Fisheries Management

“More fish in the sea” is not a reason to keep overfishing

Filed under: Fisheries Management 

Yum. Bristlemouth. Photo courtesy of NOAA

March 12th, 2014, by Amelia Urry on

Bristlemouth à la beurre. Miso-seared mola mola. Lanternfish tartare.

If you’ve never seen these things on a menu, that’s probably because humans don’t generally catch or eat the denizens of the mesopelagic zone, that slice of sea about 656 to 3,280 feet below the ocean surface (also known as 200 to 1000 meters, which is much easier to remember). Lying just below the pelagic, the top layer of the open sea where most of the fish we’re familiar with live, the mesopelagic is apparently much more lively than we thought.

paper published last month in the journal Nature Communications revised the estimate of biomass in this “twilight zone” of the ocean up from 1 billion tons to more than 10 billion — meaning these deep-dwellers actually make up something like 95 percent of the total fish in the sea.

This might sound like good news — lots more fish! — but it’s not nearly as good as some news outlets would have you believe. The right-wing blog Powerline optimistically asserted that “maybe overfishing of tuna won’t turn out to be quite the crisis we thought it was,” while The National Review’s Greg Pollowitz told us to stop worrying about ocean pollution since deep-water “deserts” under trash gyres turn out to be chock-full of fish. Even Popular Science overplayed the positive angle in its subhead: “Good news for fish. And humans who like fish.” (To be fair, a caveat followed in the piece itself: “This study doesn’t have much relevance for the issue of overfishing, which is an enormous and still growing problem.”)

I like fish, but I don’t expect to be picking dragonfish bones out of my teeth anytime soon. Deep-sea biologist Andrew David Thaler points out that media coverage of this study has distinctly neglected context — namely that, while this news teaches us a lot about the mechanics of the open ocean food chain, and may even explain why the sea is so good at absorbing our extra carbon, it really has little to bring to the human dinner table. Yes, there are a lot of (weird) fish out there, but that’s not a good excuse to keep dumping plastic in the Pacific or fishing bluefin tuna to extinction.

Not to mention that mesopelagic fish have been undercounted precisely because they are extraordinarily good at evading the trawl nets sent down to survey them. (So don’t get too excited about plundering this untapped food source, at least not yet.) The new research was done with sonar instead — harder to dodge that sound wave, huh, myctophids?

Read more here

What are We Protecting? Fisher Behavior and the Unintended Consequences of Spatial Closures as a Fishery Management Tool

Economists Alan Haynie (Economics & Social Sciences Research (ESSR) program) and Joshua Abbott (Arizona State University) have a forthcoming publication in the journal Ecological Applications that examines the impacts of the red king crab savings area (RKCSA) on the Bering Sea flatfish fishery.

Specifically, the paper examines the winter rock sole and Pacific cod fishery in the years immediatedly following the creation of the RKCSA in 1995. Spatial closures like marine protected areas (MPAs) are prominent tools for ecosystem-based management in fisheries. However, the adaptive behavior of fishermen (the apex predator in the ecosystem) to MPAs may upset the balance of fishing impacts across species.

While ecosystem-based management (EBM) emphasizes the protection of all species in the environment, the weakest stock often dominates management attention. We use data before and after the implementation of the RKCSA to show how closures designed for red king crab protection spurred dramatic increases in Pacific halibut bycatch due to both direct displacement effects and indirect effects from adaptations in fishermen’s targeting behavior. We identify aspects of the ecological and economic context of the fishery that contributed to these surprising behaviors, noting that many multispecies fisheries are likely to share these features.

Our results highlight the need to either anticipate the behavioral adaptations of fishermen across multiple species in reserve design, a form of implementation error, or to design management systems that are robust to these adaptations. Failure to do so may yield patterns of fishing effort and mortality that undermine the broader objectives of multispecies management and potentially alter ecosystems in profound ways.

By Alan Haynie

Thousands of Coastal Fishermen to Rally in DC on March 21

In another historic show of solidarity, US recreational and commercial fishermen will gather at Upper Senate Park in Washington DC on March 21, 2012 starting at noon in an organized demonstration supporting sensible reform of the Magnuson Stevens Fisheries Conservation and Management Act.

This is a follow-up to a rally in February of 2010 that brought some 5,000 recreational, commercial and party/charter vessel owners, fishermen and people in fisheries dependent businesses from all over the country to Washington. Twenty plus Members of the Senate and House of Representatives spoke regarding efforts to reform Magnuson.

Click here to read more

Pribilof Islands Collaborative

NFCC helped plan and then facilitated the ongoing work of the Pribilof Islands Collaborative (PIC), a cooperative effort that included the representatives from the two islands, major fishing industry sectors (e.g., pollock, crab, longliners), and conservation groups (e.g., The Nature Conservancy, World Wildlife Fund). PIC’s goal was to create opportunities to share scientific and technical information, build relationships both within and across interest groups, and identify collaborative efforts that would improve knowledge and sustain resources. PIC focused separate meetings on fur seals, seabirds, crab and halibut, climate change, and economic development. The January 2005 workshop on fur seal ecology included presentations from all the leading fur seal researchers and resulted in a prioritized list of research needs that influenced NOAA’s funding decisions.

See the presentation materials

Steller Sea Lion Recovery Plan

Filed under: Fisheries Management, Projects 

NFCC facilitated the final two meetings of the Steller Sea Lion Recovery Team, in Homer, AK and Seattle, WA, in 2005. NFCC’s efforts succeeded in helping the Recovery Team complete a consensus draft of an updated recovery plan within the deadline set by NOAA.

Pollock MSC Certification Issues

Filed under: Fisheries Management, Projects 

NFCC completed a shadow evaluation of the Alaska pollock fishery’s performance on the Marine Stewardship Council’s certification criteria to better inform the World Wildlife Fund’s participation in the certification process. The evaluation team included experts in marine ecosystems, stock assessment, and fisheries management. The evaluation summarized the main ecological, scientific, and management issues; scored the fishery on each of the certification criteria; and made specific recommendations about how the fishery could improve its performance

Read the full report here: Pollock Certification Report

Using Decision Analysis in Fisheries

Filed under: Fisheries Management, Projects 

With support from the David and Lucile Packard Foundation, NFCC conducted two two-day hands-on workshops in the application of decision analysis to fisheries stock assessment and management. The workshops, which combined presentations by experts in decision analysis with problem-solving applications, provided fisheries scientists, managers, and advocates an opportunity to better understand the potential value of this tool, particularly in handling the uncertainty inherent in fisheries.

NMFS Performance Audit

Filed under: Fisheries Management, Projects 

NFCC conducted a confidential audit of the utility and management of NMFS’ decision-making process, with a particular focus on the agency’s ability to comply with legal mandates provided by the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA), the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act (MSFCMA), the Endangered Species Act (ESA), and the Regulatory Flexibility Act (RFA). NFCC conducted a large number of confidential interviews with NOAA/NMFS personnel, both at headquarters an in the regions, as well as with representatives of various industry groups and advocacy organizations. NFCC presented its findings and recommendations in an executive briefing at NMFS headquarters that included presentations from high-level managers at other federal agencies that had successfully resolved problems similar to those NMFS was confronting. NFCC then facilitated a series of workshops with staff from the regional fishery management councils to develop implementation plans for the recommendations resulting from the audit.

Identifying Fisheries Research Needs

Filed under: Fisheries Management, Projects 

NFCC supported the Sloan Foundation’s initial planning efforts for a Census of the Fishes, which evolved into the Census of Marine Life, by reviewing a wide range of fishery council stock assessments and planning documents to extract region- and species-specific research and data needs. This information contributed to the Sloan Foundation’s assessment of the needed scope of the Census.

Read the full report here: Sloan Research Needs in Fisheries Final Report


NFCC Sponsors Panel at AFS in Anchorage

Filed under: Fisheries Management, Projects 

NFCC organized a symposium at the annual conference of the American Fisheries Society in Anchorage, Alaska in 2005 in which expert panelists shared their experiences and insights about science, fishery management, process planning, public policy, stakeholder participation and monitoring of the effects of marine protected areas.   NFCC targeted the symposium as an opportunity for exchanging information and opinion on a highly visible and sometimes contentious topic.

The half-day symposium brought together perspectives spanning multiple jurisdictions, disciplines and cultures, as well as points of view and approaches that have not always intersected easily in the designation of marine protected areas.  Panelists included diverse presenters from as far away as Alaska and Fiji, state and federal managers, fishermen and marine ecologists (Jim Reynolds, of the Institute of Applied Sciences, University of the South Pacific in Suva, Fiji Islands; Michele Buckhorn, University of California; Jim Taggert, U.S. Geological Survey, Juneau, Alaska; Brock Bernstein, President of NFCC; Lisa Wooninck, NOAA Fisheries Santa Cruz Lab; Susan Golding, member of California’s MLPA Blue Ribbon Task Force; Bill James, California nearshore fisherman, and Loren Wenzel, NOAA MPA Center in Charleston, SC).

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