Divers clear lost crab pots from Puget Sound -KING

The good work being done by the NW Straits Foundation. These are the same folks that fund our Marine Resources Committees in the Northern Sound. They finished the work on derelict nets last summer, and now are onto clearing out the derelict crab pots under the Sound. This is what the advancements in high tech like side scan sonar, have allowed us to accomplish. What it points to are more innovative ways to solve our environmental problems. Ways that we haven’t even dreamed of yet. Support the work of the NW Straits Foundation and donate to them if you can. http://www.nwstraitsfoundation.org

Abandoned or lost crab pots are an annual environmental challenge, one that the Northwest [Straits] Foundation faced yet again Tuesday. Aboard a boat near Everett on a windy and choppy morning, computers guided divers to spots with derelict crab pots on the floor of Puget Sound. Northwest [Straits] Foundation estimates that about 12,000 crab pots are lost each year. Sometimes that number climbs to 14,000. The pots keep fishing after they’ve cut loose from holds. Crab continue to pile in but then run out of food and eventually die. Around 180,000 harvestable crabs are lost to derelict pots each year. Alison Morrow reports. (KING)

http://www.king5.com/tech/science/environment/lost-crab-pots-cleared-from-puget-sound/327439073

2013 NW Straits Conference Overview

Just got back from a great two days at the NW Straits conference, held in Bellingham. The good folks that steer our Marine Resource Committees always put together a  conference worth attending, and the only unfortunate thing is that they can’t invite the world at large.

Pictured below, Caroline Gibson and Sasha Horst from the NW Straits Commission greet attendees, while Jefferson County Commissioner and ex-fisherman, Phil Johnson discusses net pens.

2013 NW Straits Collage

This year, Washington State Senator Kevin Ranker and Dr. Terrie Klinger started off by giving an update to the state of the science and legislative activity around  Ocean Acidification.  Washington State is at the forefront of global science on this emerging issue, and the Governor has taken the step to create a commission to look into it and get some actions going on this.

Funding for research and data collection is underway, and we were told that funding for educational activities is not,and pressure needs to be exerted to get this to the schools as new curriculum.

Hugh Shipman of the Washington State Department of Ecology spoke on Sea Level Rise in the Puget Sound basin, and Tina Whitman of Friends of the San Juans along with Andrea MacLennon of the Coastal Geographic Services brought people up to speed on how the scientists and policy makers are measuring and planning for sea level rise in San Juan County.

Kathleen Herrmann of the Snohomish County MRC gave a very interesting talk on a new method for gaining public acceptance of MRC goals, using Collective Impact, which is a model framework applied here for marine conservation. Kathleen has done a great job of researching this and applying it to their issues.

Will Stelle, who is the west coast regional administrator for NOAA Fisheries, closed out day one, with a really entertaining overview of the issues facing the west coast. I would have to say that this overview should be mandatory for all of us trying to get a good overview of the state of affairs right now. It’s a huge span of work. Will presents it with humor and passion.

Conservation biologist Thor Hanson was the after dinner speaker, giving an overview on his new book, Feathers. Thor’s enthusiasm for his work is quite funny and, yes, I bought the book.

On day two: there was tracks on Tools for Promoting Ocean Acidification (O.A.) Literacy, and in another room, an overview of Nearshore Habitat Restoration: From Idea to Reality, Advice from Local Experts. In the O.A.literacy program, Alexis Valauri-Orton, the Thomas J. Watson Fellow presented a really interesting look at her recent research work in talking to various cultures around the world being affected by O.A. Paul Williams of the Suquamish Tribe updated us on their efforts to teach the issue, and Meg Chadsey of Washington Sea Grant also presented.

After lunch, in addition to an overview of evaluating metrics and outreach projects, Dan Tonnes and Helen Berry gave great insight into Rockfish recovery efforts and Kelp monitoring and management in Puget Sound.

Will Stelle – NOAA West Coast Fisheries Administrator on Fisheries and Furloughs – 45 minutes long. Download the audio file and listen.  http://sdrv.ms/17Z2Kzi

All these presentations will be put up in both audio and video formats for download within the next week.  Check back for the links to them. 

Legislature funds final push to rid Puget Sound of derelict fishing nets – WDFW

This is the outcome of over a decade of work, from a huge range of people and organizations, to get this done.  While the NW Straits has been the lead, many of us have lobbied to have the funding for it approved. It’s been a huge state wide effort, and thanks to the NW Straits Foundation, the Tribes, State Agencies like WDFW, the Marine Resource Committees, the old People For Puget Sound organization, a large number of other organizations that I now forget, and many legislators over the years, including bi-partisan support from legislators like Rep. Norma Smith described below.  We can turn around the destruction of the environment, but it’s never easy, nor free. We have to be able to set aside politics as usual and work to solve the problem. Thanks to all of you, and you know who you are, that helped get this done.

OLYMPIA – The final push in a decade-long effort to clear Puget Sound of derelict fishing nets within 105 feet of the surface will get under way later this year with funding approved by the Washington State Legislature.

The state budget adopted last month provides $3.5 million for the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) to complete the task in partnership with the Northwest Straits Foundation, which has led the net-removal effort since 2002.

Since then, divers working for the non-profit organization have removed 4,437 lost or abandoned fishing nets, 2,765 crab pots and 42 shrimp pots from the waters of Puget Sound. Animals found dead or entangled in that gear include porpoises, sea lions, seabirds, canary rockfish, chinook salmon and Dungeness crab.

According to one predictive catch model, those derelict nets were entangling 3.2 million animals annually every year they remained in the water.

Robyn du Pré, executive director of the foundation, said the new funding will support the removal of approximately 1,000 derelict nets in high-priority areas of Puget Sound after current funding runs out in December.

“These legacy nets have been fishing the waters of the Salish Sea for decades,” du Pré said. “We are thrilled to have the opportunity to finish the job and to celebrate a true conservation success story in 2015.” Du Pré added that current fishing net loss is minimal and commercial fishers are now required to report any lost nets.

State Rep. Norma Smith of Whidbey Island led the legislative effort to fund the net-removal initiative.

“I am deeply grateful to my colleagues who helped achieve the goal of a $3.5 million appropriation for the Northwest Straits Foundation to remove the last of the legacy nets from the Puget Sound,” Smith said. “Lost in previous decades, they have had a devastating impact on harvestable natural resources and marine life. Once removed, because of the reporting requirements now in place, this challenge comes to an end. What an achievement!”

WDFW Director Phil Anderson said the new funding is specifically designed to support the removal of derelict fishing nets in areas of the Sound where historic fisheries coincide with bottom conditions likely to snag nets. The foundation locates those nets using sidescan sonar surveys, then dispatches recovery vessels with dive teams to retrieve them.

Few efforts have been made to remove nets from depths of more than 105 feet, because of safety concerns. However, the foundation recently completed an assessment of deepwater net-removal strategies that include the use of remotely operated vehicles, grapples, and deepwater divers.

“Working in conjunction with our partners at Northwest Straits and in the State Legislature, we have made enormous strides toward eliminating the risks posed to fish and wildlife by derelict fishing gear,” Anderson said. “This is difficult work, and it requires a real commitment from everyone to get it done. We look forward to celebrating the next milestone in 2015.”

 

 

Derelict Fishing Gear Funding Received – NW Straits Foundation News

The Northwest Straits Foundation received $660,000 to finish the job of removing derelict fishing nets from shallow subtidal waters of Puget Sound. The Foundation estimates there are 500 shallow water derelict nets left to remove. The Foundation is aiming to complete the work by December 31, 2013. Funding comes from the US Environmental Protection Agency through the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife. This funding will be combined with current and pledged funding from the Salmon Recovery Funding Board, NOAA Marine Debris Program, ConocoPhillips Migratory Bird Fund, US Fish and Wildlife Service Coastal Program, Lucky Seven Foundation, Tulalip Tribes and private donations.

The new funding also pays for a new response and retrieval program designed to prevent future re-accumulations of derelict nets by responding to reports of newly lost nets immediately. The Foundation will be developing this new program in close coordination with the Puget Sound fisheries co-managers.

Fighting to save the Rockfish – Your input needed!

Want to take action to help save our dwindling population of rockfish? Send in your comments on the EIS to the Dept. of Fish and Wildlife. They have extended the comment period to January 17th, 2010. My thanks to Norm Baker for forwarding this along. People For Puget Sound, Sierra Club, and many others will be taking a stand on this issue. Here’s the facts…

Puget Sound Rockfish Conservation Plan (PSRCP).

Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife, Fish Program.

Natural Resources Building, 6th floor, 1111 Washington St. SE. Olympia, WA98501-1091

 

Date Issued. The DEIS is available for review and download beginning October 19, 2009 at http://www.wdfw.wa.gov/hab/sepa/sepa.htm.

Mail comments. Theresa A. Eturaspe; SEPA/NEPA Coordinator, 600 capital way north, Olympia WA 98501-1091. E-mail comments to SEPA desk2@dfw.wa.gov or through the WDFW SEPA website comment link at http://www.wdfw.wa.gov/hab/sepa/sepa.htm or fax to (360)902-2946. Make sure the title to your comments includes “Puget Sound Rockfish Conservation Plan DEIS”.  The comment period has been extended from Nov. 19th through to Jan 4th, 2010.

Date of Final Action Plan. The final environmental impact statement will be released in 2010.

Future phase: Agency actions are anticipated as detailed regulations are developed for specific water basins. The plan applies to the entire Salish Sea (i.e. Puget Sound, Straits of Juan De Fuca, San Juan Islands and Hood Canal) north to the US-Canadian border and west to the mouth of the Sekiu River. Due to oceanographic, biological, bathymetric and geographical differences, the area of the plan is broadly divided into North Puget Sound and the South Puget Sound.

Plan Support. Environmental groups need to show strong support for the Puget Sound Rockfish Conservation Plan and the creation of a network of marine reserves. No actual marine reserves are proposed in the PSRCP plan. The Coastal Conservation Association, representing recreational fishermen, is aware of the benefits of marine reserves but is taking a cautious but positive proactive approach. Due to the enormity of the problem, many environmental organizations are starting to partner as PACs for legislative reform of our fisheries management. Implementing marine reserves, amongst other issues, is believed by fisheries scientists to be absolutely essential to fisheries management reform and ecosystem restoration.

Purpose of the PSRCP. Restore and protect Puget Sound Rockfish populations, ecosystem and provide opportunities for sustainable fishing. Four alternatives are being considered. Alternative 1 will provide the greatest in-depth benefits to all rockfish species. However, the WDFW PSRCP prefers a mix of the four alternatives based on the professional judgment of the fisheries biologists. Of the 15 elements reviewed for potential impact on the environment, the most significant is that recreational fishing opportunities could be reduced or severely modified apparently on a case by case implementation of each marine reserve. There is no mention of any impact or curtailment of commercial or tribal fishing and this is a significant and serious criticism. Thirty two endangered or threatened species endemic to Puget Sound are listed with known food web interactions with rockfish species. Sixteen of the endangered or threatened species are Rockfish species (Sebastes spp.). Currently, 47 species are listed as endangered or threatened for the Salish Sea. Currently, Washington has 62 endangered or threatened species state-wide.

 

Governing Environment. Implementing this plan will be difficult because of the number of governing agencies – ten in all. Each marine reserve proposed in the future will be accomplished on a case by case basis asking for public input and support.

 

Rockfish Biology. In Puget Sound, there are 28 species with very diverse biology’s, habitat requirements, depth requirements and life spans – as short as 5 years but commonly 50 years and up to 200 years.  Some are not sexually mature until they are 20 years old. All rockfish species have live-birth of young and exhibit low reproductive potential and erratic infrequent successful yearly reproduction. Rockfish have swim bladders and suffer extremely high mortality when released after being caught by fishermen. Most are associated with rocky habitats which are relatively few and easily disturbed. These factors make effective management and protection difficult and complex. Artificial reefs made from deconstruction materials have proven very useful for reestablishing rockfish.

 

Management. Traditional fisheries management tools have not helped restore rockfish. Commercial overharvest between 1970 the early 1990’s led to declines in rockfish populations, which have been further impacted by recreational fishing since the early 1990’s. Several forms of commercial fishing are no longer allowed. Currently, ghost nets and derelict gear are killing numbers estimated to be almost twice the recreational harvest. Incidental recreational catch while fishing for other species (salmon, halibut and lingcod) is also a problem. Juvenile rockfish in particular are significantly affected by disruption of aquatic vegetation and armoring shorelines. Due to the large number of rockfish species, the current conservation plan utilizes a “Key Species” concept to simplify management and restoration. Seven representative “key” species are identified in the plan.

Management decisions that impact recreational fishing could be negative and substantial. Season and area closures and gear limits are anticipated. In particular, marine reserves will be a particularly contentious point. Marine reserves are generally defined by the scientific community has “no take” areas of suitable habitat. A common attitude amongst commercial fishermen, recreational fisherman and the tribes is that fish stocks are already depressed and that marine reserves means that they will be losing extremely desirable fishing spots. Consequently, they oppose all marine reserves since livelihoods can be affected. This will be a very difficult problem to circumvent and will quickly become the most polarizing issue that modern fisheries management must face.

Points to be Made Supporting this Plan:

  • Over all, this draft of the EIS for the restoration of rockfish and the Salish Sea is quite sound and is clearly based in solid science. It continues the Washington Department of Fish and wildlife’s tradition of excellence in fisheries management and the implementation of marine reserves. In fact, Sobel and Dahlquist (1) compliment the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife on a particularly incisive application of marine reserve science.
  • The EIS is also a significant positive science based step toward resolving a difficult and complicated problem of multi-species fish management in an effort to reestablish sustainable population levels for all species.
  • A review and consensus policy statement by the American Fisheries Society found several species of Salish Sea Rockfish (Sebastes spp.) to be particularly vulnerable.
  • Over harvest, especially commercial over harvest, is the principal cause for decline of rockfish. Current recreational harvest and incidental by-catch of commercial operations has kept populations suppressed.
  • Puget Sound has the distinction of being the second most threatened complement of fish stocks in North America. Only Chesapeake Bay is worse.
  • Current academic treatises on marine reserves (1) and marine conservation biology (2) recommend scientifically designed marine reserves and advocate 20% of the management area be established and regulated as “no take” fishing zones. Washington State currently has 0.02% of its fisheries management area designated as marine and aquatic reserves and those reserves only qualify as small research projects.
  • Total marine reserves on the West Coast currently contain less than 1.5% of ocean waters in protected habitat. Also, only 0.04% of the west coast Exclusive Economic Zone is protected. In contrast, 13% of global land areas are protected as parks, reserves and refugia.
  • Recreational, commercial and tribal fishermen are currently harvesting all fish species and populations endemic to the Salish Sea at less than 1% of historic levels. Hatchery production alleviates that production problem. Marine reserves will restore and help make our fisheries sustainable. Unfortunately, fisheries scientists have also shown that hatcheries contribute to genetic drift and harm wild fish populations. They have also shown that net pen farming harms wild fish populations by acting as centers for parasite dispersal to smolts.
    • Around the world 23 nations have established marine reserves to protect biodiversity, ecosystems, manage important fisheries and restore depleted populations of marine plants and animals. Restoration results are generally outstanding if the reserves are large enough and old enough. In a global review of marine reserves, biomass increased 413%, density increased 200%, fish size increased 82% and species diversity increased 71%. Additionally, the global average increase in fish biomass for many different reserves showed a range of 20% to 800% (1,2).
    • Of all the states with significant marine fisheries, Washington has the smallest and least effective system of marine reserves. Coincidentally, it also has the most severely degraded fish stocks and one of the largest lists of endangered and threatened species.
    • Marine reserves have been shown to be the best, most cost effective, fisheries management technique to combat genetic drift due to overfishing and combat ecosystem degradation.
    • Marine reserves, if well designed, large enough and given sufficient time, nearly always reestablish the natural biodiversity and functioning ecosystems within five to eight years.
    • Many environmental organizations, (for example – Sierra Club, Greenpeace, Wild Fish Conservancy, Coastal Conservation Association, Natural Resources Defense Council, People For Puget Sound, American Fisheries Society, Marine Conservation Biology Institute, International Union for the Conservation of Nature, National Research Council and many others) all have policy and position statements dedicated to marine fisheries reform and the establishment of marine reserves.  Additionally, President Obama established the Interim Report of the Interagency Ocean Policy Task Force “…in order to meet our nation’s stewardship responsibilities…..”
    • The Ocean Conservancy has published A Scientific Consensus Statement Supporting Marine Reserves where 1900 leading marine scientists and experts advocate more marine reserves and more research.
    • Marine reserves have been shown to be the key to establishing protected areas that allow large old fish to produce more offspring and higher-quality offspring than exist in fishing zones. Those larvae and juveniles have been shown to be the principal source of fish outside the marine reserves.  For example, a 50-pound female halibut can produce about 500,000 eggs, while a female over 250 pounds can produce four million eggs – an increase of 800%. Halibut can grow to nine feet long and weigh from 500 to 700 pounds and the oldest on record was 55 years old. World record is 459 pounds. Clearly, marine reserves create successful trophy fisheries for recreational fishermen.
    • Acceptance of the Marine Reserve concept and the restrictions on recreational, commercial and tribal fishing will require a truly exceptional education and outreach program. The one outlined in the Rockfish Conservation Plan is wholly inadequate. We suggest the Department of Fish and Wildlife, especially the Fish Program, develop a special contact form on their website to secure in-house WDFW speakers for fishing clubs, environmental organizations, and sport shows. Every major sport show should have a speaker discussing marine reserves. That seminar should be preceded by considerable advertising and marketing to marinas, boat dealers, fishing tackle manufacturers, marine trade shows, etc. The speaker should come armed with an amazing amount of information and many successful examples of marine reserves and the benefits to all forms of fishing and fisheries management. This is the only way to effectively inform the public at large about the benefits of marine reserves as a necessary step toward sustainable fisheries.
    • The plan makes no mention of curtailing commercial or tribal harvest of any fish species that incidentally takes rockfish. To gain acceptance of this plan amongst the fishing community and have a positive impact on Puget Sound rockfish, curtailment of commercial and the tribal catch must be discussed in the revised plan. We suggest that strong provisions be added to the conservation plan that discuss selective harvest measures for tribal and commercial fishermen. Selective harvest should be aimed at hatchery fish while catch and release is applied to wild fish. Recreational fishermen would be far more receptive to the idea of marine reserves if they knew closures and restrictions impacted all fishermen more or less equally.
    • Marine reserves have a revolutionary potential that is becoming a mainstream fisheries management tool. Sustainable fishing cannot be accomplished without the ecosystem based management that marine reserves offer. Consequently, the goals of fisheries management and environmental conservation have become one and the same.

 

 

Under Water, Old Nets Are Silent Killers – Kitsap Sun

11/13 Kitsap Sun
Under Water, Old Nets Are Silent Killers
By Tara Garcia Mathewson

KINGSTON —
An old gill net covers the seafloor like a blanket. Small forage fish swim through its holes untouched — but a baby seal is not so lucky. When Jim Norberg and Jake Johnston dive down from the Twila Dawn to recover the lost net, they find the seal, dead and still bleeding.

Casualties like this are far too common throughout the Puget Sound because of gill nets that keep fishing long after boats have lost them. Norberg and Johnston are part of the Northwest Straits Derelict Fishing Gear Removal Program. On Thursday, they dove in Apple Tree Cove off Kingston. They and others have been have been pulling up nets — as well as the sea life they’ve trapped — in the waters of Puget Sound since the end of July.

More at
http://www.kitsapsun.com/news/2009/nov/13/under-water-old-nets-are-silent-killers/

Astonishing Derelict Gear Project findings

I attended the NW Straits quarterly meeting in Port Townsend on Friday, and was able to stay to hear the presentation by Jeff June, who has led the research project on crab mortality rates because of lost crab pots, both commercial pots and sport pots. Jeff’s project, which is now headed to a peer review magazine process, shows that as many as 375,000 crabs might be being killed in Puget Sound and the Straits by lost crab pots. These pots, of which most of us who have crabbed have lost at one time or another, can continue to kill crabs and other sea life for up to and over 320 days! The findings were far worse than anyone imagined.
What’s to be done about this? The expected outcome of this study are:

  • Greater education of the public about proper use of crab pots.
  • Perhaps changes to the laws about crab pot use.
  • A likelyhood that crab pot makers can change the way the pots are made to breakdown under water faster.
  • A possible option to retrofit existing crab pots (would require manufacturers to come up with a retrofit kit).

If you use a crab pot, be sure to use proper rot cord, make sure the depth and currents won’t carry away your pot, and don’t put your pots in the middle of a heavily traversed boating lane. These seem to be some of the most common reasons for derelict gear.

You can read the education web site for proper use of escape cord (cotton instead of nylon) at: http://www.escapecord.org/

Additionally, Jeff reported on the drift net project, removing underwater nets that have been lost and continue to kill wildlife.  His teams have worked 68 days so far, and removed 92 nets. They hope to work 768 days total, and aim to remove between 2500 and 3000 known nets. Surveying underwater with side scan sonar and reports from fishermen have been responsible for mapping the locations of these nets.  One that was found was 1800′ long and stretched 100′ deep! Most nets are only a couple hundred feet in length.

Thanks to Jeff June and his staff for the great work! To read more about Derelict Gear, see this web site: http://www.derelictgear.org/

Since 2002, the Northwest Straits Initiative has removed more than 1,900 derelict crab pots, weighing over 48,000 pounds, and saving thousands of crabs from incidental death each year. 

The Northwest Straits Initiative is a citizen-driven, Congressionally-authorized program to restore and protect the valuable marine resources and habitats in northern Puget Sound and the Strait of Juan de Fuca. Marine Resources Committees in seven counties set local priorities, investigate conditions, sponsor restoration and outreach projects, and recommend science-based marine policy to their respective local governments.

%d bloggers like this: