Ocean Currents » fishing http://blog.oceanconservancy.org News, opinions, photos and facts from Ocean Conservancy Sat, 24 Sep 2016 14:30:37 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=3.4.2 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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Caring for Crabs is Caring for the Coast http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2016/05/23/caring-for-crabs-is-caring-for-the-coast/ http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2016/05/23/caring-for-crabs-is-caring-for-the-coast/#comments Mon, 23 May 2016 14:40:15 +0000 Sarah Cooley http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/?p=12140

San Franciso Bay Area Dungeness crabber Captain John Mellor

“We’re like the Giants. We’re your hometown team,” said Captain John Mellor last week as he described the San Francisco Bay Dungeness crab fishing fleet. Capt. Mellor’s pride in his work as a crabber is paired with a love for what he does. But, his feelings are mixed with fear for the future. A West-Coast wide toxic algae bloom shut down the fishery last year, leaving him out of work for five months. Fishermen and researchers are also worried that ocean acidification could represent a looming threat to the fishery that could cause future fishing disruptions.

Representative Derek Kilmer (D-WA) pointed out that understanding ocean acidification’s effects on Dungeness crab is “an economic imperative” as he introduced Thursday’s briefing, which he co-hosted with Rep. Don Young (R-AK). He underscored the need to know more about how Dungeness will respond, because the commercial fishery and the recreational activities around the crabs are a particularly important financial engine for the West Coast.

After a screening of the new short film “High Hopes,” which offers a five-minute look at the concerns of scientists and Dungeness crabbers about the fishery, NOAA scientist. Dr. Paul McElhany and Capt. Mellor participated in a question-and-answer session with about 50 attendees. McElhany described his new research, which shows that young Dungeness crabs grow slowly under ocean acidification conditions simulated in the lab, and many don’t survive to adulthood. He explained, “It’s important to think about ocean acidification now, while the fishery is healthy,” to get ahead of any lasting problems that may arise in the water.

Mellor and McElhany both agreed that developing partnerships between scientists and the industry could go a long way towards providing data critical for understanding what Dungeness face. Mellor reminded attendees that seafood, including Dungeness, is “a public trust, but ultimately it’s the lifeblood of San Francisco Harbor.” So it’s important for us to take care of that. Continued strong research funding for ocean acidification’s research on species like Dungeness crab will go a long way towards caring for the family-owned fishing businesses and coastal communities on the West Coast.

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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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How to Protect Endangered Albatross http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2015/12/09/how-to-protect-endangered-albatross/ http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2015/12/09/how-to-protect-endangered-albatross/#comments Wed, 09 Dec 2015 14:30:59 +0000 Corey Ridings http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/?p=11199

The National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) has some exciting news for seabirds: Streamer lines are now required in the Pacific Coast Groundfish Fishery! Break out the squid and champagne! Ok, just kidding on the champagne, but as a species that often mates for life, the short-tailed albatross knows something about romance.

This final rule means that fishing vessels 55 feet or longer now require streamer lines to deter seabirds from becoming hooked or caught in fishing line, and that the endangered short-tailed albatross—along with other West Coast bird species—is now better protected. The rule was recommended by the Pacific Fishery Management Council in 2013 due to the impact the Pacific groundfish fishery has on the albatross, whose population size is an estimated 600 nesting pairs, significantly down from historical numbers in the millions.

The survival of this species is threatened by multiple stressors, including changes in food concentration and location, contact with fishing vessels and plastic debris. A paper released in 2013 showed high levels of interaction between the Pacific Coast Groundfish Fishery and the albatross; the albatross, unable to see hooks or fishing line, can accidentally ingest the hooks or become entangled in fishing line.

Streamer lines, used widely in Alaska with high rates of success, were naturally part of the solution. They are relatively low cost and easy for fisherman to use, and were shown to significantly help keep albatross away. In fact, they are already being used voluntarily by some fisherman in the fleet.

Here’s how they work: Bright orange tubing is vertically suspended from a line above the water. The birds are startled by the color and movement, and the baited hooks are safe as they go into the water. This keeps the birds from getting entangled in the fishing line or encountering a hook. Bait is preserved and fishing line remains untangled, making life easier for fisherman and bird alike.

NMFS’s action finalizes a good example of how science, good management, and fishermen initiative can allow low-tech, inexpensive equipment to put a major dent in a real problem. Seabirds face many uncertainties as their environment changes, but this final rule gives them a better chance for survival, and hopefully many more years of winged romance.

For more about the short-tailed albatross’ amazing recovery, please see an inspiring story by our colleagues at Audubon.

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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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Ocean Conservancy Supports Red Snapper Recovery and Improved Recreational Fishing http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2015/09/16/ocean-conservancy-supports-red-snapper-recovery-and-improved-recreational-fishing/ http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2015/09/16/ocean-conservancy-supports-red-snapper-recovery-and-improved-recreational-fishing/#comments Wed, 16 Sep 2015 19:00:33 +0000 Ivy Fredrickson http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/?p=10758

Photo: Ned Deloach / Marine Life Images

For nearly three decades, Ocean Conservancy has been fighting to protect red snapper in the Gulf of Mexico. The stock was formally declared as overfished in the late 1980s. Despite this long and rocky road, 2015 has been a landmark year for red snapper—the stock continues to rebuild as a result of shared sacrifices and innovative management strategies.

In April 2015, NOAA approved a management measure that will improve conservation and recreational fishing opportunities in the red snapper fishery in the Gulf of Mexico. This management measure divides the recreational red snapper quota between charter-for-hire and private recreational fishermen (known as ‘sector separation’ because it splits the recreational sector into two sub-sectors).

Sector separation allows fishery managers to develop individually tailored strategies for the needs of the unique charter-for-hire and private recreational components, which in turn will prevent continued catch-limit overages and foster continued rebuilding of this iconic Gulf species.

Sector separation has paved the way for far greater accountability in the charter-for-hire fishery, which in turn allows for better predictability of fishing seasons and greater access to the fishery as the stock continues to rebuild. The private recreational component stands to reap the same benefits from sector separation as fishery managers continue to develop tools and techniques to increase accountability amongst private recreational anglers and to prevent any future overages in the recreational sector as a whole.

Following approval of sector separation, the Coastal Conservation Association (CCA) filed a lawsuit in federal court challenging this critical management action. Last week, we filed an amicus curiae (‘friend of the court’) brief in the ongoing case. In doing so, Ocean Conservancy weighed in on the side of conservation and angler opportunity. We are asking the court to uphold separate quotas for charter fishermen and private anglers because it is the best way to keep red snapper stocks on the road to recovery.

As Ellen Bolen, Director of Ocean Conservancy’s Fish Conservation Program, stated last week:

“Sector separation is a smart conservation decision. It is good for the fishermen and good for the fish. Sector separation will greatly improve the management system, will guard against a return to overfishing, and will enhance rebuilding progress. Ocean Conservancy stands behind the government’s decision.”

We are urging the court to uphold sector separation in the recreational red snapper fishery. A reversal could threaten the rebuilding plan and cripple further improvements to the fishery that could bring better access for anglers while protecting the marine ecosystem.

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Make Your Holiday Greener http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2015/07/02/make-your-holiday-greener/ http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2015/07/02/make-your-holiday-greener/#comments Thu, 02 Jul 2015 12:04:15 +0000 Guest Blogger http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/?p=10347

The Travel Foundation is a non-profit organization that works with the travel industry to integrate sustainable tourism into their business — to protect the environment and create opportunities for local people in tourism destinations. Their annual Make Your Holidays Greener Month, during July, celebrates the locations around the world we love to visit and encourages visitors and the travel industry alike to take part in a cleanup — the Big Holiday Beach Clean.

Earlier this year, a report from the World Wildlife Fund valued the world’s ocean at $24trillion – a figure largely calculated from the value of fishing, shipping and tourism.  Whilst many already view the ocean as priceless, the attempt to put a monetary value on it highlights to businesses around the world the importance of taking action to protect marine ecosystems.

For tourism, the ocean and sea are vastly important.  Many of the holidays we take have beaches and coastlines at their center and these environments are an inherent part of the product marketed by tourism companies to their customers.  As a result, this industry is well placed to mobilize action, particularly on the growing and pervasive threat of marine litter.

The Make Holidays Greener campaign is focusing its efforts on engaging travel companies and their customers in celebrating cleaner, greener beaches.  The campaign is organized by sustainable tourism charity, the Travel Foundation, in partnership with Travelife a sustainability certification system for hotels and accommodations.  The organizations are urging hotels, tour operators and other tourism companies to support the campaign by organizing a beach clean this July and by reducing plastic waste.

Beach cleans are a great way to engage customers, staff and local communities in a positive and memorable action, with publicity generated by the campaign helping to spread the message more widely. The Make Holidays Greener infographic about plastic waste, which has already been shared widely, highlights that everyone can make a difference by taking simple actions – such as disposing of litter and cigarette butts properly, taking a reusable bag and bottle to the beach and not using straws.

Plus, every bag of rubbish taken out of the environment makes a difference to birds, turtles, fish, dolphins and other marine life, and the more people who participate, the greater the impact. Last year the campaign gathered great momentum with over 100 companies taking part, cleaning 97 beaches in 22 countries.  It is hoped that these efforts will also feed into the Ocean Conservancy’s database and support further efforts to minimize waste going into our seas.

The campaign website makeholidaysgreener.org.uk features a range of free resources, including how to organize a beach clean, support for hotels to reduce plastic waste, and top tips for holidaymakers.  Follow us on Twitter, @TravelTF, and join the conversation using #greenerhols.

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