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April 2012 Issue

NOAA Authorizes the Removal of Sea Lions
NOAA’s Fisheries Service in March authorized Idaho, Oregon and Washington to permanently remove individual California sea lions eating endangered salmon and steelhead that congregate below the Columbia River’s Bonneville Dam as they head upriver to spawn.

The authorization will be in effect through May 2016 and allows the removal of up to 92 animals a year, although NOAA estimates about 25 to 30 will be removed annually. The states may target only specific sea lions that continue to eat endangered fish after deterrence methods prove unsuccessful and may euthanize them if they cannot be housed in an aquarium or other permanent holding facility.

The Marine Mammal Protection Act covers the authorization by permitting states to request permission to kill individually identifiable animals having a “significant negative impact” on at-risk animals. The three states requested last summer to “lethally remove” predatory sea lions.

State and federal biologists estimate that California sea lions have eaten 1.5 to 4 percent of returning adult salmon, most of them Chinook or steelhead, at the dam each year for the past eight years. Almost a third of these salmon and steelhead are listed under the Endangered Species Act. About 6,000 adult salmon were eaten at the peak of predation in 2010. Last year, the number was about 3,600, or just above 1.5 percent of the adult population. Click here for more information.


IUCN Calls for Balanced Harvesting for Fisheries
Fisheries management could benefit from focusing on balancing all components of marine environments, rather than focusing only on one species. This approach could increase food security and minimize fishing’s negative environmental impact, concluded a study by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) published in Science in March.

“For centuries, it has been believed that selective fishing that avoids young, rare and charismatic species and focuses on older and larger individuals is key to increased harvest and reduced impacts on the environment,” François Simard, IUCN’s senior fisheries adviser, said. “But old individuals largely contribute to reproduction and removing them distorts the environment’s structure and functioning. It can also have serious ecological and evolutionary side effects.”

The IUCN proposed a balanced harvesting approach that considers all edible components of the marine environment in proportion to their productivity. Fishing targets would be spread over a higher diversity of species and sizes to reduce the exploitation of fish stocks.

“Instead of focusing solely on optimizing the catch taken from selected target species and sizes, it aims at maintaining the structure and productivity of the ecosystem as a whole,” Serge M. Garcia, chair of the IUCN’s fisheries expert group, said.

The present approach to fisheries management fully exploits individual populations and often results in over-exploitation, the IUCN said.

The comparative study involved various types of selectivity using 36 ecosystem models. Click here for more information.


First Fish Raised in US Federal Waters Offshore Hawaii
Kampachi Farms LLC (Kailua-Kona, Hawaii) announced in late February a successful final harvest from the Velella research project, which raised fish in U.S. federal waters for the first time. This completes the grow-out cycle of sashimi-grade kampachi fish, a tropical yellowtail.

The fish were raised since last summer for seven months in an unanchored, submersible net pen tethered to a manned sailing vessel in water up to 12,000 feet deep, 3 to 75 miles offshore Hawaii’s Big Island. The setup withstood winds beyond 40 knots and swells more than 20 feet.

A diet of soy and other alternative agricultural proteins, without antibiotics, hormones or pesticides, was fed to the fish. They grew to an average of 5.5 pounds in six months, enabling a first harvest three months before schedule. The overall mortality rate was less than 2 percent, and the kampachi had a healthy fat content of 33 percent and no traces of mercury or other contaminants.

“It makes perfect sense to raise fish in the ocean, where they belong,” said Neil Anthony Sims, Kampachi Farms’ co-CEO. “This was a healthy, low-stress environment for the fish, and we think that this allowed them to channel their energy into growing faster.”

Kampachi Farms said that the project had no negative impact on water quality, the ocean floor, wild fish or marine mammals.

The next research phase will test a single-point mooring 6 miles offshore at 6,000 feet deep. Click here for more information.


Marine Reserves Show Success In Mediterranean Sea
Research by an international team of scientists has found that the healthiest places in the Mediterranean Sea were in well-enforced marine reserves, where fish biomass recovered from overfishing to levels 5 to 10 times greater than that of fished areas.

Centuries of marine resource overexploitation and an invasion of fish from the Red Sea have depleted some formerly healthy Mediterranean Sea ecosystems.

The researchers conducted hundreds of dives over three years off Morocco, Spain, Italy, Greece and Turkey in 14 marine protected areas and 18 open-access sites.

Protected areas permitting some types of fishing did not do better than completely unprotected sites. Total recovery of Mediterranean marine life would require fully protected reserves, the scientists wrote in PLoS ONE in February.

“We found a huge gradient, an enormous contrast,” said Enric Sala, National Geographic explorer-in-residence and lead author of the study. “Unfortunately, around Turkey and Greece, the waters were bare.”

The study provides the first baseline to evaluate the ecological health of any Mediterranean site. Click here for more information.


2013:  JAN | FEB | MARCH | APRIL | MAY | JUNE | JULY | AUG | SEPT | OCT | NOV | DEC
2012:  JAN | FEB | MARCH | APRIL | MAY | JUNE | JULY | AUG | SEPT | OCT | NOV | DEC

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