— Monterey Bay dungeness crab season: “so few crabs”, “really slow”,”hardly anybody is fishing here”

From Monterey County Weekly
By Nick Rahaim
January 12, 2017

While an 11-day strike kept Dungeness crab fishermen tied up to the dock from Washington state down to Half Moon Bay during what could be a banner year, crabbers in Monterey Bay kept plugging away. It’s not that they’re strike busters (or “scabs”), it’s there are so few crabs in Monterey Bay their continued work doesn’t make that much of an impact.

“It’s been really slow, we’re only getting a couple a crabs per pot even after a long soak,” says Monterey fisherman Mike Ricketts. “The fishermen on strike didn’t seem to mind, or even pay attention. Hardly anybody is fishing down here.”

Monterey Bay fishermen have caught just 14,000 pounds of crab since the season opened Nov. 15, as opposed Half Moon Bay crabbers pulling in 350,000 pounds over the same period. The initial numbers, provided by marine biologist Pete Kalvass with the California Department of Fish and Wildlife, are likely on the low side as landing receipts are not digitized and they take a week or two to process. Last year, the crab numbers were 600,000 and 1.7 million pounds, respectively.

Robbie Torrise, owner of Robbie’s Ocean Fresh Seafood in Monterey, purchases all his live Dungeness crab from local fishermen, and needs 700-1,000 pounds to fulfill an order by the end of the week. He hopes the weather breaks and his guy will come through.

“Fresh crab is a crapshoot,” Torrise says. “One day you have them, the next day you don’t. The restaurants I sell to understand that.”

http://www.montereycountyweekly.com/news/local_news/it-s-a-slow-winter-for-dungeness-crab-in-monterey/article_816c9014-d85c-11e6-ae21-0f0ea0e6c78e.html

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— Monterey Bay: “There’s no squid.”

In recent years scientists have gained a deeper understanding of sardines’ value as “forage fish,” small but nutrition-packed species such as herring and market squid that form the core of the ocean food web, funneling energy upward by eating tiny plankton and being preyed on by big fish, seabirds, seals and whales. — Los Angeles Times, Jan. 5, 2014 [1]

The core of the ocean’s food web is vanishing.

The Monterey Herald writer says, “Not to panic.” Translation: “Tourists, don’t worry and please keep coming; this is natural.”

“Pristine waters of Monterey Bay” is laughable; agricultural chemical runoff from the Salinas Valley is just one of the long-standing toxic inputs into Monterey Bay, in addition to Fukushima’s new and devastating impact.

But no one mentions Fukushima. El Niño is the excuse and cover story, but it just added additional stress to an already broken and dying marine environment. Below are article excerpts

From Monterey Herald

Monterey Bay squid season basically a bust

May 11, 2016
by Mike Hale

Excerpts:

Monterey >> …“Once El Niño showed up things started to look different in the bay,” said Sal Tringali, president of Monterey Fish Company, who oversees a five-boat fleet that provides local restaurants with most of their fresh seafood, including squid.

Not to panic; our shared “Serengeti of the Sea” is still a pristine habitat. But warming waters along the West Coast have changed the waterscape — at least for now. For example, local squid fishermen have turned out their bright boat lights because the season is basically a bust.

There’s no squid,” said Tringali. “No anchovies either. We’ve seen this before during El Niño.”

It’s quite typical for squid to move on during an El Niño period, according to professor William Gilly, squid expert for Pacific Grove’s Hopkins Marine Station, run by Stanford University. [“Experts” at Hopkins Marine Station, MBARI, Moss Landing Marine Lab, the Monterey Bay Aquarium, Monterey Bay Marine Sanctuary, and NOAA have been silent about Fukushima impacts from the beginning as have public officials.]

“We saw a crash in landings in 1997-98 and again in 2009-10 (both El Niño years),” he said. Each time the fishery recovered with the return of the more familiar La Niña.

Gilly points to an anomalous offshore “blob” of warmer water (about 3 degrees above normal) that scientists actually began charting two years ago. This caused squid to move north (in this case), with fishermen landing schools as far away as Sitka, Alaska.

Surging demand in China, Japan, Mexico and Europe has boosted prices and launched a fishing frenzy worth more than $70 million a year. The vanishing act is a concern to fishermen, to wholesalers such as Tringali and to restaurant owners such as Kevin Phillips, who serves more than 1,000 pounds of fresh squid each week out of Abalonetti Bar and Grill on Fisherman’s Wharf…

Phillips tries hard to maintain the quality of the squid served at Abalonetti, and isn’t shy about revealing the industry’s dirty little secret: “Many local restaurants, along with most of the country, are using Monterey Bay squid processed in Asia ,” he said. “It comes ready to use.”

Much of the local catch — 90 percent of the 230 million pounds landed each season along the California coast — is frozen, shipped to China, unfrozen, processed, refrozen, packaged and sent back to the United States as part of a 12,000-mile journey that leaves one giant carbon footprint. It is genuine California squid, and cheaper and convenient, but the process doesn’t score high in the categories of freshness and sustainability

…“My first choice is local squid caught and cleaned here,” said Sam Mercurio of Domenico’s on the Wharf. “When squid are running strong Monterey Fish will put aside some tonnage and freeze it for slower years. We also look to the East Coast, but the squid there is bigger, tougher and not as sweet…

A fisherman himself, [Sam] Mercurio [of Domenico’s on the Wharf] relies on his relationship with his comrades to supply his restaurant with seafood.

“We know exactly where to source everything,” he said.

But these days that’s a challenge. It hasn’t been a good run for the entire Monterey Bay fishing industry. Once known as the Sardine Capital of the World, that fishery is currently closed due to low numbers (sardines are known for their wide-ranging “boom-and-bust” population cycles). Warm waters and a resulting neurotoxin undermined most of the Dungeness crab season. And the commercial California king salmon season started slowly May 1, with Monterey Bay boats reporting meager results.

But it’s the elusive squid that has everyone the most concerned.

“We’ve seen this before and have come close to running out,” Phillips said. “Sometimes it’s better to specialize in chicken wings.”

Mike Hale writes about the food and wine scene in Monterey County. Listen to his weekly radio show “Food Fodder” at noon Wednesdays on KRML, 102.1 FM. Reach the author at thegrubhunter@att.net

http://www.montereyherald.com/business/20160511/monterey-bay-squid-season-basically-a-bust

[1] http://articles.latimes.com/2014/jan/05/local/la-me-sardine-crash-20140106

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Monterey Bay: “anchovies…some of the last along California’s coast”, plankton levels low, whales searching for food, squid disappearing, starving marine life — ecosystem in collapse

Posted on ENE News:

Monterey Herald, Nov 3, 2015 (emphasis added): Local whale watching tour companies and conservationists claim the anchovy population has “collapsed” due to environmental reasons… Fishing groups disagree, though they note the bay has seen some dramatic environmental changes.

Santa Cruz Sentinel, Oct 30, 2015: Monterey Bay anchovy numbers in decline, groups say… “Since late September, the whale numbers have decreased, their behavior has changed and their food, anchovies, are less abundant,” said Nancy Black, marine biologist… Whale watching tour companies and conservationists claim the anchovy population has “collapsed” due to environmental reasons… The fishing industry says that’s not the case though ocean conditions have been unusual. Some scientists, however, are finding a drastic decline in the forage fish… [Pacific Fishery Management Council staff officer Mike Burner said,] “The council’s definitely concerned with some of the things they’ve heard.”… “The population has truly collapsed,” [said] William Sydeman, president and senior scientist at the Farallon Institute. “There’s no way fishing could have that kind of impact, so it had to be environmental.”… plankton populations are low, affecting their predators up the marine food chain… “When anchovy numbers are low, they crowd at the coast and appear to be abundant,” Sydeman said… At the same time, the lack of anchovies offshore are maybe in part why scores of sea lions and sea birdsare starving up and down the coast. “Right now we’re seeing that the whales are more scattered and seem to be looking harder for food,” said Dorris Welch, marine biologist…

Monterey Herald, Oct 19, 2015: Plenty of anchovies in Monterey Bay, but maybe not elsewhereMarket squid are disappearing, and in their place, fishing boats are reeling in piles of anchovies. But while they appear abundant, conservation groups warn that the forage fish may be at their lowest levels since the 1950s. “It’s an anomalous year,” said Diane Pleschner-Steele, executive director of the California Wetfish Producers Association. [Oceana’s Geoff Shester said,] “new information shows that the stock is at such a low level right now, it’s literally in a state of collapse.” Survey cruises conducted by the Southwest Fisheries Science Center detected little to no anchovy eggs from 2010 to 2013… Sit on the docks where anchovies are sorted and you’ll likely see lots of the silvery fish piling up. But it’s a mirage, warns William Sydeman, ecologist of the Farallon Institute, who coauthored the paper that estimated anchovies at low levels. “People think that if they’re in Monterey Bay, they must be everywhere,” Sydeman said. “They’re not. They’re only in Monterey Bay.” Sydeman said anchovies tend to aggregate near shore when their numbers are low…

KION, Oct 21, 2015: California’s last anchovies crowd in the Monterey Bay; Researchers say a massive decline of the fish is throwing off the ecosystem — Several conservation groups and whale watching operators are very concerned about the anchovies in the Monterey Bay… Recently, fishermen have been hauling out 120 tons of anchovies every night, but those anchovies are some of the last along California’s coast… “The anchovy abundance out here, and off the entire state, has gotten to some of the lowest we’ve seen since the 1950s,” [Oceana’s Geoff Shester] said. “Scientists are calling it an actual collapse.”… Anchovies are an important part of the ecosystem. That’s why these groups say if nothing is done, there could be long-term impacts. “We’re really worried that right now we are seeing major die-offs of sea lion pups and pelicans because they’re starving and not able to reproduce,” Shester said. “And that’s because there’s not enough sardines and anchovies out there.” “We’ve noticed the numbers of whales have dropped significantly,” [marine biologist Nancy Black] said.

Watch KION’s broadcast here

http://enenews.com/tv-massive-decline-fish-throwing-ecosystem-along-california-coast-expert-population-collapsed-theyre-gone-virtually-everywhere-whale-numbers-dropped-significantly-squid-disappearing-video