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Oceans: Pacific bluefin tuna on the brink as feds seek input on new fishing regulations

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Even the imminent decimation of tuna populations hasn’t stopped sport fishermen from harvesting the desirable fish in the Gulf of Mexico and elsewhere. bberwyn photo.

Not enough adults left to replenish populations

Staff Report

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FRISCO — Pacific bluefin tuna won’t last long at any sustainable level without immediate and drastic intervention by fisheries managers, according to ocean advocates who are urging the federal government to adopt strict limits on bluefin tuna catch.

Overall, many tuna populations are on the brink of collapse. Five of eight tuna species have been assigned threatened or near-threatened status on the international Red List maintained by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature.

In the Gulf of Mexico, for example, the Deepwater Horizon oil disaster spewed millions of gallons of oil into the species’ prime breeding grounds, and a 2010 report by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists showed how illegal fishing and inadequate enforcement are decimating tuna stocks all over the world. Continue reading

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Upper Arkansas gets gold medal fishery status

Fishing for brookies at Officers Gulch Pond, in Summit County, Colorado.

Colorado gets new Gold Medal trout fishery.

Restoration efforts yield big gains in Colorado

By Summit Voice

FRISCO — Restoration efforts along the Arkansas River have paid sweet dividends for trouts and anglers, as state officials last week designated a 102-mile stretch of the river as a Gold Medal fishery.

The designation has been 20 years in the making, and although anglers have enjoyed the improved conditions for years, it is an official acknowledgement of the myriad efforts undertaken by state and federal agencies to turn an impaired river into one of the most popular fishing destinations in Colorado.

With the addition of the Arkansas River, total Gold Medal stream miles in Colorado increases by 50 percent to 322 total miles. It will also be the longest reach of Gold Medal water in the State. Continue reading

Study: Canadian politicians have ‘eviscerated’ habitat protection for freshwater fish

When politics trumps science

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Pro-development policies in Canada have ‘eviscerated’ habitat protection for many freshwater fish species, according to a new study. bberwyn photo.

By Summit Voice

FRISCO — With political interference in conservation science becoming more common in the U.S. (as in the case of gray wolves), it’s worth looking north to Canada to see the results of such misguided decision-making.

A new study from the University of Calgary and Dalhousie University asserts that federal government changes to Canada’s fisheries legislation “have eviscerated” the ability to protect habitat for most of the country’s fish species.

The changes were “politically motivated” and unsupported by scientific advice — contrary to government policy — and are inconsistent with ecosystem-based management, according to fisheries biologists John Post and Jeffrey Hutchings. Continue reading

Oceans: NOAA report flags illegal fishing by 10 countries

The foreign fishing vessel Marshalls 201 runs from the U.S. Coast Guard Cutter Walnut in September 2006 while still in U.S. waters. After the vessel was stopped and boarded, U.S. Coast Guard personnel determined the Marshalls 201 did not possess the proper permits to fish within U.S. waters and contained approximately 500 metric tons of tuna on board. The vessel and catch were seized and escorted to Guam for prosecution. The owner pled to one count and paid a penalty of $500,000.

The foreign fishing vessel Marshalls 201 runs from the U.S. Coast Guard Cutter Walnut in September 2006 while still in U.S. waters. After the vessel was stopped and boarded, U.S. Coast Guard personnel determined the Marshalls 201 did not possess the proper permits to fish within U.S. waters and contained approximately 500 metric tons of tuna on board. The vessel and catch were seized and escorted to Guam for prosecution. The owner pled to one count and paid a penalty of $500,000. Photo courtesy U.S. Coast Guard.

Upcoming talks aimed at spurring compliance with treaties

By Summit Voice

SUMMIT COUNTY — As many global fish populations plunge due to unsustainable fishing practices, including illegal catch that ends up in U.S. grocery stores, the federal government  last week announced some small steps to try and curb those practices.

Last week, NOAA submitted a report identifying 10 nations whose fishing vessels engaged in illegal, unreported, and unregulated fishing, or had ineffective measures to prevent the unintended catch of protected species in 2012: Colombia, Ecuador, Ghana, Italy, Mexico, Panama, the Republic of Korea, Spain, Tanzania, and Venezuela.

The U.S. will soon start consultations with those countries to encourage them to take action to address unauthorized fishing and bycatch by their fishermen. Mexico was also identified for ineffective management of the bycatch of North Pacific loggerhead sea turtles, which travel between Japan and Mexico through Hawaiian waters, and are endangered under the U.S. Endangered Species Act.

All 10 nations identified in this year’s report had vessels that did not comply in 2011 and/or 2012 with conservation and management measures required under a regional fishery management organization.

“As one of the largest importers of seafood in the world, the United States has a global responsibility and an economic duty to ensure the fish we import is caught sustainably and legally,” said Sam Rauch, deputy assistant administrator for NOAA’s Fisheries Service. “We look forward to working with these nations to encourage their compliance, and we will continue to work with our partners to detect and combat illegal practices.”

“NOAA’s international fisheries work is critical to the economic viability of U.S. fishing communities and the protection of U.S. jobs,” said Russell Smith, NOAA deputy assistant secretary for international fisheries. “This is about leveling the playing field for fishermen around the world, and IUU fishing represents one of the biggest threats to the U.S. fishing industry. Seafood is a global business, and U.S. fishermen following the rules should not have to compete with those using illegal or unsustainable fishing practices,” Smith said.

According to NOAA, unauthorized and illegal fishing undermines international efforts to sustainably manage and rebuild fisheries and creates unfair market competition for fishermen who adhere to strict conservation measures, like those in the United States. Illegal fishing can devastate fish populations and their productive marine habitats, threatening food security and economic stability. Independent experts have estimated economic losses worldwide from illegal fishing at between $10 billion and $23 billion annually.

All six of the nations identified in the previous 2011 Biennial Report to Congress (Colombia, Ecuador, Italy, Panama, Portugal, and Venezuela) have addressed the instances by taking strong actions like sanctioning vessels, adopting or amending laws and regulations, or improving monitoring and enforcement. Each of these six nations now has a positive certification for their 2011 identified activities. However, a nation positively certified for action taken since the last report may be listed again as engaged in IUU fishing if new issues are identified, as is the case in this report.

If a nation fails to take appropriate action to address the instances of illegal fishing or bycatch activities described in the report, that nation’s fishing vessels may be denied entry into U.S. ports, and imports of certain fish or fish products from that nation into the United States may be prohibited. The United States is second only to China in the amount of seafood it imports. NOAA’s latest figures showed that 91 percent of the 4.7 billion pounds of seafood consumed in the United States in 2011 was imported.

Summit Voice: Most-viewed and week in review

Fishing disasters in Alaska, the Gulf of Mexico and New England may all be linked with global warming.

Fracking, cutthroat trout and Colorado weather …

Environment: Probe of Arctic scientist ends inconclusively

SUMMIT COUNTY —A Kafka-esque federal probe of a polar biologist ended inconclusively this week, as biologist Charles Monnett got a mild slap on the wrist for an alleged breach of policy that was unrelated to the focus of the 2.5-year investigation.

Climate: Ocean temps rising especially fast along coasts

SUMMIT COUNTY — Scientists with the UK’s University of Southampton say they may have documented another unanticipated global warming feedback loop, as sea surface temperatures in coastal regions appears to be rising up to 10 times faster than the global average. Continue reading

Feds claim progress on recovering fisheries

A flounder in seagrass. PHOTO COURTESY NOAA.

Several valuable species have been rebuilt to sustainable levels

By Summit Voice

SUMMIT COUNTY — Federal fisheries experts say that collaborative efforts have helped rebuild stocks of several valuable commercial and recreational fisheries, including Bering Sea snow crab, Atlantic coast summer flounder, Gulf of Maine haddock, northern California coast Chinook salmon, Washington coast coho salmon, and Pacific coast widow rockfish — all fully rebuilt to healthy levels.

Those are record results for a single, year, the National Marine Fisheries Service said in a report, declaring that experts have been able to recover 27 U.S. marine fish populations to sustainable levels in the past 11 years. Continue reading

Scientists urge protection of Arctic fisheries

Open letter signed by 2,000 researchers calls for temporary ban on fishing until baseline data is established

Sea ice in the Bering Sea and Bering Strait. PHOTO COURTESY NASA.

By Summit Voice

SUMMIT COUNTY — Leading scientists from around the world warned that unbridled commerical fishing in newly thawed Arctic waters is likely to result in resource depletion similar to what’s occurred in other areas.

“The ability to fish is not the same as having the scientific information and management regimes needed for a well-managed fishery,” the scientists wrote in an open letter, advocating for research that could help establish good baseline data about marine ecosystems in the Arctic Ocean. Continue reading

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