Conservation & Science

Counting fish like a BOSS

Counting fish in the ocean isn’t easy—particularly when they swim among jagged rocks and along undersea cliffs hundreds of feet below the waves. To help, the Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute has developed a new camera system called the Benthic Observation Survey System, or BOSS.

The BOSS camera design was fine-tuned, including simulated deployment in MBARI’s test tank, before it was placed in the ocean. BOSS photos ©MBARI

A five-foot metal cylinder that features an array of cameras and lights, the BOSS is designed to be lowered from a ship to the seafloor and land upright on rocky terrain. There, it will help scientists survey fish populations using eight high-definition video cameras.

Researchers and policymakers need this technology to find out more about life in the ocean and how to better protect it. MBARI developed the BOSS with input from investigators at Moss Landing Marine Laboratories and The Nature Conservancy .

“The scientists I’m working with are looking at areas that previously were heavily fished out,” explains MBARI staff engineer Chad Kecy, who led the effort to design and build the BOSS. Chad and his colleagues are trying to get a better understanding of how fish populations are recovering in these areas, what species are present, how big they are and where they swim.

Chad likes the challenge of solving problems on a tight timeline. The BOSS had to be built and tested in a matter of months, because the scientists who planned to deploy it already had research trips scheduled on boats that could not wait.

“Now the scientists are busy analyzing all this video they were able to capture with the tool that we developed,” Chad says.

Mary Gleason, science director for The Nature Conservancy’s California Oceans Program and who helped develop the BOSS, says it can fill important gaps in existing data, based on its inaugural voyage: “We showed that we could get 400 video surveys done across 300 miles of coastline during one three-week cruise. So that’s pretty efficient in terms of data quantity.”

Read more…

Monterey Bay Fisheries Trust: Preserving local catch for local fishermen

Today marks another big moment in the ongoing comeback of the West Coast groundfish fishery – and of commercial fishing in Monterey Bay.

The Monterey Bay Fisheries Trust has announced the acquisition of $1 million in commercial quota in the fishery from The Nature Conservancy. This means the fishing rights for this important resource stay with local Monterey Bay fisherman and  continue to benefit the community. It also means that regional chefs and restaurants will be able to easily source and serve up a taste of Monterey Bay to their customers.

Fishermen like Monterey's Joe Pennisi will have access to quota to catch groundfish in Monterey Bay. Photo courtesy Alan Lovewell.
Fishermen like Monterey’s Joe Pennisi will have access to quota to catch groundfish in Monterey Bay. Photo courtesy Alan Lovewell.

“Thanks to The Nature Conservancy’s addition, the Monterey Bay Fisheries Trust will be able to support our local, family-owned fishing businesses,” said David Crabbe, commercial fisherman and board president of the Trust. “This will provide stability for our local ports and waterfront businesses, and it will ensure that future fishermen have access to this important fishery for years to come.”

This might not have been the case, though, if  not for the collective efforts of the Monterey Bay Aquarium, the City of Monterey, and community leaders who worked to establish the new nonprofit organization.  The Monterey Bay Fisheries Trust was created to guarantee a future for stable and sustainable fisheries and fishing communities around the bay.

Locally caught rockfish and other groundfish will be available to Monterey area seafood lovers.
Locally caught rockfish and other groundfish will be available to Monterey area seafood lovers.

In 2011, a new fishery management program, called catch shares, went into effect for 90 species of the West Coast groundfish fishery (such as sablefish, petrale sole, and rockfish) as part of the conservation effort that led to the fishery’s recovery.  Since catch shares can be bought and sold, large, well-capitalized businesses from outside the region could have potentially outbid local fishermen for the quota. Without access to quota, small-scale fishermen would be unable to land groundfish out of Monterey Bay. The community would miss out on the economic, social, and environmental benefits that result from a local, sustainably managed fishery.

Thanks to the Monterey Bay Fisheries Trust, this won’t happen now. It will acquire the quotas and hold them in trust for the community, helping keep long-time fishing families in business, and ensuring a future for the next generation of fishermen.

“Our future depends on the health of the ocean,” said Margaret Spring, the aquarium’s vice president of conservation and science and chief conservation officer. Spring also serves as vice president of the Fisheries Trust board. “We hope others in our community will contribute to the remarkable recovery of the West Coast groundfish trawl fishery by purchasing local, sustainably caught groundfish, and supporting this innovative effort to advance both economic opportunity and ocean conservation.”

Learn more about The Monterey Bay Fisheries Trust.

Fishing for solutions: Recovering the bounty of the ocean

Effective fisheries reform is no pipe dream. It’s happening now, and it works. According to a new study published in the scientific journal Oceanography, this approach is succeeding in the United States and Europe, where fish populations and ecosystems are returning to health. And, say the study’s authors, it can change the lives of small-scale fishermen and coastal communities around the world.

The key to success involves a combination of fishery management reforms, creation of science-based marine reserves and new avenues that give people who fish for a living an economic stake in good management.

It’s an approach that’s worked well in the United States, where overfishing has largely ended. In fact, a mere 2% of federally managed fisheries assessed by the Monterey Bay Aquarium Seafood Watch  program are rated “Avoid,” and the program’s ratings for stock health indicate that U.S. law (the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act) is fundamentally succeeding at recovering fisheries.

The paper’s authors include Jane Lubchenco, former administrator of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, and Margaret Spring, the Aquarium’s vice president of conservation and science, and chief conservation officer.

Boats fish for squid with purse seine nets in California's Monterey Bay
Boats fish for squid with purse seine nets in Monterey Bay

“Too much of what we hear about the ocean is doom and gloom,” Spring said. “For all the challenges facing the ocean, there’s much to celebrate. We’ve worked for years with many colleagues to protect ocean ecosystems and to support sustainable fisheries management. It’s so gratifying to see that those approaches are making a real difference.”

And, she added, “If other countries embrace the policies that have succeeded so dramatically in the United States, we will see similar results.”

There are already many positive signs.

Europe has adopted more sustainable fishery management practices, and is already seeing positive results
Europe has adopted more sustainable fishery management practices, and is already seeing positive results

Just over a year ago, the European Union overhauled its fishery policies to adopt many of the key elements that succeeded in U.S. fisheries. This includes a strong mandate to end overfishing, complete with teeth and timetables; scientifically determined catch limits; significant engagement of people in the fishing industry in the decision-making process; and the option of using rights-based approaches to fishery management, giving fishermen a stake in the future. Rights-based fishery management has been particularly successful, when combined with the first three elements.

“It was a key factor in the rapid turnaround of the West Coast groundfish fishery, which went from economic disaster to Seafood Watch best choice in just 15 years,” Spring said.

Marine protected areas, too, have demonstrated their value in study after study around the world. When there are networks of protected areas – including waters that are off limits to fishing – species inside a reserve become more diverse and more abundant, grow larger and produce more offspring. Some of this increased bounty spills over to areas outside the reserve.

In California, the Aquarium championed creation of a science-based marine protected areas that is beginning to demonstrate these sorts of results, Spring said.

Reference:

Barner, A.K., J. Lubchenco, C. Costello, S.D. Gaines, A. Leland, B. Jenks, S. Murawski, E. Schwaab, and M. Spring. 2015. Solutions for recovering and sustaining the bounty of the ocean: Combining fishery reforms, rights-based fisheries management, and marine reserves. Oceanography 28(2):252–263.

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