Study: Climate change will redistribute tuna populations

By Undercurrent News

More skipjack and yellowfin tuna will move to the tropical waters, while albacore, Atlantic bluefin, bigeye and southern bluefin will shift into colder seas in the future, according to research led by AZTI, a Spanish research body. 

If a coastal country's local fleet anticipates the changes in abundance and distribution of the target species, it may adapt its fishing gear or change its target species, said Haritz Arrizabalaga, who carried out the study with Maite Erauskin-Extramiana.

"Knowing in advance what will happen in the future enables adaptation strategies to the transformations to be drawn up. [A coastal country's local fleet] may be able to continue fishing the same species, but investing in larger vessels, capable of going out further in search of these species," said Arrizabalaga.

The researchers took into account the effect of the environmental conditions on the worldwide distribution of tuna species, such as albacore, Atlantic bluefin, southern bluefin, tropical bigeye, skipjack and yellowfin between 1958 and 2004. This enables the influence of climate change in the future to be assessed and specific predictions to be made, they claim. The study has been published Global Change Biology

"During the historical period analyzed, the habitat distribution limits of the tuna have moved towards the poles at a rate of 6.5 kilometers per decade in the northern hemisphere and 5.5km per decade in the southern one. Based on the influence of climate change, even strong changes in tuna distribution and abundance are expected in the future, particularly at the end of the century (2088 - 2099)," said Arrizabalaga.

More specifically, the study forecasts that temperate tuna species, such as albacore, Atlantic bluefin and southern bluefin, will move towards the poles. Bigeye tuna will reduce its presence in the tropics and will move to warmer areas. On the other hand, the analysis predicts that the main two canned tuna species -- skipjack and yellowfin -- will become more abundant in the tropical areas, as well as in most of the fishing areas of coastal countries, or in other words, in the maritime economic exclusive zones which stretches from their coastline to a distance of 200 nautical miles.

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Tuna Fishermen Say Agencies Rejected Input on New Rules

ERIKA WILLIAMS Courthouse News Service

(CN) – Representing large net-fishing vessels in the Pacific Ocean, the American Tunaboat Association filed a lawsuit Wednesday claiming government fishery regulators left industry experts in the dark about a forthcoming biological opinion that could limit commercial tuna operations.

The complaint, filed by Baker Botts attorney Megan Berge in Washington, D.C., federal court, names as defendants Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association and the National Marine Fisheries Service, or NMFS. 

According to the lawsuit, NMFS is preparing a biological opinion that could impose new permit requirements and limits on tuna fishery operations in the western and central Pacific Ocean, and the American Tunaboat Association says it was denied the ability to provide input during an informal phase of the assessment process.

The fishing advocacy group claims the NMFS violated the Administrative Procedure Act by not allowing it to review any drafts or provide first-hand, expert recommendations for the developing opinion that could directly impact its members.

Biological opinions are approved by government agencies under the Endangered Species Act and can be used to set limits on the number of protected species “taken,” or harvested, by fishing vessels. This limit and the permit process required for some exceptions especially impacts members of the American Tunaboat Association, who use a purse seine method of fishing skipjack and other tuna species in the western and central Pacific Ocean.

Purse seine fishing is the controversial practice of deploying a large wall of netting that encircles a school of fish, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association. This method has been known to entangle unlucky species that may be endangered or threatened.

Multiple protected species reside in the western and central Pacific Ocean, including loggerhead sea turtles and Hector’s dolphins.

There are currently about 31 vessels participating in the fishery operation, over half of which are certified as sustainable by the Marine Stewardship Council, the complaint says. All of these ships and skippers need to comply with NMFS regulations to participate in the fishery.

The American Tunaboat Association says it discovered that NMFS consultation for the new biological opinion was well underway only after its members participated in a webinar series last September.

The new opinion would entirely replace current regulations that were set in 2006, the group says in the complaint, causing uncertainty for its members.

The association claims its application to get involved in the consultation for the biological opinion was rejected.

“Profit margins can be, and often are, razor thin for some ATA-member vessels. For these members especially but also for all other ATA members, the findings, conclusions and measures NMFS will adopt in its new BiOp are of utmost importance,” the complaint states. “ATA and its members are thus insisting that NMFS affords them their due applicant status and rights to ensure that the agency appropriately considers industry expertise and produces a legally defensible BiOp.”

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After an initial patch of rough seas, Fishing Vessel St. Jude is reeling in prized albacore, and accolades

By  Providence Cicero

ST. JUDE is the patron saint of lost causes. It wasn’t the name Joyce and Joe Malley would have chosen for the spanking-new 95-foot fishing vessel they bought in Port Arthur, Texas, in 1990, but it’s considered bad luck to change a boat’s name. In retrospect, a little heavenly protection might have helped. Buying the St. Jude took all they had, and then some.

The story turned out well in the end for this seagoing couple. Fishing Vessel St. Jude’s albacore tuna loins are on the menu at Seattle restaurants like Tilth, Terra Plata, Matt’s in the Market and Queen City. “In order to make a really good dish, you have to source ingredients that have great flavor,” says chef Maria Hines of Tilth. “I’ve always been a huge fan of Joe’s tuna because he puts so much care and attention into his product. He searches out schools of tuna that have a very high fat content, which is why his tuna is always so melt-in-your-mouth delicious. He also bleeds the fish quickly, so they have a super-clean flavor.”

Many area grocery stores stock St. Jude’s canned albacore (about $9 per 6-ounce can). Recent back-to-back “Good Food Awards” for their Mediterranean tuna packed in Spanish olive oil and their organic jalapeno-spiked tuna (one of several flavored versions) attest to the product’s excellence. The “Tarantella” line uses only luxurious tuna belly. Forget chicken of the sea: St. Jude’s Tarantella packed in Regalis White Truffle Oil (the rare truffle oil not made with synthetic flavoring) is the ocean’s answer to Wagyu. At $8.50 for a 3.5-ounce can, it’s an affordable splurge.

A lot of environmental concerns swirl around tuna. The Malleys care about sustainability. Their tuna is troll-caught, using lures dragged on the surface to selectively catch young, fatty albacore one-by-one. About 5 percent of albacore are troll-caught, according to Joe. Trolling selects for young albacore, 3 to 5 years old, averaging about 15 pounds. “They feed low in the food chain: anchovies, squid and krill. The result is low mercury levels, making them much healthier to consume. It is a much-targeted type of fishing. Bycatch is virtually nil.

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Eating Fish May Help City Kids With Asthma Breathe Better

It's long been known that air pollution influences the risk — and severity — of asthma. Now, there's emerging evidence that diet can play a role, too.

A new study finds that higher consumption of omega-3 fatty acids, found in oily fish such as salmon, sardines and lake trout, and in some plant sources such as walnuts and flaxseed, is linked to reduced asthma symptoms in city kids who are exposed to fairly high levels of indoor air pollution.

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Comment: Herring fishery will leave enough to sustain resident killer whales


Our ocean is a complex ecosystem, and Pacific herring are a vital food source for chinook salmon and southern resident killer whales. It speaks to the importance of these iconic species that more than 70,000 people have signed a petition this year to close the commercial fishery in the Strait of Georgia in an effort to protect them.

As a British Columbian, and the minister of fisheries, oceans and the Canadian Coast Guard, I care deeply about restoring our chinook salmon populations and protecting our iconic southern resident killer whales. That’s why we have made historic investments in conservation through the $1.5-billion Oceans Protection Plan, the $167.4-million Whales Initiative and additional funding of $61.5 million in measures aimed to address all key threats to southern resident killer whales: sound disturbance, contaminants and availability of prey.

Likewise, we are working closely with the province of British Columbia to protect wild Pacific salmon. Just a few weeks ago, I was with Premier John Horgan to announce more than $142 million to restore and protect wild Pacific salmon. This is one of my top priorities as minister, and I am seized with the responsibility to protect and restore the biodiversity of our coasts.

I hear people’s concerns about fisheries management. That is why I want to be as open and transparent as possible about the science by which we made the decision to continue with the commercial herring fishery in the Strait of Georgia. As minister, my role is to make sound decisions based on science. I have a mandate to support sustainable fisheries and protect our ocean ecosystems.

Herring are significant to Indigenous Peoples who have fished Pacific herring and their roe (eggs) for millennia, and to the many British Columbians who rely on the fishing industry to support their families and livelihoods.

Every year, the Department of Fisheries and Oceans conducts scientific surveys for each of the five major Pacific herring stock areas. These scientific surveys, along with biological sampling, inform a yearly peer-reviewed scientific stock assessment with up-to-date advice on the health of all five major stocks. We also work with Indigenous communities and harvesters in the Strait of Georgia to better understand herring distribution, spawn dynamics and traditional harvest areas.

What has emerged from this work, notwithstanding the overall health of the stock in the Strait of Georgia, are local concerns within the strait about limited spawn. We responded by closing fisheries south of Nanaimo and on the Sunshine Coast to protect the stock in these areas.

However, last year in the Strait of Georgia, our stock assessment found that herring were very abundant — and in the upper third of biomass levels observed since 1950. A science-based decision was made to allow a moderate commercial fishery to go ahead. The commercial fishery will leave a projected 80 per cent of the estimated spawning biomass in the water, ensuring there are enough herring left to spawn and sustain fisheries into the future.

This means that the majority of the herring are left in the water for our chinook and our southern resident killer whales to eat.

British Columbians expect science-based decision-making to inform our fisheries management. Our government is investing in science so that we can leverage new research, and refine and improve our approach to fisheries management. Through consultation, we continue to meet with Indigenous groups, fish harvesters and the public almost every day to better understand their perspectives.

We are listening to British Columbians, and taking action to protect our wild Pacific salmon and southern resident killer whales.

We will continue to look at how we manage this fishery in the Strait of Georgia to be certain our coastal marine food web is preserved.

I am confident this work will ensure that we manage this important fish stock sustainably to support our ocean ecosystem for generations to come.

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Climate Change Is Already Reshaping Commercial Fishing

By Christopher Free

The ocean has been steadily warming over the past 100 years, absorbing most of the heat trapped by atmospheric greenhouse gases. Unless we swiftly and dramatically reduce greenhouse gas emissions, the ocean could warm by as much as 4°C in the next 80 years. This puts fish and the people they feed and employ in hot water. Half of the planet relies on fish as a vital source of protein, and the fishing industry employs more than 56 million people worldwide.

Understanding where and why fisheries have been impacted by warming is necessary to ensure that the ocean remains a source of both nutrition and prosperity. In a study published in Science, I, along with colleagues from Rutgers University and the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, show that ocean warming has already hurt fisheries’ ability to provide food and support livelihoods around the globe.

So, what should we do?

First, some good news is that well-managed fisheries like Atlantic scallops were among the most resilient to warming, while fisheries with a history of overfishing, such as Irish and North Sea cod, were among the most vulnerable. Thus, preventing overfishing and rebuilding overfished populations will enhance resilience and maximize long-term food and income potential.

Second, new research suggests that food and profits from fisheries could be maintained with swift climate-adaptive management reforms. These reforms require that scientific agencies, in coordination with the fishing industry, develop new methods for assessing the health of fish populations and for setting catch limits that account for the impact of climate change. They also require the establishment of new transboundary institutions—similar to the multinational organizations that manage tuna, swordfish, and marlin—to ensure that management does not degrade as fish shift poleward from one nation’s waters into another’s.

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Chinese tuna firm starts work on 25,000t processing plant

By Louis Harkell

A large state-owned Chinese fishing company has started construction on a 25,000-metric-ton-capacity tuna processing plant on the country’s eastern seaboard.  

Shanghai Kaichuang Marine International, the market-listed subsidiary of state-owned fishing giant Shanghai Fisheries Group, itself a subsidiary of Shanghai-based Bright Food, announced on March 12 building work had begun on the CNY 150 million ($22.3m) plant in Daishan, Zhejiang province. 

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Study highlights regional overlap of tunas, sharks in Pacific

By Undercurrent News

“A study published by US-based Stanford University has successfully identified the areas of the Pacific Ocean where tuna, sharks and fishing activities overlap, reports

The study aims to help global authorities determine where vulnerable species are most in need of protection from fishing, the team behind the study said.

The research team created the map by analyzing the habitats of more than 800 sharks and tunas, as well as the locational data from more than 900 industrial fishing vessels. The study found that in the northeast Pacific, Taiwan, China, Japan, the US, and Mexico accounted for more than 90% of fishing in key habitats.”

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ISSF holds global student contest for sustainable tuna initiatives

By Undercurrent News March 15, 2019 09:57 GMT

“The International Seafood Sustainability Foundation (ISSF) will be holding a contest for marine science graduates and postdoctoral researchers to submit ideas for the next sustainable tuna fishing initiatives, a release from the organization said.

In particular, ISSF is looking for ideas to help reduce bycatch and protect ocean ecosystems from purse seine fisheries that use fish aggregating devices (FADs). The ISSF is especially focused on ideas to reduce the bycatch of sharks and marine mammals, improving the selectivity for skipjack tuna over yellowfin or bigeye, and reducing the marine impact of lost FADs.

Submissions will be judged by a panel of five experts from academia and the fishing industry, based on the originality of the idea, conservation impact, impact on skipjack catches, the degree to which idea has been tested, feasibility of industry-wide implementation, and cost-effectiveness.

The contest, which runs until Dec. 31, 2019, will award a $45,000 grand prize to the idea deemed to be the best in these criteria, as well as a $10,000 runner-up prize, both to be announced on Feb. 28, 2020.”

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