Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Reporter Sues State Agencies

On April 20, 2010, David Gurney went to a Marine Life Protection Act (MLPA) Initiative meeting in Fort Bragg, California, to record the “public/private” agency that was closing off large areas of state waters to fishermen and seaweed gatherers. Soon after the meeting began, it was announced that the public would not be allowed to record or speak at the meeting.

“I was surprised,” Gurney says, “The managers had decided to split up the thirty-four local stakeholders into separate sub-groups, against their will. They apparently didn’t want it on tape.”

But he had been working on a documentary of the MLPAI process for the past nine months, and the camera was rolling.

Executive Director Ken Wiseman immediately stopped the meeting.
“He and professional facilitator Eric Poncelet came up to me with an armed fish and game warden, and ordered me to quit filming,” Gurney says. “I was threatened with ejection and arrest if I didn’t.”

He complied, but three other times during the two-day meetings, he continued to record. “I wanted to get some quick B-roll footage, to show how the stakeholders had been split up against their own vote,” he says. Each time seen, he was ordered to stop.

Gurney also spoke up at the beginning of the proceedings when it was announced there would be no opportunity for public comment. “I knew that was also a violation of the law, to hold a public meeting and not allow any comment,” he says. “I simply told the MLPAI that I had not given up my rights by attending their meeting.”

Finally, near the end of the second day, Gurney asked a question that the staff did not want to hear.

“During the question and answer period, I asked whether the MLPAI would make any provisions to protect the ocean from other activities besides fishing. Things like oil drilling, wind and wave energy development, fish farms, etc. As the facilitator was telling me that no questions would be taken from the public, someone sent a Fish and Game Warden over to arrest me,” Gurney says.
He was quickly escorted out of the meeting hall, handcuffed, and taken away in a Fish and Game pick-up truck.

In 2004, the MLPA “Initiative” resurrected a ten-year old law with undisclosed private funding, to create it’s own, state-like agency. Director Wiseman at first said that California laws, including the Bagley-Keene Open Meetings Act, did not apply because the process was “advisory” to state government. And yet the state supplied scientists, advisors and armed Fish and Game Wardens to act as security guards for public MLPAI meetings. Many feel that the blurring of lines between private and public interests opened the floodgates for corruption, and claim that illegal private influence of the democratic process runs rampant in the MLPAI.

California’s open meeting laws guarantee that citizens and members of the press have a right to keep track of what goes on in a public process, and assures they will not be harassed at public meetings. Yet the Marine Life Protection Act Initiative, funded by the secretive Resources Legacy Fund Foundation, often had secret, unrecorded meetings, changed the rules of their process at whim, and abided only by the laws of their own choosing.
Mr. Gurney had earlier volunteered to serve on his community’s citizen watch-dog committee to keep an eye on the “Initiative.” Many in his town had expressed concerns that the privately funded commission had repeatedly crossed the line of illegality.

“I just wanted to get what I could on tape, for the historical record,” he said.
He is seeking a permanent injunction that will prevent further violations of Bagley-Keene, Constitutional and other laws by the MLPAI, as well as damages suffered in the arrest.

The California Attorney General’s Office has declined routine service of papers in the complaint, possibly forcing attorneys to initiate default proceedings against the state.

-Dan Bacher

Author Bill Carter To Speak at Clemente's Restaurant During Astoria’s Annual Fisher Poets Gathering

For fourteen years, salty sea dogs have descended upon the tiny town of Astoria, Oregon for the annual Fisher Poets Gathering, set in a town most commonly known as the backdrop for Steven Spielberg’s film, “The Goonies”.

The Fisher Poets Gathering is an Astoria tradition, bringing men and women tied to the fishing industry together in celebration of the lifestyle and its people. Participants and visitors come from faraway places including Bristol Bay, Alaska, Nova Scotia, Canada and even Tampa Bay, Florida for their chance to celebrate the world’s oldest profession through poetry, stories and sea shanties.

This year, the author and award-winning director of “Miss Sarajevo”, Bill Carter will appear as an honored guest at Clemente’s Restaurant to read from his acclaimed memoir Red Summer, which describes his four seasons spent as a commercial fisherman in Alaska's Bristol Bay.

The evening will shine the spotlight on a proposed mining development of national concern – Pebble Mine.

If built, Pebble Mine will become one of the largest open-pit mines in the world. Its location, near the spawning grounds for two major rivers, and possible impact on both the food supply and 11,000 jobs, is causing major concern and uniting fishermen, conservationists, jewelers, grocery stores and various other groups in opposition.

“I’m not against mining at all,” says Carter. “There are just some places that make more sense to build mines than others. Because of the potentially negative impact on Bristol Bay’s sustainable $120 million per year fishing industry, Pebble Mine makes absolutely no sense.”

The Clemente's event occurs in Astoria, Oregon on Friday, February 25th from 6:30 p.m. to 10:30 p.m. at Clemente’s Restaurant (1198 Commercial Street). Owner Lisa Clement, hailing from a fourth generation Astoria salmon fishing family, has created two themed cocktails, with proceeds benefiting Trout Unlimited’s efforts to fight Pebble Mine. For more information about Trout Unlimited visit:

Also speaking is Steve Schoonmaker from Kasilof, Alaska - an Alaskan fisherman, dynamite poet and articulate opponent of the mine.

To interview Bill Carter or to learn more information about Red Summer, please contact Michael Phillips at

Dan Wasel Appointed to Head of Inside Sales

International supplier of accessories and equipment for marinas, Marina Accessories, Inc. (MAI), is pleased to announce the addition of Dan Wasel. Dan will act as Head of Inside Sales and Account Management, assisting the outside sales team in servicing their accounts and being the point of contact for current and future clients.

“We’re very excited to add Dan to our team,” says Marina Accessories Business Manager Keith Bjella. “His background in Economics and Business will play an important role while functioning as a liaison between our inside and outside sales teams.”

A recent graduate of the University of Washington with dual majors in Economics and Political Science, Dan brings a wealth of cross-industry knowledge. His addition to the business coincides with a complete overhaul of the company’s supply chain management system. Logistics, operations, procurement processes, and other systems have been updated and consolidated, better positioning Marina Accessories to meet the dynamic needs of their customers.

Proposed Salmon Farming Standards Ignore Environmental Impacts

Salmon farming standards being proposed by an industry trade association don’t address the most critical environmental and social threats resulting from current open net pen salmon farming – particularly on Canada’s West Coast, environmental groups said Thursday.

The warning, issued by the David Suzuki Foundation and Living Oceans Society, came on the final day for public input into the Global Aquaculture Alliance’s (GAA) draft standards for salmon farming. The proposed standards are being criticized by both groups as being too weak to support any claim of environmental or social responsibility, or sustainable salmon farming.

“The GAA has proposed a set of standards that primarily require that the certified operation has complied with the law and is trying to do a good job,” said Jay Ritchlin, director of the marine and freshwater conservation program at the David Suzuki Foundation. “While this may offer some value by discouraging the worst farming practices, it shouldn’t be confused with an indication of significantly improved social or environmental performance by these aquaculture operations.”

The GAA is creating a lot of confusion by promoting the standard as Best Aquaculture Practices (BAP) while also designing a standard that will certify a large majority of existing salmon aquaculture operations globally without any change in operations.

“Suppliers, retailers and consumers who are honestly concerned about the sustainability of the seafood they sell and consume should not be led to believe that this standard satisfies their concerns,” said Shauna MacKinnon, sustainable seafood campaign manager at the Living Oceans Society.

The GAA states on page 1 of its standard that “BAP standards…assure healthful foods produced through environmentally and socially responsible means.” However, the two groups say that the environmental portion of the proposed standards doesn’t meet the bar for two main reasons:
Any salmon farm that essentially complied with government regulation and made some aspirational commitments would qualify for certification. Significant impacts from salmon farming on wild salmon and marine ecosystems have been researched and documented while local and national regulations have been in place. Conforming to regulations that have been demonstrated to be inadequate is not a mark of environmental responsibility.

The GAA standard does not include any provisions to minimize the impact of disease and parasites on wild salmon. This issue, which is the subject of much peer-reviewed science, international research conferences and now a part of a Canadian Federal Commission of Inquiry, is clearly one of the most important impacts to assess in regard to the environmental responsibility of salmon farming, and it is virtually unaddressed in these standards.
“These standards suggest that most of the industry currently operates at a high level of sustainability and has effectively eliminated or minimized its threats to wild salmon and ecosystems. And that is simply not the case,” Ritchlin said.

The groups say there is also a significant design flaw in the certification. GAA shrimp certifications, for example, have been predominantly granted to products that were assessed at the processing plant, not at the shrimp farm where the majority of environmental impacts occur. In other words, the GAA certification could apply to a processing plant rather than a farm site, and therefore doesn’t clearly tell the buyer whether a product’s performance was evaluated at the most relevant time and place.

“GAA certification might help buyers filter out the very worst actors from the supply chain, but that is not the same as achieving an acceptable level of sustainability,” MacKinnon said.

Both the David Suzuki Foundation and Living Oceans Society are involved in multiple processes aimed at developing standards, improving technology and conducting assessments for sustainable seafood, including aquaculture operations. They note that the GAA’s standard-setting process and governance, while improved from several years ago, is still the one most closed to stakeholder input at key stages.

They are asking the GAA to clearly identify that the standard is not an indication of significant social and environmental improvement over basic regulatory compliance and to remove the option of certifying a product that has not been assessed throughout its production chain. The groups are also urging seafood buyers and sellers not to consider GAA farmed salmon as meeting commitments they’ve made regarding the purchase of sustainable seafood.
Sutton Eaves,

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

NPFMC Takes Steps to Reduce Chinook Bycatch in Gulf of Alaska

By Margaret Bauman

The North Pacific Fishery Management Council, at its December meeting in Anchorage, identified a number of concerns about bycatch of Chinook salmon in Gulf of Alaska fisheries and initiated two analyses to implement short-term and long-term salmon bycatch control measures.

The council planned a review of its work plan at its meeting in Seattle, beginning Jan. 31, with an initial review at its March meeting in Anchorage and final action at its June meeting in Nome.

Rochelle Van Den Broek, executive director of Cordova District Fishermen United, was one of many people submitting testimony. Van Den Broek said in written testimony to the council that her organization is very concerned about the health and sustainability of king salmon in Alaska, and urged the council to take an immediate proactive approach to determine bycatch stocks of origin, support research on Chinook abundance and to investigate options to curtail Chinook bycatch.

Jeff Stephan of the United Fishermen’s Marketing Association in Kodiak, one of a number of people testifying on the issue at Anchorage, said he found the council’s action “a reasonable step forward.

“I believe the council action on this issue is a reasonable step forward on the road to implementing a suite of conservation and management actions that will result in the accomplishment of significantly minimizing Chinook salmon bycatch in the Gulf of Alaska, and in beginning the process of remediating the cumulative impacts of the past 25 years,” Stephan said. “We hope that the council continues to expedite their focus and attention to addressing this bycatch.

“There is now more attention building to the management, allocation, conservation and utilization effects of the cumulative impacts of this Gulf of Alaska Chinook salmon bycatch,” he said. “Commercial seiners, setnetters and driftnetters, subsistence users, aquaculture associations, Fish and Game advisory committees, communities, guided sport-charter businesses, non-guided anglers and others are now awakening to the impacts of this bycatch on their businesses and cultural activities.

“Chinook salmon is the state fish of Alaska (and of Oregon) and it has importance to the cultural, commercial and utilization characteristics of Alaska and its residents,” he said.

The federal council noted it a staff report that bycatch of Chinook salmon over the last five years, from 2006 through 2010, has averaged 20,185 fish, exceeding the 20-year average of 20,185 salmon from 1991 through 2010.

While an expedited review and rulemaking efforts have been initiated for the gulf Pollock fishery, where the bycatch is occurring, the council also is working on a longer-term amendment package to address comprehensive salmon bycatch management in the gulf trawl fisheries.

Alternatives to be considered under the expedited western/central Gulf of Alaska pollock fishery analysis include establishing a Chinook salmon prohibited species limit for the directed Pollock fishery – a hard cap by regulatory area – and increased observer coverage on under 60-foot vessels. Other options are requiring membership in a mandatory salmon bycatch control cooperative in order to fish in a directed Pollock fishery, and status quo.

The council also is initiating a regular track analysis, with four alternatives, including status quo. Other options would be establishing a Chinook salmon prohibited species limit for non-pollock trawl fisheries, required membership in a mandatory salmon bycatch control cooperative, and requiring full retention of all salmon in all western/central gulf trawl fisheries.

The range of prohibited species catch limited to be analyzed for the directed Pollock fishery includes 15,000, 22,500 or 30,000 fish, applied to the western/central gulf fisheries as a whole.

The council said these limits would be apportioned among regulatory areas proportional to the distribution of either Pollock allowable catch, historic average bycatch of king salmon, or historic average bycatch rate of kings.

In order to reduce the uncertainty associated with bycatch estimates, expanded observer coverage could be required for under 60-foot vessels as an interim measure, until the observer program restructuring amendment is implement, the council said.

The council also specified a number of conditions for the mandatory bycatch cooperative, including contractual requirements for full retention of salmon, bycatch control measures, salmon hotspot reporting, and monitoring of individual vessel bycatch performance. The cooperatives would have to provide annual reports to the council.

Council staff has been tasked to look at a number of options with respect to the mandatory cooperative, including issues with respect to thresholds for cooperative membership and appropriate contract elements and reporting requirements.

The council also has tasked staff to discuss several other issues. These include bycatch rate data by fishery and season, correlations between bycatch rate and time of day, flexibility to adjust Pollock season dates, Pollock trip limits, salmon excluder deployment in the gulf, impact on subsistence users, and a discussion of benefits of developing cooperative management structure for gulf Pollock fisheries.

Alaska Freezer Longline Fleet Files Suit Against National Marine Fisheries Service

The Freezer Longline Coalition (FLC) last week filed suit on behalf of its members against the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) and entered the Steller Sea Lion litigation opposing NMFS’s interim final rule and final Biological Opinion (Bi-Op). In the lawsuit, the FLC asks the Court to declare that the actions of NMFS were arbitrary and capricious, an abuse of discretion, not in accordance with law, and without observance of procedure required by law. Accordingly, the FLC requests that the Court vacate the Bi-Op, the Interim Final Rule, and use other sources of relief available to the Court.

The FLC’s mission is to promote public policy that facilitates the intelligent and orderly harvest of Alaska cod and other groundfish species in the Bering Sea /Aleutian Islands and the Gulf of Alaska and to encourage the reduction of waste and improve resource utilization in the longline fishery. The FLC also represents longline fishery interests in matters concerning the management of the longline fishery with respect to target species and protected resources.

Speaking on behalf of the FLC, FLC President David Little said “The National Marine Fisheries Service delayed the issuance of the Bi-Op for 5 years; during this period the SSL population has continued to increase. After 5 years, NMFS finally releases the Bi-Op, immediately declares an emergency situation, and decides to waive public processes; this is not a justified course of action.”

The complaint focuses among other things on NMFS’s arbitrary application of Steller sea lion mitigation measures to the freezer longline fleet. FLC Executive Director Kenny Down, commenting on the Bi-Op, stated “By far the most concerning issue to our sector is the insufficient reasoning given in the final Bi-Op for the mitigation measures to include the hook-and-line fleet. Including the longliners in these measures is arbitrary and not supported by the document, by NMFS’s past findings, or by NMFS’s own science.

“A case has simply not been made that including the longliners in the interim final rule’s mitigation measures contributes in a measurable way to Alaska cod availability for the Steller sea lion diet. The fishing method employed in the hook and line fleet, and historical patterns of activity, including very low overall catch, clearly show that the fleet meets the principles and objectives of the Bi-Op under current management measures, and as such longliners should not have been included in mitigation regulations implemented without due process on January 1st.”

Rob Wurm with Alaskan Leader Fisheries, one of the FLC charter members, said before the group in summation “The actions of the agency in this case gives us no other reasonable option apart from filing this complaint in court.”

For more information regarding the Freezer Longline Coalition, please contact the FLC office at 206-284-2522 or send inquiries to

Irish Scientists Make Shellfish Safer to Eat

New technology to make shellfish safer to eat has been pioneered by scientists at Queen’s University Belfast, Ireland.

The new test, developed at Queen’s Institute for Agri-Food and Land Use, not only ensures shellfish are free of toxins before they reach the food chain but is likely to revolutionize the global fishing industry.

While the current process for monitoring potentially dangerous toxins in shellfish takes up to two days, the new test slashes the testing time to just 30 minutes using new biosensor technology and provides a much more reliable result.

The test detects paralytic shellfish poisons, which paralyze anyone who consumes them and kill around 25 per cent of people who are poisoned.

Leading the project is Professor Chris Elliott, Director of the Institute of Agri-Food and Land Use at Queen’s School of Biological Sciences, who said: “Toxins secreted by algae, and which concentrate in shellfish, are a major hazard to consumers and can bring huge economic losses to the aquaculture industry.

“While the existence of these toxins has been known for some time, there have been major concerns about the effectiveness of tests used to detect them. There is also growing evidence that climate change is causing many more toxic episodes across the world, resulting in the closure of affected shellfish beds.

“The new test, developed at Queen’s, is much quicker and more reliable than existing methods. It works by using unique ‘detector proteins’ to seek out minute amounts of toxins present in mussels, oysters, cockles and scallops.

“The test will not only make shellfish safer to eat, but it will also have a significant impact on global aquaculture industries as they struggle to deal with the rising problems of toxins caused by climate change.

“The test has been developed as part of a €10 million BioCop research project led by Queen’s and involving 32 international research partners and the European Commission.
“We have also signed a substantial contract with the UK-based company Neogen Europe to commercialize the idea. This will be the third such aquaculture product developed by Queen’s and Neogen Europe, helping the company to develop its unique portfolio of rapid food safety tests and reinforcing Queen’s reputation as a global leader in this area.”

Research at Queen’s will also be aided by a US$500,000 grant from The American Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to further develop the test in the USA so it can be conducted in laboratories and on boats as soon as the shellfish are caught, helping cut the time taken to get the catch from fishing nets to supermarket shelves.

For more information on the Institute for Agri-Food and Land Use at Queen’s University visit
For more information about the BioCop project visit

Learn about First Aid at Sea through Washington Sea Grant

Washington Sea Grant and Port of Seattle Fishermen’s Terminal are cosponsoring a Coast Guard-approved First Aid at Sea course for commercial fishermen and recreational boaters.
The course is scheduled for Thursday, March 17, 2011 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., in the Nordby Conference Room, Nordby Building, at Fishermen’s Terminal in Seattle.

Topics include cardio-pulmonary resuscitation, patient assessment, shock, trauma, burns, fractures, hypothermia, cold-water near-drowning, immobilization, backboards, first-aid kits and more.

The fee for the workshop is $80. Space is limited, so pre-registration is advised.
To register or for more information, contact Sarah Fisken, WSG Marine Education Coordinator, at (206) 543-1225 or

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

NOAA Extends Comment Period for Western Steller Sea Lion Protection Measures Rule

NOAA’s National Marine Fisheries Service is extending the comment period for the interim final rule to reduce commercial fishing for groundfish stocks in the Aleutian Islands. The objective of the rule is to ensure the groundfish fisheries are not likely to jeopardize the continued existence of or adversely modify critical habitat for the western distinct population segment of Steller sea lion.

The original public comment period for the interim final rule ends Wednesday, January 12, 2011. NOAA’s Fisheries Service filed with the Federal Register today a notice extending the public comment period for an additional 45 days, to February 28, 2011.

NOAA Fisheries published an interim final rule on December 13, 2010, to implement Steller sea lion protection measures to restrict primarily Atka mackerel and Pacific cod harvests in the Bering Sea and Aleutian Islands management area. Atka mackerel and Pacific cod are important prey species for Steller sea lions, and this action reduces potential competition for prey between Steller sea lions and the groundfish fisheries. A notice correcting errors in the interim final rule was published on December 29, 2010.

The comment period occurred over the holiday season, limiting the number of work days available to the public for developing a response to this action. At the request of and to provide adequate time for various stakeholders and other members of the public to comment on the interim final rule, NOAA Fisheries has decided to extend the public comment period for an additional 45 days, to end on February 28, 2011.

Send comments to Dr. James W. Balsiger, Administrator, Alaska Region, NMFS, Attn: Ellen Sebastian. You may submit comments, identified by RIN 0648-BA31, by any one of the following methods:
  • Electronic Submissions: Submit all electronic public comments via the Federal eRulemaking Portal at
  • Mail: P.O. Box 21668, Juneau, AK 99802.
  • Fax: (907) 586–7557.
  • Hand delivery to the Federal Building: 709 West 9th Street, Room 420A, Juneau, AK.

Alaska Seafood Cooperative Files Suit Against National Marine Fisheries Service

Last week the Alaska Seafood Cooperative and the Alaska Groundfish Cooperative filed suit against the National Marine Fisheries Service (“NMFS”) to block implementation of new measures that could effectively shut down several major fisheries in federal waters off the coast of Alaska, ostensibly to protect Steller sea lions. This action comes on the heels of statements by the State of Alaska earlier this week that NMFS has “...acted in an arbitrary fashion by failing to draw rational connections between the available information and its conclusions, by ignoring overall species population trends toward the recovery of the Steller sea lions, and by relying on some scientific studies, but ignoring others.”

“Since 1999 our industry has supported reasonable and effective measures to protect sea lions and worked with the agency to conduct scientific studies to learn more about how fishing affects local abundance of sea lion prey species in the Aleutian Islands. We are pleased that there seems to be a consistent increase in the sea lion population across the western district population segment (“WDPS”) overall and remain concerned that sea lions numbers in the western Aleutians have not followed the overall trend,” explains John Gauvin, Fisheries Science Director for the cooperative. “But in this instance the agency has not demonstrated that the Atka mackerel and Pacific cod fisheries are resulting in jeopardy for the Steller sea lions, nor are they significantly impacting sea lion habitat.”

“The agency’s Biological Opinion fails to take a rigorous and balanced look at the weight of scientific evidence, is quick to dismiss all the evidence that the continued SSL decline in a small area in the Aleutian Islands is not related to fishing, and in the end takes a short cut to conclude that they cannot prove it’s not related to fishing so they must close fisheries under their interpretation of the requirements of the Endangered Species Act.” says Gauvin.

The agency’s proposed closures have been widely criticized, not just by industry and the State of Alaska but also by the North Pacific Fishery Management Council (“NPFMC”) and several independent scientists. This past August, the NPFMC proposed alternative measures that were rejected by the agency.

“Even NMFS admits that these closures will cause significant economic damage to several Alaska communities and the companies that fish in these waters. Economic losses are estimated to be between $44 million and $61 million annually, in a region where there are no other economic opportunities,” says Bill Orr, President of the Alaska Seafood Cooperative. “These actions are not based on the rigorous application of fisheries science that our region has become well-known and respected for. It leaves us with little choice except to challenge this action.”

NOAA Will Work With Six Identified Nations to Address Illegal Fishing

NOAA has submitted a report to Congress identifying six nations – Colombia, Ecuador, Italy, Panama, Portugal, and Venezuela – whose fishing vessels engaged in illegal, unreported, and unregulated (IUU) fishing in 2009 and/or 2010.

This opens the way for continued consultations between the US government and each of the nations to encourage them to take action to stop IUU fishing by their vessels.

In this report, NOAA also announces that the six previously identified nations (China, France, Italy, Libya, Panama, and Tunisia) have addressed the instances of illegal fishing described by the United States in the 2009 report to Congress. These nations applied penalties to the vessels in question or adopted laws to strengthen control of their fishing fleets or both. Each has received a positive certification as a result of their actions.

The nations identified in today’s report had fishing vessels that did not comply with measures agreed to under various international fishery management organizations, such as closed fishing seasons, vessel registry lists, and a ban on the use of driftnets. Other violations included illegal gear modifications, fishing without authorization, and possession of undersized bluefin tuna.

While Italy and Panama took corrective actions for illegal fishing identified in the 2009 report, other vessels from these countries still engaged in IUU fishing, which included illegal use of driftnets and fishing in an area when it was closed to purse seine nets.

If a nation fails to take appropriate action to address the instances of illegal fishing described in the report, that nation’s vessels may be denied entry into U.S. ports and the President may prohibit imports of certain fish products from that nation or take other measures.

“We are encouraged that the nations identified in 2009 have taken significant actions to address illegal fishing by their vessels, and we are now reaching out to the six countries identified in today’s report,” said Russell Smith, NOAA deputy assistant secretary for international fisheries. “Illegal fishing must be stopped as it subjects our fishermen to unfair competition and undermines efforts to sustainably manage the valuable fish stocks around the world that so many communities depend on for food and jobs.”

Annual global economic losses due to IUU fishing are estimated to be as high as $23 billion.

NOAA’s decisions follow two years in which NOAA’s Fisheries Service, working with the US Department of State, conducted extensive outreach at bilateral and multilateral meetings to inform fishing nations of potential U.S. actions to combat IUU fishing. NOAA is addressing the problem of IUU fishing through the international provisions of the U.S. Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Reauthorization Act.

The act amends the High Seas Driftnet Moratorium Protection Act, which requires the United States to strengthen international fishery management organizations and address IUU fishing activities and the unintended catch, or bycatch, of protected living marine resources. Specifically, the Moratorium Protection Act requires the Secretary of Commerce to identify those foreign nations whose fishing vessels are engaged in IUU fishing, and what actions those nations have taken to end the practice.

NOAA’s identifications of countries will be followed by consultations to urge these nations to adopt effective measures to combat IUU fishing. Following consultations, NOAA will formally certify whether each of the six nations have addressed the IUU fishing activities of their vessels.

Has Overfishing Ended In America? Just-Retired Top NOAA Scientist Says "Yes"

For the first time in at least a century, US fishermen won't take too much of any species from the sea, one of the nation's top fishery scientists says.

The projected end of overfishing comes during a turbulent fishing year that's seen New England fishermen switch to a radically new management system. But scientist Steve Murawski said that for the first time in written fishing history, which goes back to 1900, "As far as we know, we've hit the right levels, which is a milestone."

"And this isn't just a decadal milestone, this is a century phenomenon," said Murawski, who retired last week as chief scientist at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's Fisheries Service.

Murawski said it's more than a dramatic benchmark - it also signals the coming of increasingly healthy stocks and better days for fishermen who've suffered financially. In New England, the fleet has deteriorated since the mid-1990s from 1,200 boats to only about 580, but Murawski believes fishermen may have already endured their worst times.

"I honestly think that's true, and that's why I think it's a newsworthy event," said Murawski, now a professor at the University of South Florida.

But fishermen and their advocates say ending overfishing came at an unnecessarily high cost. Dave Marciano fished out of Gloucester, an hour's drive northeast of Boston, for three decades until he was forced to sell his fishing permit in June. He said the new system made it too costly to catch enough fish to stay in business.

"It ruined me," said Marciano, 45. "We could have ended overfishing and had a lot more consideration for the human side of the fishery."

"When you compare the United States with the European Union, with Asian countries, et cetera, we are the only industrialized fishing nation who actually has succeeded in ending overfishing," he said.

Regulators say 37 stocks nationwide last year were being overfished (counting only those that live exclusively in US waters); New England had the most with 10. But Murawski said management systems that emphasize strict catch limits have made a big difference, and New England just made the switch.

Fishermen there now work in groups called sectors to divide an annual quota of groundfish, which include cod, haddock and flounder. If they exceed their limits on one species, they're forced to stop fishing on all species.

About two-thirds into the current fishing year, which ends April 30, federal data indicated New England fishermen were on pace to catch fewer than their allotted fish in all but one stock, Georges Bank winter flounder. But Murawski said he didn't expect fishermen would exceed their quota on any stock.

In other regions with overfishing - the South Atlantic, the Gulf of Mexico and the Caribbean - regulators project catch limits and other measures will end overfishing this fishing year. Already, South Atlantic black grouper and Gulf of Mexico red snapper are no longer being overfished.

The final verification that overfishing has ended nationwide, at least for one fishing year, will come after detailed stock assessments.

It will be a "Pyrrhic victory" in hard-hit New England, said Brian Rothschild, a fisheries scientist at the University of Massachusetts at Dartmouth. He said regulators could legally loosen the rules and allow fishermen to safely catch more fish, but regulators have refused to do it, and fishermen have needlessly been shut out from even healthy stocks.

The science is far from perfect, Marciano said. Regulators believed fishermen were overfishing pollock until new data last year indicated scientists had badly underestimated its population, he said. And some stocks, such as Gulf of Maine cod, have recovered even when fishermen were technically overfishing them.

"To say you can't rebuild stocks while overfishing is occurring is an outright lie. We did it," Marciano said.

-Saving Seafood

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Researchers Get More Funds to Assess How Hatchery Crab Will Adapt in the Wild

By Margaret Bauman

Researchers with the Alaska King Crab Research, Rehabilitation and Biology program have received $460,000 in grants and support to assess how wild red and blue king crab raised in hatcheries, in an effort to rebuild collapsed stocks, may fare in the wild.

The funds, announced Dec. 8 through the Alaska sea Grant program, will help in studies of how juvenile king crab cope with predators, find food, and interact with other marine organisms, including other crab.

Scientists with the program, known by the acronym AKCRRAB, working at the Alutiiq Pride Shellfish Hatchery in Seward, have steadily improved red king crab larval survival in the hatchery from two percent in 2007 to 31 percent in 2008 to 50 percent in 2009 and 2010. Some 100,000 red king crab have been raised to the first juvenile stage during the past two years.

AKCRRAB is a coalition of university and federal scientists, fishermen, seafood businesses, coastal communities, and Alaska Native groups that formed several years ago to find ways to help Kodiak Island red king crab and blue king crab in the Pribilof Islands recover.

Scientists at the Alutiiq Pride Hatchery in Seward have steadily applied that they’ve learned about water temperature, flow rate and artificial habitat- all designed to improve larval survival and hatchery productivity. They have also experimented with food, what kind, how much, and when to feed the growing crab.

In 2010, the adjustments have paid off with faster growth and improved survival of the larval red king crab. This year, 2.7 million red king crab were successfully hatched from some 18 female red king crab.

Ginny Eckert, associate professor of fisheries at the University of Alaska Fairbanks School of Fisheries and Ocean Sciences, said the research is critical to evaluating the feasibility of rebuilding king crab stocks in waters around Kodiak Island and the Pribilof Islands. Scientists need to know how their crab would handle the rigors of life in the open ocean, she said.

“Hatchery-cultured red king crabs have no experience with seasonal cycles, predator avoidance techniques, or foraging for natural food items,” she said.

Eckert and Allan Stoner, research fisheries biologist with the federal Alaska Fisheries Science Center in Newport, Ore., received the two-year, $303,359 grant from the NOAA Sea Grant Aquaculture Research Program. Additional in-kind and support services totaling $156,706 come from the Alutiiq Pride Shellfish Hatchery, the Alaska Department of Fish and Game, the University of Alaska Fairbanks, and Alaska Sea Grant.

Part of this new research will explore whether conditioning juvenile crab to predators improves survival, Eckert said.

Over the next two years, Eckert and others will conduct experiments aimed at better understanding the role of habitat, crab body size, prey density, predator density, water conditions, and predator types on the survival of juvenile crab. Lab experiments will be done at the Hatfield Marine Science Center in Newport, Ore., and field experiments in Yankee Cove, near Juneau.

Raising and then releasing large numbers of hatchery-born king crab into the wild is not currently part of the AKCRRAB program.

The program focuses instead on determining the feasibility of hatcheries as a tool to rebuild wild crab stocks. Should hatcheries be a feasible rebuilding tool, resource managers and policymakers would have to decide whether to use them.

NOAA Finalizes Plans for 2011 Hydrographic Survey Season

For the new year, NOAA ships and independent contractors are preparing for the nation’s 177th hydrographic surveying season, aiming to collect critically needed ocean and coastal mapping data for 2,525 square nautical miles in high-traffic coastal waters of the continental United States and Alaska.

“The science of these surveys underpins the steady flow of commerce and the safety of mariners and coastal communities,” said NOAA Corps Capt. John E. Lowell, director of the Office of Coast Survey and US national hydrographer. More than 13 million jobs are tied to maritime commerce, which contributes more than $742 billion to the American economy.

US waters cover 3.4 million square nautical miles including a constantly changing coastal environment due to storms, erosion and other coastal processes. To ensure the continued flow of commerce, NOAA’s Office of Coast Survey maintains the nation’s suite of more than 1,000 nautical charts. To ensure the accuracy of charts, the Office of Coast Survey annually plans hydrographic survey projects to update depths and identify new navigational hazards on the seafloor. Requests by marine pilots, port authorities, the Coast Guard, researchers and others are considered when setting the year’s schedule.

The surveys planned for 2011 will acquire data to update the country’s nautical charts, especially where marine transportation dynamics are changing rapidly. For instance, NOAA Ships Fairweather and Rainier plan to survey the coasts of Alaska in areas increasingly transited by the offshore oil and gas industry, cruise liners, ferries, military craft, tugs and barges, fishing vessels and factory trawlers.

Safety concerns also play a large role in project selections. One such project covers an area in the Strait of Georgia, Washington, where the largest oil tanker terminal in the state has recently doubled its capacity. In the Chesapeake Bay, data collected by NOAA Ship Thomas Jefferson will help address concerns about impacts of a planned pipeline. In addition, this project will provide broader benefit to the region.

Because nautical charting surveys depict changes on the coastal ocean floor as well as depths and obstructions, the data is increasingly used by coastal managers to better understand ecosystem habitat, fisheries management and coastal planning. Surveys in Alaska, for example, will help build tsunami inundation digital elevation models for the state, and support the creation of digital seafloor maps for use by longline and pot fisheries.

Graphics for the continental US and Alaska that depict planned 2011 projects, and explanations of NOAA survey ship activities, are posted on the Office of Coast Survey’s website.

The Office of Coast Survey, originally formed by President Thomas Jefferson in 1807, maintains the nation’s suite of nautical charts, surveys the coastal seafloor, responds to national maritime emergencies and searches for underwater obstructions and wreckage. Fairweather, Rainier, and Thomas Jefferson are part of NOAA’s fleet of research ships and aircraft operated by the NOAA Office of Marine and Aviation Operations.

New NOAA Buoy to Help Close Gap in Climate Understanding South of Africa

To better understand the effects of the ocean on global climate and weather, scientists from NOAA’s Pacific Marine Environmental Laboratory, or PMEL, deployed an Ocean Climate Station mooring – an anchored buoy – on the edge of the warm Agulhas Return Current (ARC) southeast of South Africa. Although there is an array of climate buoys positioned in the tropics, this is one of only two deep ocean climate buoys positioned below the Tropic of Capricorn; the other is located south of Australia. The buoy is part of NOAA's climate observation and monitoring efforts.

“With this mooring, we will be able to measure how this powerful current warms the atmosphere and some of the effects this has on the local meteorology and climate,” said Meghan Cronin, Ph.D., principal investigator and oceanographer at PMEL. “More heat is released to the atmosphere in the ARC region than anywhere else in the entire Southern Hemisphere. This heating can affect winds, clouds and rainfall over a broad region.”

The ARC is a western boundary current, similar to the Gulf Stream in the North Atlantic and the Kuroshiro Extension in the North Pacific. With support from NOAA and the National Science Foundation, NOAA’s PMEL designed, built and deployed the heavily instrumented ARC surface mooring to monitor weather and compute the heat absorbed and released by this region of the ocean. Sensors include those that measure wind, air temperature, relative humidity, rain, solar and infrared radiation, barometric pressure, sea surface temperature and salinity, and near-surface currents.

“The buoy will also carry sensors to measure how much atmospheric carbon dioxide is absorbed into the ocean in this critical region for the global climate system,” said Christopher Sabine, Ph.D., oceanographer at PMEL and participant in the ARC project.

“Building a buoy to collect and transmit reliable data requires teamwork between the engineers and the scientists,” said Chris Meinig, director of PMEL engineering, whose group designed and built the buoy. “Because of the location off South Africa, we had to carefully design, model and build something that has a chance of withstanding the violent weather, steep waves and strong currents.”

With the use of ship time provided by the Agulhas and Somali Current Large Marine Ecosystems Project, the mooring was deployed in 4,300 meters (12,900 feet) of water using the South African Fisheries Research Ship Algoa. Data are relayed to shore in near-real time and made available through PMEL and other climate and weather data centers. The ARC buoy is a member of the family of Ocean Climate Stations, which include Kuroshio Extension Observatory located east of Japan and Station Papa located in the Gulf of Alaska. These moorings act as reference stations for validating satellite observations and improving weather forecasting and climate models.

The FRS Algoa also deployed two free-floating buoys, or drifters, provided by the NOAA Adopt-a-Drifter program, which will be part of the Global Drifter Array. These drifters measure surface temperature, current velocity and atmospheric barometric pressure. Students from Washington state and South Africa will track the drifters online and try to predict where they might go and why.

Classroom participation within Africa is being coordinated through a partnership between NOAA, ASCLME, Global Learning and Observations to Benefit the Environment-Africa, the South African Weather Service and the South African Environmental Observation Network.

US Albacore Fishing Group Responds to Consumer Reports’ Mercury Study

-Western Fishboat Owners Association

Mercury in the environment and in the fish we eat is a serious issue, however, both consumers and small scale US fisheries lose when sweeping generalizations are made about mercury in albacore tuna. A Consumer Reports’ study that appears in the January 2011 issue of the magazine refers only to 'albacore/white tuna' and does not differentiate between different catch methods or size of the albacore being tested.

“Not making a distinction between how and where albacore are caught is misleading and ignores good science that shows US troll-caught albacore mercury levels to be similar to that of ‘light tuna’ which both the FDA and Consumer Reports list as safe,” says Wayne Heikkila the Executive Director of the Western Fishboat Owners Association (WFOA), a non-profit representing about 400 small fishing vessel owners and supporting businesses on the West coast.

Dr. Michael Morrissey of Oregon State University Seafood Research Laboratory completed a study in 2005 that shows troll-caught albacore to be significantly lower in mercury content than larger, long-line caught albacore.

To the growing number of small US custom canners, ‘albacore/white tuna’ means these smaller, younger, lower-mercury, troll-caught albacore caught by US fishermen. Labeled as “US-caught” or “troll-caught”, some of these brands are available nationally and offer batch-tested, low mercury albacore. “By choosing local brands not only are consumers making a healthful choice but they’re also supporting the US fishing community,” says Heikkila.

The Consumer Reports test sample comprised of large supermarket brands which use foreign, long-line caught 'albacore/white tuna' for canning. The results and subsequent consumption recommendations for younger women, children and pregnant women are based on their findings of mercury content in larger, long-line caught albacore, not US troll-caught albacore.

The reason West Coast albacore’s mercury tests are so low? Albacore are highly migratory, and only the younger fish, 3-4 year olds with lower mercury levels, swim in colder Northwest waters. These albacore generally weigh 12-20 pounds when caught.

Tuna is the second most popular seafood in the US, according to a 2009 poll by the National Marine Fisheries Services. “Canned tuna is a convenient, affordable source of protein that has the added benefit of high levels of omega-3 fatty acids which have many, many health benefits,” says Heikkila. “We believe that the benefits of consuming quality seafood far outweigh any risk for the vast majority of people, and that the hyperbole associated with some of these mercury campaigns does more to damage consumers’ health by driving them to less healthful foods,” he adds.

US and Canadian troll-caught albacore is listed on the Monterey Bay Aquarium's Super Green List which names seafood that is both ‘good for you and good for the environment’. The West Coast troll albacore fishery is certified as sustainable by the Marine Stewardship Council. Longline albacore, caught elsewhere, is not.

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