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

Hatchery salmon overwhelming natural populations

All is not well in the Mokelumne

Spawning salmon. PHOTO COURTESY NOAA.

SUMMIT COUNTY — Hatchery raised salmon are overwhelming populations of wild-raised Salmon in some of California’s rivers, masking the fact that too few wild fish are returning to sustain a natural population in the river.

“We expected to find hatchery fish, but the sheer number of hatchery fish returning to spawn in the wild is surprising,” said Rachel Johnson, a fishery biologist affiliated with the Institute of Marine Sciences at UC Santa Cruz and with the Bay-Delta Office of the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation. “It looked like a healthy population of fish returning to spawn, but the reality is that without the hatchery fish the wild stocks are not sustaining themselves.”

The study focused on the Mokelumne River, one of the major salmon producing streams for fall-run Chinook salmon in California. Throughout the Central Valley rivers, returning fall-run Chinook salmon numbers have rebounded since a disastrous year in 2007, which led to the unprecedented closure of the commercial salmon fishing season for consecutive years in 2008 and 2009. Continue reading

Global warming: Rising sea temps displacing fish

Climate change is starting to affect distribution patterns of commercially important fish.

Researchers trace significant shift in mackerel patterns

By Summit Voice

SUMMIT COUNTY — Cyclical changes in Atlantic weather patterns and a general warming of seawater the East Coast of the U.S. is changing the distribution patterns of Atlantic mackerel, important for commercial and recreational fisheries in the region.

The environmentally-driven shift in distribution patterns will probably make it more difficult to find and catch Atlantic mackerel in certain areas in the future, according to a recent paper by a team of NOAA researchers.

Mackerel migrate long distances to feed and spawn and are sensitive to changes in water temperature. The changes observed by NOAA researchers mean mackerel populations are shifting northward and spreading out, as areas with suitable water temperatures expand. Continue reading

50 countries join forces to combat pirate fishing

International agreement marks a small step toward enforcing fisheries

Endangered swordfish may benefit from an international fisheries agreement.

Fishermen tend nets in Saranda, Albania. PHOTO BY BOB BERWYN.

By Summit Voice

SUMMIT COUNTY — More than 50 countries have taken a small step to combat unreported, unregulated and illegal fishing that is decimating numerous species of commercially important species like tuna. Illegal fishing results in $23 billion in economic losses each year.

Better enforcement of fishing regulations, together with ound science and effective management are essential to the sustainability of these wide-ranging species that are highly valued in commercial and recreational fisheries.

“Illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing undermines the sustainability of fisheries and the ability of fishermen who abide by the rules to make a decent living,” NOAA administrator Jane Lubchenco said in a press release. “Sharing information on IUU vessels across oceans will strengthen enforcement and prevent legal and sustainable fishing operations from being disadvantaged in the global marketplace.” Continue reading

Environment: Foreign fleets threaten Madagascar fisheries

Madagascar, off the east coast of Africa.

Study shows better management and enforcement needed to enhance local food security

By Summit Voice

SUMMIT COUNTY — Commercial fishing fleets from Europe and Asia are putting huge pressure on the waters around Madagascar, where two-thirds of the population faces hunger, according to a study published last week in the journal Marine Policy.

The research shows that fish catches in Madagascar waters are double the official reports, with many of those fish being caught by unregulated traditional fishermen or accessed cheaply by foreign fishing vessels. Seafood exports from Madagascar often end up on a European table, but are a recipe for political unrest at home, according to the findings by researchers from the University of British Columbia.

The study was a collaboration between UBC and the Madagascar-based conservation organization Blue Ventures. The researchers used existing studies and local knowledge to estimate total fisheries catches between 1950 and 2008.

Foreign fishing fleets may be catching as much as 80,000 tons of seafood each year — almost the same amount as local fishermen — and are exacerbating the impact of overfishing at local levels. Consequently, catches of several key species groups seem to be in decline, including mostly exported shrimp, shark and sea cucumber. Continue reading

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