Ocean Currents » National Marine Fisheries Service http://blog.oceanconservancy.org News, opinions, photos and facts from Ocean Conservancy Fri, 28 Apr 2017 22:26:28 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=3.4.2 How Technology is Helping Fishermen http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2017/02/03/how-technology-is-helping-fishermen/ http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2017/02/03/how-technology-is-helping-fishermen/#comments Fri, 03 Feb 2017 14:07:32 +0000 Todd Phillips http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/?p=13706 Greetings from New Orleans, where I’m excited to bring you some great news about the recreational fishery! After years of careful analysis and deliberation, the Gulf of Mexico Fishery Management Council embraced change and voted unanimously to bring the charter for-hire fishery—which is made up of vessels operated by professional fishermen who take paying customers out fishing—into the Digital Age.

Yesterday’s decision directs the National Marine Fisheries Service to develop an electronic logbook reporting system for the charter boat fleet in the Gulf. Electronic logbooks are devices—some no bigger than a smartphone—that charter captains use to record their day’s catch and send it directly to managers.

As a result, accurate tracking and monitoring of fish caught by charter boats will be captured in a fast and reliable way—improving the management of our nation’s fisheries.

Recreational fishing is a favorite past time for millions of people (myself included) and helps supports thousands of jobs and millions of dollars to coastal economies. Because of its importance, it is critical we make sure the resource is sustainable so our children and grandchildren have the same opportunity we have to enjoy it.

To make sure we’re managing fish responsibly, we need accurate data from all fishermen, commercial and recreational. But a lot of our monitoring methods still rely on paper and pencil methods. One of the best ways to improve our data is to start using more technology—which includes everything from global positioning devices to using the cellphones we all carry around. There’s always some resistance to change, but the Gulf Council has found a solution that everyone could agree upon.

A lot of this credit goes to the fishermen who helped pioneer, test and often times re-test electronic logbooks. For nearly a decade, charter captains have been asking for a way to give their data directly to fishery managers so they can review the fleet’s data on a timelier basis than is possible with current assessment methods. They stuck with this fight for many years, and now their hard work is going to pay off.

Ocean Conservancy has been working hard to support the greater use of this technology in recreational fishery monitoring. We believe electronic monitoring will improve the quality, quantity, and timeliness of data in the for-hire fishery. This is a really positive step towards getting better data, and we look forward to working with fishermen and managers in the Gulf to implement this new system.

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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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