All my life, I’ve measured the “good life” with days on the water fishing. Escaping work, shunning worry and forgoing the pressures of daily life to enjoy the elemental world of water, weather and a fish has defined the happiest moments of my life. Actually, it’s a natural inheritance since my family has called Alabama and these Gulf waters home for several hundred years.
As with any natural inheritance, I tend to be protective of my roots. Supporting my protective bent, the United States has some of the best fisheries management practices in the world. The overall law, the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act, is effective because it is implemented using science-based rules, such as annual catch limits and rebuilding timelines, as currently defined by National Standard 1 (NS1). The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Fisheries Service (NOAA Fisheries) is responsible for establishing and assessing these rules, and the nation’s eight regional fisheries management councils are mandated to execute them.
Who needs to know that American fish stocks may be once again at risk?
Everyone who dines on American seafood.
Every coastal town from the Northeast to the Gulf to Alaska that relies on commercial fishing.
Every U.S. marina where recreational fishing boats are moored.
Everyone who depends on a healthy marine ecosystem needs to know that in the next few weeks the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) is preparing to finalize changes to the science-based policies that form the backbone of how we manage our fisheries. These proposed rules could return our nation to the dangers of overfishing, threaten entire fish species, put fishermen and charter boat businesses at risk and undercut restaurants and coastal tourism as we experienced in the 1980s and 1990s.
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.
2016 hasn’t been a good year for the West Coast Dungeness crab fishery. The fishing season that typically spans the winter months – worth $212 million in 2014 – got significantly delayed this year when Dungeness crabs tested high for domoic acid, which sickens humans, and managers shut down the fishery. The crabs had fed heartily on a giant toxic bloom of Pseudonitschia algae, which produce domoic acid, and which were thriving in an unusually warm body of water stalled offshore, affectionately called “the blob.” The bloom also shut down other West Coast shellfish fisheries, too. The lost harvests equal lost income for West Coast communities. San Francisco Bay Area crabber John Mellor says, “If crabs were to disappear from the picture, I think it would be the end of my fishing career at this point.”
Strong funding proposed for ocean conservation in President Obama’s final budget proposal.
Today, President Obama laid out his final “to-do list” in the form of his proposed federal budget for the coming fiscal year. Ocean Conservancy is pleased to see this administration continue to prioritize the ocean, not least because it contributes more than $343 billion annually to the nation’s GDP and supports 2.9 million jobs through fisheries and seafood production, tourism, recreation, transportation and construction.
You’d be right in thinking President Obama’s proposed budget is a big deal for our ocean.
This holiday season, we at Ocean Conservancy have a lot to be thankful for. At the very top of our list is you—our members, supporters and partners—who make our work possible.
Thanks to your tremendous support (24,000 of you contacted your member of Congress in support of a budget deal that would benefit the ocean and another 10,000 signed a petition to President Obama in support of the National Ocean Policy) we saw strong outcomes for ocean conservation in the omnibus spending bill that passed House and Senate today.
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.”