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Regional News

National Review

In 2012, the British Columbia–based Native American Haida tribe launched an effort to restore the salmon fishery that has provided much of their livelihood for centuries. Acting collectively, the Haida voted to form the Haida Salmon Restoration Corporation, financed it with $2.5 million of their own savings, and used it to support the efforts of American scientist-entrepreneur Russ George to demonstrate the feasibility of open-sea mariculture — in this case, the distribution of 120 tons of iron sulfate into the northeast Pacific to stimulate a phytoplankton bloom which in turn would provide ample food for baby salmon.

The verdict is now in on this highly controversial experiment: It worked.

In fact it has been a stunningly over-the-top success. This year, the number of salmon caught in the northeast Pacific more than quadrupled, going from 50 million to 226 million. In the Fraser River, which only once before in history had a salmon run greater than 25 million fish (about 45 million in 2010), the number of salmon increased to 72 million.

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Marine News

Washington Post

The seafood on your dinner plate is starting to look a little fishy.

A new study that examined illegal and unreported marine harvests brought into the United States found that some fish shouldn’t be on U.S. tables. Up to 32 percent of imported wild shrimp, crab, salmon, pollock, tuna and other catch is poached, according to the study.

Scientists are concerned about illegal fishing because the world’s oceans can barely sustain legal seafood harvests. Eighty-five percent of the world’s commercial seafood grounds “are fished up to their biological limits or beyond,” the study said.

Earlier studies have shown that illegal and underreported fishing accounts for up to 31 percent of the world’s catch, but this study is the first to examine how much of it slips past the better-inspected ports of the United States.

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Research News

Business Recorder

Fish are losing their survival instinct – even becoming attracted to the smell of their predators – as the world’s oceans become more acidic because of climate change, new research said Monday. The study of fish in coral reefs off the coast of Papua New Guinea – where the waters are naturally acidic – showed the animals’ behaviour became riskier.

“Fish will normally avoid the smell of a predator, that makes perfect sense,” lead author Professor Philip Munday from Australia’s James Cook University said. “But they start to become attracted to the smell of the predator. That’s incredible. “They also swim further from shelter and they are more active, they swim around more. That’s riskier behaviour for them they are more likely to be attacked by a predator.”

Munday said the research, published in the journal Nature Climate Change, was important given that about 30 percent of the carbon dioxide released into the atmosphere is ultimately absorbed by the ocean, a process which results in the seas becoming more acidic. Acidification around the reefs studied is at levels predicted to become ocean-wide by the end of the century as the climate changes.

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Field Crew, Marine News

Radio Australia

Fiji’s tuna boat owners say Pacific nations must cut the number of licences they give to foreign fishing fleets if they want to save the local industry.

Only a handful of Fiji’s 100 domestic tuna boats are still operating – despite the multi-billion-dollar fishery in its backyard.

Graeme Southwick of the Fiji Tuna Boat Owners Association says tuna stocks are so low that Fiji fishermen rarely bring any in, relying instead on other species like red snapper.

“This is the fish now that we have to chase as none of the boats can make a living out of tuna anymore.” he said.

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Regional News

The Sacramento Bee

The public is invited to a free presentation May 3 at Nimbus Hatchery on how California’s drought is affecting salmon and steelhead populations in the American River.

The event is offered by the California Department of Fish and Wildlife, which operates the hatchery, one of five in the Central Valley that produce most of the salmon caught by commercial and recreational anglers in the state.

Rob Titus, a senior environmental scientist at the department, will discuss the state of salmon and steelhead runs and the challenges the drought poses to their survival. He’ll also outline actions the agency is taking to protect these fish and improve their survival. Forest Williams of the Sacramento County Water Agency will then describe ways the public can reduce water use and lessen human impact on the river.

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Research News

Science Codex

A new modeling study suggests that fish consumption advisories for expecting mothers are ineffective in reducing infant exposure to long-lived contaminants like persistent organic pollutants (POPs).

The study, performed by a team of researchers including University of Toronto Scarborough PhD student Matt Binnington and Professor Frank Wania, looks at how different levels of environmental contamination, a mother’s compliance with advisories, and the behavior of chemicals in the body influenced exposure in her children.

Their model estimates that women who stop eating fish shortly before or during their pregnancy may only lower their child’s exposure to POPs by 10 to 15 per cent.

“We have to be careful in saying fish advisories don’t work at all because they can work very well for reducing exposure to quickly eliminated contaminants, such as mercury,” says Binnington. “But for POPs we found that they are not very effective.”

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Regional News

San Francisco Chronicle

The California drought cannot be oversimplified as farmers versus fish. It is a very real challenge that is having serious impact on farmers, fishers, families and businesses across our entire state.

Unfortunately, the Field Poll results outlined in The Chronicle’s April 16 story “California residents divided on drought solution” oversimplified the ongoing drought in just this way. The poll shows that 49 percent of state voters support relaxing regulations that protect fish in order to help people; 44 percent think that the regulations should not be relaxed.

If regulations are relaxed, that means an increased amount of water could be pumped south out of the San Francisco Bay estuary. Taking more water from the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta, which is part of that estuary, would lead to problems that go far beyond the survival of the endangered salmon and delta smelt. Real people would be hurt.

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Regional News

The Stockton Record

It may be a drought year, but plans for restoration of endangered spring-run salmon on the parched San Joaquin River are proceeding with the release of 54,000 hatchery-raised fingerlings today and Friday near the confluence with the Merced River, federal agencies announced Thursday.

David Murillo, Director of Reclamation’s Mid-Pacific Region, said he is “hopeful” that in three years some of the salmon being released now will return to the river to spawn.

The announcement also said that no additional water will be released for the fish and that the fish are considered an “experimental population,” which means that they are exempt from Endangered Species Act rules that normally would make it illegal to kill the species by sucking them into water export pumps near Tracy.

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Water News

The Modesto Bee

A two-month debate on irrigation water rates ended Friday with Merced County farmers showing major support for a dramatic fee hike.

Farmers voted 4,313 to 776 to increase water rates from $20.25 per acre-foot to $100.67 per acre-foot. Irrigation water is measured per acre-foot, which is the amount of water it takes to cover an acre of land a foot deep, about 325,900 gallons.

MID officials said increasing fees was necessary to help the district cover a projected $10.6 million budget shortfall. Drought-related financial troubles caused the district to look for ways to cover the deficit and meet its bond covenants. In a typical year, MID sells about 300,000 acre-feet of water. Three consecutive years of drought conditions left the district with less than 100,000 acre-feet of water for this growing season.

Farmers will receive just 6 inches of water per acre during this year’s shortened four-month season. Typically they receive more than 3 feet per acre over a seven-month season, authorities have said.

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Water News

Capital Press

Some California irrigators may face changes to the pricing and timing of water deliveries due to a recent court ruling.

Water delivery contracts held by some California irrigators must be evaluated for their impact on threatened and endangered species, according to a federal appeals court.

The ruling pertains to the obligations of the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation, which operates massive irrigation projects in California.

The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals has ruled that the agency must consult with federal scientists about the effect the water contracts have on Delta smelt, a threatened fish.

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