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The Blog Aquatic

News, opinions, photos and facts from Ocean Conservancy

10 Key Facts About Red Snapper

Posted On May 20, 2013 by

Red snapper (Lutjanus campechanus) are one of the Gulf of Mexico’s signature fish.  They are extremely popular among recreational fishermen and a prized offering at restaurants and seafood markets, as well as a top predator in the Gulf ecosystem. Recently there has been a great deal of debate about the health and management of this important fish. Ocean Conservancy, along with Pew Charitable Trusts, has released a report about the law that is saving American fisheries, including red snapper. Here are few handy facts about this iconic fish:

  1. Red snapper can grow to about 40 inches, weigh up to 50 pounds and live more than 50 years.
  2. Red snapper begin to reproduce when they are about two years old, spawning from May to October along rocky ledges or coral reefs.
  3. Fertilized eggs float on the surface and hatch within a day. Only a month later, the young fish settle out of the water column in shallow waters, and as they get older, they move to structured habitat where they will mature and eventually move to the deeper waters of the Gulf. Continue reading »

Moving Toward the Future of Fisheries Management

Posted On May 10, 2013 by

Pacific Bluefin Tuna (Thunnus orientalis) hunting Pacific Sardines (Sardinops sagax) Pacific / California / USA (Monterey Bay Aquarium)

In Ocean Conservancy and Pew Charitable Trusts’ recent report “The Law That’s Saving American Fisheries”, we make three key recommendations about how to improve the already vital law that governs our nation’s fisheries:

  • Minimize the habitat damage and bycatch of indiscriminate fishing.
  • Ensure that adequate forage fish are in the water to feed the larger ecosystem
  • Promote ecosystem-based fisheries management

That’s why we were so excited when the Pacific Fisheries Management Council (Council) recently reached a long-awaited milestone in transitioning toward an ecosystem-based approach to managing seafood harvest.  The Council’s adoption of a Fisheries Ecosystem Plan (FEP) establishes not only a comprehensive foundation for considering the condition of the California Current Ecosystem  in harvest planning and management, but sets a leading example for modernizing fisheries management across the globe.

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New Report: The Law That’s Saving American Fisheries

Posted On May 6, 2013 by

A fisherman adds a red snapper to the pile on a dock in Destin, Florida. – Photo: Tom McCann

As fishermen, scientists, policymakers, and other ocean experts from around the country gather in Washington this week to discuss the future of fisheries in America, Ocean Conservancy and The Pew Charitable Trusts are releasing a joint report highlighting many of the stories that show how fisheries management is succeeding.

The Washington Post covered the report over the weekend, focusing on our belief that while fisheries management is working, we must also let it keep on working if we’re going to face global challenges like ocean acidification and climate change:

More complex problems loom, ones that cannot be solved area by area, experts say. “What we need to pay greater attention to is a changing world and a changing climate and what repercussions that will have,” Chris Dorsett, director of the Ocean Conservancy’s fish conservation and gulf restoration program, said in an interview.

The Law That’s Saving American Fisheries: The Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act” is a primer and collection of stories that highlight pioneers of American fishery management as well as innovators who are opening fishing frontiers, revealing:

  • How a salmon fishing pioneer’s courage in making sacrifices for long-term sustainability set the stage for Alaska’s success.
  • How successful fishermen from Alaska to Florida used discipline to turn around two decades of overfishing.
  • How West Coast fishermen found the flexibility to make a living within rebuilding programs.
  • How fishing entrepreneurs in Port Clyde, ME, turned leadership into opportunity.
  • Why rebuilding important recreational species such as summer flounder, bluefish, and lingcod provides economic as well as enjoyment payoffs.
  • What commercial and recreational fishermen believe we get from good stewardship.

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Five Reasons to be Hopeful About President Obama’s Budget

Posted On April 10, 2013 by

President Obama’s budget proposal for the 2014 fiscal year was released today, shedding light on the Administration’s funding priorities for the coming year. While the budget has a long way to go before it is enacted, here are five reasons that the initial outlook for the ocean is promising:

1. The overall budget for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) would rise to $5.4 billion from $4.8 billion after the sequestration.

In the wake of Superstorm Sandy, it became clear that coastal resilience and planning for the protection of coastal communities is essential. NOAA’s habitat restoration and protection, and coastal resilience programs are key tools that we need to rebuild our coastal communities smarter and safer. Coastal wetland buffer zones in the US are estimated to provide $23.2 billion per year in storm protection and a single acre of wetland can store 1 to 1.5 million gallons of flood water or storm surge.

Sandy will not be the last major storm to hit our shores, and NOAA activities such as coastal mapping, storm surge modeling and forecasting and restoration can provide the data, tools and other items necessary for decision-makers to plan for long term resilience and reduce future disaster costs.

2. President Obama’s budget provides the tools we need to end overfishing

The commercial fishing industry accounts for $32 billion of the US economy, and the sustainable management of fisheries is vital to ensure the health of our coastal economies and ecosystems. NOAA has made great strides toward ending overfishing by establishing annual catch and accountability measures in all US fisheries. The president’s budget acknowledges the importance of these efforts and provides critical funding for core data collection, catch monitoring and stock assessment programs within NOAA that are crucial to ending overfishing.

3. The budget also supports investments that promote well-coordinated ocean and coastal science and management activities throughout the country.

Regional Ocean Partnerships connect state and federal agencies, tribes, local governments and stakeholders to tackle ocean and coastal management issues of common concern, such as siting offshore energy, habitat restoration, coastal storm mitigation and marine debris. While the priorities, structures and methods of each partnership may differ to suit the needs of each region, they are collectively working towards an improved ocean environment and a stronger ocean and coastal economy. The president’s budget supports these partnerships, in part because two new partnerships have been created in the Caribbean and the Pacific in just the past year.

4. The budget provides assistance in targeting the increasing problem of ocean acidification.

The rapid acidification of the earth’s ocean caused by uptake of CO₂ from the atmosphere is making it harder for some species, such as oysters, to properly develop via the formation of their shells. Furthermore, it alters a vast number of biological processes necessary for healthy ecosystems and the coastal industries that depend on them.

Scientists are rapidly expanding our knowledge of the impacts of ocean acidification, and the president’s budget funds the Integrated Ocean Acidification program at NOAA so it can continue to increase our understanding of this emerging economic and environmental threat.

5. President Obama’s budget supports ongoing efforts to deal with Marine Debris

Marine debris has become one of the most pervasive pollution problems facing the world’s oceans, beaches and waterways. In its various forms marine debris includes derelict fishing gear, plastics and trash. Marine debris causes wildlife entanglement, ghost fishing, destruction of habitat, navigational hazards, vessel damage and pollutes coastal areas. Research has demonstrated that persistent debris has serious effects on the marine environment, wildlife and the economy.

The debates over government funding will certainly continue in the coming months, but this initial proposal from the Obama Administration is a great start for the ocean. Funding aimed at programs that support ocean health benefit both coastal ecosystems and the economies they support. At this early stage, the president’s budget is movement in the right direction on ocean conservation.

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Let the Sun Continue to Shine on Fishery Management

Posted On March 12, 2013 by

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. Continue reading »

Fishing for Data: How a Day on the Water is Aiding Scientific Success

Posted On February 28, 2013 by

Credit — Kip Evans

When volunteer anglers aboard the Huli Cat bait a hook trying to catch a rockfish, they’re not just fishing – they’re helping researchers learn more about California’s underwater parks. Recreational fishermen, SCUBA divers, PhD scientists and graduate students are working together to study California’s marine protected areas (MPAs), and results from their studies are being presented this week in Monterey.

Five years ago, California completed its network of MPAs on California’s central coast. This anniversary is being marked with the State of the California Central Coast Symposium, which brings together scientists, resource managers, policy makers, fishermen and conservationists to learn about new findings from dozens of monitoring efforts and discuss perspectives on MPA management.

Early results suggest that the reserves are on track, allowing fish like cabezon and lingcod to grow larger and more abundant inside MPAs, with habitats that are more biologically productive. This, along with steadily increasing revenues for fishermen, is good news for the Central Coast MPAs. However, researchers stress that these first five years of study are meant to create a baseline: a barometer of ecological health against which future MPA performance can be measured. So, how exactly are these reserves being studied? It turns out that monitoring is both sophisticated and wonderfully simple.

One great example of this is Dr. Rick Starr’s California Collaborative Fisheries Research Program (CCFRP), which uses local charter fishing boats to monitor four MPAs. Volunteer anglers from the local fishing community team up with graduate students by fishing for rockfish while painstakingly recording the weight and species of every fish they catch and release. They’ve caught over 40,000 fish in the past five years, and have noted how great the fishing is by the relative abundance of some species inside the MPAs.

Another monitoring project is Reef Check, which teams PhD researchers up with citizen scientists who strap on SCUBA gear to survey shallow and deep rocky habitats, kelp forests, rocky shores, estuaries, beaches and other key ecosystems along the central coast. They monitor ecologically and economically important species of fishes and invertebrates, and human activities including fishing and recreational use.

One consistent theme in these studies is that citizens of the coast are vital to the success of the marine reserves. Volunteers have been involved in scores of monitoring and outreach projects. Citizen science efforts like MPA Watch have trained hundreds of volunteers to monitor beach and coastal use in and around protected areas like Natural Bridges and Año Nuevo.

Save Our Shores’ Dockwalker program is another great example of an organization working with coastal citizens to help the MPAs. The Dockwalker program shares information with boaters and fishermen about MPAs, and conducts ocean protection workshops in local schools. In turn, schools are making visits to the underwater parks part of their outdoor education program, because in addition to enabling kids to watch wildlife in nature, many now feature full-color educational interpretive displays and instructor programs.

From school children looking to learn more about marine life to fishermen looking to catch more fish, California’s new marine protected areas are an investment in the future. By studying them with the assistance of citizen volunteers, we are learning about the full range of benefits they provide to marine ecosystems, and becoming better stewards of these places in the process.

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Casting a Wider Net for Fisheries Data: Ocean Solutions from Anglers

Posted On February 22, 2013 by

A friend emailed me a link the other day to an article in the Hispanic Business News entitled “App for Anglers also Helps Fisheries Management”. He asked me, “is this legit?” Yes, it is!

The article describes this cool new smart phone app, called iAngler. IAngler is a smart phone app developed through collaboration between research scientists and anglers. At its heart, iAngler is an effort to engage fishermen into fisheries management. The creation of iAngler was largely driven by the Snook and Gamefish Foundation (SGF), who partnered with the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) for scientific guidance. SGF has developed a fast and easy way for fishermen to make their catch and their fishing experience count. The partnership is already paying off. Information from the program has already been used in FWC’s recent assessment of snook.

As Rick Roberts, Executive Director of SGF says, “we want to promote anglers to keep score of their catch on the water, much like a golfer on the course.” Whether anglers accomplish this via an app for iPhone and android phones or use a simple data card and log the information online from their desktop after a recent fishing trip, the information counts by providing data on angler habits, as well as their catch (or lack thereof), to researchers evaluating stock assessments of a fish.

Continue reading »