Ocean Currents » fisheries http://blog.oceanconservancy.org News, opinions, photos and facts from Ocean Conservancy Wed, 27 Jul 2016 11:17:54 +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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Successful Recreational Red Snapper Management Wins 5 Year Extension http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2016/06/24/successful-recreational-red-snapper-management-wins-five-year-extension/ http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2016/06/24/successful-recreational-red-snapper-management-wins-five-year-extension/#comments Fri, 24 Jun 2016 16:58:10 +0000 J.P. Brooker http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/?p=12354

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.

The net effect ensures red snapper harvests are sustainable and the stock continues to rebuild.

When it was passed, the Council placed a three-year “sunset provision” to test the concept. Unless a move was made to extend Sector Separation, it would expire after the 2017 season. This week, the council voted 12 to 5 in favor of continuing the program for another five years. Now charter captains and private recreational fishermen have more time to continue to develop strategies that will rebuild the stock while also expanding access to the fishery and increasing angler satisfaction.

Sector Separation provides a framework that could allow anglers more days on the water while also improving accountability for the overall recreational sector of the fishery. It has proven to be a true success, especially for the charter-for-hire fishery.  Charter-for-hire fishermen have immersed themselves in helping managers make decisions that will work for their fishery, are able to take their clients fishing for 46 days while still remaining under their portion of the overall recreational quota. We can attribute this to the customized management strategies that for-hire fishermen have willingly applied to their fishery.

I was at the Council meeting this week when the votes came in favoring Sector Separation. It was encouraging to hear the community speak up strongly in its favor. This Council decision will not only sustain the highly successful recovery of red snapper stocks in the Gulf, but also continue to benefit communities that rely and enjoy this prized ocean resource.

Ocean Conservancy has championed this issue for years and is committed to protecting its integrity. This extended sunset provision on Sector Separation is a beautiful thing.

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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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Photos: The MSA in Action http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2016/04/08/photos-the-msa-in-action/ http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2016/04/08/photos-the-msa-in-action/#comments Fri, 08 Apr 2016 13:00:59 +0000 J.P. Brooker http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/?p=11853

My name is J.P. Brooker and I am a Policy Analyst and Attorney with the Fish Conservation Program at Ocean Conservancy. I am a sixth generation Floridian born and raised on the Indian River Lagoon and I am an ardent conservationist who mortally loves to fish. In case you missed it, this week I took over the Ocean Conservancy Instagram account, and wanted to post the images here! I am excited to share my thoughts on ocean conservation, especially my thoughts on fishing as the landmark Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act (MSA) turns 40, in less than a week.

People in my family have fished in Gulf and Atlantic waters from the Florida Keys all the way up to North Carolina and Virginia for generations. It’s in our blood. Here’s a picture of my grandfather (second from left) and my uncle (middle) and their day’s catch of dolphin and marlin at world-famous Oregon Inlet, North Carolina in the 1960s. I love the MSA because it helps to preserve the unique fishing heritage of coastal communities and fishing families across the country by ensuring continued access to fish.

Whether on fly tackle or spinning gear, inshore or offshore, I like to get out fishing as much as I possibly can. This is my favorite fly reel for fishing in the Gulf of Mexico, a teal and orange Allen reel (the pride of Texas) given to me by my mom when I graduated from law school. I love the MSA because it ensures that fish stocks continue to rebuild so that coastal ecosystems can remain resilient and so that I can keep on fishing.

I am thankful for the MSA because it means that future generations will be able to fish, like my sweet daughter Elizabeth. She’s a seventh generation Floridian, and although she’s only two she already loves everything to do with the water, even if it’s just picking flowers alongside the Manatee River at Emerson Point near the mouth of Tampa Bay.

There is so much to love about Florida, especially its natural beauty. After a day of inshore fishing, my friend Bobby Freeman drags our canoe across a flat near Bunces Pass in Pinellas County. There is an interconnectedness of Florida’s coastal ecosystems, and what happens in the mangroves and grass flats inshore has a direct impact on what happens on the coral reefs offshore, and vice versa. The MSA gives important protections for essential fish habitat and habitat areas of particular concern for fish and corals, helping to protect all of the interconnected ecosystems that make Florida and the Gulf of Mexico such a special place.

One of the best parts about fishing is being able to eat what you bring home. But without regulations aimed at sustainability, there wouldn’t be anything left to catch and there wouldn’t be anything yummy for the dining room table. For 40 years the MSA has been working to ensure that fish stocks are abundant, that harvests are sustainable and that fishermen still have access to the fish. This focus on sustainability means that I still get to experience the joy of Fall and Spring mackerel runs off my part of the coast, where the Spanish and Kings get so thick it sometimes seems like the whole Gulf is alive. Many species of mackerel, like those pictured, are hugely important to American coastal economies and are economically and socially significant globally as well.

Thanks everyone for listening to me singing praise for the MSA, and thanks Ocean Conservancy for letting me take over. Hopefully I helped y’all get a better picture of the impacts the MSA has had on my life and its importance to ocean conservation and sustainability. Tight lines!

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MSA at 40: Fisheries in the Atlantic http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2016/04/05/msa-at-40-fisheries-in-the-atlantic/ http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2016/04/05/msa-at-40-fisheries-in-the-atlantic/#comments Tue, 05 Apr 2016 13:15:58 +0000 Erin Spencer http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/?p=11828

In the past four decades, we’ve made meaningful progress toward ending overfishing in U.S. waters and rebuilding fish populations. And we have a little-known law with a long name to thank: the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act (MSA).

To celebrate the 40th anniversary of the MSA, we’re sharing fishery success stories to remind us that the MSA is a keeper. Here are three species that have all benefitted from MSA regulations in the Atlantic (and don’t forget to read our other success stories from the Gulf!).

Black sea bass

Black sea bass’ mild, white fillet makes it a dinnertime favorite, and therefore coveted by recreational and commercial fishermen alike. They’re also quite accessible compared to other fish species, allowing fishermen to catch them using both hook-and-line gear and black sea bass pots. Unfortunately, this popularity led the southern stock, which ranges from Cape Hatteras to the Florida Keys, to be declared overfished in 2005.

In 2006, managers instituted a rebuilding plan that reduced allowable harvest and instituted size and bag limits. The rebuilding process wasn’t easy—new regulations meant economic impacts for commercial fishermen and operators in the region. But thankfully, their efforts paid off. The population was officially declared rebuilt in 2013, and black sea bass continues to be a culturally and economically important fish in the South Atlantic.

Mid-Atlantic bluefish

Stretching from the Maine to the balmy waters of Florida, bluefish are a migratory species that move north during the warm spring and summer months. Bluefish are fast and opportunistic predators, known for a peculiar feeding strategy called the “bluefish blitz”, where large schools of bluefish attack bait towards the surface.

Bluefish are a favorite in the recreational sector—recreational fishermen account for 70% of the total catch in the last 20 years. Caught using hook-and-line gear, gillnets and occasionally trawls, bluefish are delicious to eat and are often marketed fresh or smoked. A significant increase in fishing effort led managers to implement a rebuilding plan in 1990, and it was officially declared rebuilt in 2009.

Sea scallops

Scallops may not technically be fish, but they’re still one of the most valuable fisheries in the United States. These invertebrates are primarily found from the Mid-Atlantic north to Canada on sandy or gravel bottoms, and are a favorite of seafood lovers around the world.

Major year-to-year fluctuations in stock caused managers to implement a management plan in 1982, involving effort reductions, area closures and gear restrictions. In the years following new area closures established in 1998, commercial landings and revenue almost tripled. Now, the U.S. has the largest sea scallop fishery in the world, with 53.5 million pounds of meat worth $370 million harvested in 2008 alone. Just another shining example of how management under MSA is good for fisheries and for the economy!

Read more about fishery success stories in the Gulf and take action to protect the future of America’s fisheries! 

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MSA at 40: Fisheries in the Gulf http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2016/03/29/msa-at-40-fisheries-in-the-gulf/ http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2016/03/29/msa-at-40-fisheries-in-the-gulf/#comments Tue, 29 Mar 2016 14:30:08 +0000 J.P. Brooker http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/?p=11763

The Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act, or MSA, is a landmark piece of environmental legislation that led to significant conservation gains in the Gulf of Mexico. While the Clean Water Act and the Endangered Species Act get all the glory in the arena of environmental laws, the MSA (which has been in place since 1976) has worked steadfastly to ensure that Americans have continued access to fish and that marine ecosystems stay healthy and resilient. Here’s three fisheries success stories emanating from the Gulf, reminding us as the MSA turns 40 this year that it’s a keeper.

Red Grouper

Some like it fried. Some blackened. Some broiled with a squeeze of lemon. No matter how you take it, red grouper is legendary both for its place on the dinner table and for its fight at the end of a fishing line. Because of the protections put in place for reef fish under the MSA, red grouper should continue to thrive for generations to come.

It was declared rebuilt in 2007, meaning that the stock is currently safe from overfishing, and that wild populations are thriving. This is great news where I live on the west coast of Florida, as the fish provides great fishing opportunities for charter, commercial and private recreational fishermen and is a strong indicator of sustainability in reef ecosystems.

Red Snapper

Red snapper is the most iconic fish of the Gulf of Mexico. Its delicate, flaky, white flesh makes it a favorite of shoppers at the fish market, recreational fishermen out on the water, and gourmands at white table cloth restaurants across the nation.

Although the recovery of Gulf red snapper is well underway, it is a story that has been peppered with challenges. Historical overfishing led to the stock being placed into an MSA-mandated rebuilding plan in 1990. Since then, rebuilding has been extremely successful—so much so that 2014 marked the highest allowable catch levels ever authorized by Gulf fisheries managers, a whopping 14.3 million pounds of fish.

Provisions in the MSA held commercial fishermen accountable for every red snapper they catch, meaning they do not exceed their share of the quota and rebuilding remains on track. Similar MSA-authorized provisions are in the works for the charter for hire fishery, and ultimately the MSA can give greater accountability to the private recreational component of the fishery as well.

King Mackerel

King mackerel, or kingfish, was declared rebuilt under the MSA in 2008. This was welcome news for this popular sportfish that makes for a fun day of fishing and for a delicious bounty for the smoker. Kingfish are travelers: They generally spend the summer months in the northern gulf, with two separate populations heading southward in the fall along the Florida and Texas coasts, and return to the Northern gulf in the spring. Their predictable migratory routes make them reliable and celebrated fall and springtime targets for Gulf fishermen. When I see them show up year in and year out, I know it’s because of MSA protections that have ensured the stock is healthy and sustainable.

Take action to protect the future of America’s fisheries.

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Gulf States Turn Down Management of Red Snapper http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2016/01/28/gulf-states-turn-down-management-of-red-snapper/ http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2016/01/28/gulf-states-turn-down-management-of-red-snapper/#comments Thu, 28 Jan 2016 21:14:44 +0000 J.P. Brooker http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/?p=11411

Why would you turn down a good thing?

“No, thank you.” That’s what Alabama, Texas, Louisiana, Florida and Mississippi said to a tool that would have empowered them to create individual and specific regulations for private fisherman in state waters at the Gulf of Mexico Fishery Management Council today.

This plan, called “Regional Management,” would have delivered a real and meaningful chance for private recreational fishermen from throughout the five states to fish under regulatory conditions that cater directly to their local needs. Fishermen from each state need to fish at different times of year, with different techniques and different local knowledge, out of ports that range in character and culture from Naples, Florida to Venice, Louisiana to Brownsville, Texas.

The benefits are clear.

Anglers would have customized access to red snapper. There would be greater accountability from the private recreational component. And it would lower the likelihood that the recreational component exceeds the overall red snapper quota season after season. In the long run, fewer quota overages and greater stability in the fishery would mean red snapper would continue to successfully rebuild and catch limits would continue to increase as the stock rebounds.

As an avid recreational fisherman and an Ocean Conservancy representative at the meeting, I was extremely disappointed that the voting bloc led by the five Gulf states rejected the plan.

The state wildlife agency representatives remained intractable. Not only were they unable to agree on the state red snapper quota allocations, they were also unwilling to move forward with the amendment without charter fishermen. The latter prefer federal management where they already have prospects of developing new management tools to benefit their fishery and expand access for their clients.

So what does this mean? 

The unfortunate outcome of the states’ failure to proceed with Regional Management is that private anglers will likely continue to see their seasons throttled, rebuilding progress of the stock is jeopardized, and quota overages in the recreational fishery will persist.

Click here to learn more about red snapper. 


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