Ocean Currents » National Marine Fisheries Service http://blog.oceanconservancy.org News, opinions, photos and facts from Ocean Conservancy Tue, 26 Jul 2016 19:17:06 +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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Update: Forage Fish Protection Begins on the West Coast http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2016/05/04/update-forage-fish-protection-begins-on-the-west-coast/ http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2016/05/04/update-forage-fish-protection-begins-on-the-west-coast/#comments Wed, 04 May 2016 12:00:55 +0000 Greg Helms http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/?p=12008

I have another fin-tastic update for you, from the West Coast!

If you recall, about five weeks ago I wrote in gratitude over the outpouring of support from Ocean Conservancy activists, who together with other conservation supporters sent nearly 100,000 letters to the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) asking them to finalize protection for West Coast forage fish.

We said we’d get back to you on the final outcome and I’m happy to tell you about this victory! As of today, the final rule is complete and these fish will now be protected, and their immense importance to a range of predators from rockfish to whales to seabirds sustained.

The final rule will prohibit fishing for a list of 11 types of small, schooling marine species—including one that accounts for more than half of all deep-sea fish biomass—unless first reviewed and determined sustainable by federal fisheries managers.

In addition to the tremendous positive impact on the marine ecosystem, NMFS provided a big shout-out in support of the role of our activists in their decision, saying

Several letters from environmental organizations included petitions supporting the action, with signatures or comments from 91,966 people supporting the action… NMFS appreciates the broad public interest in this rulemaking and has taken the strong public support it received during the comment period into account in its approval of this final rule.

We’ll keep swimming forward to support corresponding forage protection in other West Coast areas such as California state waters, and keep you posted. Thanks again for helping make this historic conservation achievement possible!

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Thanks to YOU, Fish Conservation Swims Forward http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2016/02/19/thanks-to-you-fish-conservation-swims-forward/ http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2016/02/19/thanks-to-you-fish-conservation-swims-forward/#comments Fri, 19 Feb 2016 22:48:28 +0000 Greg Helms http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/?p=11519

Late last month, ocean advocates and supporters took action to help protect the base of the Pacific Ocean’s ecosystem by supporting a ban on commercial fishing on unmanaged forage fish in federal waters.  And, I was so excited to see that a tidal wave of Ocean Conservancy’s supporters took action, sending more than 17,000 letters to the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) asking for final approval of this important measure!

Since this campaign is joined by a number of ocean conservation groups around the country, NMFS has received nearly 100,000 total public comments on the issue.  WOW—that’s a big amount of support for such little (but important fish). So, thanks to YOU!

I bet you’re wondering about the outcome—did all of these messages have a BIG impact? Am I writing to tell you about a victory? Well, not quite yet! We won’t know the final outcome until perhaps springtime whether this measure will become law. Stay tuned—I promise to report back, when we have more information.

But, we can say we’ve made an incredible showing for conservation, thanks to YOU. 

Meanwhile, we can report that this effort has prompted further action along the West Coast. Back in 2012, fish managers in California adopted a visionary policy on forage species to recognize the special importance of forage species to the California marine ecosystem.  The federal rule on forage fish protection—that you helped advance with your recent action—also provided an opportunity to extend those protections to California. And, early this month, the California Department of Fish and Wildlife officials did just that, scheduling forage fish protection similar to the federal rule for implementation this year.

So, big thanks to our resource managers in California as well.

Let’s hope for more two-for-one deals for ocean conservation in 2016!

 

 

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A Victory for Gulf Sea Turtles http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2014/07/14/a-victory-for-gulf-sea-turtles/ http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2014/07/14/a-victory-for-gulf-sea-turtles/#comments Mon, 14 Jul 2014 17:32:54 +0000 Kara Lankford http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/?p=8747

Blair Witherington

Last September, we asked you to help us protect the Gulf’s sea turtles and today, I have some wonderful news to share. Thanks to more than 5,000 of our supporters, 685 miles of beaches and nearly 200,000 square miles of the Atlantic Ocean and Gulf of Mexico have now been declared critical habitat for threatened loggerhead sea turtles. The newly protected areas include floating Sargassum mats, where young sea turtles live and grow.

This victory is an important step toward a fully restored Gulf. During the BP Deepwater Horizon oil disaster, tens of thousands of sea turtles were located in the coastal waters of the Gulf of Mexico where oil accumulated at the surface. The BP oil disaster started during sea turtle nesting season, and as millions of barrels of oil bubbled up from the seafloor that summer, loggerhead sea turtles were returning to the Gulf Coast to lay their eggs. Almost 300 sea turtle nests had to be relocated from the Gulf Coast to the Atlantic Coast in 2010, in order for the young turtles to have a better chance at survival. This meant over 14,000 loggerhead sea turtles hatched along Atlantic Coast instead of their home beaches in the Gulf.

Several other environmental organizations, including the Center for Biological Diversity, Turtle Island Restoration Network and Oceana played a key role in this victory. These groups took legal action, which forced the National Marine Fisheries Service to act.

Victories like this one inspire me to continue working towards a healthy Gulf. It proves that decision-makers are listening and it reminds me that together, we have the power to make a difference for the Gulf.

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House of Representatives Ignores Calls for Investments in Our Ocean and the People that Depend on It http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2014/05/08/house-of-representatives-ignores-calls-for-investments-in-our-ocean-and-the-people-that-depend-on-it/ http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2014/05/08/house-of-representatives-ignores-calls-for-investments-in-our-ocean-and-the-people-that-depend-on-it/#comments Thu, 08 May 2014 13:22:56 +0000 Emily Woglom http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/?p=8207

Just a few months ago, President Obama called for a much-needed boost in federal funding for our ocean. The U.S. House of Representatives, however, has refused to stand up and answer that call. The House’s proposed funding bill for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), which was released this week ignores needed investments in critical areas of ocean science and conservation, and would even take steps backward, decreasing the amount of funding for our ocean from current levels.

Overall, the bill fails to provide  $22.7 million for the National Ocean Service and $46.6 million for the National Marine Fisheries Service that NOAA has requested – a total loss of nearly $70 million for our oceans, and $24.5 million below current funding levels.


A closer look reveals that the House proposal:

  • Fails to increase investment in ocean acidification research to improve our understanding of acidification impacts on vulnerable communities and businesses—and to devel­op tools and strategies to tackle the economic, on-the-ground impacts.
  • Fails to fund Regional Coastal Resilience Grants that could help build resilient coastal communities that are prepared to face changing ocean conditions, economic conditions, and major events, such as Superstorm Sandy, that threaten people’s businesses, livelihoods, homes and way of life.
  • Fails to invest in improvements to oil spill response capacity in the Arctic, where no demonstrated technology or technique exists to respond effectively to an oil spill in icy waters. The House also fails to increase funding for the Arctic Observing Network to track and understand profound changes in the Arctic.
  • Guts funding for climate change science to the tune of nearly $40 million below current levels, and nearly $70 million below the amount NOAA says we need.  This means that that funding for many much-needed activities would be at risk, from baseline science and data collection on climate and weather, to cutting-edge research on extreme events — like heat waves, droughts — and how our communities and businesses can best prepare for them.

Experts agree that we need to invest in our ocean now to support its health and productivity in the future. For example, Secretary of State John Kerry is hosting a major international conference called “Our Ocean” in June to bring together government officials, scientists, and industry representatives from all over the world to determine how to address marine issues in a way that will make a difference in people’s lives. At the same time, efforts like the XPrize Ocean Initiative are leveraging private sector dollars and innovation to answer key questions about our ocean and advance solutions.

The House will pass this funding bill through Committee today, and likely vote on it later this month. The Obama administration and millions of coastal residents and businesses understand the importance of smart investments in the health and productivity of our ocean. We hope to see the Senate take responsible action when they produce their own budget for consideration.

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Ocean Conservancy Welcomes Eileen Sobeck to NOAA Fisheries http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2014/01/16/ocean-conservancy-welcomes-eileen-sobeck-to-noaa-fisheries/ http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2014/01/16/ocean-conservancy-welcomes-eileen-sobeck-to-noaa-fisheries/#comments Thu, 16 Jan 2014 20:40:44 +0000 Ellen Bolen http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/?p=7354 Granite Point, Point Lobos, California

© Feo Pitcairn

Yesterday, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) named Eileen Sobeck as the new assistant administrator for NOAA Fisheries, better known as the National Marine Fisheries Service. As assistant administrator, she will oversee the management and conservation of all marine life within the U.S. exclusive economic zone, from coastal habitat to bluefin tuna and everything in between. Given the breadth of her job, it’s a good thing that Ms. Sobeck is no stranger to NOAA or ocean issues. She worked in the NOAA Office of the General Counsel from 1979 to 1984, and she currently serves as the acting assistant secretary of the Department of the Interior’s Office of Insular Affairs.

Ms. Sobeck takes the helm at a critical time for U.S. fisheries. During the past decade, significant progress has been made to end overfishing and rebuild dwindling fish populations in the United States. This progress, important from both ecological and economic standpoints, resulted from the implementation of the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act by fishery managers, regional officials and fishermen. But now that act is at risk as lawmakers attempt to weaken some of its key conservation provisions. Ms. Sobeck’s leadership within NOAA will be critical to ensure that we build upon the progress that we have made and prepare our fisheries and fishing communities for the impacts of a changing climate.

She will officially start in her new role on January 27. In the meantime, we thought you might like to get to know her a little better, especially her history with coastal and marine conservation:

  • She has an ocean sea slug species named after her! Two scientists named a species of nudibranch (a sea slug) in her honor after she assisted them with fieldwork in Papua New Guinea. The species is named Hallaxa hileenae. Hileen is the Papua New Guinea pidgin name for Eileen.
  • She was the co-chair of the U.S. Coral Reef Task Force. The task force worked to develop tools and methods to assess the impacts of climate change and ocean acidification on coral reefs.
  • She isn’t afraid to get her hands dirty for conservation. When she visited the Sarbanes Ecosystem Restoration Project as the deputy assistant secretary for Fish and Wildlife and Parks at the Department of the Interior, Sobeck volunteered to take over the painstaking task of painting 200 decoys which were critical for waterbird nesting season and Chesapeake Bay restoration.
  • She likes to get up close with the marine environment. She is an avid scuba diver, having recently returned from a trip to Indonesia.
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Government Casts a New Line on Fishery Data Collection http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2013/06/04/government-casts-a-new-line-on-fishery-data-collection/ http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2013/06/04/government-casts-a-new-line-on-fishery-data-collection/#comments Tue, 04 Jun 2013 15:36:19 +0000 TJ Marshall http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/?p=5949 Credit: Our Enchanted Garden via Flickr

Credit: Our Enchanted Garden via Flickr

As an avid recreational fisherman, it was a welcomed surprise last week to learn that seven days would be added to one of my favorite times of year: red snapper season in the Gulf of Mexico. Historically, red snapper have been severely overfished in the Gulf but are now on their way back. As the fishery and the fishing improve, so is the technology to monitor catches — a critical component to ensure the health of this iconic species.

Way back in the golden era of recreational fishing, shortly after World War II, American prosperity grew and with it came dramatic technological advances in small outboard engines, fiberglass boats, fishing rods and reels.   A new era of fishermen was born and the technology for counting catches needed to…well, catch up.

The freedom to fish alone or with a few friends at anytime during a set season and anywhere you can launch a boat or cast from shore is one of the timeless pleasures of recreational fishing. There’s nothing like getting outdoors and catching a few fish.  With more fishermen taking more fish out of the water than ever before, we need to make sure fisheries are healthy and have the numbers to support themselves. Individually, sometimes it seems our catch is not equating to too much, yet collectively the numbers really add up. Each one of those days an individual fisherman puts a hook in the water adds up to millions of fishing trips per year. In fact, there were more than 23 million fishing trips last year in the Gulf!

With so many angler trips, the only way to collect fish data that is cost effective and unobtrusive is through a survey. These surveys look at things such as the kinds and numbers of fish caught, and are used to help determine the health of fish populations and what may be changing in the fishery. Estimates of the amount of fish caught by fishermen contribute to assessments that tell us the amount of fish that can be safely caught without harming the fishery.

Much like weather forecasting and political polling in elections, these estimates can change once all the information is in. As surveys continue to improve and we better understand ecologically, culturally and economically important aspects of fisheries, the estimates will improve too. This is exactly why there is now seven extra days to fish for red snapper in the Gulf of Mexico this season.  (The most recent red snapper health assessment is under review and we may see further increases to the 2013 fishing season. More on this after the fishery managers meet to discuss results in June.)

Even with limited federal funding, the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS), driven by a National Research Council report from 2006, was able to develop the promising Marine Recreational Information Program (MRIP). It took years of pilot projects and reviews before MRIP became operational in 2013. NMFS continues to evolve MRIP with continuous improvements and innovative projects.

Again, while it’s a welcome surprise that I have an additional seven days to hit Gulf waters to try my luck at catching red snapper (which has been phenomenal if I say so myself), I’d be remiss not to note that we need to expect to take the good and the bad.  Improvements in the system don’t necessarily mean seasons will always get longer. Some may in fact have to shorten do to the greater precision of surveys.  And, just as important, we must always keep in mind that recreational fishing is a growth sport and the advancement of models, surveys and estimates from past years of fishing don’t necessarily make an exact prediction for a coming year.  In the end, we simply need to be conservation minded and cautiously approach fishing limits to keep the balance between the freedom to fish and sustainable fisheries.

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