The Blog Aquatic » fishery science http://blog.oceanconservancy.org News, opinions, photos and facts from Ocean Conservancy Thu, 14 Aug 2014 17:21:33 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=3.4.2 Red Snapper Numbers Go Up In More Ways Than One http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2013/07/15/red-snapper-numbers-go-up-in-more-ways-than-one/ http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2013/07/15/red-snapper-numbers-go-up-in-more-ways-than-one/#comments Mon, 15 Jul 2013 17:16:37 +0000 Libby Fetherston http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/?p=6292 Fisherman loads red snapper into buckets

Credit: Tom McCann / Ocean Conservancy

UPDATE (July 17, 2013): Success! The Gulf of Mexico Fishery Management Council has voted to raise this year’s catch limit for red snapper from 8.46 to 11 million pounds due to the successful rebuilding of this iconic species. This action marks a historic moment in the management of the red snapper fishery, as catch levels are the highest they’ve been in 25 years.

Read more about this decision here.

Original post (July 15, 2013):

It’s summer in the Gulf of Mexico, and another recreational red snapper fishing season has come and gone too quickly. Usually at this time of year, anglers and fishery managers are taking stock of what was caught in the short snapper opening and wondering what the limit will be next year. The answer will come sooner than usual.

The Gulf of Mexico Fishery Management Council is holding an emergency meeting this week to decide how many more red snapper can be caught this year. A science panel recently announced that an increase is possible, and now managers need to settle the questions of how much and by when?

The good news is that the red snapper population is on the rise and soon the catch limit will be too. The law governing our nation’s fisheries, the Magnuson-Stevens Act, has rebuilt a record number of fish populations around the country, and red snapper is one of the most visible success stories.

As recently as 2005, the red snapper population was fished down to 3 percent of its historic abundance, and catch limits were reduced to allow recovery. Just eight years later, fishermen are reporting better fishing and larger fish, and scientists have confirmed red snapper is on the road to recovery.

Because red snapper was reduced so low, we have a long way to go to achieve full restoration of the population. So the trick this week is to set a responsible catch limit increase—Ocean Conservancy is recommending between 11 and 11.9 million pounds—to keep up the progress that has already been made while allowing additional fishing opportunities for commercial and recreational participants.

Keeping the increase to a responsible level benefits everyone. Recreational fishermen will be able to catch more fish and get a more stable fishing season, helping to support tourism and local economies for both the short and long term. Commercial fishing will benefit for years to come as the population continues to rebound and provide stable and secure harvests into the future. And for the general public, especially seafood-lovers, responsible limits demonstrate a long-term commitment to the recovery and sustainability of Gulf fisheries—and the food and recreation they provide us all.

Red snapper is an iconic Gulf species, and economically is among the most valuable fish so its long-term recovery and health should be our first priority. The BP Deepwater Horizon oil disaster still represents a great source of uncertainty for the region’s fisheries, and making the right choices is more important now than ever as we do not yet know the extent to which the disaster affected red snapper and the things they rely on as a food source.

For now, the good news is that snapper is rebounding and the Magnuson-Stevens Act is working. Now it’s up to fishery managers to make a responsible decision on the catch limit to help ensure the good news continues.

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Let the Sun Continue to Shine on Fishery Management http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2013/03/12/let-the-sun-continue-to-shine-on-fishery-management/ http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2013/03/12/let-the-sun-continue-to-shine-on-fishery-management/#comments Tue, 12 Mar 2013 22:39:52 +0000 Ivy Fredrickson http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/?p=5130

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. The National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) is considering sweeping changes to its rule regarding confidentiality of information under the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act (MSA). Unfortunately, it’s the opposite of governing in the sunshine. The proposed changes would unnecessarily stifle public participation in the management of public trust ocean resources, including depleted fish populations and protected species. The proposed rule would take the unprecedented and unwarranted leap from protecting personal privacies to withholding basic required information from the owners of the resource: the public. As currently written, the proposed rule could make nearly all essential fisheries data inaccessible to the public, and would prohibit access to critical information that forms the fundamental basis for fishery management decisions. The rule is still pending.

Our nation’s ocean wildlife and fish are public trust resources managed on all of our behalf by NMFS. These resources belong to the American public, and the entire nation has a stake in the jobs and revenues generated from them. U.S. fish populations alone support hundreds of thousands of jobs in the tourism, fishing and seafood industries. Commercial and recreational fishing generates $183 billion per year for the U.S. economy and supports more than 1.5 million full and part-time jobs. Moreover, millions of taxpayer dollars are invested each year in fisheries management including the collection of data by professional observers on fishing vessels. As noted by the Sunlight Foundation, this rule change would restrict access to information from publicly-funded fisheries observer programs, which are funded to the tune of some $40 million each year.

NMFS should withdraw this flawed proposal and replace it with one that ensures public access to fisheries information. The desire to streamline the federal fisheries data processing system is laudable, but the proposed rule presents an unjustified expanded cloak of secrecy that could undermine transparency and stifle public participation. In honor of Sunshine Week, we must continue to urge NMFS to preserve public access to fishery management information as the law intends. A new proposal must preserve transparency, participation and collaboration so that researchers, scientists and members of the public can contribute to the successful management of our nation’s publicly owned ocean resources.

 

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Fish Populations Making Comeback, NOAA Report Says http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2012/05/22/fish-populations-making-comeback-noaa-report-says/ http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2012/05/22/fish-populations-making-comeback-noaa-report-says/#comments Tue, 22 May 2012 13:30:34 +0000 Ellen Bolen http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/?p=635

Coho salmon are one of six populations of fish that NOAA has officially declared rebuilt in 2011. Credit: Soggydan Flickr stream

With a lot of hard work, a new trend is beginning to emerge for America’s fisheries: Good news.

A new report from NOAA shows that six populations of fish have been officially declared rebuilt in 2011, bringing that total number to 27. Fifty-one others are in process of rebuilding, while six are having plans put together now.

Of the 258 marine fish populations managed by the National Marine Fisheries Service, only 36 are currently subject to overfishing. Forty-five are overfished, but due to the precise (read: weird) nature of fishery science, a fish population can be considered overfished while recovering.

Gulf red snapper is the perfect example. Its numbers have rebounded greatly over the past 2+ years, and its allowable catch levels have increased in a benefit to everyone involved, but it is still designated as overfished.

That will change as soon as scientists determine the population has fully recovered from decades of overfishing and depletion — a timeline the fishery management plan estimates to be around 2032. Recovery is ongoing, but full population restoration takes more time.

That’s a lot of numbers but what does it all mean? In short, the Magnuson-Stevens Act is working. We have laws on how wild marine fish are to be harvested: specifically Magnuson-Stevens (MSA).

The goal is to catch the fish we need for food and recreational while still preserving enough to ensure future generations. MSA added real teeth to management, set specific dates when plans needed to be put in place by regulators for overfished stocks, and set 2012 as the year overfishing must end.

The news from NOAA shows that it worked and continues to work. And while nothing — least of all MSA — is perfect, to repeal and/or water it down now would be snapping defeat from the jaws of victory.

Magnuson is working. Let it work.

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