The 3 biggest US tuna companies use fishing techniques that hurt and kill dolphins, new lawsuits claim

Bumble Bee, StarKist, and Chicken of the Sea are accused of falsely labeling their products as dolphin-safe.

Cans of tuna fish are displayed in a grocery store January 27, 2006, in Des Plaines, Illinois. Tim Boyle/Getty Images

Consumers have filed class-action lawsuits against Bumble Bee, Chicken of the Sea, and StarKist, claiming the three tuna brands are falsely advertising themselves as “dolphin-safe.”

The suits, first reported by Reuters, allege that all three companies, which together control 70 to 80 percent of the domestic canned tuna market, use fishing techniques that harm or kill dolphins despite their “dolphin-safe” branding, which not only amounts to misleading advertising but also violates state and federal laws.

Instead of using the safer — but more expensive — pole-and-line method that their competitors use, through which tuna are caught individually and non-tuna catches are let go, the suits claim, the US’s three biggest canned tuna brands are using outdated, environmentally destructive methods like fishing nets, which allow fishing boats to easily catch entire schools of tuna but also often trap dolphins and other animals.

According to the suits, the companies are violating the 1990 Dolphin Protection Consumer Information Act, which banned the false labeling of tuna products that aren’t actually dolphin-safe. Bumble Bee, the suit claims, uses an “alternative ‘Dolphin Safe logo’” on its tuna products even though its “tuna fishing practices kill or harm substantial numbers of dolphins each year.”

Read more about the lawsuit against tuna companies

The desperate race to cool the ocean before it’s too late

Filed under: Ocean Acidification, By Holly Jean Buck, April 23rd, 2019

Coral reefs smell of rotting flesh as they bleach. The riot of colors—yellow, violet, cerulean—fades to ghostly white as the corals’ flesh goes translucent and falls off, leaving their skeletons underneath fuzzy with cobweb-like algae.

Corals live in symbiosis with a type of algae. During the day, the algae photosynthesize and pass food to the coral host. During the night, the coral polyps extend their tentacles and catch passing food. Just 1 °C of ocean warming can break down this coral-algae relationship. The stressed corals expel the algae, and after repeated or prolonged episodes of such bleaching, they can die from heat stress, starve without the algae feeding them, or become more susceptible to disease.

Australia’s Great Barrier Reef—actually a 2,300-kilometer (1,400-mile) system made up of nearly 3,000 separate reefs—has suffered severe bleaching in the past few years. Daniel Harrison, an Australian oceanographer looking at what might be done to buy more time for the Great Barrier Reef, says the situation is getting dire. “There might be as little as 25% of shallow-water coral cover left from pre-anthropogenic times. We don’t really know, because nobody started surveying before 1985,” he tells me. “You’ve got less than 1% of the ocean in coral reefs, and 25% of all marine life. We’re looking at losing all of that really quite quickly, in evolutionary terms. In human-lifetime terms.”

Coral reefs are not just about colorful fish and exotic species. Reefs protect coasts from storms; without them, waves reaching some Pacific islands would be twice as tall. Over 500 million people depend on reef ecosystems for food and livelihoods. Even if the temperature increase eventually stabilizes at 1.5 °C a century or two from now, it’s not known how well coral reef ecosystems will survive a temporary overshoot to higher temperatures.

The corals are like the canary in the coal mine, Harrison says: “They’re very temperature-sensitive. I really do think it’s just a harbinger of things to come. You know, the coral ecosystem might collapse first, but I think there might be quite a few more ecosystems that’ll follow it. Life is very resilient, but ecosystems as we know them aren’t.”

Read more about corals, cooling the ocean, and climate change

A Tribute to NFCC’s Founding Chairman, Dr Dayton (Lee) Alverson

Farewell to Lee Alverson

Remembering a great mentor in marine science, policy, and life

By Brad Warren

When I started out as a rookie correspondent for National Fisherman, I had no idea how fortunate I was to be taken under Lee Alverson’s wing. I am reasonably sure he preferred it that way.

At 19 I found work as a cub reporter for a weekly paper on San Juan Island, near the Canadian border in Washington. My landlord, boss, postmaster, and many neighbors fished commercially, and the Northwest’s salmon fisheries were falling around their ears, echoing the ruin of Columbia River runs that had driven my grandparents from the life they loved. People on the island encouraged me to investigate these losses in a series of articles. Not knowing any better, I jumped right in. Soon an editor at National Fisherman called, and I began freelancing nights and weekends for the magazine.

When they tired of hours of troublesome queries, some of my wisest sources took advantage of the pause while I scribbled furiously, and devised a brilliant escape: Lee Alverson. Soon every knowledgeable finger pointed to the eminent fisheries scientist and marine policy leader in Seattle.

As a young writer I learned that Doc would unfailingly steer me straight. He had at least hundreds of protégés—some say thousands— and it seemed to come naturally for him to coach me in the fundamentals of fishery management and science. He would pull books off the wall and hand them to me, or send me to his favorite librarians at Seattle’s two NOAA science centers or the University of Washington to hunt down titles and references. Sometimes he added a request for a reference he needed too.

Lee’s instructions began with material that will be familiar to fisheries scientists and managers:  Beverton and Holt, Ricker, Pontecorvo, Crutchfield, and more.  In fact it was Jim Crutchfield (who had a second home on San Juan Island), who first introduced me to Lee. I would often catch Lee for only a few minutes before he flew out to meetings in Tokyo or Anchorage or Washington DC. Sometimes he would emerge from his office, hand me one of his in-press papers, and then stride away. His parting words would be, “Read this and we’ll talk in two weeks.”

Over the years the study list widened, taking in stacks of gray literature as my assignments on fishery resource management swelled. Lee directed me to reports from the National Academy of Sciences, the Stratton Commission, the International North Pacific Fisheries Commission, the regional fishery management councils, the Pacific States Marine Fisheries Commission, the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization, the UW Fisheries Research Institute, federal court rulings in U.S. v. Washington, proceedings from the U.N. Law of the Sea negotiations, and publications by his colleagues in universities and agencies around the world. Over time, Lee also introduced me to scientists and fisheries leaders from Alaska to Norway, Japan, and Australia.

This relation of master and pupil continued for more than three decades, until Lee’s death in January 2013 at the age of 88. I was slow to realize that I had lucked into a mentor who didn’t just know a lot; he was one of the most influential figures in the last half century of marine science and policy. But Lee never seemed to mind. He relished the chance to shed his titles and show a kid the ropes. 

Skipping the formalities, Lee would often slip through the back conference room door from his office to chat and visit the magazine archives. In these visits I noticed that Lee took a sly delight in snatching up an office cookie or two unpoliced by people who revered him and worried over his health.

It was more than Norwegian modesty that kept Lee from touting his own accomplishments. For one thing, his work was so widely recognized—Google Scholar now lists 11,600 works that reference his publications—that horn-tooting would have been redundant. When he died, colleagues at the marine science and policy firm he started, Natural Resources Consultants (NRC), phoned the Seattle Times to pay for a standard obituary. The editors waved them away and assigned a senior journalist, Hal Bernton, to cover the story.

Lee was a committed egalitarian. One of his noted pupils was Wally Pereyra (an AIFRB fellow), who first encountered him in 1959 during a research cruise in the Chukchi Sea. He saw Lee “Treat everyone with value from the crewmen on fishing boats to the pre-eminent fishery scientist of that period.”  Later, Wally became a trusted lieutenant to Lee at the Northwest and Alaska Fisheries Science Center. Lee’s response to a new era of federal equal opportunity policies made an impression on him: “Lee embraced this 100%. He made certain that our organizations at the Center participated, and participated in a meaningful way.” As Jeff June, vice president of NRC, put it, some of Lee’s protégés now run fisheries agencies and research institutes around the world.

In many ways, Lee’s life story was so prodigious and protean that a cynic might be forgiven for wondering if it sprung from the pages of a mid-20th-century comic book. But that was when Lee came of age, and in many ways he lived up to the era’s dreams. It was a time when a boy and his friends could go spelunking near their homes in Hawaii and find a cave unknown to science (as Lee did); when he could study fisheries after the war and soon land a contract to assess the possible consequences of Edward Teller’s dream of using atomic bombs to blast open a new harbor in Yupik hunting grounds along the Chukchi Sea; when the Stratton Commission could earnestly announce that the oceans’ bounty would feed the world’s hungry millions; when Lee and his staff could explore the Northeast Pacific in small vessels and define foundational methods for modern fishery resource assessments (Alverson and Pereyra 1969); when their findings could inspire the construction of massive new fleets to harvest these resources, including the Russian and Japanese factory fleets that he later worked to restrain and eventually exile from U.S. waters. He is often described as one of the fathers of the 200-mile Exclusive Economic Zone.

When extended jurisdiction alone proved insufficient, Lee worked to rein in the consequences of unchecked fishing. Starting in the early 1990s, these efforts help to usher in a succession of initiatives by industry, conservation groups, and governments that appeared to be starting to turn the tide, at least in parts of the world, by the end of his life.

Lee’s resume captures only a spare outline of the history he helped to shape. Lee served as a University of Washington fisheries professor, director of the Northwest and Alaska Fisheries Center, and acting director of the Bureau of Commercial Fisheries. In 1980, he left the federal service to found Natural Resources Consultants (NRC). He was called upon as an advisor to the U.S. State Department, to heads of state and ministers of foreign nations, to bankers trying to assess risk in their fisheries portfolios, to the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization, to fishing leaders trying to steer the industry toward better management of its own conflicts and excesses. It often seemed that if you were tasked to assemble a panel of eminent experts to sort out tough issues in oceans and fisheries, you had to get Lee Alverson.

A few notable habits of mind illuminated Lee’s life. His joyful curiosity, his constructive insights, his mischievous knack for camaraderie, and his appetite for big questions gave his career an improbably wide scope. If anything, Lee’s experience during World War II carried him even further beyond the bell curve. He became a Navy radioman behind Japanese lines in occupied China. It will suffice here to note that he picked up enough Chinese language to negotiate and conduct secret missions, to resolve life-threatening conflicts between misbehaving U.S. servicemen and their infuriated Chinese hosts, and to become a favored dinner guest of China’s national leaders at the end of the war.

That stature followed him for the rest of his life. Decades after he had returned from China, married his sweetheart Ruby, got an education, raised a family, and risen in marine science, Lee would travel occasionally to Taiwan. He would return with tales from dinner with the head of state.  On one occasion, the U.S. vice president, who had been seated far down the table, demanded to know why Lee was sitting next to the nation’s leader. Lee answered with a happy shrug: “U.S. Navy.”

Just as the young radioman had done, the mature crafter of fisheries science and policy made himself indispensible and often beloved in research centers, world capitals, boardrooms, fishing docks, and newsrooms. Lee freely crossed so many fences that people working with him needed a pocketful of nicknames and formalities just to keep up. He answered to Lee, or Doc, or Dr. A, or Dayton Lee Alverson, or Dr. Alverson, and probably a handful of other monikers (including some in foreign languages) that I never caught.  A few colleagues laughingly called him “the codfather.” Early in his career, Lee had a column in a fishing magazine, which he wrote under a pseudonym. He once confided to me that he took pride in wandering the docks, picking fishermen’s brains, and hearing them talk about his columns without realizing they were talking to the author.

Near the end of his long life, Lee sat down to write about it.  I got to see some early drafts, as Lee felt I might be able to help him hammer them into shape. From the text I saw, he hardly needed my advice.  His efforts produced two remarkable books: an autobiography, Race to the Sea, and his memoir of World War II. I won’t review these books, as others have already done that, but it would be unfair to ignore them.

At their best, both books take wing in story, revealing yet another surprising gift. The two books embody values that Lee cultivated throughout his life: a gentle sense of humor, a well-tended equanimity, and an unflinching commitment to look squarely at evidence, even when it revealed shortcomings of the modern fisheries era that he did so much to shape.

Lee’s account of the war contained one anecdote that impressed me deeply, even more for the way he told it than the experience itself. He was part of a mixed force of Americans and Chinese advancing through fields on a Japanese stronghold, and he watched American planes come in low overhead. He reported simply that the pilots were confused and strafed their own forces on the ground. Without rancor, recrimination, or judgment, Lee simply stated the facts and moved on to the rest of the story. I don’t know that I could have done that. Aggrieved volumes have been written about similar episodes, and who should have been court marshaled (or not), and how the military should have known better. Lee just wrote it down and let it go.

To title the opening chapter of his autobiography, Lee distilled a grand swath of his philosophy into three words: “Opportunity to Live.” In the first lines, he joyfully poked fun at himself, his professional caution about data sources, and the rhetoric of fisheries management:

“Dayton Lee Alverson, I have been told, was born to George D. and Edith M. Alverson at the naval hospital in San Diego on October 7,1924, smack in the middle of the roaring twenties. I haven’t looked at my birth certificate, but it seems to me that the biomass was about eight pounds, a weight that would grow substantially over the years. As my early formative years are well beyond my capacity to recall, the following notes on my early life history are mostly the product of hearsay.”

By the time I got to know him, these habits of mind were profound. So were his ethics. It made a big impression among fishermen when Lee turned down Exxon’s money after the Valdez oil spill, when the oil company came looking for scientific consultants. Yet Lee and his partners at NRC refused equally to help fishermen overplay their hand as victims of that disaster.

Most of my work with Lee occurred during the last 20 years of his life, when the fishing industry had largely finished the race to the sea that extended jurisdiction had unleashed. Having learned how to harvest the available resource, the world needed to learn how to keep from wearing it out. In his last two decades, Lee poured his prodigious professional energies into strengthening fishery management worldwide: curtailing overfishing, reducing bycatch and regulatory discards, and even assessing the habitat consequences of modern mobile-gear fisheries. In 1992 I watched as Lee and a handful of leaders in the fishing industry and management agencies pulled together the National Industry Bycatch Workshop, held in Newport, Oregon. That meeting led to the publication of a tome by Lee and three co-authors who surveyed the world’s fisheries and crafted the first comprehensive assessment of fisheries bycatch and discards. Lee then served for the rest of his life as chairman of a nonprofit thinktank, the National Fisheries Conservation Center, that a group of us created to pursue the axiom of collaborative problem-solving that Lee had helped to define. A few years later, when Unilever and the World Wildlife Fund launched a new global initiative to apply market pressures to curtail overfishing, Lee became one of the drafters who developed the standards by which the Marine Stewardship Council would certify fisheries.

Lee felt personally accountable for the well-known failures of fishery management. In his autobiography, he noted that he had come of age at a time when the ocean was viewed as a frontier that would “provide the needed protein for the growing world population. It all seemed romantic and encouraging, but this optimism has long faded. More recently, the oceans have been characterized as a global cesspool for a variety of human waste, a dying biological system whose living resources have been contaminated, overexploited, and depleted. More and more species are said to be threatened with extinction. There is a modicum of overkill in some of these assertions; nevertheless, there is enough truth in them that it is not a very encouraging story to pass on to my grandchildren.”

Few people anywhere have done so much to ensure that those grandchildren (and everyone else) will still have fish to enjoy.

Fishing Industry Businesses Endorse I-1631


October 23, 2018

To whom it may concern:

Erling Skaar with his Bering Sea crab vessel the F/V North American. It’s outfitted with his GenTech system, allowing it to operate with far lower emissions and fuel costs than similar vessels.

We write today to announce our support for Washington’s Initiative 1631. As businesses who rely on healthy fisheries for a significant portion of our income, we believe this is a well-designed policy that offers us – and our customers – the best possible chance against an uncertain future fraught with the threats of changing ocean conditions.

It’s become clear that our fisheries need a lifeline. Here in Washington, we are experiencing the worst ocean acidification anywhere in the world. Research has firmly established the cause of this problem: emissions from burning coal, oil and gas mix into the ocean, altering its chemistry. The consequences loomed into headlines a decade ago when the oyster industry lost millions and nearly went out of business during the oyster seed crisis. Temporary and limited adaptation measures in hatcheries are keeping them in business, but in the rest of the oceans, fisheries that put dinner on billions of tables are at risk. Here in the Northwest, harvests are already being eroded and even shut down by the effects of unchecked carbon emissions.

The “warm blob,” an unprecedented marine heatwave off the West Coast, reached its height in 2015 and caused mass fatalities. In the Columbia River, a quarter million salmon died. The largest recorded toxic algae bloom shut down the Dungeness crab fishery for months. The food web crashed, and marine creatures were spotted farther north than ever before. Sea surface temperatures never returned to their previous norm, and new research indicates another blob is forming.

Summers have become synonymous with a smoky haze from wildfires causing poor visibility and poor health – this summer the National Weather Service warned even healthy adults in some Washington areas to stay indoors due to hazardous air quality. At the same time, our iconic Orca whales are starving from a lack of Chinook salmon. The Chinook in turn are suffering from a lack of the zooplankton that juveniles eat.

Research has made it clear that some of our most lucrative fisheries are vulnerable to ocean acidification: king crab, Dungeness crab, and salmon. Scientists also warm that combining stressors – like warming with ocean acidification – makes survival in the ocean all the more precarious.

We studied to understand how to protect our businesses and the natural resources we rely on. The answer was clear: reduce carbon emissions. Reduce them now, and reduce them as quickly as possible.

This is where I-1631 comes in. This fee on carbon, which starts at $15/ton and rises by $2/year, will raise around a billion dollars a year. That revenue will be spent on clean energy projects, energy efficiency, and climate resiliency. Fisheries and ocean acidification projects are specifically included as priority investments.

Maritime fuels will be exempt, so struggling fishing vessel operators won’t pay any additional cost for their fuel. However, they will still qualify for energy efficiency funding. Many of our businesses offer technologies that greatly increase efficiency: sometimes by more than 50%. But over and over, we hear from our customers that despite the obvious advantages and quick return on investment, they simply don’t have the capital to invest in energy efficiency. A billion dollars a year, every year, would provide unprecedented access to that sorely needed capital. Businesses and fleets of vessels or trucks would reap the savings in energy costs, and our environment would reap the benefits of lowered carbon emissions. It’s an obvious win-win.

The fee will likely add about $.14/gallon to the cost of diesel for road transportation, and other energy costs will rise a bit too. But the additional cost could be eliminated by just a 5% increase in efficiency in year one; even in year ten, a 14% increase in efficiency would more than pay the fee. Such efficiency gains are easily achievable with existing technology. Fleets of vessels could be outfitted with more efficient engines or generators, processing facilities could receive grants for more energy efficient refrigeration systems or boilers.

The initiative will also fund work to prevent and mitigate wildfires, flooding, and other extreme weather events, and research to understand the threats to fisheries and investigate mitigation methods.

And the truth is, we’re already paying much more for climate change than I-1631’s fee will cost. We don’t just pay in harvest closures, reduced catches, and lost jobs. We get stuck with an out-of-control tab for the impacts of carbon pollution through our taxes and insurance bills.  Since 1980, the US economy has already endured climate disaster costs of more than $1.5 trillion, according to NOAA. That works out to nearly $10,000 for each individual taxpayer. And those costs are rising. In 2017, NOAA reckons that extreme weather disasters rang up a $306 billion bill in the US. That’s another $2,000 a year on each of us who do the work and pay the bills around here.

In Washington alone, the $1 billion in wildfire response cost since 2014 adds up to a cost of $371 per household. Enough already. I-1631 will combat these threats. Washington will join a global network of price-and-invest policies with a proven track record of improving economies, creating jobs, decreasing health costs, and dramatically reducing emissions. The initiative protects critical Washington industries that can’t afford an added fee, and ensures that low-income households bear no additional burden. It gives tribes and rural communities their due, and because it’s a fee rather than a tax, the funds can never be diverted for other uses: not for the general fund, not for pet projects. The revenue can only be used for emissions reductions and climate resiliency.

Along with a diverse coalition including labor, tribes, physicians, and environment and science experts, I-1631 is also supported by major Washington businesses. Vigor, Microsoft, Expedia, Virginia Mason, MacDonald Miller, and REI are just a handful of the biggest endorsers. We proudly add our names to theirs, and ask other businesses to join us.

For more information contact the Working Group on Seafood and Energy at


Erling Skaar
F/V North American and GenTech Global

Pete Knutson
Loki Fish Co

Matt Marinkovich
Matt’s Fresh Fish

Amy Grondin
Duna Fisheries

Greg Friedrichs
F/V Arminta

Mike Cassinelli
Beacon Charters

Lars Matthiesen
Highland Refrigeration

Bob Allen
MER Equipment

Larry Soriano
Alaska Ship Supply

Robert Loe
Robert Loe & Associates

Fight Pollution, Cut the Oil Boy’s Allowance: Pass I-1631, say Fishermen

Nov 2, 2018

By Brad Warren, Erling Skaar, Jeff Stonehill, Amy Grondin, Jeb Wyman, Pete Knutson, and Larry Soriano

Erling Skaar with the F/V North American

As voters consider a November 6 ballot measure to cut carbon pollution in Washington state, you might not expect fishermen and marine suppliers to defend an initiative that big oil—in a tsunami of misleading ads—claims will drive up fuel bills and achieve nothing.

Nice try, oil boys. Keep huffing. Initiative 1631 is our best shot to protect both our wallets and the waters that feed us all. We’re voting yes.

We depend on fisheries, so we need an ocean that keeps making fish. That requires deep cuts in carbon emissions. And yes, we burn a lot of fuel to harvest seafood and bring it to market—so we need affordable energy. Washington’s Initiative 1631 provides the tools to deliver both.

Carbon emissions are already damaging the seafood industry in Washington and beyond. This pollution heats our rivers and oceans and it acidifies seawater. These changes drive an epidemic of harvest closures, fish and shellfish die-offs, even dissolving plankton. Pollution is unraveling marine foodwebs that sustain both wild capture and aquaculture harvests—jeopardizing dinner for more than 3 billion people worldwide. Today Washington’s endangered resident orca whales are starving for lack of Chinook salmon. To us, that’s a sobering sign: No one catches fish better than an orca.

We are not amateurs or do-gooders. We are Washington residents who have built careers and businesses in fisheries. Several of us come from families that have worked the sea for generations. All of us have benefited from our region’s strict and sustainable harvest management regimes.

Our legacies and our livelihoods are being eroded by the ocean consequences of carbon emissions. Even the best-managed fisheries cannot long withstand this corrosion. Knowing this, we have done our homework. We opposed an ineffective and costly carbon tax proposed two years ago in Washington. We did not lightly endorse Initiative 1631. We pushed hard to improve it first.

We like the result. The initiative charges a fee on carbon pollution, then invests the money to “help people become the solution.” That is a proven recipe for cutting emissions and building a stronger, cleaner economy.

In the Nov. 6 election, Washington citizens have a chance to face down the oil lobby that has stifled progress on carbon emissions for many years. But we cannot watch silently as some of our neighbors fall under the $31 million blitz of fear-mongering ads that oil has unleashed to fight this measure. We know and respect people in the oil industry. But they are not playing straight this time.

Here we refute their misleading claims.

MYTH: Oil pays, but other polluters are unfairly exempted

REALITY: A fee on all heavy industries would kill jobs, exporting pollution instead of cutting it

If you want to cut pollution, it pays to aim. Targeting carbon prices where they work—not where they flop—is necessary to reduce pollution and build a stronger, cleaner economy. That’s what Initiative 1631 does.

For some key industries, a price on carbon emissions kills jobs without cutting pollution. That’s what happens to aircraft manufacturers, or concrete, steel and aluminum makers. They use lots of energy and face out-of-state competitors (I-1631 Sec. 8). Suppose we slap a carbon fee on them as the oil boys pretend to want. Sure enough, their competition promptly seizes their markets and their jobs, and factories flee the state. Way to go, oil boys! You left pollution untouched, and you crushed thousands of good Washington jobs!

By waiving the fee for vital but vulnerable industries, Initiative 1631 keeps jobs and manufacturing here in Washington. The initiative helps these companies reduce emissions over time, just as it does for the rest of us. In fact, it even reserves funds for retraining and assistance so fossil-fuel workers can transition to new careers. That could become necessary as the state migrates from dirty fuels to a cleaner, more efficient economy (Sec 4,(5)).

In a clean-energy future, Washington will still need local manufacturing and basic materials. Keeping these businesses here allows the rest of us to buy from local producers, instead of paying (and polluting) more to haul those goods back to Washington.

The oil boys also whine about Washington’s last coal plant, in Centralia. It is exempt from the fee because it is scheduled to close by 2025 under a legal agreement. Why shoot a dead man?

MYTH: This is an unfair tax on low-income families.

REALITY: The poor get help to cut fuel and energy bills.

Initiative 1631 provides both the mandate and the means to avoid raising energy costs for lower income people. Carbon revenues fund energy efficiency and more clean power—permanently reducing fuel consumption. The measure reserves 35% of all investments to benefit vulnerable, low-income communities (Sec 3, (5)(a)) —ensuring a fair share for those of modest means. It also funds direct bill assistance where needed to prevent unfair energy burdens on those who can least afford it (Sec 4, (4)(a)).

MYTH: The fee would burden businesses and households

REALITY: I-1631 will cut fuel bills by boosting efficiency, clean energy

Despite the scaremongering from oil companies, consumers and businesses are saving hundreds of millions of dollars in states that have policies like I-1631. How? Carbon revenues fund more clean energy and fuel-saving improvements (such as heat pumps, solar and wind power, and fuel efficiency retrofits). That’s what 1631 will provide in WA. These investments reduce fuel bills. Even the big oil companies use internal carbon pricing, as do hundreds of major corporations. Their internal prices drive energy efficiency and lower emissions in their own operations, cutting their costs; they also help position the firms to thrive in a carbon-constrained world. If this didn’t pay, big oil wouldn’t do it. Big oil producers like Exxon hate spending money on fuel they don’t need to burn. They just don’t want the rest of us to have the same tool.

Nine East Coast states are using carbon revenues to cut both their fuel bills and their emissions. Their Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI) helped them avoid spending $1.37 billion on imported fuel in the last 3 years alone.  If refineries do pass along Washington’s fee to consumers (as we expect), households and drivers here will still reap the same kind of benefits as ratepayers back East: efficiency and clean energy investments funded by the fee will reduce our energy bills. A heat pump alone can cut home heating costs by half to two thirds. The fee starts in 2020 at less than 5% of today’s gasoline prices, and rises to about 13% by 2030. Fuel efficiency investments help protect people who still need fuel-burning trucks and vehicles: you can’t haul timber or fish to market with a bus pass. For those who cannot switch to transit, electric vehicles, or low-carbon fuels, the initiative funds fuel efficiency improvements (Sec 4, (1)(d)(iii)). The resulting fuel savings can easily outpace the cost of the fee. One example: HyTech Power, in Redmond, sells a system that increases combustion efficiency in large diesel engines, saving at least 20%. This retrofit alone (one of many proven options) could save diesel users more than the future cost of the carbon fee projected by its opponents.

MYTH: I-1631 is an unproven policy.

REALITY: Price-and-invest policies are clobbering pollution in other states.

Pete Knutson with the F/V Loki

Carbon price-and-invest policies are delivering strong results worldwide. Here in the US, a price-and-invest policy helped California cut emissions enough to surpass its 2020 goals back in 2016—four years early. The East Coast states in the RGGI price-and-invest system have reduced their emissions by 50% since 2009, far surpassing their goal. By cutting harmful pollution, the multi-state RGGI program avoided $5.7 billion worth of healthcare costs and associated productivity losses, saving hundreds of lives. From Maryland to Maine, the RGGI program generated 14,500 job-years of employment and net economic benefit of $1.4 billion during 2015-2017 alone. This program saved ratepayers more than $220 million (net) on energy bills over the last three years. The nine RGGI states achieve this by committing 70% of their carbon revenues—about the same as I-1631—to increase efficiency and clean energy. That’s a recipe for success.

MYTH: 1631 lacks oversight, will waste money.

REALITY: Accountability and oversight are robust.

Accountability is built into this initiative from the ground up, starting with the revenue mechanism: It is a fee not a tax, so the money can’t be diverted. By law, fee revenues must be spent addressing the problem the fee is meant to tackle—in this case reducing carbon pollution and its many costly consequences in Washington. That means no pet projects, and no sweeping money into the general fund.

All investments must earn approval from a 15-member public board that includes experts in relevant technology and science, along with business, health, and community and tribal leaders (Sec. 11). The legislature and board will periodically audit the process to ensure effectiveness (sec. 12).

The oversight panel is deliberately designed to hold state agencies accountable. Washington treaty Indian tribes—who both distrust and respect the agencies— insisted that public members must hold more votes than bureaucrats, who get only four voting seats (Sec. 11 (5)). That power balance restrains the agencies’ ability to grab funds, yet it ensures the panel can tap their genuine expertise. To lead the oversight board, a strong chairman has an independent staff within the governor’s office. This provides the spine and staff power needed to ride herd on agencies and lead a crosscutting mission to combat climate change—a task that spans authorities and talents found throughout the state government.

A word about wasting money: If the oil boys honestly believed 1631 would waste our money, they wouldn’t fear it. They condemn the fee, but we know the price doesn’t worry them, since they use carbon prices themselves. They have poured more than $31 million into fighting 1631—the most expensive initiative campaign in Washington history—for one simple reason: The money will help the rest of us buy less fuel. Pity the oil boys. By passing this initiative, voters can cut their allowance.

Let’s do it.

Note: The authors are Puget Sound-based fishermen, marine suppliers, and policy leaders (including National Fisheries Conservation Center’s Executive Director, Brad Warren).

Washington Tribes Support I-1631

Washington tribal leaders released a series of videos endorsing initiative 1631. Tribes were integral in crafting the initiative to ensure it works well for rural and resource-dependent communities. They brought their wisdom and their muscle to the table and really improved the final result.

Japan’s fish catch sinks for 4th straight year to all-time low

Filed under: Fisheries Management 

By TETSUSHI YAMAMURA, April 27th, 2018, The Asahi Shinbun


A plunging fish catch in 2017 for the fourth consecutive year has the agriculture ministry considering drastic revisions to its fisheries resources control efforts as well as regulatory reform to encourage expansion of the commercial fish farming industry.

Japan’s fish hauls totaled a record low of 4.304 million tons, sinking 1.3 percent from the previous year, according to a government survey released by the agriculture ministry on April 26.

The record low haul of “surumeika” (Japanese flying squid) and “sanma” (Pacific saury) heavily affected the total fisheries and aquaculture production, which stood at its lowest since the survey of these species began in 1956.

The record low catch appears to be due to several factors, including natural environmental influences such as changes in ocean temperatures, as well as the rise in the fish catches in neighboring countries.

Countries have tightened controls of their 200-nautical mile exclusive economic zone. In addition, a decline of fishery resources has been blamed for the low hauls in recent years.

The agriculture ministry is seeking to compile specific measures to address the problem by the summer, which may include mapping out a strategy to raise the country’s fish production by tightening fish catches and bolstering the aquaculture industry.

Until now, fisheries resources have been controlled mainly by limiting the size and the number of fishing vessels. However, the ministry will shift its focus to controlling the volume of fish hauls.

To carry out thorough controls on fish catches, the ministry will consider expanding the setting of ceilings on the amount of fish taken by species, which has been already introduced for some. This will be coupled with the expansion of the species for catch quotas by fishery operators and fishing vessels.

As a control measure, the maximum sustainable yield concept, or MSY, the largest annual catch that can be maintained over an indefinite period, is also under consideration for introduction.

MSY will not only prevent resources depletion but also will maintain the level of the largest yield that can be taken from a species’ stock over the long term. The system has already been ushered in Europe and the United States.

As for regulatory reform, the ministry will consider reviewing the system to allow well-heeled companies and other entities with large sales markets to more easily acquire aquaculture fishery rights for “maguro” (tuna) or “tai” (sea bream), and other species.

The government’s Regulatory Reform Council is discussing measures in the fisheries industry and is scheduled to compile a proposal at an early date.

The ministry’s annual survey shows the wild fish catch reached a record low of 3.258 million tons, a drop of 0.2 percent compared to the previous year.

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Mining power: EPA’s Pruitt aims to short-circuit Clean Water Act

By Jessica Hathaway  

Three days before the deadline for public comments on the proposed Pebble Mine project  in Alaska’s Bristol Bay, Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott Pruitt directed his staff to create a rule limiting the agency’s ability to regulate projects under Clean Water Act guidelines.

These are the exact guidelines that commercial fishermen and local tribes urged Obama-administration EPA officials to invoke to protect Bristol Bay, Alaska’s salmon gold mine.

In a memo dated Tuesday, June 26, Pruitt directed the EPA’s Office of Water to submit the following changes, at minimum, to the Office of Management and Budget within the next six months:

• Eliminating the authority to initiate the section 404(c) process before a section 404 permit application has been filed with the Corps or a state, otherwise known as the “preemptive veto.”

• Eliminating the authority to initiate the section 404(c) process after a permit has been issued by the Corps or a state, otherwise known as the “retroactive veto.”

• Requiring a regional administrator to obtain approval from EPA Headquarters before initiating the section 404(c) process.

• Requiring a regional administrator to review and consider the findings of a final Environmental Assessment or environmental impact statement by the Corps or a state before preparing and publishing notice of a proposed determination.

• Requiring the agency to publish and seek public comment on a final determination before such a determination takes effect.

“The guiding principle should be to provide landowners, developers and entrepreneurs with certainty that the EPA will not short-circuit the permitting process… before taking any steps to veto a permit application,” the memo reads.

Mining permits are typically submitted by massive global corporations that have the lawyers, lobbyists and money to push through the permit phase. Users of clean water are typically lowly individual American citizens with an ever-dwindling influence on their federal government.

No one who has followed the Pebble process for the last two decades could possibly say the fishermen pulled a power play over the massive Canadian mining company Northern Dynasty Minerals. A multinational company named “dynasty” can hardly invoke a pity party for lack of power.

Thousands of Bristol Bay’s fishermen have fought hard to protect their livelihood from being invaded by a foreign investor who is free to cut and run after it makes its 50-year cash-out investment in Pebble — leaving behind the toxic waste resulting from the metals mining process. Forever.

This singular victory for a sustainable fishery and a renewable resource hardly warrants EPA’s attempt to shut down one of the few powers we have as citizens to protect our access to a public resource.


Climate Change May Be Creating A Seafood Trade War, Too

June 15th, 2018, Marshall Shepherd,

One of the grand challenges that I find as a climate scientist is conveying to the public the “here and now” of climate change. For many people, it is still some “thing” that seems far off in time or distance from their daily lives of bills, illness, kids, and their jobs. Ironically, climate change touches each of those aspects, but the average person does not often make the connections. People eat seafood and fish, but most people will not make any connections between tonight’s dinner of flounder, lobster or mackerel to climate change as they squeeze that lemon or draw that butter.

A new Rugters University study caught my eye because it is a good example of a “here and now” impact. Climate changes is causing fish species to adjust their habitats at a more rapid pace than current policy can manage. Many species of flounder, lobster, mackerel and crab are migrating to find colder waters as oceans warm.  The study suggests that such shifts may lead to international conflict and reductions in fish supply. Seafood is a pawn in the trade chess game.


Fishers on deck

Researchers at Rutgers University say that an obsolete and outdated regulatory system has not kept pace with how the ocean’s waters are warming and shifting fish populations. I actually wrote a few years ago in Forbes about how warming waters were shifting crab populations in the North Pacific and affecting fishers as well as one of my favorite TV shows, The Deadliest Catch. This new study published in one of the top scientific journals in the world, Science, has provided new insight that has implications for our food supply and potential international conflict. According to a press release from the university:

for the first time that new fisheries are likely to appear in more than 70 countries all over the world as a result of climate change. History has shown that newly shared fisheries often spark conflict among nations. Conflict leads to overfishing, which reduces the food, profit and employment fisheries can provide, and can also fracture international relations in other areas beyond fisheries. A future with lower greenhouse gas emissions, like the targets under the 2015 Paris climate agreement, would reduce the potential for conflict, the study says.

Malin Pinsky is an assistant professor of ecology, evolution and natural resources at Rutgers and one of the authors of the study. He, postdoctoral associate James Morley and a group of international co-authors reported that commercially important fish species (in other words things you like to eat and that many depend on for sustenance) could continue to migrate further northward in search of colder waters.

Read more here

Simple rules can help fishery managers cope with ecological complexity

Filed under: Blog, Fisheries Management 

herring fish

Schooling herring, one of the fisheries studied in this analysis .Jacob Bøtter/Flickr

To successfully manage fisheries, factors in the environment that affect fish — like food sources, predators and habitat — should be considered as part of a holistic management plan.

That approach is gaining traction in fisheries management, but there has been no broad-scale evaluation of whether considering these ecosystem factors makes any economic sense for the commercial fishing industry. In these often profitable and competitive markets, that question has lacked the evidence to rule one way or another.

A team of ecologists and economists has addressed that question in the first study to test whether real-life ecological interactions produce economic benefits for the fishing industry. The results were published online last week in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

“Going into this, I shared the belief that because we know species are connected, ignoring that connection is potentially putting ecosystems in harm. What we really found was a much more nuanced benefit,” said lead author Tim Essington, a University of Washington professor of aquatic and fishery sciences. “Rather than enhancing economic benefits, the holistic approaches to natural resource management are better viewed as a way to more equitably distribute risk and reward across different users.”

The researchers found that economic benefits were minor when ecological interactions were factored into the equation. Instead, this ecosystem-based approach offers other benefits to the fishing industry — namely, a simple set of rules to avoid scenarios that could cause a worst-case outcome for fishes and their surrounding environments.

Most U.S. fisheries are managed by looking at the biology of the targeted fish species. Managers consider what the species’ expected abundance is year to year and make decisions about how many can be caught each season. That process, however, doesn’t account for ecosystem factors such as predators, habitat or temperature that also can influence a species’ abundance. This can lead to an incorrect estimate of the number of fish that can be caught sustainably.

To test whether a holistic approach helps or hurts the industry from an economic perspective, the researchers looked at an actual predator-prey relationship between two fisheries, cod and herring. Separately, both fisheries are among the largest and most profitable in the world.

Read full story here

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