[env-trinity] FW: Fisheries filling again on West Coast - SF Chronicle

Sari Sommarstrom sari at sisqtel.net
Wed May 1 18:04:55 PDT 2013



Fisheries filling again on West Coast


Chinook salmon, like this one at the Salmon Institute in Tiburon, appear to
be making a comeback along the coast.

By  <http://www.sfchronicle.com/author/peter-fimrite> Peter Fimrite

March 30, 2013

Once-devastated fish stocks seem to be growing rapidly off the California
coast and more of them are being hauled off to market, indicating that the
state's long-beleaguered commercial fishing industry may finally be
recovering, a new federal report shows.

Scientists with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration said the
haul of fish, crabs, squid and other sea creatures increased all along the
Pacific coast in 2011, the latest year with complete information available.
Earnings of fishermen also grew.

There appears to be a dramatic increase in the number of fish along the
Pacific Coast, said Richard Merrick, the chief science adviser for NOAA
fisheries, a phenomenon he attributed to improved management, increased
measures to protect fish habitat and better ocean conditions.

"The economy is coming back, fish prices are going up, and demand in general
seems to be going up," Merrick said.

The promising numbers were in NOAA's report "Fisheries Economics of the
United States 2011," which gauges the economic viability of commercial and
recreational fisheries and marine-related businesses for every coastal state
in the nation.

California jobs

California generated the most jobs from fishing in 2011, followed by
Massachusetts, Florida, Washington and Alaska, according to the sixth annual
report, which was released this week. About 1.2 billion pounds of fish and
shellfish were landed in the Pacific Region, which includes California,
Oregon and Washington. More than 400 million pounds of fish were hauled in
off the California coast.

The $710 million in revenue from the Pacific catch represents a 28 percent
increase over 2010 and an 81 percent increase since 2002, the report stated.

Stiff quotas and catch limits on overfished populations required by the 2006
Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act helped increase
populations of rockfish, squid, hake and cod over the past decade, Merrick
said. The catch of hake, which is a form of cod, increased 74 percent, while
the squid take has increased 67 percent off the coasts of the three Western
states over the past decade, the study found.

Salmon situation

Even salmon appear to be making a recovery. Fisheries service experts
estimate that there are 834,000 fall-run chinook in the ocean right now
preparing to return to the Sacramento River system to lay eggs in the fall,
the most since 2005.

The estimates, which are used to establish fishing guidelines, are similar
to last year, when 819,000 salmon were supposedly in the sea. 

The problem is that the forecasts, which are largely based on the percentage
of juvenile salmon counted the year before in the river, can be inaccurate.
The real number of salmon last year turned out to be 618,000, based on a
count of spawning chinook and the number of fish that were actually caught
in the river and ocean. 

The Sacramento run of chinook is still in bad shape, Merrick said, but the
situation has clearly improved since the two-year ban on fishing was enacted
after salmon stocks reached record lows in 2008 and 2009. 

Roger Thomas, chairman of the board for the Golden Gate Salmon Association,
said that while he is upset about continuing limits on the take, he's
relieved that the salmon population is doing better. 

"We're all looking forward to getting some good fresh salmon, one of the
healthiest foods you can eat," said Thomas, who operates the Salty Lady boat
out of Sausalito. 

Habitat protection

The growing fish population is good news for both the fishing industry and
for conservationists, who recently won major victories in their long-term
efforts to protect ocean habitat.

The California Fish and Game Commission last year finished establishing a
network of undersea state reserves, called Marine Protected Areas, extending
from Mexico to Oregon. The interconnected series of protected marine
environments, most of which do not allow fishing, go 3 miles out from shore.

Studies have shown that the number and average size of many key species has
increased since the first of the reserves was established six years ago. 

Late last year, President Obama and congressional representatives set in
motion a two-year public review process for a proposal to more than double
the area covered by the Gulf of the Farallones and Cordell Bank national
marine sanctuaries. The new preserves would protect 2,093 square nautical
miles of additional ocean habitat off the coast of Sonoma and Mendocino
counties, extending up to 30 miles out to sea. 

"The West Coast is a really good success story," Merrick said. "I wish the
rest of the country was the same way. The management that has been done on
the West Coast has been by and large superb. It's a model for the rest of
the country."

Fish report 

"Fisheries Economics of the United States 2011" is available online at
<http://1.usa.gov/XVzOWU> 1.usa.gov/XVzOWU. 

Peter Fimrite is a San Francisco Chronicle staff writer. E-mail:
<mailto:pfimrite at sfchronicle.com> pfimrite at sfchronicle.com Twitter:
<http://twitter.com/pfimrite> @pfimrite

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