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Marine News

Bay Nature

Drift gillnets are a fairly ineffective method at capturing swordfish and thresher shark.

The nets are suspended like underwater curtains, a mile long and more than 600 feet wide, and anything that swims into them can get entangled.

In the deep sea waters off the California coast that’s meant everything from sea turtles to gray whales, as well as dozens of other species. Environmental groups call California’s drift gillnet fishing industry one of the nation’s deadliest catches, since more than 60 percent of what’s caught in the nets gets tossed away. They now have the images to lend drama to their statistics.

In February, the nonprofit Oceana obtained a treasure trove of photographs from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association (NOAA) in a public records request. The images — nearly 500 taken from 1997 to 2011— show a gruesome scene of hundreds of dead marine life entangled in nets. The images were obtained by NOAA observers who are by law stationed on fishing boats.

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FIS

Several Spanish tuna vessels operating in the Indian Ocean are in the “testing phase” to use technological equipment for replacing aboard observers.

The idea of the promoters of the initiative is to use adaptive technology to work on board vessels in order to monitor fishing activities in waters where the safety is compromised, such as the Indian Ocean. In these waters, the fishermen face constant threats of “pirates.”

The aim is also to have cameras on board the vessels and collect data “to the minute,” the newspaper La Opinión informed.

“For security reasons, it [the project] is about equipping boats with technological, electronic monitors that can do the same control job as a scientist without compromising security,” explains the Secretary General of the Spanish Fisheries Confederation (CEPESCA), Javier Garat.

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IPS

The Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) has estimated that illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing costs about 20 billion dollars annually.

During two days of discussions here, which concluded Tuesday, the primary focus was on the need to implement the FAO Code of conduct for responsible fisheries and the role of regional fisheries management organisations.

“A new development on fishing management is ongoing, but it is still a slow process,” Árni M. Mathiesen, FAO Assistant Director-General, Fisheries and Aquaculture Department, told IPS.

The FAO code, which was adopted in 1995, stresses that countries and all those involved in fisheries and aquaculture should work together to conserve and manage fish resources and their habitats.

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FIS News

The Center for Biological Diversity has filed a legal petition urging the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) to prohibit fishing for Pacific bluefin tuna.

The NGO highlights that the population of this once-abundant fish has suffered a 96 per cent decline since large-scale fishing began, triggering a requirement for the Pacific Fishery Management Council (NMFC) to recommend new regulations for managing Pacific bluefin tuna by 8 April. But claims that the council has declined to take any action to help bluefin.

“Despite the bluefin tuna’s great speed and deep-diving, it can’t escape the world’s insatiable appetite for sushi,” said Center Attorney Catherine Kilduff. “Saving Pacific bluefin tuna requires drastic action at all levels, starting by protecting them in the feeding grounds off California and Mexico.”

The petition calls for the NMFS to add Pacific bluefin tuna to a list of imperiled species that must be released immediately if caught, including great white sharks and other fish vulnerable to steep declines from fishing.

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NOAA News

U.S. fishermen haul in more seafood in Alaska than all the other states combined. And that bounty, which was worth $2 billion and supported 60,000 jobs in 2011, starts off as just a flurry of tiny larvae helplessly adrift in the water column.

Of those countless billions of larvae, only a tiny fraction grows to adult size, and how many of them make it depends on the conditions they encounter early in life. Fish larvae are at the mercy of ocean currents, which can ferry them to favorable nursery grounds or dump them in hostile seas. Their fate also depends on physical factors such as water temperature, ice cover, and storms, and biological factors such as the availability of prey and the density of predators.

“Fish have to run a gauntlet of threats during their first year of life,” said Jamal Moss, a biologist at NOAA’s Alaska Fisheries Science Center. In a good year, a lot of fish will be recruited into the fishery—that is, they will grow large enough to be caught in fishermen’s nets. But to get high recruitment, Moss said, “a lot of stars need to align.”

Moss is one of more than 50 scientists from 11 institutions who are charting those stars. The Integrated Ecosystem Research Project, or IERP, in the Gulf of Alaska brings together physical oceanographers, fish biologists, and other scientists to decipher how physical and biological forces in the ocean combine to determine fish recruitment.

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The San Francisco Chronicle

A dire Yukon River king salmon forecast that could bottom out below last year’s low returns has some rural Alaska residents calling for a moratorium on subsistence fishing for the species.

“These fish are not going to be here forever, not the way we’re catching them,” Orville Huntington said Tuesday during a pre-season planning meeting with fisheries managers from the Alaska Department of Fish and Game. “It wouldn’t hurt to take a few years off and say, ‘Let them go.’ There are other fish out there.”

Huntington lives on the Koyukuk River, a tributary of the Yukon. He works as director of wildlife and parks for the Tanana Chiefs Conference.

Walter Stickman, of Nulato, read a letter from the Nulato Tribal Council that called for a moratorium.

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The Tribune

If the high seas were closed to fishing, populations of migratory species such as tuna, billfish and shark would increase significantly and that would help the coastal fishing industry to flourish, a Cal Poly assistant biology professor has advocated in a recent study.

Cal Poly assistant biology professor Crow White created a computer simulation to test the theory with co-author Christopher Costello, a UC Santa Barbara professor of environmental and resource economics.

Their study was published March 25 in the Public Library of Science Biology peer-reviewed journal.

“This is very much a conversation starter,” White said, noting that the United Nations is looking into the study. “It will take more detailed analysis on the science side (to implement).”

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ABC

The month-long search for Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 has been made more difficult by the huge amount of debris floating in oceans around the world.

Marine economist Professor McIlgorm says that the Indian Ocean, for example, contains hot spots of debris which if looked at from space may look like aircraft wreckage.

“Just as debris gathers in the corner of a harbour, equally the ocean circulation will actually gather debris in different spots within the ocean,” says Professor Alistair McIlgorm.

Professor McIlgorm is from the Australian National Centre for Ocean Resources and Security at the University Wollongong, and spoke to the ABC’s Ali Moore.

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Truro Daily News

Cardigan MP Lawrence MacAulay insists a threat to the P.E.I.tuna industry is looming with the possible arrival of long-line tuna vessels gaining access to the Gulf of St. Lawrence.

“The hook and line tuna fishery that we have here is one of the best

managed and most sustainable fisheries in the world,” said MacAulay.

The MP is calling on Federal Fisheries Minister Gail Shea to deny the pending applications for scientific work that would involve test vessels using long-lines, which have never been used for tuna in the Gulf.

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The Columbian

The Pacific Fishery Management Council is expected to have a big conversation this week about some small things. Well, small in size but large in importance.

As part of a weeklong series of meetings, council members are scheduled Thursday morning to tackle the issue of “forage fish” — small creatures such as sardines, smelt, anchovies and lantern fish that don’t grab headlines like salmon or tuna but play a crucial role in the food chain. As environmental consultant Brett Sommermeyer wrote in an opinion piece for The News Guard in Lincoln City, Ore., “They eat tiny plants and animals drifting near the surface, then form huge ‘bait balls’ of protein that are consumed by everything else above them on the food web.”

In other words, a depletion of forage fish can negatively impact large commercial fish, which influences both the food supply for humans and a crucial aspect of the local economy. According to The Pew Charitable Trusts: “Forage fish are a big deal because they’re a critical food source for countless other animals that people love to watch, catch, or eat.”

The Pacific Fishery Management Council includes representatives from Washington, Oregon, California and Idaho (because ocean-going salmon migrate there), and its members are tasked with the nearly impossible challenge of managing fishing concerns and ensuring that a local industry is sustainable for further generations. The PFMC has adopted a Fisheries Ecosystem Plan that was put forth last year, and it now is looking to adopt concrete measures for implementing the plan.

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