Monday, October 08, 2007

Are cephalopods safe from overfishing?


Almost everyone assumes that cephalopod overfishing won't happen. Yeah, well people used to say that about sardines too. I don't buy the argument. The rationale for squid is the same for sardines: they're short-lived, prolific, and fluctuate naturally, so they'll never be overfished.

Sardines famously crashed in California in the 1940s, illustrating the problem. During a down cycle of low reproduction, heavy fishing continued. Instead of dropping naturally to something like 20% of peak numbers, the overfished sardine collapsed to around 0.1%, and took decades to recover. They missed the next "boom" period because there were too few breeding sardines left.

So what's the future for cephalopod fisheries? Some squid fisheries have collapsed in the past, in California and elsewhere, and future crashes are likely if management doesn't improve. The blame is usually placed on natural fluctuations, but fishing has certainly played at least a contributing factor. For the most part, squid are fished with few restraints worldwide, based on nothing little more than hope. This is not a good long-term strategy.

OK, so squid may be vulnerable, how about other cephalopods? Will there be major fisheries for other cephalopods someday? Seem unlikely? Well, nothing is unlikely in ocean fisheries. If there's a market for hagfish (aka slime eels), then there's a market for anything.

13 comments:

Jason said...

Interesting. Thanks for participating in ICAD.

This article quotes sources at MBARI speculating that the recent abundance of Humboldt squid can be attributed to a decline in other fisheries:

"The study surmised that the squid have profited from falling numbers of billfish and large tuna in the area. 'Ironically, these squid may have benefited from the decline of large tuna and billfish in the Equatorial Pacific, which previously preyed upon and competed with the Humboldt squid for food.'"

There is also this site, which credits itself as, "the world's biggest squid fishing community."

Mark Powell said...

Yes, squid can sometimes boom when fisheries disrupt ecosystems. But then it's only a matter of time until people shift their sights...

Wow, I hate to be the pessimist. It's just where I find myself on squid fisheries. Listening for the bell to toll...

Irene said...

there's a market for hagfish ???

thomas said...

If this cephalopod started showing up in fish markets, I would start to worry...

Anonymous said...

This commercial exploitation is no different than any other--they will work the squid until they are gone, just like they did to the bonito that went from the single most abundant sportfish in our waters to virtually extinct in a matter of 4 years. The only diference is it is taking longer with the squid.

Here is a link to the san Pedro market:

http://swr.ucsd.edu/fmd/bill/mktsp.htm

It shows that in '06, 67 million pounds were brought into this tiny port and this year only 17 million pounds were brought in.

Squid, like anchovie and sardine are a vital forage for pelagic and resident species. When you take 60 million pounds of sardines from the local waters, there is no way that will not have an impact.

What gets me is how the same sportfishing community that tolerates hundreds of millions of pounds of forage fish going to foreign markets will literally declare war against no take reserves...

Squid live less than 1 year so their populations are entirely dependent on the previous years spawning success. I know for a fact the the squid fishermen have absolutely no concern for whether the squid they catch has even layed their eggs yet...

Is this going to be another situation where a biologist is sitting in an office somewhere presiding over yet another collapsed fishery?

Anonymous said...

I believe that one of the reasons there was such a decline in squid landings into San Pedro is because the market and populations of sardines and anchovies were very healthy. Many vessels that commercially fish for squid also fish for sardines. There simply weren't as many folks fishing for squid out of San Pedro in '07 as there was in '06. You really have to look at the CPUE if you want to try and extrapolate populations based on commercial fishing.
And you state that you know....FOR A FACT...that the squid fishermen have absolutely no concern? THE squid fisherman??? There's only one??? If not, then you must have talked to them all????
The reason the sport fishing community is against the current MPA process is because they understand that there are already a lot of no take zones in California the public has previously agreed to, and they know if they don't fight now, more and more healthy ocean will be closed down. This current MPA process is completely misleading the public.

Anonymous said...

And yes, there is a market for hagfish. Mainly to S. Korea where it is a delicacy, and they also use the skin for 'leather'.

Anonymous said...

You say: "there are a lot of no take zones in California" I disagree. Other than the recently enhanced Channel Island reserves, there may be a few insignificant specks on the chart, but they are way too small to even work as a no take reserve. That seems like the same kind of misinformation that we heard at the onset of the CI reserve war. I heard radio fishing talk hosts say on the air that if the CI reserves are put into place it will "put every halfday boat on the coast out of business" and "you will not be able to walk with your children on the beach." as we all know, that was utter garbage.

I lament the fact that the sportfishing community didn't seize the closures as an opportunity to build the alliances that could have been instrumental at fighting the larger battles such as the trawlers. The Horseshoe, the junction, the Huntington flats are the most popular small boat fishing destinations on the entire west coast, yet gillnetting and trawling is still allowed there...

I can't help but think that if the sportfishing community had not declared war against the reserves, they could have cracked that nut years ago.

i tried to tell them back in '99 that the reserves are an inevitability and that we should jump on that bandwagon and exploit the wave of conservation on BEHALF of our sport! Unfortunately, the money interests intervened and turned the single most comprehensive conservation measure ever proposed for OUR waters into a (losing) battle. And they have lost most every major battle since the war begun.

i attended the first meeting of UASC in the Tuna club in Alamitos Bay. It was attended by a whole host of luminaries from the Sportfishing community, Pat M, Russ I, Dan F, local skippers, etc were there as well as a number of other names that we still recognize. The theme of that meeting was "Fish for the future"

I took that to heart...i took that to mean that we were determined to do that which would be best for the FISH populations above all other considerations. Somehow that theme was hijacked and the result was a never ending battle against the powers that be...

Our generation has seen the biggest and best that our water will ever have to offer, it is only right that we make concessions that will benefit future generations of fishermen...

We need to honestly assess the 'harm' that the current reserves have done to the sport and ask ourselves if the war was really worth it.

Protect that which you value!

Mark Powell said...

IMO, the ongoing California MPA process is open, transparent, and fair. The sportfishing community began the push for MPAs, but some sportfishing groups subsequently tried to "just say no" to MPAs. This strategy limited the ability of the sportfishing community to help shape the MPA network.

Mark Powell said...

Hagfish are now a target of fishing, check out: http://scienceblogs.com/shiftingbaselines/2007/05/more_on_slime_and_soul_food.php

Anonymous said...

You disagree that there are a lot of marine reserves already in place. That's just a matter of opinion. By my count there are 84 in the state of California currently in place that are in some degree no take zones. And if they are all 'insignificant specks', why do we have them at all? There's just not enough no-take zones out there yet? When will there be?
There are no doubt MANY folks that go to the MPA meetings who would just assume shut the entire ocean off. For some, there will never be enough ocean turned to no-take zones. And, of course, on the other end of the spectrum there are some out that could care less about the healthiness of our oceans. These two groups are completely ridiculous in their thoughts. Unfortunately, the first group is more vocal and has more money. Many of these extreme environmentalists never go on the ocean and know very little of the facts, and receive there information strictly from enviro-propaganda. Which, of course, has a lot of money. Unfortunately the commission finds that they must listen to the money, not the facts. This is where the MPA process fails.
Also, hagfish have been a target fishery for a long time. The market is what dictates people fishing for them or not. It was quite a large fishery about 20 years ago.

Matt said...

For a little perspective compare commercial fishing to farming practices. Terrestrial and marine ecosystems would benefit greatly from improving farming methods but that does not justify a ban on farming. Blasting away at the microcosm of ocean fisheries as part of the human food supply only serves to limit food diversity for the sake of a nice clean scapegoat. What would happen if we banned all ocean fishing? Would anyone notice the effect of industrial pollution, not to mention ocean acidification and global warming? It seems to me, as The Klamath River fiasco of recent years exemplifies that the commercial fisherman constitute the primary stakeholder group regarding ocean resource protection. So please, be careful what you wish for and consider spending a little more time on constructive ways to maximize yields while minimizing ecological impacts instead of creating doomsday scenarios.

Matt
(Out of work salmon fisherman).

By the way, squid are only desirable for human consumption before they spawn since they burn most of their body mass off while spawning instead of eating. And when looking for squid you'll see many more spawns out of reach of the shallow nets (on sonar) than spawns you can wrap a net around. Not to mention the entire unfishable windward sides of the channel islands.

viagra online said...

not support the massive overfishing of cephalopods, it seems somewhat unfair and endanger their existence!