The Blog Aquatic » nmfs http://blog.oceanconservancy.org News, opinions, photos and facts from Ocean Conservancy Thu, 28 Aug 2014 17:32:30 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=3.4.2 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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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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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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Casting a Wider Net for Fisheries Data: Ocean Solutions from Anglers http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2013/02/22/casting-a-wider-net-for-fisheries-data-ocean-solutions-from-anglers/ http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2013/02/22/casting-a-wider-net-for-fisheries-data-ocean-solutions-from-anglers/#comments Fri, 22 Feb 2013 16:09:21 +0000 TJ Marshall http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/?p=4751

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.

“We call it the Angler Action Program,” says Roberts. “For too long anglers have felt detached from fisheries management decisions and it hasn’t been good. We wanted to create something that shows anglers count in the management process.”

It’s working. Managers at the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) have noticed their effort and are beginning to incorporate the Angler Action Program into the Marine Recreational Information Program (MRIP) — a critical data collection system for the catch of recreational anglers across the nation that’s used in NMFS stock assessments.

As an angler and conservationist, I’ve long believed in science based management of our fisheries. I’m glad to see the Snook and Gamefish Foundation taking a proactive role to move anglers toward greater participation in the science and management of fisheries.

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