensuing our coastal communities continue to thrive.

The Magnuson-Stevens Act is critical for the future of sustainable fisheries. Do your part for a healthy ocean and ask your member of Congress to support a strong MSA today!

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Nationwide, Fisheries Landings Continue to Break Records Thanks to Sound Management http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2015/11/23/nationwide-fisheries-landings-continue-to-break-records-thanks-to-sound-management/ http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2015/11/23/nationwide-fisheries-landings-continue-to-break-records-thanks-to-sound-management/#comments Mon, 23 Nov 2015 08:00:35 +0000 J.P. Brooker http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/?p=11085

A couple of weeks ago I went on a mackerel fishing trip out of St. Petersburg, Florida, with a 35-year commercial fishing veteran. It was a beautiful day and there was the slightest tinge of autumn out on the Gulf of Mexico, and we quickly caught the day’s order of Spanish and King mackerel. Heading back through John’s Pass I asked my friend, who also fishes for Gulf snapper and grouper, how business has been and without missing a beat he said “The last two years have been the best of my career.”

That commercial fishing captain’s booming business is a story reverberating in fisheries across the country, and is borne out in the 2014 Fisheries of the United States report issued by NOAA Fisheries this fall. The report, which is released annually, shows that U.S. fishermen landed 9.5 billion pounds of fish and shellfish with a dockside value of $5.4 billion, a volume that is higher than average for the past five years.

Recreational fisheries are seeing steady increases in landings as well. Here in the Gulf of Mexico the iconic red snapper fishery saw the highest allowable catch on record, at 14.3 million pounds of fish for 2015. Higher catch limits will ultimately result in more days on the water for recreational fishermen headed to the gulf to wet their lines from across the country as the stock continues to rebuild.

Out on the water, fishing is good because of good management practices put into place by federal regulators under the authority of the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act. Simply put, the law works, and commercial and recreational fishermen are reaping benefits while stocks continue to rebuild end ecosystems continue to rebound.

NOAA administrator for fisheries Eileen Sobeck noted that “sustainable fisheries generate billions of dollars for our economy, help keep saltwater recreational fishing as one of our nation’s favorite past times, and help coastal communities remain economically resilient.” For my commercial fishing friend, keeping fisheries sustainable will keep his business prosperous, and thankfully there is good evidence for staying optimistic.

The 2014 Fisheries of the United States report can be found here.

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The Conditions are Right for Ecosystem-Based Fisheries Management http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2015/10/09/the-conditions-are-right-for-ecosystem-based-fisheries-management/ http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2015/10/09/the-conditions-are-right-for-ecosystem-based-fisheries-management/#comments Fri, 09 Oct 2015 17:00:32 +0000 Michael Drexler http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/?p=10869

A successful fishing trip depends on more than just the number of fish in the sea. It is dependent upon a multitude of complicating factors including the weather conditions, your ability to catch fish and even lack of engine problems to name a few.

Like a fishing trip, sustainable management of our fisheries requires more than just counting the number of fish in the sea. A sustainable catch level requires an understanding of the environment they live in. Fish need suitable habitat to live, other fish to eat, and will eventually become prey for bigger fish, including humans. Furthermore, fish live in a dynamic, changing ocean. When fisheries managers consider these ‘complicating’ factors in the setting of sustainable catch levels, the process is called ecosystem-based fisheries management.

Why Do We Need It?

The need for ecosystem-based fisheries management is clear. Ignoring the impacts from the broader ecosystem prevents us from managing our stocks to their maximum potential. This means we’re overfishing our stocks when conditions are wrong, losing fishing opportunities when conditions are right and ignoring the impacts of fishing on other species that depend on them.

Yet implementing ecosystem-based fisheries management remains a challenge, as it poses a shift in the way we currently think about and manage our fish stocks.

Calls to implement ecosystem-based fisheries management date back to 1873 in Spencer Baird’s report to Congress on the decline of fisheries in New England fisheries on behalf of the U.S. Fish Commission.  In his report, he identified five potential causes for the declines.  Only one of the reasons was attributed to overfishing. The remaining four had to do with the broader ecosystem.

The thought of incorporating ecosystem properties, which can be seen as complex and unpredictable, into fisheries management that is equally complex and unpredictable, may seem like a problem that is too big to solve. As a result ecosystem based fisheries management has been perceived as the ‘next generation’ of management for nearly 150 years. Given our modern understanding of how the environment affects our fish stocks, we can no longer afford to ignore this knowledge in management. But, there’s good news:

We Can Do It!

A recent paper titled “Myths That Continue to Impede Progress in Ecosystem Based Fisheries Management” demonstrates that we now have both the science and governance structures in place to implement ecosystem-based fisheries management on a broad scale.

The Science:

Our scientific understanding of how the environment affects fish stocks has never been better. We now have computer models that simulate everything from bacteria to whales. However, ecosystem-based fisheries management doesn’t need to be complex.

Ecosystem properties are already being used to inform sustainable quotas and the application of ecosystem information can, in practice, be much simpler than the methods we currently use to assess a single stock.  If enacted properly, ecosystem-based management has the potential to decrease the amount of resources needed to assess all of the stocks in the USA, given its ability to consider multiple species at the same time.

The Management:

Like the science, NOAA’s authority to include ecosystem factors in managing its fisheries has never been clearer. There are over 90 legislative actions giving NOAA this authority and five of the eight fisheries councils have implemented ecosystem initiatives within their existing governance framework. While the perfect governance structure is still evolving, there is clearly plenty of space to implement ecosystem-based fisheries management in the current management frameworks and should not be delayed.

Given all of the progress made in both the science and governance of ecosystem-based fisheries management, the ‘next generation’ of fisheries management has finally arrived.  Implementation on a national scale will not be easy, or straightforward, and there will be errors made along the way.

However, like a good fishing trip, the conditions are right for success.

For more information on the ecosystem based fisheries management see:  http://www.st.nmfs.noaa.gov/ecosystems/ebfm/ebfm-myths

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Quietly, Without Fanfare, Another Step Forward in Protecting the World’s Largest Fish http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2015/02/19/quietly-without-fanfare-another-step-forward-in-protecting-the-worlds-largest-fish/ http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2015/02/19/quietly-without-fanfare-another-step-forward-in-protecting-the-worlds-largest-fish/#comments Thu, 19 Feb 2015 17:32:18 +0000 Corey Ridings http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/?p=9912

In June of 2013 the international body that manages tuna fish in the Eastern Pacific Ocean drafted and approved a resolution to protect whale sharks. The resolution isn’t groundbreaking; the New York Times didn’t report, Anderson Cooper wasn’t on the scene, and Greenpeace didn’t raise the flag. In fact, in the year it took to make U.S. compliance official via rulemaking in September 2014, even the fish-heads and whale shark lovers here at Ocean Conservancy barely noticed. This is a good thing.

Too often fisheries management is mired in relatively small, but high-profile, fights. The fact that the Inter-American Tropical Tuna Commission (IATTC) quietly prohibited tuna fishermen, who hail from many nations around the Pacific, from using whale sharks as de facto Fish Aggregating Devices (FADs) marks another small but important step towards saving some of the world’s most iconic species and preserving a healthy ocean.

FADs are physical objects placed in the ocean by fisherman that encourage fish to congregate around them. They make catching multiple fish at a single time easier. In this case some fishermen were using a live “FAD,” aka the whale shark, as a way to catch fish. Unfortunately they were catching the whale shark at the same time. But no longer, at least by international agreement.

It is perhaps fitting that such a small victory was regarding such a large animal. Whale sharks are the world’s largest fish, and are objectively one of the most beautiful creatures that live in the ocean. Often confused with whales (for obvious reasons) they are striking creatures with highly distinctive coloration and grow as large as school buses. They are listed as vulnerable by the International Union for Conservation of Nature, with fishermen in some parts of the world still targeting them for food. Their life history traits make them especially vulnerable to overfishing though, and beyond new measures like the one made by the IATTC, additional efforts around the world are needed to ensure their survival. Fortunately, other small, lower-profile efforts are already underway in other parts of the world…

Donsol, Philippines. The World Wildlife Fund for Nature (WWF), in collaboration with the local government, operates an eco-tourism program where domestic and foreign tourists swim with whale sharks, while ensuring conservation measures are met… Former local fishermen are employed as guides, and boat operators spend the season motoring snorkel-clad tourists between whale sharks and the beach. Donsol, a sleepy town on the southern tip of the island of Luzon, has emerged as a destination resort town with whale shark tourism supporting much of the local economy. Hand-painted whale sharks grace the walls of the local elementary school, and the smell of delicious Bicolano cooking (think seafood meets coconut and chili pepper) wafts from the town center. Donsol serves as an example of how some species are worth more in the water than in a net to the local community – the economic effects from tourists and the value of the whale sharks to the natural ecosystem outweigh the money to be gained through the sale of whale shark as meat.

This model is taking root across the globe, as coastal towns like Donsol support themselves economically and conserve natural resources at the same time. These communities are well-aware of the conservation threats and consequences that exist in their waters, but lack of local opportunity can leave people with little choice, but to harvest local resources as a matter of survival. Local innovations are now giving people other choices.

The ocean needs these small, barely noticed victories, as they add up to a larger picture of a world that cares deeply about the state of our oceans. They are politically inexpensive, but they matter. They also important because they are forward-looking – resolving and preventing issues that are relatively small now, but could become a much larger threat if allowed to continue and grow. A single platform cannot provide the depth or breadth needed to solve a problem as large and complex as preserving the ocean’s biggest fish. Diplomats and bureaucrats making quiet, low-profile advances, and coastal communities trying something new in hopes of economic security and conservation, these are vastly different arenas and actors but both necessary. They aren’t sexy, and don’t get much attention, but are vital to ocean politics and management that can maintain a thriving ocean.

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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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