Thumbs Up for President Obama who Announces Plan to Protect Alaska’s Bristol Bay From Future Oil and Gas Drilling!!!

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In a White house press release and video message posted online, President Obama announced his plan to designate Bristol Bay as off limits to consideration for oil and gas leasing, exploration and drilling — an action that will safeguard waters that help provide 40 percent of USA’s wild-caught seafood, support a $2 billion annual fishing industry, and are vital to the commercial fishing and tourism economy and to Alaska Native communities.

In a Press release by the white house…

President Obama designated the pristine waters of Bristol Bay as off limits to consideration for oil and gas leasing.  This action safeguards one of the nation’s most productive fisheries and preserves an ecologically rich area of the Bering Sea off the coast of Alaska that is vital to the commercial fishing and tourism economy and to Alaska Native communities.”

Using his executive powers Obama proclamated (see Youtube clip):

Under Authority granted me in Section 12(a) of the Outer Continental Shelf Lands Act, 43 USC 1341(a), this withdrawal prevents consideration of this area for any oil or gas leasing for purposes of exploration, development or production.”

According to the Whitehouse Press release:

Bristol Bay is at the heart one of the world’s most valuable fisheries, helping to provide 40 percent of America’s wild-caught seafood and support a $2 billion annual fishing industry.  The beautiful and remote area is also an economic engine for tourism in Alaska, driving $100 million in recreational fishing and tourism activity every year. Bristol Bay hosts the largest runs of wild sockeye salmon in the world, and provides important habitat for many species, including the threatened Stellar’s eider, sea otters, seals, walruses, Beluga and Killer whales, and the endangered North Pacific Right Whale. 

Today’s decision to withdraw the area from all future oil and gas leasing extends indefinitely a temporary withdrawal that President Obama issued in 2010 and was set to expire in 2017.  This action builds on decades of local efforts to protect Bristol Bay from oil and gas development by Alaska Native tribes and organizations, as well as local seafood and tourism businesses that create jobs and strengthen Alaska and the nation’s economy. It also honors the legacy of Alaska residents like Harold ‘Harvey’ Samuelsen, a salmon fisherman who is legendary for his lifelong dedication to Bristol Bay and to creating economic opportunities for Alaska Native and rural communities.

The North Aleutian Basin Planning Area that includes Bristol Bay consists of approximately 32.5 million acres, a portion of which was leased in the mid-1980s but never developed due to litigation.  The previous Administration set in motion a new lease sale for 2011 that would have opened approximately 5.6 million acres – about one-fifth of the planning area – for drilling.

In 2010, President Obama temporarily withdrew the Bristol Bay area from oil and gas development, exercising his authority under section 12 of the Outer Continental Shelf Lands Act, which gives the President authority to withdraw offshore areas from potential oil and gas leasing. President Eisenhower was the first to exercise the authority in 1960, withdrawing an area now included in the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary. Since then, Presidents on both sides of the aisle have acted to withdraw areas of the Outer Continental Shelf from oil and gas leasing.

Under the Outer Continental Shelf Land Act of 1953, the Department of the Interior develops a new leasing program every five years for energy development in federal offshore waters.

The current Five Year Program for 2012–2017, which expires in August 2017, schedules 15 potential lease sales in six planning areas with the greatest resource potential, including more than 75 percent of the estimated undiscovered, technically recoverable oil and gas resources in federal offshore waters.

The Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) is currently developing the 2017-2022 program, which includes opportunities for public comment.

Map Showing Area of Bristol bay, Alaska being protected by Obama's Proclamation (Source: http://www.pewtrusts.org/en/research-and-analysis/collections/protecting-bristol-bay)

Map Showing Area of Bristol bay, Alaska being protected by Obama’s Proclamation (Source: http://www.pewtrusts.org/en/research-and-analysis/collections/protecting-bristol-bay)

Culmination of Years of Campaigning by eNGOs, Fishers and other organisation

This Action by the US President must have come as GIGANTIC relief for a multitude of campaigners that have been working hard for years, trying to ensure the protection of this pristine wilderness area.

Bristol Bay Wilderness: (Source: http://pool32mag.blogspot.com.au/2010/05/save-bristol-bay-from-threatening_1016.html Photo: Erin McKittrick)

Bristol Bay Wilderness: (Source: http://pool32mag.blogspot.com.au/2010/05/save-bristol-bay-from-threatening_1016.html Photo: Erin McKittrick)

For more information about Bristol Bay

Exodus: Thousands of Chinese trawlers rushed out into the East China Sea after 3 month fishing moratorium

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I just saw some incredible pictures in the Daily Mail that provide just a hint of the colossal volume of Chinese fishing capacity. The photo- article entitled “Out to lunch: Extraordinary moment thousands of Chinese trawlers head out to sea after three-month ban on fishing is lifted” provides a glimpse of the capacity of chinese fishing capacity, keeping in mind that all of these vessels are departing from one port; Ningbo in Zhejiang Province!

Thousands of Chinese trawlers rushed out into the East China Sea today after a three-month-long summer fishing moratorium ended. 

These incredible images of boats setting out from a harbour in Ningbo, Zhejiang Province, show just why China harvests more fish than any other country.

Although China has one fifth of the world’s population, it consumes a third of the world’s fish – some 50 million tonnes a year.

Casting off: Thousands of Chinese trawlers rush out into the East China Sea at the end of a yearly three-month-long fishing ban designed to allow stocks to recover

Right, plaice, right time: These incredible images of boats setting out from a harbour in  Zhejiang Province, show just why China harvests more fish than any other country

Sprawling and trawling: Although China has one fifth of the world's population, it consumes a third of the world's fish - some 50million tonnes a year

Reeling them in: The worldwide average of fish consumption is just over 16 kilos a year, but in China the average person will get through almost twice that

Every year, there is a three-month ban on fishing to allow stocks to breed and recover, but it has done little to stop a massive decline

The worldwide average of fish consumption is just over 16 kilos a year, but in China the average person will get through almost twice that.

Every year, there is a three-month ban on fishing to allow stocks to breed and recover, but it has done little to stop a massive decline.

Fishermen themselves blame pollution, but environmental experts say overfishing has in particular decimated the numbers of mature adult fish and has made many varieties almost impossible now to find.

For locals in Ningbo, the annual sight of the boats once again setting out into the Pacific Ocean at the start of the fishing season is a good reason for a day trip out. 

Fishermen themselves blame pollution, but environmental experts say overfishing has in particular decimated the numbers of mature adult fish

For locals in Ningbo, the annual sight of the boats once again setting out into the Pacific Ocean at the start of the fishing season is a good reason for a day trip out

But for the fishermen themselves, the start of the season is unlikely to bring good news.

Catches of the four main species – the Japanese Spanish mackerel, eel and the large and small yellow croaker – have plummeted.

In the past, a successful fishing trip might have netted hundreds of kilograms of the large yellow croaker, but according to one captain most fishermen only get a few a year now, meaning prices were now forty or fifty times as much.

Mo Zhaolan, a researcher at China’s Institute of Oceanology, said that overfishing and pollution were having a much bigger impact than a decade ago.

Once large and valuable fish have been overfished, attention turns to a less valuable species, with the process continuing until all species have been over-exploited, fisheries depleted and biodiversity irreparably damaged.

Catches of the four main species ¿ the Japanese Spanish mackerel, eel and the large and small yellow croaker ¿ have plummeted

Fishing boats head out to sea in Ningbo, Zhejiang Province, China after the summer fishing suspension endsFishing boats head out to sea in Ningbo, Zhejiang Province, China after the summer fishing suspension ends

Vietnam a big transshipment point for smuggling Australian seafood into China says Seafood News

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According to ifeng.com and translated at (SeafoodNews.COM by Amy Zhong) “about 70% of the imported seafood is not taxed in the Mainland China and many seafood items have been smuggled into China through Vietnam, according to some media.

Although this question may not interest consumers, it is of great importance to ask how the  imported seafood they enjoy has entered the Chinese market. Some discreet consumers find it  necessary to distinguish the imported seafood of America from those of Australia, however, they  are not concerned about whether these seafood have been taxed.  

An experienced lobster supplier in Australia has told the reporter from Free Trade Zone Post (FTZ Post) that a comparatively high proportion of imported seafood has been brought  into China in an illegal way. The proportion may be as high as 70%, according to his estimation. 

Although overseas suppliers know that this kind of smuggling has existed for a long time, they have not  intervened but thought that it should be handled by the Chinese.  One Australian supplier has warned that although the price of these illegal seafood may be  about 20% to 30% less than those imported legally, the safety of the illegal seafood can not be  guaranteed owing to a lack of examination and quarantine.  

However, the reality is that neither the importers nor the eaters care about if these seafoods are imported legally.  

As the data show, Vietnam and China are both among the top three in view of importing the  western Australian seafood from July 1, 2013 to June 30, 2014. But China’s import value is only  US$100 million, a third of Vietnam’s import value, which is US$320 million. 

This clearly doesn’t  match the spending power..

Bigeye Tuna are overfished say ISSF!

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According to Blank:

The International Seafood Sustainability Foundation’s (ISSF) new Status of the Stocks rating report downgraded Pacific bigeye tuna stocks from a “green” rating — signifying the stock is healthy — to “orange,” meaning the stocks are overfished.

“This year, the stock assessments for both Pacific stocks of bigeye tuna (eastern Pacific and western and central Pacific) showed that the abundance has fallen below the level that would correspond to maximum sustainable yield (MSY),” Victor Restrepo (pictured), VP of science for ISSF, told SeafoodSource. The Pacific bigeye stocks became overfished in 2012 or 2013, he added.

“The reason they became overfished is simply because the exploitation rate is too high. Depending on their natural rates of mortality, growth and reproduction, fish stocks have turnover rates that allow them to replace the biomass lost to fishing, up to a point,” he said.

As a result, catches of Pacific bigeye tuna need to be reduced “to a level commensurate with their turnover capability,” Restrepo said. “This may be hard to do politically, but in concept it is pretty simple. Fishing needs to be managed.”

In addition to Pacific bigeye tuna, 39 percent of all global tuna stocks are overfished, ISSF found, while 52 percent of the all tuna stocks are at a healthy level of abundance, and 9 percent are at an “intermediate level.”

In addition, 17.4 percent of global tuna stocks are being overfished, while 43.5 percent of the stocks are experiencing a low fishing mortality rate, and 39 percent have a high fishing mortality that is being managed adequately, according to ISSF.

“The high rate of overfishing ultimately has to do with too much fishing capacity in the ocean. There are more vessels than are needed to exploit these stocks at the MSY level,” Restrepo said. “On top of that, the decision-making mechanisms at the regional fisheries management organizations (RFMOs) that manage the stocks tend to be consensus-driven. They are slow, and tend to build in many exemptions and loopholes that make them less effective than they could be.”

Meanwhile, the percentage of the global tuna catch that comes from healthy stocks declined from 91 percent to 86 percent since ISSF’s last report in April 2014.

“When viewed from the point of view of total catch, 86 percent of the catch comes from healthy stocks. This is due to the fact that skipjack stocks contribute more than one half of the global catch of tunas, and they are all in a healthy situation,” according to an ISSF statement.

“In contrast, most bluefin stocks and two out of six albacore stocks are overfished, but combined they make a relatively small fraction of the total catch.”

Bigeye tuna, Thunnus obesus, on ice. Picture source NOAA FishWatch (Wikimedia Commons)

Bigeye tuna, Thunnus obesus, on ice. Picture source NOAA FishWatch (Wikimedia Commons)

Oceana Marine biologist Jackie Savitz, Looks to the world’s oceans to feed the planet’s billion hungriest people

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I was just sent a fabulous TED video to watch from a friend of mine, who told that the marine scientist in this video “gets it!”

The TED Website Introduces the ‘talk’ by Marine biologist Jackie Savitz entitled ‘Save the oceans, feed the world!’ thus:

What’s a marine biologist doing talking about world hunger? Well, says Jackie Savitz, fixing the world’s oceans might just help to feed the planet’s billion hungriest people. In an eye-opening talk, Savitz tells us what’s really going on in our global fisheries right now — it’s not good — and offers smart suggestions of how we can help them heal, while making more food for all.”

Click here to view the transcript

 

New Zealand to help Tonga develop a well-managed & sustainable deepwater line fishery

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I just saw a wee snippet in Dive New Zealand:

The $2.7m NZ government-funded project draws expertise from the National Institute of Water and Atmospheric Research (NIWA), the South Pacific community, Tonga’s government and fishing industry. The aim is to develop a well-managed, sustainable line fishery for deepwater fish in Tonga’s Exclusive Economic Zone. 

This Tongan aid programme was first announced last month by NIWA in a press release:

New Zealand helps Tongan deepwater fisheries development

A programme to help Tonga maximise the economic benefits of commercial fishing has been launched in the country’s capital, Nuku’alofa.

Coinciding with a visit to Tonga by New Zealand Prime Minister John Key, the $2.7m NZ government-funded project draws together expertise from the National Institute of Water and Atmospheric Research (NIWA), the Secretariat for the Pacific Community, Tonga’s government and fishing industry.

The aim is to develop a well-managed, sustainable line fishery for deepwater fish in Tonga’s Exclusive Economic Zone.

Project leader and NIWA fisheries scientist Dr Stuart Hanchet said the project was funded by the NZ Aid Partnership Programme and partners will explore ways to maximise economic returns and develop new market opportunities.

“Biological sustainability and improved management are also key objectives,” Dr Hanchet said.

The project builds on the recently approved Tongan Deepwater Fisheries Management Plan by providing key information to support implementation of the plan.

Sustainable development in Tonga

The Agenda 21 website provides a good overview on sustainable development in Tonga:

The Agenda 21 was adopted at the United Nations Conference on Environment and Development (UNCED) in Rio de Janeiro in 1992. The Conference recommended that States consider preparing national reports and communicating the information therein to the Commission on Sustainable Development (CSD) including, activities they undertake to implement Agenda 21, the obstacles and challenges they confront, and other environment and development issues they find relevant.

The Johannesburg Summit 2002 (the World Summit on Sustainable Development) organised by UN Commission on Sustainable Development focused on strategies for meeting challenges that best humanity going forward, including improving people’s lives and conserving our natural resources in a world that is growing in population, with ever-increasing demands for food, water, shelter, sanitation, energy, health services and economic security.

Also see: NZ announces “sustainable” development assistance for Tonga