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Entries in Overfishing (12)


Coral Diseases Threaten Marine Fisheries


Coral reefs, among the most valuable marine habitats for fisheries, are suffering. Overfishing, world climate change, and other stressors likely are contributing to their degradation and increasing susceptibility to disease. 

One of the most recent examples comes from Hawaii, where a new disease has been found on coral colonies.

This disease can spread fast and has the ability to kill a small coral colony within a week,” said Anne Rosinski, a marine resource specialist with the state’s Division of Aquatic Resources.

Additionally, the state reported that a “mass bleaching event” of coral colonies occurred last fall. Scientists don’t know if there is a direct connection between the disease and the bleaching, “though bleached coral is generally more susceptible to diseases.”

Here is what NOAA says about the value of coral reefs:

  • The commercial value of U.S. fisheries from coral reefs is more than $100 million. In addition, the annual value of reef-dependent recreational fisheries probably exceeds $100 million per year.
  • Coral reefs support more species per unit area than any other marine environment, including about 4,000 species of fish, 800 species of hard corals and hundreds of other species. Scientists estimate that there may be another 1 to 8 million undiscovered species of organisms living in and around reefs.
  •  Storehouses of immense biological wealth, reefs also provide economic and environmental services to millions of people. Coral reefs may provide goods and services worth $375 billion each year.
  • Millions of people visit coral reefs in the Florida Keys every year. These reefs alone are estimated to have an asset value of $7.6 billion.
  • Coral reefs buffer adjacent shorelines from wave action and prevent erosion, property damage, and loss of life. Reefs also protect the highly productive wetlands along the coast, as well as ports and harbors and the economies they support.



Reality Versus the Anti-Fishing Movement

Anti-fishing groups are experts at using labels and implication to drive their agendas. Mistaken assumptions by the public because of that tactic are just fine with them as long as they further the cause.

For example, they talk about “overfishing” with no regard for the vast difference between recreational and commercial tactics and harvest. As a consequence, by implication, one is the same as the other.

Also, they cite statistics without putting them into context. For example, if two dead loons have been found at Lake X during the past decade and one of them was revealed to have died of lead poisoning, they will say “Half of loon mortality at Lake X is attributable to lead fishing tackle.”

That is true, of course, but misleading in its importance. Almost certainly the loon population during that decade was harmed much more by habitat loss and predation.

When the Magnuson-Stevens Fisheries Conservation and Management Act was passed, its authors--- intentionally or otherwise--- did much the same thing. The act defined any stock of fish that is not at a high enough level to produce the maximum sustainable yield as being “overfished.” Yes, some stocks are overfished. But depletion could be attributable to other factors, including disease and weather.

Because of that wording, though, the act has been used to penalize both recreational and commercial fishing.

A blog at explains it this way:

“This law is without question the most important piece of legislation that deals with U.S. domestic fisheries management. Thus, equating ‘not enough fish’ with ‘overfished’ contributes to a blame-it-all-on-fishing mindset and a gift to the anti-fishing activists.”

A proposed amendment would change “overfished” to “depleted” throughout the act.

That amendment is contained in draft Strengthening Fishing Communities and Increasing Flexibility in Fisheries Management Act.

“The draft legislation aims to alleviate a number of concerns that recreational and commercial fishermen and the businesses that depend on them have had, since the original intent of the Magnuson Act has been severely distorted by a number of agenda-driven organizations,” said FISHupdate, which cited a previous blog about this at Fishosophy.


Help Protect Ocean's Top Predators, Gentle Giants

If you want to help save some of the ocean’s top predators and gentle giants from extinction, now is the time to act.

Through March 14, those countries that signed an agreement to ensure the survival of threatened wild animals and plants are meeting in Bangkok, Thailand. By signing on to CITES (Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora), they promised to help prevent international trade from contributing to the demise of these species.

Go here to sign the petition urging CITES countries to provide stronger protection for sharks and rays.

Why is this needed?

Project AWARE says this:

Nearly one out of five shark species is classified by the IUCN (International Union for Conservation of Nature) as threatened with extinction. That doesn’t even include hundreds of species (almost half of all sharks) whose population status cannot be assessed because of lack of information. Scientists warn that, in actuality, a third of sharks might already be threatened.

Why do we worry about shark populations? A healthy and abundant ocean depends on predators like sharks keeping ecosystems balanced. And living sharks fuel local economies in places like Palau where sharks bring in an estimated $18 million per year through dive tourism.

They may rule the ocean, but sharks are vulnerable. They grow slowly, produce few young, and, as such, are exceptionally susceptible to overexploitation.

Overfishing is driving sharks to the brink - with many populations down by 80 percent. Tens of millions are killed each year for their meat, fins, liver, and other products.

Bycatch– or catching sharks incidentally while fishing for other commercial species – poses a significant threat to sharks. At the same time, new markets for shark products are blurring the line between targeted and accidental catches.

Finning– Shark fins usually fetch a much higher price than shark meat, providing an economic incentive for the wasteful and indefensible practice of “finning” (removing shark fins and discarding the often still alive shark at sea).  Finning is often associated with shark overfishing, especially as keeping only the fins allows fishermen to kill many more sharks in a trip than if they were required to bring back the entire animal.

Shark fishing continues largely unregulated in most of the world’s ocean. Finning bans, such as the European Union’s (EU) finning regulations, are fraught with loopholes. Trade in only three species of sharks – basking, great white and whale - are regulated under  the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES). 

 Manta Rays at Risk

They’re easy targets. Moving slowly through the ocean, often in predictable aggregations – these gentle, filter-feeding giants are being slaughtered at an alarming rate.

International trade in these species, driven by Asian markets for Chinese medicine, poses an immediate threat to their survival. Catch of mantas reported to the Food and Agriculture Organization has almost quadrupled in seven years.

An organization of SCUBA divers, Project Aware also works to reduce trash in our oceans. 


Red Snapper Are There --- Even if You Can't Catch Them

Florida Sportsman photo.

How much at risk, really, are our ocean fisheries?

Some of them are overfished and certainly should be protected to allow recovery.

For many others, however, too little data is available. As government insists restrictive measures are needed, anglers counter that they are not.

During the 40-day red snapper season down in Alabama waters, researchers from the University of South Alabama want to see how recreational fishing impacts the “public” locations.

"With the snapper season being so short and so many questions about the health of the snapper stocks and how accurate the stock assessments are, what we're doing is sampling some of the artificial reefs off Alabama," says Dr. Bob Shipp. "These are public reefs. The numbers are published. Everybody knows them. They're 12-14 miles offshore, which means easy access.

"We're using video and regular hook and line to sample these reefs now before the season opens. When the season is over, we'll come and sample them all again to see what kind of impact this very short season has. We'll see if they've been cleaned off or whether they are in good shape and can stand a little more pressure."

And Shipp has this to say about the value of venting:

"We're doing a study now on how deep you can bring a snapper up, release him and have him survive. The prevailing theory was that, after you get deeper than 70 to 80 feet, they're not going to survive.

“But we've got a half-dozen stations in 150 feet of water, and we've been tagging them for three or four years. We've recaptured a number of those fish. As long as the fish are vented (releasing gases from the swim bladder) and are not gut-hooked, they have a pretty high chance of survival."

Meanwhile, Capt. Mike Thierry, who has assisted with such research for years, knows well the value of underwater cameras:

"One time today my fish finder was lit up with fish and we weren't catching many," Thierry says. "Then we dropped the camera down and sure enough they were there.

“You don't know whether a school of baitfish had just come through or what. At some spots, they were as hungry as could be, so there may not have been any baitfish come by there in a while.

“There are so many variables that you can't see. When you've got 10-12 people standing around on the dock, not all of us are hungry. But if we were starving to death, we'd all be fighting over something to eat.

"With the camera, you can tell they're there. They may not bite, but they're there. You're not going to catch every fish off the reef. People say, 'Oh yeah, you can clean off a reef,' and I once thought the same thing.

“I don't believe that's true now at all. That's what the camera showed us."

Read the full story here.


Ban Lifted for South Atlantic Deep-Water Fishing 

Ban was intended to reduce bycatch of warsaw grouper, a species subject to overfishing. Photo from

For a change, here’s some good news regarding federal management of fisheries:

A ban has been lifted in the South Atlantic for recreational and commercial fishing for snapper and grouper in depths greater than 240 feet.

“The deep water snapper-grouper ban demonstrated the severe impacts that can result from faulty science and inadequate consideration of socioeconomics,” said Mike Leonard, Ocean Resource Policy director for the American Sportfishing Association (ASA).

“Thankfully, the South Atlantic Council (SAC) and NOAA Fisheries acknowledged the severity of this ban and are now contemplating other, less restrictive measures to address overfishing issues without closing off a massive area of the ocean to fishing.”

ASA reports that the 240-foot closure was implemented to reduce bycatch of speckled hind and warsaw grouper, two species subject to overfishing. After taking into consideration the high economic cost of the ban to the sportfishing industry, and a new analysis of fisheries data, the SAC determined that the ban was not necessary to achieve the goal of ending overfishing for speckled hind and warsaw grouper. 

The SAC now is exploring other measures to address overfishing of speckled hind and warsaw grouper at a lesser cost to the sportfishing community. A proposal under development includes additional measures to reduce bycatch of these two species, as well as expansion of existing, and establishment of new, closed areas.

“It is unfortunate that the South Atlantic Council originally felt it had to take such drastic measures that resulted in lost jobs and undue economic hardship,” said Ken Haddad, ASA’s Marine Fisheries advisor.

“Anglers and the industry are willing to make sacrifices for the betterment of fisheries resources, but these decisions must be based on solid science with an aim towards reducing negative economic impacts. We look forward to working with the South Atlantic Council and NOAA Fisheries to explore other options to rebuild fisheries while still allowing reasonable access to the fisheries we depend on.”