Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Fraser sockeye good news, again

One of my favorite fish stories is back. Fraser River sockeye salmon simply refuse to die.

Fish have a way of keeping us humble. Just try to catch one, or even worse, try to predict what they'll do.

This year the infamous Fraser River (British Columbia) sockeye are causing problems once again. Just as a high-level panel is discussing what caused their collapse, they're doing better. How ironic to autopsy a corpse that stubbornly insists on coming back to life.

Last year's record sockeye run of 34 million fish began the trend. Now this year's 4 million is about equal to the 50-year average, and well above the record low of 1.7 million fish seen in 2009.

Are the problems over? No. But the fish are surprising us by coming home to spawn in good numbers again this year, confounding our attempts to understand them.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Chilean sea bass boo-boo

It's the biggest sea bass snafu since Al Gore armed critics by serving chilean sea bass at his daughter's wedding. It turns out Gore was green, or so we thought, because the fish was certified as sustainable. But now Gore's green may be wearing off...

Sustainability certification is supposed to make sure that buyers can identify sustainable products. However, in a recent study of Marine Stewardship Council certified sustainable chilean sea bass, scientists have found 1 out of 5 fish were mislabeled. Some were seabass from uncertified fisheries, and some weren't even sea bass at all. Tuna, greenling, and mackerel sold as certified sea bass? For the full details click here.

MSC critics have found fault with many aspects of the MSC's program, but this is the first time I've seen evidence of substitution in a certified product. This is not good, and the MSC is investigating the problem. Let's hope they have a good answer.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Your CO2 killed my oysters

Human CO2 is killing oysters on the US west coast. It's the early stages of our CO2 assault on the ocean.

CO2 makes carbonic acid in water. Since we're responsible for the excess CO2 in the air, then there is absolutely no debate about the human causes of the ocean acid monster.

Here's an interesting and scary article about how oyster growers on the west coast have been hit hard by the ocean acid monster, and how they've responded with a good adaptation strategy. They only take low CO2 water into their oyster tanks. BTW, the strategy works for an oyster farm, but not for wild oysters, they're stuck living in the water no matter how much CO2 it contains.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Hoki fishermen ask for smaller quota in New Zealand

Since when do fishermen ask for smaller catch limits? That's what is happening in New Zealand these days, as increasing hoki populations have government managers trying to give away fish to fishermen.

But the fishermen are having none of it, they say leave the fish in the water to grow and reproduce.

This is one of the promises made by advocates of transferable quotas or catch shares, that fishermen's incentives will change and they'll be more focused on conservation. Whattya know, it seems to be working in New Zealand.

Cod is not dead in Canada

Cod are coming back to Atlantic Canada. Slowly, here and there, but the signs are positive.

That's good news after the catastrophic collapse of the Newfoundland cod fishery two decades ago. Since then, we've learned a lot about the effects of overfishing on ocean ecosystems, and the mysterious non-recovery once fishing was stopped.

One problem has been that fishing wasn't actually stopped, and remaining low-level fisheries inhibited recovery.

One worrisome sign is that the fish are smaller than they used to be, what's up with that? Is it a blip that will go away, or a changed system?

Tuesday, August 09, 2011

Sustainable shrimp farming in Las Vegas

From the land of wasteful resource use comes a development in sustainability. Shrimp farmed in recirculating tanks just outside of Las Vegas, far from the ocean (unless you count Mandalay Bay's wave pool).

Are there any aquaculture critics who can't accept this as sustainable?

New Zealand hoki, fishery success story or not?

Hoki populations are increasing around New Zealand, testing the predictions of many who care about fish and fishing.

The hoki fishery, certified as sustainable by the Marine Stewardship Council, has been under fire because hoki declined after being certified. The declines were cited as proof of unsustainable fishing.

But fishery managers reduced quotas and now hoki are recovering. That addresses one of the major complaints made against the fishery.

Will hoki fishery critics concede the point? I haven't seen it yet.

Monday, August 08, 2011

Can the tuna industry sink Sea Shepherd?

Or at least leave them high and dry? Thanks to a lawsuit by a tuna company from Malta, Sea Shepherd may be forced to sell the boat they use to harass bluefin tuna ranchers.

According to The Guardian:
Maltese company Fish and Fish lodged a complaint against him in the Scottish courts over alleged damage sustained when Sea Shepherd freed hundreds of bluefin tuna from the company's nets in a a clash off the coast of Libya last year. The Steve Irwin was impounded by the court on 15 July and now the man described by the Japanese as a pirate has just days left to post a bond for £860,000.