Coast Guard patrols North Pacific in support of international fisheries

News Release by US Coast Guard,

JUNEAU, Alaska — The crew of Coast Guard Cutter Mellon (WHEC 717) continues their North Pacific patrol in support of Operation North Pacific Guard (NPG) 2019, protecting living marine resources, enforcing international fisheries agreements and conducting global security missions.

Since June, Mellon’s crew has conducted 40 boardings and issued 61 violations. Twenty-five were serious violations because of their potential to severely impact fisheries and/or blatant disregard for conservation and management measures. Their most frequent violations were improper vessel marking (9), illegal shark finning (4), and improper use of or intentional tampering with the vessel monitoring system (2).

“These fisheries patrols are vital to demonstrating the U.S.’s commitment to our regional partnerships while strengthening regional maritime governance and promoting sustainability of living marine resources,” said Capt. Jonathan Musman, commanding officer of cutter Mellon. “I’m extremely proud of the work we’ve done this patrol, and it’s a direct result of the hard work of this crew as well as the continued support of our international partners. Together, we’ve put in a lot of hours and a lot of work, and we’ve seen impressive results because of it.”

Mellon’s deployment is in support of U.S. goals for the conservation and management of high seas fisheries resources to eliminate illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing activity from the North Pacific. NPG 2019 showcases a multi-mission effort between the Coast Guard, NOAA, Alaska Department of Fish and Game, five Pacific Rim countries and three regional fisheries management organizations (RFMO). Unlike previous years’ operations, Mellon has conducted high seas boardings and inspections on the North Pacific Fisheries Commission (NPFC) fishing vessels, while continuing to conduct Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission (WCPFC) boardings.

“We’ve seen a 344 percent increase in boardings and 867 percent increase in violations compared to last year’s operation,” said Lt. Cdr. Kristen Caldwell, living marine resource program manager, Pacific Area. “This increase highlights the significance of employing differing authorities all aimed at mitigation of IUU fishing, capitalizing on a highly capable resource to maximize time on scene and the targeting of IUU vessels.”

NPG 2019 was designed to conduct law enforcement operations in support of RFMO in the North Pacific Ocean. Through the North Pacific Coast Guard Forum (NPCGF) and North Pacific Anadromous Fish Commission's (NPAFC) enforcement coordination process, each partner nation contributes to this at-sea enforcement effort by providing surface patrols and/or air surveillance.

This operation is in direct support of the National Security Strategy as it aligns with the tenant of “achieving better outcomes in multilateral forums,” as well as by addressing the risks to sovereignty of developing nations by China identified in the Indo-Pacific Region. The 2018 National Defense Strategy (NDS) also has identified China as a “strategic competitor using predatory economics to intimidate its neighbors while militarizing features in the South China Sea.” A goal of the NDS is to “support U.S. interagency approaches and work by, with, and through our allies and partners to secure U.S. interests and counteract this coercion.” 

Due to the increasing threat, complexity and diversity of tactics in IUU fishing, it is critical to ensure oversight and enforcement in regions in which the United States has jurisdiction and authority to mitigate the rapidly developing influence of specified fleets known to engage in IUU fishing. Efforts to increase the ability of the United States to check the threat of IUU fishing in the Pacific Ocean have been continuous, with the recent success of the adoption of high-seas boarding inspections (HSBI) for the Northern Pacific Fisheries Commission and continued efforts in the Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission (WCPFC) and North Pacific Anadromous Fish Commission’s (NPFAC) Convention Areas.

During NPG 2019, Mellon embarked two Canadian shipriders from the Canadian Department of Fisheries and Oceans as well as two aircrews from Coast Guard Air Station North Bend.

Mellon, a 378-foot high endurance cutter with a crew of 150, is homeported in Seattle and routinely deploys in support of counter-drug and alien migrant interdiction, living marine resources and search and rescue missions.


Ocean warming has fisheries on the move, helping some but hurting more

by Chris Free with The Conservation

Climate change has been steadily warming the ocean, which absorbs most of the heat trapped by greenhouse gases in the atmosphere, for 100 years. This warming is altering marine ecosystems and having a direct impact on fish populations. About half of the world’s population relies on fish as a vital source of protein, and the fishing industry employs more the 56 million people worldwide.

My recent study with colleagues from Rutgers University and the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration found that ocean warming has already impacted global fish populations. We found that some populations benefited from warming, but more of them suffered.

Overall, ocean warming reduced catch potential – the greatest amount of fish that can be caught year after year – by a net 4% over the past 80 years. In some regions, the effects of warming have been much larger. The North Sea, which has large commercial fisheries, and the seas of East Asia, which support some of the fastest-growing human populations, experienced losses of 15% to 35%.

The reddish and brown circles represent fish populations whose maximum sustainable yields have dropped as the ocean has warmed. The darkest tones represent extremes of 35 percent. Blueish colors represent fish yields that increased in warmer waters. Chris Free, CC BY-ND

Although ocean warming has already challenged the ability of ocean fisheries to provide food and income, swift reductions in greenhouse gas emissions and reforms to fisheries management could lessen many of the negative impacts of continued warming.

How and why does ocean warming affect fish?

My collaborators and I like to say that fish are like Goldilocks: They don’t want their water too hot or too cold, but just right.

Put another way, most fish species have evolved narrow temperature tolerances. Supporting the cellular machinery necessary to tolerate wider temperatures demands a lot of energy. This evolutionary strategy saves energy when temperatures are “just right,” but it becomes a problem when fish find themselves in warming water. As their bodies begin to fail, they must divert energy from searching for food or avoiding predators to maintaining basic bodily functions and searching for cooler waters.

Thus, as the oceans warm, fish move to track their preferred temperatures. Most fish are moving poleward or into deeper waters. For some species, warming expands their ranges. In other cases it contracts their ranges by reducing the amount of ocean they can thermally tolerate. These shifts change where fish go, their abundance and their catch potential.

Warming can also modify the availability of key prey species. For example, if warming causes zooplankton – small invertebrates at the bottom of the ocean food web – to bloom early, they may not be available when juvenile fish need them most. Alternatively, warming can sometimes enhance the strength of zooplankton blooms, thereby increasing the productivity of juvenile fish.

Understanding how the complex impacts of warming on fish populations balance out is crucial for projecting how climate change could affect the ocean’s potential to provide food and income for people.

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‘We have a biodiversity crisis’: feds announce $175 million for new conservation projects

by Sarah Cox of the Narwhal

“Indigenous-led initiatives in Clayoquot Sound and the Sacred Headwaters region are among 68 conservation projects across Canada to receive $175 million in new federal funding, Environment Minister Catherine McKenna announced in Victoria on Monday at an oceanside event crashed by a dozen shouting protesters.

McKenna also announced an additional $4.3 million for 49 projects to protect species at risk of extinction, including a project in the district of Oak Bay to support the recovery of 14 at-risk plant species in Uplands Park, such as the rare bearded owl-clover and water-plantain buttercup.

“We have a biodiversity crisis and we’re losing species — animals, nature, plants,” McKenna told reporters, local politicians and dignitaries who included former long-time federal environment minister David Anderson.

The minister said 67 conservation projects — including 27 initiatives to create new Indigenous protected and conserved areas — will be supported through the Canada Nature Fund, which aims to expand the country’s connected and protected areas as part of the Trudeau government’s pledge to double the amount of nature that Canada protects.

An additional project, to protect land and water in Clayoquot Sound on the west coast of Vancouver Island, will be funded through Canada’s Natural Heritage Conservation Program.

The nature fund and heritage conservation program are part of Canada’s $1.35 billion Nature Legacy initiative, launched last year to help meet commitments under the UN Convention on Biological Diversity, which aims to reverse the global destruction of nature and biodiversity loss.

The Nature Legacy initiative represents the single largest government investment in nature conservation in Canada’s history.

Canada and other nations agreed to accelerate biodiversity commitments in 2018, committing to protect at least 17 per cent of terrestrial areas and inland water and 10 per cent of coastal and marine areas by 2020 through networks of protected areas and other conservation measures.

Tahltan aim to protect areas with salmon, caribou

McKenna said the funding includes $3.9 million for the Tahltan Central Government in northwest B.C. “to advance environmental stewardship and protection” through land-use planning and the identification of conservation opportunities.

“This region is home to many species at risk and significant habitat that provides a link to the Yellowstone to Yukon corridor, the Great Bear Rainforest and other protected areas,” McKenna told onlookers, whose applause drowned out the protesters’ shouts about everything from climate change to salmon farming to the Trans Mountain pipeline.

Christine Creyke, lands manger for the Tahltan Central Government, called McKenna’s announcement “very exciting.”

“Tahltan have been talking about these areas for decades now,” Creyke told The Narwhal. “With the amount of development that’s happening in our territory we really need to see some areas with protection.”

Creyke said land-use planning will involve three areas the Tahltan would like to protect, including the Shelsey area northwest of Telegraph Creek, which she described as “a very important area for cultural purposes but also as habitat for caribou and salmon.”

“The spawning habitat for salmon is in one of the lakes close to the Shelsey and that was one of the drivers for choosing that area, because caribou and salmon are both species that are of big concern.”

Mount Edziza, which the Tahltan call Ice Mountain, is the second region. Mount Edziza is protected as a provincial park but Creyke said one key area, where junior mining exploration company Skeena Resources holds a mineral tenure, was left out.

“Over the past years we’ve been working with the province and the company on giving that area back to the Tahltan,” she said."

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Aussie bluefin fishermen plan for quota increases with catches high, prices low

By Undercurrent News

his year's bluefin tuna harvest for Australian fishermen will go down as one of the best ever, as well as one of the shortest, reports the Port Lincoln Times

Export prices, however, remain low, but Port Lincoln, the main hub for the industry, has been able to adapt, said Brian Jeffriess, CEO of the Australian Southern Bluefin Tuna Industry Association. 

"There is now much more competition from longline southern bluefin as Japan's catch quota has doubled in recent years," Jeffriess said.

The industry is planning for 2020 and 2021-2023, when the stock recovery was likely to lead to a further quota increase, he said. In late 2020 the federal government will decide on what share Australia gets of the international quota increase. 

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ISSF Releases 2019 Snapshot of Large-Scale Tropical Tuna Purse Seine Fishing Fleets

by Charlie Patterson,

The International Seafood Sustainability Foundation (ISSF) has issued an updated “snapshot” of Large-Scale Tuna Purse Seine Fishing Fleets report as of June 2019. The total number of purse seinevessels, calculated based on data from the five tuna Regional Fisheries Management Organizations (RFMOs), has decreased from 1,871 in 2018 to 1,843 today, mainly due to the removal from RFMO lists of vessels under 24m that are now inactive. 

Having an accurate estimate of active vessels is critical for managing tuna fishing capacity regionally as well as globally. Although purse seine vessels account for approximately 65 percent of the 4.9-million-tonne global tuna catch, multiple databases must be searched to count all authorized purse seine vessels. To provide an annual best estimate — and to track capacity changes from year to year — ISSF analyzes and aggregates information from the five tuna RFMOs and other sources. As the report explains, these figures may underestimate the total fleet, because many small-scale purse seiners or purse seiners operating in only one exclusive economic zone (EEZ) do not have to be listed on RFMOs’ records of authorized fishing vessels.

Through its research, ISSF found that in the tropical tuna large-scale purse seine (LSPS) fleet, fish hold volume (FHV) grew by 1 percent since 2018. The report shows approximately 686 vessels (up 2 percent, from 673 last year) defined as large-scale purse seine (LSPS) vessels targeting tropical tuna species (skipjackyellowfin, and bigeye), with a combined fishing capacity of over 860,000 m3. The increase is not all due to new vessel constructions, but also to the addition to RFMO lists of older vessels that were not listed in the past. These vessels may have been inactive for some time or participating in a different fishery, but this type of information is not readily available.

Other report findings about the large-scale purse seine vessels targeting tropical tuna include:

  • About 18 percent of the 686 large-scale vessels are authorized to fish in more than one RFMO.

  • About 2 percent of these vessels changed flags in the last year.

  • Among the RFMOs, the Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission (WCPFC) still has the highest number of LSPS registrations (347), more than half of the total worldwide.

  • The majority of large-scale vessels (515) are registered on the ISSF ProActive Vessel Register (PVR); PVR-registered LSPS represent 75 percent in number and 83 percent in fish hold volume (FHV).

In addition, the report shows that 97 percent of the large-scale tropical tuna purse seiners operating today have publicly known International Maritime Organization (IMO) numbers; in 2011, that figure was 12 percent. Nearly 100 percent of the purse seine vessels listed on PVR have IMO numbers. ISSF has long recommended in its RFMO advocacy positions and in Conservation Measures 4.1 and 4.2 that vessels obtain IMO numbers, identifiers that do not change even if the vessel ownership, national registration, or name changes. Unique vessel identifiers (UVIs) like IMO numbers are an important tool to combat illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing. 

The report also covers purse-seine vessel construction, distribution, and FHV by national flag. It offers recommendations for vessel owners on registration and for RFMOs on vessel-data collection and management. View the updated report here.

About the International Seafood Sustainability Foundation (ISSF)

The International Seafood Sustainability Foundation (ISSF) is a global coalition of scientists, the tuna industry and World Wildlife Fund (WWF) — the world’s leading conservation organization — promoting science-based initiatives for the long-term conservation and sustainable use of tuna stocks, reducing bycatch and promoting ecosystem health. Helping global tuna fisheries meet sustainability criteria to achieve the Marine Stewardship Council certification standard — without conditions — is ISSF's ultimate objective. In 2019, ISSF celebrated a “Decade of Discovery” as the organization completed its tenth year of scientific research, advocacy and industry engagement.

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Coast Guard Completes Marathon Tow to Rescue Albacore Vessel Off Oregon Coast

U.S. Coast Guard crew members aboard three separate vessels rescued a 50-foot albacore tuna fishing vessel disabled 116 miles west of Newport, Ore., Wednesday.

The 41-ton vessel, Ruby Lily, which reported 6 tons of albacore tuna and three crew members aboard, was safely moored in Yaquina Bay Wednesday evening after a four-day operation, the USCG said in a press release.

Watchstanders at Coast Guard Sector Columbia River received notification at 4:35 p.m. Sunday from the crew of the Ruby Lily, who reported that the vessel’s rudder was stuck.

At 8 a.m. Monday, following essential preparations and fueling, the 110-foot Coast Guard Cutter Orcas launched from Astoria. The Orcas’ crew arrived on scene at 6:07 p.m. and took the Ruby Lily into tow.

The strain of the stuck rudder caused the metal-wire-towing bridle to part. The crew of the Orcas used a back-up double-braided-nylon bridle to take the Ruby Lily into tow. That bridle then parted approximately 93 miles from the coast.

Due to the rudder's position, the crew had to trouble-shoot how to get the rudder amidships to effectively tow the vessel. There was a 600-gallon bait tank bolted over the lazarette that prevented access to work on the steering gear. The tank was unsafe to move in the current sea conditions. The crew of the Cutter Orcas waited on scene for backup.

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P.E.I. tuna processing plant opens up new markets, bigger profits

Source: Nancy Russell · CBC News

A tuna buyer in North Lake, P.E.I., has just opened what he says is Canada's first federally-approved bluefin tuna processing facility. 

The cut house, as it's called, uses traditional Japanese knives to process the tuna.

Jason Tompkins has been in the tuna business for 18 years, the last six as a buyer in North Lake.

He said it was time to find a new way to sell tuna from Prince Edward Island.

Last year, Tompkins said, the price was around $3,500 a fish, averaging around $10 per pound.

"If you go back maybe 30 years, before tuna farming, before mass production, when you caught a tuna, it meant a new truck," Tompkins said. 

"Guys were getting anywhere from $15,000 to $25,000 per fish.

"It's a big drop, from a new truck to half a used snowmobile."

New markets

Tompkins says being federally certified means his company can now sell P.E.I. tuna into new markets. 

"We can send them to China, Korea, the Middle East, Europe, previous to this we were only able to sell them to Canada, the United States and Japan," Tompkins said.

"Bluefin is a luxury item so we're seeing the explosion of sushi restaurants everywhere."

Tompkins is also hoping to market bluefin tuna from P.E.I. in a different way.

"There's demand for this wild, rod and reel caught, artisanal bluefin," Tompkins said.

"To be able to bring the story of P.E.I., no nets, no bycatch, to some new markets, we're hoping for great things."

The company will be spreading the word by including a customized information sheet with each shipment of P.E.I. bluefin tuna.

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Hyde-Smith proposes permanent disaster relief fund for fishing industry

By Steve Bittenbender

“A U.S. senator from Mississippi has proposed legislation that would set up a permanent disaster relief fund for the commercial fishing industry.

U.S. Senator Cindy Hyde-Smith introduced the bill, S.2209, on Monday, 23 July. The bill calls for amending the Magnuson-Stevens Act to include a “supplemental revenue assistance” program for fishermen and aquaculture producers.

Under the bill, fishermen and aquaculture operators would be eligible when their gross revenue fell below 85 percent of the average from their previous three years. The losses would need to happen as the result of an algae bloom, freshwater intrusion, weather event, disease, or another condition, as approved by the U.S. secretary of commerce.

This year’s algae bloom in the Gulf of Mexico is expected to create one of the biggest dead zones in the Gulf’s history. It’s being blamed on the amount of flooding happening along the Mississippi River, which feeds into the Gulf.

In a release touting the bill, Hyde-Smith, a Republican, noted that the U.S. Department of Agriculture offers a disaster assistance program to help farmers and ranchers continue even when they’ve suffered serious losses. 

Currently, no such system exists for fishermen. Commercial fishing interests now rely on states to apply for disaster relief on an ad hoc basis with those requests approved by the U.S. commerce secretary. According to the requests published on NOAA Fisheries website, there have been 23 such disaster requests dating back to the 2014 fishing seasons.

That does not include the letter Louisiana officials sent Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross earlier this month asking for a review of the impact the Mississippi River flooding has had on Louisiana’s Gulf fishing industry.

Republican U.S. Senator John Kennedy signed that letter, and he’s also signed on to Hyde-Smith’s bill as a co-sponsor.

“The disastrous low salinity conditions in the Gulf this year show us that it is time to do more for this important economic sector. Fisheries and aquaculture are not just important to Mississippi and other southeastern states, but every region with a coast,” she said. “Our domestic seafood industry starts with the fisherman - the harvester or producer, and without them we would be forced to depend on lower quality foreign imports.”

“The commercial fishing industry is part of our culture and a vital part of our economy in Louisiana,” Kennedy said in a statement. “The shrimp and oyster seasons produced significantly lower yields on average this year due to disastrous freshwater intrusions in the Gulf. We need to give our fishing industry a break. This legislation will establish a program to help fishermen cope with disaster conditions like these.””

Tuna purse seiner recommended for Ocean research in Pacific waters

By Pita Ligaiula in Noumea

Ocean’s research costs big money for the region says a Pacific researcher in the tuna industry.

Johann Bell, a senior director at Conservation International has recommended the use of tuna purse seiner for ocean research in Pacific waters.

“Oceanographic research is expensive. You need large vessels to go to sea with a lot of scientists on board, a lot of instrumentation. There is relatively few oceanographic vessels available for ocean research in the region. As we enter this UN Decade of the Ocean, we agree that we need to get a better understanding of the ocean ecosystem so that we can use that information to improve for example the models that we use to predict the distribution of tuna with the change in climate.

“We need to find new ways of doing research at a lower cost,” Bell told PACNEWS.

Bell said Pacific nations can save costs by pooling of resources using Pacific observers, regional agencies and tuna fishing vessels in research partnerships.

“One of the ideas that we’ve discussed and it’s only preliminary at this stage, is that we have in the whole Central Pacific Ocean region more than 250 purse seine vessels, which are large sophisticated boats, well equipped to collect a lot of data, that we are interested in.

“We think it would be sensible to begin to talk to the fishing industry about how they might be able to help collect some of the information that we need, for example, information regarding more observation on sea surface temperature. This observation can be used to validate some of the global climate models that are being developed.

“We also think it would be good if the vessel could assist to collect acoustic data particularly for the abundance of what we call the micronekton that is the forage that the tunas eat. We are talking about small fish, small squid and shrimps. It’s very difficult to do biological survey and tow nets and sample this animals over a big distance,” Bell told PACNEWS in Noumea.

Bell said the meeting at the Pacific Community to plan for the UN Decade of Ocean Science for Sustainable Development 2021-2030 comes at a critical time as our oceans are under threat due to human activities.

“But I think one of the things that it will help to do is raise awareness of the problem and hopefully galvanise the investment needed to form new partnerships to develop better understanding of the tropical Pacific Oceans,” said Bell.

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US$60 million loss in revenue expected from tuna industry by 2050 due to climate change

By Pita Ligaiula in Noumea

Revenue from tuna caught within the Economic Exclusive Zones (EEZs) of Pacific Island Countries is expected to decline by 2050, according to Johann Bell, senior director of Pacific tuna fisheries at Conservation International.

He told PACNEWS climate change will affect revenue generated from the industry.

“What we’ve done with the recent modelling is actually look at how the biomass of tuna might change within the EEZ of Pacific Island countries and territories and how it might change in the high seas areas.

“And the modelling that we have now is indicating that by 2050 there is likely to be a 15 percent movement of the amount of tuna in the EEZ onto the high seas. So yes that will affect the revenue of several countries because if you make the assumption that the revenue is proportional to how much tuna we have in our waters, then that is likely to change and countries will get less revenue," Bell told PACNEWS in Noumea at the end of the Pacific Community workshop for the UN Decade of Ocean Science for Sustainable Development 2021-2030.

Bell said climate change will continue to increase the surface temperature of the ocean and this will cause skipjack and yellowfin tuna species to shift significantly to the East.

He told PACNEWS regional governments will receive less revenue because foreign fishing fleets will take more of their tuna catch from the high seas where they do not have to pay fishing license fees.

“There are some countries further to the East where the amount of tuna in their EEZ is likely to increase and they might expect to get greater catches.

“So if you look at the numbers at the moment, in 2016 license fees revenue for all the Pacific Island Countries and Territories was about US$465 million with 15 percent of the biomass of tuna moving from the EEZ onto the high seas. So we could be looking at a change in license revenue of about US$60 million, a loss of license revenue collectively across the region by 2050,” said Bell.

He said a promising way to cushion Pacific island economies against a loss of license revenue would be to explore how best to add value to tuna.

Bell said they are also exploring how best to help the region retain the rights to the tuna resources that currently occur within their EEZs, regardless of displacement of the fish by climate change.

This would mean that although some tuna would no longer physically be in the EEZs of a Pacific island nation, these tuna would still belong economically to that country, said Bell.


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