‘Crash of the Pacific sardines’: 98.5% collapse since 2006. NMFS may cancel Monterey Bay 2019 and 2020 seasons.

The numbers are startling.

2017  86,586 metric tons
2018  52,065 metric tons
2019  27,547 metric tons, “a 98.5 percent collapse since 2006.”

“The collapse is a result of overfishing, [Geoff] Shester said. Sardine populations go through natural cyclical fluctuations, but to see numbers this low is caused from over-fishing.

That isn’t credible.

Fukushima hit in 2011 when the sardines were in a severe down-swing (see chart below). Radioactivity contaminated the kelp and the ocean initially. The Monterey Bay kelp had measureable levels. The contamination increases by air and ocean releases to this day, and none of it is “biodegradeable”.

Historic over-fishing is only one factor. Fukushima radioactive contamination is never mentioned by the media or the scientists.

The ocean environment is crashing. The sardines are canaries. They’ve had no chance at recovery. And the brown pelicans and sea lions are just two species that are dying of starvation as a result.

sardines and kelp
Photo, courtesy of NOAA

From the  Monterey Herald


Sardine fishery likely will be closed this season

Dennis Taylor

3-28-19

MONTEREY — Sardine fishermen in Monterey Bay are facing a fifth straight year of restrictions on the amount they will be permitted to catch, creating financial hardships for the commercial industry.

A new draft assessment from the National Marine Fisheries Service indicates a sardine population of 27,547 metric tons. According to the Fisheries Service, any tonnage below 50,000 metric tons is considered “overfished.” That’s a 98.5 percent collapse since 2006.

The restriction, which would essentially cancel the 2019-2020 commercial sardine season, must be applied when populations drop under 150,000 metric tons, said Geoff Shester, senior scientist with the Monterey office of Oceana, a marine environmental watchdog group.

The crash of Pacific sardines has been difficult to watch,” Shester said. “We’ve witnessed dramatic starvation effects to ocean animals.”

The collapse is a result of overfishing, Shester said. Sardine populations go through natural cyclical fluctuations, but to see numbers this low is caused from over-fishing.

Diane Pleschner-Steele, executive director of the California Wetfish Producers Association, was not available to comment Wednesday, but she told the Monterey Herald following the 2018 assessment that “fishermen are seeing more sardines, not less, especially in nearshore waters.”

She believes the methods in which the Marine Fisheries collect data is flawed. Not only does Pleschner-Steele reject the notion that overfishing played a role in the decline of the sardine stock, she calls the stock’s collapse “fake news.”

Oceana claims that overfishing is the cause of the sardine fishery decline,” Diane Pleschner-Steele said, “but the absolute opposite is true: fishing is a non-issue and more importantly, the sardine stock is not declining.”

Her argument is that Marine Fisheries does not count sardines in areas where they are abundant, such as closer to shore.

Marine Fisheries acknowledges its inability to survey nearshore areas, but does not believe the numbers of missed fish are great enough to make its data inaccurate.

The crash of the fishery has broad ripple effects, particularly on predatory marine animals that consider sardines a key food source, said Ashley Blacow-Draeger, Pacific policy and communications manager for Oceana.

Of particular concern are California sea lions and brown pelicans. Blacow-Draeger, working with other nonprofits such as the Marine Mammal Center north of San Francisco, have determined that sea lion moms, suffering from a shortage of nutrient-rich food, do not have enough milk to feed their pups, which often die of starvation or malnutrition, Blacow-Draege said.

The brown pelican population also suffers because malnutrition interferes with their reproductive systems. If they do produce chicks, many also die from the effects of not enough food and nutrients, Blacow-Draege said.

The numbers are startling. In 2017 the sardine stock stood at 86,586 metric tons. Last year the  population fell to 52,065 metric tons and this year the stock fell even farther to 27,547 metric tons.

After the assessment is finalized, it will then go to a 12-member Pacific Fishery Management Council that will make a recommendation to Marine Fisheries. The conclusions will be implemented at the beginning of the season on July 1.

https://www.montereyherald.com/2019/03/27/sardine-fishery-likely-will-be-closed-this-season/

Posted under Fair Use Rules.

From NOAA Fisheries, 4/12/16

Sardines are known for their wide-ranging “boom-and-bust” population cycles around the world. They have been in decline off the West Coast since a series of cool years from 2010 to 2014 reduced the survival of eggs and very young fish so that few survived to join the adult spawning population. The question now is whether recent warmer conditions may boost the survival of the large numbers of young fish so that more survive long enough to join the adult population.

“We have had a few years of very unusual conditions on the West Coast, and we’re still learning what that means for sardines and many other species,” Sweetnam said.

https://www.westcoast.fisheries.noaa.gov/stories/2016/12_04122016_sardine_numbers_remain_low.html

From ASSESSMENT OF THE PACIFIC SARDINE RESOURCE IN 2017 FOR U.S. MANAGEMENT IN 2017-18

The SSB [spawning stock biomass] has continually declined since 2005-06, reaching historically low levels in recent years (2014-present).

…Stock Biomass for PFMC Management in 2017-18
Stock biomass, used for calculating annual harvest specifications, is defined as the sum of the
biomass for sardine ages one and older (age 1+) at the start of the management year

https://www.pcouncil.org/wp-content/uploads/2017/03/G5a_Stock_Assessment_Rpt_Full_ElectricOnly_Apr2017BB.pdf