Politics

House passes bill to give regional managers greater say in fishing; White House threatens veto
Associated Press by MATTHEW DALY – June 1, 2015
WASHINGTON (AP) — Defying a White House veto threat, the Republican-controlled House on Monday approved a bill to give regional fisheries managers more power to set local fishing levels in federal waters.
http://www.usnews.com/news/business/articles/2015/06/01/house-bill-would-add-flexibility-to-federal-fishing-law

International

Russian Seafood Exports Fall in 2015
Fish Site – June 1, 2015
RUSSIA – According to preliminary estimates from Russia, shipments of fish, fish products and seafood in January-April 2015 amounted to 540.7 thousand tons.
http://www.thefishsite.com/fishnews/25753/russian-seafood-exports-fall-in-2015/

Environment/Science

For Pollock surveys in Alaska, things are looking up
Environmental Research Web -May 29, 2015
Shelikof Strait, in the Gulf of Alaska, is an important spawning area for walleye pollock, the target of the largest – and one of the most valuable – fisheries in the nation. This year, a team of NOAA Fisheries scientists went there to turn their usual view of the fishery upside-down.
http://environmentalresearchweb.org/cws/article/yournews/61342

New Model Predicts Fish Population Response to Dams
The Fish Site – May 29, 2015
US – A model has been developed to assess how dams affect the viability of sea-run fish species, which need to pass dams as they use both fresh and marine waters during their lifetimes.
http://www.thefishsite.com/fishnews/25722/new-model-predicts-fish-population-response-to-dams/

2015 Northern Cod Survey Reveals Major New Spawning Stocks – Supporting Full Scale NL Cod Recovery
SEAFOODNEWS.COM by John Sackton – June 2, 2015

For the past five years, the Province of Newfoundland and the Marine Institute have been funding special cod surveys using the Celtic Explorer, a research vessel from Ireland.

These surveys have documented the increasing populations of cod in the tradtional spawning areas in the Bonavista Corridor, where the remant population after the 1992 collapse was concentrated.  According to Dr. George Rose, the rebuilding of the Northern Cod stock “parallels the North Sea cod story but of course the northern cod has much larger potential for stock growth.”

In the words of Dr. Sherrylynn Rowe, CFER Research Scientist, who is aboard the Celtic Explorer on this current trip, “During most of the post-moratorium period, the small amount of cod that remained offshore was concentrated in an area known as the Bonavista Corridor spanning the NAFO 3KL boundary.  Our time series of acoustic-based abundance estimates in the Bonavista Corridor extends back to 1990.  Over the last several years, we have observed extraordinary changes in cod within this area with much evidence that the stock is on the cusp of a major rebuild of world-wide importance to fisheries science and management. ”

This bodes well for the years to come, says Dr. Rowe.   “The increasing numbers of large ‘mother fish’ should contribute disproportionately to egg production and recruitment of young fish.  Indeed, the fall DFO research vessel trawl survey suggests that recent year classes of cod may be strong and widespread, including in northern portions of the stock area which were barren for many years.  The possibility that these young fish might survive to grow and spawn as adults provides reason to be optimistic about the future of this once great fish stock.”

However,  Dr. George Rose who is regarded as the foremost expert on Northern Cod, has suggested that cod spawning off southern Labrador was the engine that drove the great northern cod stock of former centuries and he predicted that substantial recovery would not occur until this area repopulated.

According to Dr. Rowe, “Two decades after the collapse of the early 1990s, we are seeing this happen.”

The clue was presence of young cod off Labrador which “intrigued myself and Dr. Rose prior to the trip.”

Dr. Rowe:   Cod are broadcast spawners with floating eggs and larvae that drift for several weeks during development before settling to the sea floor.  The southward-flowing Labrador Current makes it unlikely that juveniles in the north resulted from spawning in the Bonavista Corridor – the only known area of offshore spawning since the moratorium.

We surmised that major spawning must once again be underway off Labrador, as it was during the hay day of the northern cod.

During 2013 and 2014, our survey of cod off Labrador was hampered by severe ice conditions, particularly in 2014 when we could not go much beyond 50°N.  The Celtic Explorer is not suitable for working in ice.  This year, we were able to access waters as far north as Hamilton Bank and obtain our best survey coverage to date.

“Our efforts were rewarded.  Over the course of our 2015 survey, we identified and measured two new spawning locations well north of the Bonavista Corridor.  These aggregations contained numbers of large fish not recorded in these areas for decades.  They are almost certainly the source of the young fish now evident in the north and the larger fish reported by harvesters to be abundant along the northeast Newfoundland coast and off Labrador in recent fishing seasons. ”

“Thanks to funding provided to Dr. Rose and myself by the Government of Newfoundland and Labrador, we have been able to deploy the latest generation of pop-up archival satellite tags to study cod movements and behaviour.  Much of this work up until now has been focused in the Bonavista Corridor but this year, we were able to successfully tag fish from these more northerly aggregations.  The resultant information is providing brand new insight to the distribution and movement patterns of fish from these various areas.

Amazingly for all the centuries of the cod fishery off Newfoundland, little was known about spawning aggregations.  Dr. Rose using acoustic surveys has identified highly visible spawning columns of cod that rise over 100 meters off the sea floor.  These columns were clearly seen in the new spawning areas, and some sampling was done of individuals from the tops of these columns.

Dr. Rowe says that  while the precise numbers remain to be determined, identification of these new spawning aggregations will undoubtedly increase substantially our estimates to date.  Over the coming months, myself and Dr. Rose will be analyzing the myriad of data collected on this voyage to estimate biomass and abundance of the spawning stock.

More details on the survey can be found at the cruise’s online blog,Scientists at Sea.
http://www.seafoodnews.com/Story/977637/2015-Northern-Cod-Survey-Reveals-Major-New-Spawning-Stocks-Supporting-Full-Scale-NL-Cod-Recovery

NOAA Looking to improve Pollock Survey Data with Stationary Moored Sonar
SEAFOODNEWS.COM [Space Daily] June 1, 2015
Shelikof Strait, in the Gulf of Alaska, is an important spawning area for walleye pollock, the target of the largest–and one of the most valuable–fisheries in the nation. This year, a team of NOAA Fisheries scientists went there to turn their usual view of the fishery upside-down.

Scientists have been conducting fish surveys in the Shelikof Strait for decades. They do that in part by riding around in a ship and using sonar systems–basically, fancy fish finders–to see what’s beneath them. But in February of this year, scientists moored three sonar devices to the seafloor and pointed them up toward the surface. The devices have been recording the passage of fish above them ever since.

Because underwater devices cannot transmit data in real time, the sonar systems have been storing their data internally, leaving scientists in a state of suspense since February. But suspense turned to satisfaction last week when, working in cooperation with local fishermen aboard a 90-foot chartered fishing vessel, scientists retrieved the moorings from the bottom of Shelikof Strait.

“The data looked beautiful,” said Alex De Robertis, a biologist with NOAA’s Alaska Fisheries Science Center, shortly after he cracked open the unit and downloaded the data.

First Attempt with a New Technology

“This was a first trial,” De Robertis said. “We’re still developing the technology to see how well it works.”

Whether moored on the bottom or carried by a ship, the sonar systems that scientists use work the same way: they emit a ping that echoes off the fish (and anything else in the water column). Based on the strength of the echo, scientists estimate the number of fish in the water. Those estimates are used when setting sustainable catch limits.

“Usually we estimate how many fish we have by reading the acoustic echo off their backs,” said De Robertis. “In this case, we’ll be reading the echo from their bellies.”

But unlike shipboard sonar, moored sonars are stationary, so the tricky part is choosing the right mooring locations. De Robertis, along with NOAA Fisheries colleagues Chris Wilson and Robert Levine, have analyzed 20 years of survey data to select the three locations used in this study, which they hope will prove representative of the larger Shelikof Strait area.

A Long-term Perspective If the technology works, scientists could use it to augment traditional, ship-based surveys. In addition to using sonar, those surveys also involve catching a sample of fish with a trawl, which produces information on the age, size, and physical condition of the fish. However, those surveys offer only a snapshot of what’s happening in the water during the time of the survey. In years when the fish aggregate earlier or later than usual, the ship-based surveys might miss some of the action.

The experimental sonar system, on the other hand, records over long periods–3 months long in the case of the experimental deployment in Shelikof Strait.

“This will give us a new window on what fish populations are doing over time that we wouldn’t be able to get any other way,” De Robertis said. Scientists will just have to get used to the fact that the window is upside down.
http://www.seafoodnews.com/Story/977470/NOAA-Looking-to-improve-Pollock-Survey-Data-with-Stationary-Moored-Sonar

FYI’s

Oregon aims to double its fish farming industry to $23M
Portland Business Journal by Wendy Culverwell – May 28, 2015
When it comes to cultivating aquatic species, Oregon is pretty much a one-note wonder: Oysters represent more than $10 million of the state’s annual $12.1 million aquafarming haul.
http://www.bizjournals.com/portland/blog/sbo/2015/05/oregon-aims-to-double-its-fish-farming-industry-to.html

Ann Owens
Pacific Seafood Processors Association
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June 2, 2015