Thursday, March 06, 2014: I did some beach time today and as cold as this winter got, today on the sands was absolutely bitter, unbearable. It was a NE wind off the ocean, cold air temps (low 30s) and the wetness. I hate to think this might go on for months, as the ocean ever so slowly warms.
In one of the news stories below, there is growing consensus that El Nino is returning, possibly rapidly and possible with a vengeance, strength-wise. It might very well be in place for this summer which could be utterly scalding hot. I hate to think about it -- as my hands have barely thawed after the above-mentioned beaching I did. So maybe having the ocean running chilly might work in our favor is three-figure heat waves move in.
HOLGATE UPDATE: Beach is driveable at low tide but there is an unusually significant erosion going on with this protracted NE wind period – and a very sizeable and powerful groundswell. Also, the upper beach is partially snow and ice covered, which can be very hairy to drive atop. Bogdown conditions often form under the frozen material. Stay on the hard wet sand until things thaw.
For you owlers, I saw two snowy today. Below is a photo of one as if flies off. I also saw two huge raptors flying in the distance. They were eagle-sized but were more likely big-ass hawks. The owls were very spooked by them – lifting off and landing repeatedly, likely to keep a careful eye on them. Owls and other raptors do not get along – to say the least.
Loads of fishy news stuff below. Definitely worth a read.
El Nino on its way back. Just in time to give us an unbearably hot summer. What did we do to deserve all this?
SEAFOOD.COM NEWS [Press Association] - March 6, 2014 -
A warming of the central Pacific Ocean this year will change weather worldwide, US forecasters predict.
The warming, called an El Nino, can mean an even hotter year coming up and billions of dollars in losses for food crops.
Australia and South Africa should be dry while parts of South America become dry and parts become wet in an El Nino. Peru suffers the most, getting floods and poorer fishing.
But it could bring good news for some parts of the planet, leading to fewer Atlantic hurricanes and more rain next winter for drought-stricken California and southern US states. It could also bring and a milder winter for the frigid US north next year, meteorologists say
The National Oceanic Atmospheric and Administration issued an official El Nino watch today. An El Nino is a warming of the central Pacific once every few years, from a combination of wind and waves in the tropics. It shakes up climate around the world, changing rain and temperature patterns.
Mike Halpert, acting director of NOAA's Climate Prediction Centrer, says the El Nino warming should develop by this summer, but that there are no guarantees. Although early signs are appearing already a few hundred feet below the ocean surface, meteorologists say an El Nino started to brew in 2012 and then shut down suddenly and unexpectedly.
The flip side of El Nino is called a La Nina, which has a general cooling effect. It has been much more frequent than El Ninos lately, with five La Ninas and two small-to-moderate El Ninos in the past nine years.
The last big El Nino was 1997-1998. Neither has appeared since mid-2012. El Ninos are usually strongest from December to April.
Kevin Trenberth, a senior scientist at the National Centre for Atmospheric Research, who wasn't part of NOAA's forecast, agreed that an El Nino is brewing.
"This could be a substantial event and I think we're due," Mr Trenberth said. "And I think it could have major consequences."
Scientific studies have tied El Ninos to farming and fishing problems and to rises in insect-borne disease, such as malaria. Commodity traders even track El Nino cycles. A study by Texas A&M University economics professor Bruce McCarl found the last big El Nino of 1997-1998 cost about three billion dollars in agricultural damage.
Mr Trenberth said this El Nino may even push the globe out of a decade-long slowdown in temperature increase, "so suddenly global warming kicks into a whole new level".
Mr Halpert, however, says El Ninos can be beneficial, and that the one being forecast is "a perfect case."
After years of dryness and low reservoirs, an El Nino's wet weather would be welcome in places like California, Halpert said.
"If they get too much rain, I think they'd rather have that situation rather than another year of drought," Mr Halpert said. "Sometimes you have to pick your poison."
SEAFOOD.COM NEWS by Michael Ramsingh - March 6, 2014
A bit more money has been allocated for NMFS's 2015 budget as part of the Obama Administration's $8.8 billion budget for the Full Fiscal Year 2015 that starts in October.
The fishery service stands to see a near 3 percent increase in its funding to an estimated $837 million. The money is used to maintain NMFS's fishery management and conservation programs that include monitoring commercial and recreational fish stocks; observing marine mammals and endangered species and maintaining marine habitats within the US EEZ.
NMFS's larger budget is part of NOAA's funding, with that department slated to get 3.24 billion under the White House's proposal; a 2.5 percent increase from 2014.
In the full budget, specific funding and updates for certain fishery programs were highlighted.
Fees to recover the incremental costs of management, data collection and enforcement of Limited Access Privilege Programs was noted. NMFS is permitted to collect not more than 3 percent of the ex-vessel value of fish harvest under any such program under Magnuson. Further, LAP funding is available without appropriation or fiscal year limitation.
It was also noted how the Pacific Coastal Salmon Recovery Fund has accrued over $1.0 billion in funding since 2000. Recipients have included California, Oregon, Washington, Alaska, Idaho and the Pacific Coastal and Columbia River Tribes.
Additionally, the budget noted Alaska's North Pacific Groundfish Observer Program and how funding is split between commercial vessels that receive full coverage and those that get partial coverage.
The $3.9 trillion 2015 budget is expected to go through a number of review sessions with members of Congress before any vote to pass. The Department of Commerce, which houses NOAA, said it plans to work with the Obama Administration for passage.
"We are committed to working with Congress to pass the President’s budget, so we can continue to help create the conditions necessary for businesses to grow and hire, and for the U.S. economy to thrive,” said U.S. Secretary of Commerce Penny Pritzker.
SEAFOOD.COM NEWS [The Cordova Times] Opinion by Rick Steiner - March 6, 2014
Rick Steiner is a marine conservation biologist, was the University of Alaska's marine advisor for Prince William Sound at the time of the spill.
In recognition of this month's 25-year anniversary of the 1989 Exxon Valdez oil spill in Alaska (March 24), this seems a good time to reflect on lessons learned, and lessons lost.
1. Oil spill "cleanup" is a myth: Once oil has spilled, the battle is lost -- it is impossible to effectively contain, recover, and cleanup. Exxon spent more than $2 billion trying to clean up its Alaska spill, but recovered less than 7 percent. BP spent $14 billion trying to clean up its 2010 Deepwater Horizon spill, and although they collected some at the wellhead, burned and dispersed some (with toxic chemicals), it recovered only 3 percent from the sea surface and beaches. Seldom is more than 10 percent of a marine oil spill recovered. We should insist that industry and government are prepared to respond to a spill, but we should not expect any spill response to be effective. And, this is particularly true for spills in ice-covered Arctic waters.
2. Oil spills can cause long-term environmental damage: Industry rhetoric aside, oil spills can cause long-term, even permanent, ecological injury. Oil, water, fish, and wildlife don't mix. Millions of innocent organisms were killed by the Exxon Valdez spill -- marine mammals, birds, fish, and invertebrates. Even extremely low concentrations of oil, in the parts-per-billion, can cause long-term ecological injury. A quarter of a century after the Alaska spill, only 13 of the 32 monitored populations, habitats, and resource services injured in the spill are considered fully "recovered" or "very likely recovered." Some populations, such as Pacific herring, pigeon guillemots, and the AT1 killer whale pod, are still listed as "not recovering." And thousands of gallons of Exxon Valdez oil remain in beach sediments, still toxic, and still affecting marine organisms. It is likely that the coastal ecosystem injured by the Exxon Valdez spill will never fully recover to what it would have been absent the 1989 spill -- an important realization for policymakers.
3. Oil spill restoration is impossible: Once a coastal or marine ecosystem is "broken," it cannot be "fixed." All the spill restoration money in the world can't repair an injured coastal ecosystem. The best (and least) we can do is to protect a spill-injured ecosystem from additional human-caused injury, giving it the best chance to recover naturally. An oil spill restoration program presents an opportunity to fix a lot of previous bad behavior in our coastal ecosystems. There should be sufficient funds to acquire conservation easements on coastal habitat, reduce chronic pollutant input, restore natural water flow, reduce overfishing, establish additional protected areas, and so on. And to be clear, science is observation, not restoration. Also, people affected by spills deserve adequate compensation, but no amount of money can fix broken human communities.
4. Officials habitually understate spill risk, size, and impact: Government and industry officials always downplay the risk, size, and impact of spills. We should not trust official assertions of the "low risk" of offshore drilling, tankers, or pipelines, nor should we trust industry assertions regarding size and impact of a spill.
5. Prevention is key: As long as we use oil, we will spill oil. But we can and must reduce spill risk as much as possible, regardless of cost. The tanker spill prevention system put into Prince William Sound after the Exxon Valdez spill is arguably one of the best anywhere -- twin tug escorts for every laden tanker, continuous vessel tracking, double hulls on all tankers (and some with twin engines, twin rudders, and bow thrusters), two licensed mariners on the bridge, expanded pilotage, ice-detecting radar, alcohol screening of crew, weather restrictions, better tanker inspection, and so on. Unfortunately, few of these prevention measures have been implemented in other at-risk waterways, such as the Arctic, the Aleutians, Puget Sound, the Gulf of Mexico, or the Atlantic coast. And while the risk of offshore blowouts has been reduced since Deepwater Horizon, industry and government have a long way to go to make offshore drilling as safe as possible. Oil companies still only seek to reduce spill risk to "As Low As Reasonably Practicable" (ALARP); instead of "As Low As Possible" (ALAP), regardless of cost. Prevention is clearly cost-effective, as the cost of one large spill dwarfs all up-front expenditure on prevention. BP estimates its Deepwater Horizon disaster may ultimately cost $43 billion.
6. Citizens' oversight is critical: Even with the best spill prevention system possible, there will always be human error and mechanical failure. Industry and government must remain vigilant, 24/7/365. To guard against complacency, citizen stakeholders need to be empowered to provide effective, independent oversight. The Regional Citizens' Advisory Council established in Prince William Sound after the 1989 spill, receiving more than $3 million year from the Trans Alaska Pipeline owners, has proven tremendously effective at engaging local citizens in improving the safety of oil operations. This model should be replicated elsewhere, including the Arctic, the Gulf of Mexico, and Puget Sound. Unfortunately, the oil industry habitually opposes the creation of such citizens' councils.
7. Liability motivates safety: To motivate safe, responsible conduct of oil development, sufficient financial liability for spills is essential. Congress has not increased oil spill liability in the past 24 years, and limits remain shamefully low nationwide. If we eliminate oil spill liability limits altogether, the industry will find it more cost-effective to enact best available safety measures.
8. Oil money corrupts democracy: Big oil is big business, and its concentrated wealth distorts democratic governance the world over. Oil money flows freely into political campaigns, lobbying, bribes, advertising, and results in self-serving, perverse public policy, such as the billions of dollars in subsidies the global fossil fuel industry receives each year. As oil money flows, democratic governance is subverted, and oil becomes more curse than blessing. In Alaska, as in most oil states and countries, big oil's corrupting influence on government, even the state university, is legendary.
9. It's time to end our oil addiction: Oil spills are only the most visible, acute impact of our oil addiction. Other impacts include chronic habitat loss, human health damage, distortion of economies and social systems, oil wars, and climate change now affecting every corner of the world. At the time of Exxon Valdez spill, the world used 63 million barrels per day (bpd), the U.S. used 17 million bpd, and atmospheric CO2 levels were at 350 ppm. Many called then for an urgent transition away from hydrocarbons, to a sustainable, low-carbon energy economy. Instead, more than twice as much oil has been used since Exxon Valdez -- more than 700 billion barrels -- than in all of human history prior to that date - about 300 billion barrels. Twenty-five years later, world oil use is now 91 million bpd; U.S. oil use is 20 million bpd, half of it still wasted; several wars have been fought over oil; atmospheric CO2 levels are 400 ppm and rising; Arctic sea ice has declined by about half; glaciers are disappearing; storms, droughts, floods, and heat extremes have increased; and climate change has cost millions of human lives and trillions of dollars. Yet the pathology of oil continues. We know that oil, coal, and gas are finite, and we know their use is destroying the planetary biosphere. We have to kick the habit sooner or later, and the sooner the better.
10. Need for a sustainable society: The transcendent lesson of oil spills, and other industrial disasters, is that our society is living beyond the carrying capacity of the Earth, destroying the biosphere, and is dangerously unsustainable. Just since the 1989 Alaska spill, world population has increased from 5 billion to more than 7 billion; the world economy (gross world product) has more than doubled, depleting material, energy, and ecological resources; the world has lost over 130 million hectares of forest; and over one million species, most unnamed and unnoticed, have gone extinct. The real lesson from disasters like Exxon Valdez and Deepwater Horizon is that we need to attend to the more gradual, less obvious, but more dangerous degradation of the biosphere, and get serious about sustainability.
Bottom line: If we genuinely care about a coastal or marine area, we should not expose it to the risk of oil development. Spills will occur, they can't be cleaned up, they can cause long-term damage, and restoration is impossible. Where we do produce and transport oil, it must be done with the highest possible safety standards. We need to use oil much more efficiently, and stop wasting it. Above all, we urgently need to kick our carbon habit, and transition to a sustainable society.
Japanese remain hideous at fishery conservation. So, what else is new? Dumb asses.
SEAFOOD.COM NEWS [JAPAN REPORTS] Tokyo March 6, 2014
The Japanese fishery agency has set the FY2014 pollock quota for northern Sea of Japan at a level double the optimum scientific limit in consideration of fishermen's entrepreneurial plight. The northern Sea of Japan is a single fishing area; quotas elsewhere were not set in this manner.
The Fisheries Agency of the Japanese government has recently set the catch quota of pollock in the northern Sea of Japan for the coming fiscal year (starting next April) at a level double the scientifically-based optimum catch limit.
The decision was made at a meeting of the agency's Fisheries Policy Council in Tokyo on February 25.
The setting of the quota at that level could involve the risk of further deteriorating the pollock stock status, but the agency attached importance to the entrepreneurial plight of fishermen.
The Fisheries Policy Council is made up, among others, of researchers and representative of fisheries.
It establishes area-to-area annual catch quotas for seven major fish species, including saury, jack mackerel, sardine and mackerel, in consideration of their population status.
On that day, the council determined the quota for pollock and flying squid whose stock it would manage during a year from April 2014-March 2015.
The stock of pollock in the northern part of the Sea of Japan is now at the record lowest level.
Based on the scientific criteria made public by the agency also on that day, there is apparently a need to restrain the quota to 6,500 tons or lower a year in order to conserve the stock.
However, the quota was established at 13,000 tons.
The Fisheries Agency explained that it took into consideration the entrepreneurial plight of local fishermen who are keeping their businesses alive by exporting pollock to Asian countries.
The agency also set the entire pollock quota for fiscal 2014, including the offshore Pacific area, at 257,000 tons, which was an increase of 1,000 tons over fiscal 2013.
On the other hand, the quota of flying squid was set at 301,000 tons, down 28,000 tons from a year ago.
SEAFOOD.COM NEWS [The New York Times] by Marc Santora, Eli M. Rosenberg and Jeffrey E. Singer contributed reporting. March 6, 2014
Copyright 2014 The New York Times Company. All Rights Reserved.
At least 30 people have contracted a rare skin infection after buying seafood at markets in Chinese neighborhoods across New York City, prompting health officials to issue a warning to consumers and market workers to take precautions when handling raw or live fish.
The source of the outbreak was unclear, but health officials said that all of the people who were infected had bought fish at markets in Sunset Park, Brooklyn; Flushing, Queens; or Chinatown, in Manhattan.
There was no evidence that eating fish from any of those markets could cause illness, officials said.
''People are encouraged to wear waterproof gloves in their home when preparing live or raw fish or seafood that came from a market in Chinatown, especially if they have cuts or abrasions,'' the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene said in a statement.
Dr. Jay Varma, the deputy commissioner for disease control, said the bacterium that causes the infection, Mycobacterium marinum, is common in fish and aquariums but rarely causes infections in humans.
''If you were to ask 100 doctors if they had seen a case, you would be lucky to find one who had,'' he said. ''For us to see 30 cases clustered like this is very unusual.''
The investigation into the source or sources of the outbreak is complicated, in part because the infections tend to take weeks to show symptoms.
In a typical case, Dr. Varma said, the first signs of infection are bumps under the skin or tender lesions. From there, it worsens into a wound that will not heal.
The infection can spread to the soft tissue below the skin and then into tendons and muscles. It is treatable with a targeted combination of antibiotics. But if the infection goes untreated for a prolonged period, it can require surgery to repair damage to nerves, tendons and muscles.
Dr. Danny Fong, a hand surgeon who works in Manhattan's Chinatown and is the president of the Chinese American Medical Society, said he saw perhaps one case a year. The source of the infection has been varied, he said. For instance, he had one patient who worked on boats and most likely got infected after scrubbing barnacles off a ship's hull.
Dr. Fong was not alarmed when he saw an infected patient in August.
But then in September he saw another. Then another. Then another.
By February, at least 15 people had shown up at his office with the type of lesions that are the hallmark of the condition.
He alerted the health department a little over a week ago. Since then, the department has identified an additional 15 cases.
''We anticipate we will definitely learn about more,'' Dr. Varma said.
Dr. Fong said that doctors in the community have been warned to be on the lookout for the infection, and that he could only guess as to the cause of the outbreak. Most of his patients, he said, were infected after skin punctures from fish bones. But one patient fell ill after cutting himself on a lobster.
While all of the patients were infected after handling live or raw seafood, health officials could not rule out other possible sources of the infections, such as the water in the fish tanks.
So far, no fish markets have been closed; Dr. Varma said he suspected there were multiple problematic locations. ''We don't think it is one market,'' he said, ''but it could be.''
The investigation was in its early stages. City, state and federal officials were examining how seafood tanks at the markets are cleaned, and if practices have changed recently. They were also looking at the origin of the fish sold at these markets and whether any new species were being sold.
The warnings did little to slow the activity at fish markets across the city on Wednesday, with many shoppers unaware of the warnings.
In some neighborhoods, the haggling and trading takes place on the sidewalk. At the Asian fish markets in Flushing, the activity takes place inside, but is no less frenzied.
Handwritten cardboard signs in Chinese stick out of the ice identifying the day's catch: yellow croakers, sea bass, razor clams.
Fish sellers in a handful of shops in Brooklyn and Queens wore gloves or used clear plastic bags when handling raw or live fish. ''Everybody knows if you don't use gloves it's very dangerous, even when you clean the fish,'' said Nicky Chen, the manager of S&P Seafood on Eighth Avenue.
He wore thick rubber gloves as he sold fish, clams, crabs and lobsters.
Many customers, however, seemed comfortable touching the fish barehanded.