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Daily Fishing and Outdoor Report

Newsing around: March 14, 2013 ... starting with CITES.


[seafoodnews.com] March 14, 2013

The Pew Charitable Trusts applauded stronger protection for sharks and rays achieved at the CITES meetings currently going on in Bangkok. The addition of five species of sharks and two species of manta rays will now be subject to international trade regulation under the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora, or CITES, a move that could save these threatened species from total collapse, said Pew.


(Above: "Uh, someone wanna pass me the pliers.")

The required two-thirds of the 177 CITES member governments voted to protect these animals - the oceanic whitetip and porbeagle sharks, three species of hammerhead sharks, and the two species of manta rays - marking an increase in the number of sharks protected by CITES from three to eight species.


 (Above: Friendly basking shark.) 


“This is a major win for some of the world’s most threatened shark species, with action now required to control the international trade in their fins,” said Susan Lieberman, director of international environment policy at The Pew Charitable Trusts. “This victory indicates that the global community will collaborate to address the plight of some of the most highly vulnerable sharks and manta ray species. Today was the most significant day for the ocean in the 40-year history of CITES.”

Lieberman added that the gridlock created by those who oppose such controls has been broken. Sharks are primarily traded to Asia for use in shark fin soup. Manta rays are caught and killed for their gill rakers—the part used to filter their food from the water—to make a purported Asian health tonic.

“The tide is now turning for shark conservation—with governments listening to the science and acting in the interest of species conservation and sustainability,” said Elizabeth Wilson, manager of Pew’s global shark conservation campaign. “With these new protections, oceanic whitetip, porbeagle, and hammerhead sharks will have the chance to recover and once again fulfill their role as top predators in the marine ecosystem.”

Pew added that this commitment by the global community to shark conservation needs to be fully implemented and enforced, and should be coupled with national and regional efforts to ensure a sustainable future for these and other top ocean predators, all of which are critical for the health of the wider marine ecosystem.

According to the International Union for Conservation of Nature, 143 shark species are threatened with extinction, but few management measures exist to protect them.

(Below: Rays now being slaughter for their gill plates.) 

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(Below: Who gets to keep the Japanese boats washing up in Hawaii?)

[USA today] by Steve LaBadessa

2013 USA Today

Two days before Christmas 2012, Leilehualani Kane-Tapado found a 24-foot fishing boat on the beach across the street from her home on the windward side of this island, Oahu. The craft was upside-down and had Japanese characters on it.

She had always wanted a boat but could never afford one, so it seemed like a gift from the sea.
There's a problem, however: The boat is, for all intents and purposes, a piece of debris that floated ashore from the 2011 tsunami in Japan, which is marking the disaster's second anniversary on Monday. And as such, the boat is at the center of a firestorm of controversy over tsunami debris and Kane-Tapado's right to keep what she found.
Kane-Tapado, a health-care worker and mom, has claimed the boat as her own. Neighbors helped turn the boat upright, and she brought it to her home and celebrated by dancing a hula on it. Her family had a feast with the barnacles that were attached to the hull.
She imagined a boat would change her family's life. The boat would help her teach her son about navigation and the old Hawaiian ways. It could provide them with food and exercise.
'This boat is perfect for net fishing,' says Rhamil Tapado, Kane- Tapado's husband. He believes the boat will make his family more self-sufficient.


The newfound boat attracted a lot of attention. At first it was neighbors, then local news organizations, and finally Hawaii's Department of Land and Natural Resources (DLNR).
Last month, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) began to take an interest. The boat is among the 17 confirmed pieces of tsunami debris certified by NOAA. Others include two floating piers, two soccer balls, and a motorcycle that washed ashore between Alaska to Oregon.


Tsunami debris landing in the Hawaiian Islands is cause for concern, not celebration, according to the U.S. government. 'The boat is a foreign vessel that has entered Hawaiian waters; we have to investigate it,' says Paul Sensano of the DLNR. For instance, he said, the department is concerned about the non-native species of green clams that were attached to the boat.
The natural-resources police seized the vessel three days after Kane-Tapado found it. They removed the boat from the backyard of a church in Punaluu where Kane-Tapado brought it to be blessed. DLNR moved the boat to a dry-dock facility in Honolulu and reported its registration numbers to the Japanese Consulate in the hopes of finding the owner.
'If no one (from Japan) claims the boat we have to keep it till the statute of limitation runs out -- that's 7 years. After that, the first person who found the boat would have a (valid) claim, but it would have to go to civil court,' Sensano says.
Kane-Tapado and many Native Hawaiians are sensitive to U.S. government involvement in Hawaiian affairs. This boat touched tender nerves. Kane-Tapado sees the seizure of the boat as another example of how the federal government is intruding into Hawaiian affairs.


'They take away our land, they disrespect our culture, and now they take this boat from us,' she says. Kane-Tapado says this is strictly between her and the Japanese owner. 'The government has no jurisdiction here,' she says.
Recent cases regarding boat salvage have sided with the original owner. Anyone finding a boat is required to return it. The person may or may not receive compensation depending on how difficult or dangerous it was to retrieve the boat. In Kate-Tapado's case, the boat was simply righted and pulled ashore.
Kane-Tapado says she thinks the state has ulterior motives. She suspects the DLNR is interested in collecting some of the $5million the Japanese government has pledged to the U.S. to help clean up tsunami debris. 'For the state, it's all about the money,' Kane- Tapado says.
Kane-Tapado is sympathetic to whoever lost the boat. She posted a message about the boat online and even looked on the Japanese Coast Guard website to find the owner.
'(For now) I want to be a steward of the boat. I will treat her like the special warrior she is. If the owner is found and he wants it back, I'll give the boat to him. For now we can make use of it. It would be such a help to our family,' she says.
It doesn't seem likely that Kane-Tapado will get her chance to use and care for the boat. The state of Hawaii is waiting for direction from the Japanese Consulate. Even if the owner can't be found, Kane-Tapado says she can't afford to fight the state in court to claim the boat.
Ultimately, Kane-Tapado hopes the boat's owner is found and he'll decide to let the Kane-Tapado family keep the vessel.

(Below: Nobody is claiming this whatever.) 

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Bunker reference site: 
http://andromeda.rutgers.edu/~hbf/menhaden.htm

SEAFOOD.COM NEWS [saving seafood] March 14, 2013

In the runup to ASMFC adopting harvest control rules for menhaden last year, many organizations argued that Menhaden was surely overfished based on NMFS definitions, and even ASMFC members felt that with the new lower target reference points, the stock was likely to be overfished. However, the Menhaden technical committee, after evaluating the data, found that there was insufficient evidence to make such a determination. Saving Seafood staff has a history of the deliberations.

 
On February 20, the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission (ASMFC) concluded that there is insufficient evidence to support claims that menhaden are overfished. The full ASMFC approved a report adapted from a January 2013 Menhaden Technical Committee teleconference which determined that based upon currently-available information, the status of the resource is unknown and will remain so until a new stock assessment is conducted.
 
Leading up to last December's highly-charged and emotional ASMFC meeting when new regulations on Atlantic menhaden were adopted, numerous conservation and recreational fishing groups made the claim that the stock was overfished, dismissing scientific arguments to the contrary, and disparaging evidence presented by the commercial fishing industry. These groups included the Coastal Conservation Association, the National Coalition for Marine Conservation, and in several instances, the Chesapeake Bay Foundation, whose senior scientist Chris Moore wrote in December that the 'Menhaden Technical Committee says that if the new population standards it recommends are adopted, the population would be considered overfished.'
 
One particularly high-profile appearance of the claim was in a November 2012 letter to the ASMFC signed by 94 'scientists,' many of whom had affiliations with the Pew Environment Group. Few if any of the signers had actual experience in menhaden stock assessments and one of the 'scientists' is an English professor. In the letter, the group alleged that 'the best scientific information we have indicates that menhaden is subject to overfishing and is overfished when evaluated against a 15% MSP biomass threshold.' Citing this letter, Pew's Northeast Fisheries Program Director Peter Baker wrote, in a December 2012 op-ed, 'the stock is thus overfished according to the most recent science,' and argued that the commercial industry's position, which has turned out to be true, was 'an outdated picture of the science.'
 
The claim that menhaden are overfished was echoed in media outlets, both national such as the New York Times ('Battle Brews Over a Small, Vital Fish,' 12/13/12) and local, such as the Newport News (Virginia) Daily Press ('New draft plan to manage menh
aden,' 9/18/12).
 
All of these claims were made -- and reported -- before the facts were in.
 
The Determination of 'Overfished' Status

 
'Overfished' is a regulatory determination, not a scientific concept. A population of fish reaches overfished status when the stock falls below a threshold set by regulators. This threshold, called a reference point, is set by fishery managers in consultation with scientists in an effort to determine levels at which fish stocks are healthy.
 
At the ASMFC meeting in December, not only were harvest cuts made to the menhaden fishery, but the reference points for the species were lowered. Many observers incorrectly anticipated that under the new reference points, the previous years' fishing efforts would be determined to be in an overfished status. In fact, during the December meeting, even the Board's Chair, Louis Daniel of North Carolina, stated that menhaden 'is most likely overfished based on the newly adopted reference points.' However, when the Atlantic Menhaden Technical Committee met via teleconference on January 25 to revisit the status of the stock, they reviewed the scientific evidence, and found the situation was not as clear-cut as many assumed. 'I don't believe anybody is able to make that call at this point,' said Committee member Amy Schueller. The committee came to the conclusion that there was insufficient evidence to label the menhaden stock as overfished, noting that there was too much uncertainty in the data.

 
When scientists evaluate stock size estimates, they run assessments with varying data inputs, called sensitivity runs. The results showed disagreement among different sensitivity runs as to whether or not the stock is overfished. One of the variables in the mathematical model is known as 'selectivity'. 'Selectivity' refers to the likelihood of particular fish being caught by a fishery. This varies within a species based on factors such as age, size, or location. The age assumptions used in the model can be charted on a 'selectivity curve,' quantifying and comparing the extent to which different age groups within a species are susceptible to fishing.
 
The data used in assessing menhaden populations come primarily from fishery landing data, not from random scientific surveys. This is the result of funding decisions made by state and federal regulators. As a result, the fish caught and counted are not a random sample, but instead they are the fish targeted by fishermen. So the statistical model must compensate for the non-random nature of the catch.

(Above: Olden bunker rendering device.)
 
Age groups that are most susceptible to being caught are said to have higher selectivity, whereas age groups that are less susceptible to being caught have lower selectivity. The selectivity curve used in the current assessment for menhaden, and a majority of the sensitivity runs, plots each age against its corresponding selectivity value.
 
Selectivity
 
The model run used for one of the selectivity curves, known as a 'flat-topped curve' assumes that fish ages one and older are equally likely to be caught by the fishery up to the age of three, at which point the fish are assumed to have been caught. Very few fish age four and older are caught in the commercial menhaden fishery. The selectivity curve pattern plateaus at maximum selectivity, creating a flat top, hence the name of this model. (View an example of a flat-topped selectivity curve from James T. Thorson and Michael H. Prager's 2010 report in Transactions of the American Fisheries Society, 'Better Catch Curves: Incorporating Age-Speci?c Natural Mortality and Logistic Selectivity' below).
 

 
However, this assumption may not reflect actual conditions within the fishery. Menhaden become increasingly vulnerable to being caught as they grow to three years old, and then become decreasingly susceptible to harvest. Fish under the age of one inhabit shallow waters and are not often caught by the fishery, while older fish are not available to be caught because they are in the northern Atlantic waters during the fishing season. So, the true selectivity curve for the fishery may very well take a different shape than the current model.

 
The majority of the fishery only catches a high proportion of fish in the middle age group of one to three year olds, so selectivity is likely higher for these age groups than all of the others. The increasing propensity of menhaden up to age three to be caught, and their decreasing availability beyond that age creates a curve that is bell-shaped. This is known as a 'dome-shaped' selectivity curve (View an example of a dome-shaped selectivity curve from the Thorson report below, age is represented on the x-axis and catch is represented on the y-axis).
 

 
Of the base run and the five sensitivity runs analyzed by the Technical Committee during their January conference call, only one used the dome-shaped selectivity curve; and this model - the one that very likely most represents the true selectivity - was the model that indicated that the menhaden population was not overfished.
 
Since the flat-topped model assumes that the fishery is catching an equal proportion of fish over the age of three, while the evidence indicates the fishery actually catches a declining proportion of older fish, the catch is probably overestimated in the flat-topped model, resulting in the runs that estimated the menhaden population was overfished.
 
Alexei Sharov, a member of the Technical Committee (TC) from Maryland, spoke during the conference call of the uncertainty between the two selectivity curves: 'Since the TC has no means at this point to verify which one is correct, we remain uncertain in that sense,' he said. 'Nobody in my mind would be able to say firmly that one run is more believable than another one.'
 
In their report to the ASMFC's Atlantic Menhaden Management Board, the Technical Committee stated that 'there was not sufficient evidence to determine an overfished status,' and upon reviewing the data, the full ASMFC agreed with the Technical Committee, approving their report.
 
Last December's ASMFC menhaden meeting was dominated by the charges that menhaden was consistently overexploited, and had the ASMFC adopted the 'best available science' the species would clearly be revealed as overfished. But the science available then and now never supported such a definitive claim. The status of menhaden was and remains unknown, and new and better data are needed to effectively manage the future of the species.

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