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The Online Magazine for Sustainable Seas
July, 2010, Vol. 12 No. 3



COASTAL ALERT

Philippines
NEDA proposes poverty alleviation, environmental protection a top priority for new government
Fisheries production to grow 8% in 2010 despite El Niño
New DENR chief lays out priority programs
Tuna fishers get reprieve from ban on FADs
BFAR pushes tuna processing in Eastern Visayas
Agribusiness, aquamarine industries emerge as key job generators in Region 12
Zamboanga seaweed farmers receive aid from LGU, NEDA
Calamianes study: Fishers caught between degradation and development
Antidote to fish toxin isolated from local plant
Region 12, ARMM rally for Philippine Halal Industry implementation
PCG bares sea pirates’ new modus operandi
Taiwanese poachers pay USD25,000 fine
9 Chinese poachers nabbed, 10 others missing in high seas off Palawan

World
Regulations, economic crisis squeeze seafood industry -- UN
More states endorse UN treaty to curb illegal fishing
UN-backed study reveals rapid biodiversity loss despite pledge to curb decline
UN agencies highlight problem of child labor in fisheries
World lags far behind on sustainable development goals, UN chief warns
WTO chief says US blocking trade deal
‘Greening’ global fisheries could boost fish stocks, UN report says
World's oceans could be completely depleted of fish in 40 years: UN report
Global fish production continues to rise
UN conference tackles overfishing
Ports 'failing to halt illegal fishing'
90% of global fish stock of large fish gone
Delegates meet to discuss better implementation of UN ocean treaty
Migratory species face disaster from climate change, UN-backed report warns
Tuna industry urged to regulate by-catch
UN bares plan to create new body for ecosystems and biodiversity
Independent UN expert urges legal reforms to boost right to food
Business leaders increasingly worried about biodiversity loss – UN-backed report
Industry fishing for profits, not predators
Protected corals increase fishing profits
Scientists offer new take on selective fishing
Small sea snail damaging world’s coral reefs
Researchers find first proof that chemicals from seaweeds damage coral on contact
Improved prawn developed
Ocean acidification: 'Evil Twin' threatens world's oceans, scientists warn
Carbon emissions threaten fish populations
Mangrove loss outpacing destruction of land-based forests -- UN
UN meteorological agency reports end to El Niño pattern over the Pacific
Experts advise countries to look beyond "cost-benefit" analysis in climate change adaptation
UN and Oxford University unveil new index to measure poverty
Asian nations leading the way in “green economic stimulus packages – UN
Abu Dhabi to farm bluefin tuna soon
UAE: Awareness campaign promoting sustainable fisheries launched
Study suggests decline in UK fish stocks more severe than thought
Major US fishery takes a beating after oil spill
EU rejecting less Asian seafood
Argentina’s commercial hake fishery has “two years left”
Taiwan's 2010 bluefin tuna catch drops 60%
First US-Indonesia ocean exploration agreement signed
Gaza fishers foundering because of Israeli blockade
Israel bars fishing in Sea of Galilee
Isolation a threat to Great Barrier Reef fish

Resources
Guidelines to Reduce Sea Turtle Mortality in Fishing Operations
FAO technical paper: International management of tuna fisheries
Network of protection for North America's marine ecosystems: Online map and other resources

Philippines

NEDA proposes poverty alleviation, environmental protection a top priority for new government
MANILA, 9 Jun 2010 (PNA) — The National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA) said it will recommend that the Aquino administration should prioritize poverty alleviation and environmental protection in its development agenda.

In a press briefing, NEDA Director General Augusto Santos said the proposal will be included in the Medium Term Philippine Development Plan (MTPDP) which they will submit to President-elect Benigno "Noynoy" Aquino III on July 1.

Aside from poverty alleviation and environmental protection, Santos said the Aquino administration must also focus on balancing the budget, as well as infrastructure and public investments. Full story

Fisheries production to grow 8% in 2010 despite El Niño
13 Jul 2010 (J Ng/Business Mirror) – Despite the El Niño weather phenomenon that caused extensive damage to the fisheries subsector during the first half of the year, the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR) expects fisheries production to grow by 8% in 2010.

BFAR director Malcolm I. Sarmiento said this assumption factors in the consideration that no strong typhoons will ravage the Philippines for the rest of the year.

“Barring strong typhoons, the fisheries subsector will grow by 8 percent. Aquaculture will propel the growth [of the subsector],” said Sarmiento in a telephone interview.

The BFAR chief noted that seaweed and fin fisheries production will boost aquaculture production this year, and mariculture parks will contribute significantly to the subsector’s performance. “We will continue [to set up] mariculture parks all over the country. It is one of our adaptation mechanisms against climate change.”

The fisheries subsector has been buoying farm growth in recent years. But production in January to March was down by 0.63% due to the extensive damage caused by El Niño.

The subsector accounted for almost 25% of total farm output in the first quarter. Aquaculture posted a 0.36% output increase.  Commercial and municipal fisheries registered production decreases of 3.5% and 0.15%, respectively. The gross value of fisheries production was Php53.1 billion, lower by 1.2% from last year. Full story

New DENR chief lays out priority programs
MANILA, 5 Jul 2010 -- Taking a cue from the people‘s campaign that won the presidency for President Benigno C. Aquino III, Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) Acting Secretary Ramon J.P. Paje is banking on “people’s participation” to do the seemingly “almost impossible” task of cleaning Metro Manila’s waterways, especially Manila Bay.

“My belief is that 30% to 40% of the dumping will be reduced. We will demand people’s participation,” Paje said in his acceptance speech at turnover rites last July 2 on his first work day as the country’s 19th DENR chief.

In his speech, Paje outlined the priority areas of concern that he said he hoped to address as DENR secretary, including, illegal dumping of garbage, air pollution, climate change, denuded public lands, and the still incomplete decade-old program to delineate the boundary lines of the country’s forests.

Paje vowed to remove graft within the department through “well-defined anti-corruption measures,” including full disclosure through the DENR website of all bidding activities undertaken by the department. Addressing would-be grafters, he warned, “If we cannot catch you, we will deny you of every opportunity to commit graft.” He assured employees of the implementation of the department’s provident fund, saying he would push the inclusion of employee benefits in the department’s 2011 budget proposal and not “rely on savings anymore.”
Paje holds a master’s degree in urban planning and a doctorate in public administration. Full story

Tuna fishers get reprieve from ban on FADs
GENERAL SANTOS CITY, 8 Jul 2010 (RS Sarmiento/Business World Online)-- With a 3-month ban on fish aggregating devices (FADs) in effect, the government has offered an alternative measure that would allow Filipino fishers to catch tuna in the Philippines’ exclusive economic zone (EEZ), a tuna industry official said yesterday.

Bayani B. Fredeluces, executive director of the Socsargen Federation of Fishing and Allied Industries, Inc., said the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR) has issued an administrative order allowing tuna fishing in the country’s EEZ despite the ban on FADs.

"Fishing operators need to be accredited by BFAR (to avail of) the alternative measure that was put in place after an analysis of the impacts of fishing on tuna stocks," Fredeluces said in a phone interview.

A study conducted by BFAR and the local tuna industry showed that only about 0.5% of big-eye tuna stocks in the EEZ will be caught by nets at a depth of 125 fathoms, or 750 feet. The quantity, said Freduluces, is “negligible.”

Fredeluces said that in order to limit the catch of big-eye tuna, the government limits net size to a maximum depth of 115 fathoms, or 690 feet, since the bulk of big-eye tuna stocks can be found in much-deeper waters.

The Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission (WCPFC), an international fisheries regulating body, first imposed the ban on FADs from August to September last year. Locally called payao, a FAD is a permanent, semi-permanent or temporary structure or device used to lure fish.

This year the ban will last from July 1 to September 30. It will be restored in the same period next year.

The WCPFC introduced the measure in the western and central Pacific in order to reduce big-eye and yellow-fin tuna mortality by 30% over three years. Countries that signed the agreement are the Federated States of Micronesia, Kiribati, the Marshall Islands, Nauru, Palau, Papua New Guinea, Solomon Islands and Tuvalu. Although not a party to the agreement, the Philippines adopted the ban in its EEZ as a member of the WCPFC. Full story

BFAR pushes tuna processing in Eastern Visayas
TACLOBAN CITY, 26 May 2010 (Business World Online in icsf.net) -- The Eastern Visayas office of the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR) is encouraging investments in tuna processing within the region, so that local residents can capture at least some of the benefits of abundant tuna stocks in the area.

BFAR regional director Juan D. Albaladejo said at least 10 Mindanao-based fishing boats have been operating in the waters off Eastern Samar. "Since we started monitoring last year, these 10 boats have captured 20,000 metric tons of tuna in Eastern Samar,” Albaladejo said.

There are no big fishing vessels in the province, and tuna fishing by locals using small motorboats has been minimal, he added. Some locals may be hired as fish workers on the vessels, otherwise tuna fishing activities provide few benefits locally because the catch is usually brought to either Manila or General Santos City for processing.

BFAR is inviting tuna processors in General Santos City, considered the "tuna capital" of the Philippines, to set up canning and other post-harvest operations in the region, either in Eastern Samar or in Tacloban City, Leyte. “We want the catch to be processed within the region to boost the local economy," said Albaladejo.

Albaladejo said Eastern Visayas can replace at least some of the tuna production lost as a result of the implementation starting last January of a two-year ban on yellow-fin and big-eye tuna fishing by the Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission. The ban aims to restore depleted tuna stocks in the high seas near Micronesia, Indonesia, Palau, and Papua New Guinea, Fiji, Kiribati, Marshall Islands, Nauru, Solomon Islands and Tuvalu.

The Philippine Fisheries Development Authority has allocated Php300 million to establish a fish port in Tacloban City. Full story

Agribusiness, aquamarine industries emerge as key job generators in Region 12
GENERAL SANTOS CITY, 12 Jul 2010 (PNA) – The growing agribusiness and aquamarine industries in Region 12 or Southwestern Mindanao are projected to become the top job destinations for skilled workers in the region in the next decade, according to a study on the region’s labor market.

Conducted by the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE), the study showed that the two industries will continue to anchor economic expansion and generate employment in the region over the next 10 years, Ma. Gloria Tango, the agency’s regional director, said.

Region 12 covers the provinces of South Cotabato, Sultan Kudarat, Sarangani, North Cotabato and the cities of General Santos, Koronadal, Cotabato, Kidapawan and Tacurong.

Demand for skilled fishing workers reportedly remains high among companies engaged in fishing operations in the high seas as well as inland fishery ventures. Tango said that even now, “there’s a shortage of qualified workers for some specific jobs in the fishing industry,” and piracy of highly skilled workers has become a common occurrence within the industry.

Tango said the study recommended immediate policy reforms, especially in terms of the delivery of government-led technical and vocational (tech-voc) training programs in the region, which need to be aligned with the requirements of the labor market. Full story

Zamboanga seaweed farmers receive aid from LGU, NEDA
ZAMBOANGA CITY, 24 May 2010 (PNA) – The local government and the National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA) turned over Php340,000 worth of projects to a group of farmers engaged in seaweed farming in this southern port city.

Mayor Celso Lobregat said the beneficiaries of the projects belong to the Mampang Seaweed Planters Association (MASEPLA) based in Mampang, seven kilometers east of this city. MASEPLA is composed of 70 seaweed farmer-members.

Lobregat said the projects consists of a ¼ hectare seaweed nursery, a dryer platform, two motorized boats and a sorting hut.

Funding for the project was equally shared by the local government unit and NEDA.

Lobregat said the city government also is concreting portions of the road from the highway of Mampang leading to the project site to improve the beneficiaries’ farm-to-market access. Full story

Calamianes study: Fishers caught between degradation and development
10 Jun 2010 (JCU) -- The livelihoods of tens of millions of fishers in the world’s richest coral reef region, the Coral Triangle, are at risk from the combined impact of collapsing fish stocks, environmental decline and coastal development.

A new study focusing on a group of islands in the Philippines by Dr Michael Fabinyi of the ARC Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies and James Cook University has highlighted the pressures being experienced by tens of millions of subsistence fishers in the region bounded by Australia, the Pacific and Southeast Asia.

“The Calamianes islands in the Philippines are fairly typical of what is happening throughout the region,” Fabinyi said. “Until recently they had relatively pristine coral reefs and healthy levels of fish stocks – but the impact of overfishing, including dynamite fishing and cyanide fishing, to feed the hungry markets of China and Asia have caused extensive degradation to the reefs and declines in the fish that depend on them.”

“In Southeast Asia it is commonly assumed that tourism development will provide some of the answers by employing people who can no longer fish for a living – but in my study I did not find that,” he said. “Instead it became clear that what was spoken of as ecotourism was, in reality, often coastal resort development – and it was pushing many coastal families off their land as well as squeezing them out of their fishing areas.”

“It has certainly created jobs for some former fishers – but by no means for all, and this wider social impact needs to be taken into account when thinking about the future livelihoods of the tens of millions who have, until now, drawn their living from the sea.”

Fabinyi said that the creation of marine protected areas in some parts of the Philippines and Coral Triangle had proved beneficial both for fishers and genuine ecotourism, although it has also restricted the area that fishers rely on for their livelihood.

“In the Calamianes, for example, I found that most fishers were working longer hours, over greater distances, for fewer fish caught – which is a clear sign that the fishery is continuing to decline. At the same time resort developers were pressuring them to give up their land on the coast, without creating sufficient livelihoods to compensate for the loss on land and at sea.”

Tourism development is often seen as a ‘silver bullet’ solution to poverty in underdeveloped regions, he says, but studies on the ground indicate the picture is more mixed – while some livelihoods are created, others are being destroyed. Also tourism is less reliable than fishing, being subject to booms and busts and the cost of world air travel.

“The people who are affected by these forces of environmental degradation, fish stock decline and coastal development are so numerous throughout the region that this is emerging as a very serious social issue for all the countries in the Coral Triangle as well as those which border it – like Australia,” Fabinyi says.

His paper “The Intensification of Fishing and the Rise of Tourism: Competing Coastal Livelihoods in the Calamianes Islands, Philippines” is published in the journal Human Ecology (2010) 38, pages 415–427. Source

Antidote to fish toxin isolated from local plant
CEBU, 9 Jun 2010 (M.T.V. Ilano/SciDev.Net) – Scientists are improving a Pacific folk remedy used to treat a form of food poisoning that prevents millions of people in the region from consuming fish.

“Octopus bush” (Heliotropium foertherianum) is the traditional medicine of choice in the Pacific islands for ciguatera fish poisoning which is caused by powerful ciguatoxins produced by microscopic Gambierdiscus algae.

Ingested by fish and clams, the toxins accumulate in the food chain, causing diarrhoea, vomiting and neurological symptoms in those who eat it. At least 100,000 people, mostly in the Pacific, are poisoned each year.

Scientists from the Institute of Research for Development (IRD), collaborating with colleagues from the Louis Malarde Institute in French Polynesia and Pasteur Institute in New Caledonia, Melanesia, screened around 100 medicinal plants for their activity against ciguatoxins. Octopus bush extracts were found to be the most promising, containing a molecule similar to rosmarinic acid — a compound known for its antiviral, antibacterial, antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties.

The researchers think rosmarinic acid may remove the ciguatoxins from their sites of action, as well as being an anti-inflammatory. They are now seeking to patent rosmarinic acid and its derivatives, and are developing octopus bush extracts with an even stronger detoxifying effect.

Lead researcher Dominique Laurent of the IRD in French Polynesia said that Japanese research has suggested that octopus bush may contain alkaloids, naturally occurring chemicals that can be toxic. Fear of poisoning from the remedy may be deterring people from using it and a detoxified version might be more acceptable to local people, he said.

“We prefer to improve the folk remedy because it could be difficult to explain to local populations to buy a drug rather than use a plant growing on the beach,” he said.

But the researchers have yet to consider how they would commercialize such a drug, said Laurent.

The poisoning is rarely fatal but the neurological symptoms can last several years. Fear of poisoning has reduced fish consumption, and the resulting dietary shift could lead to higher rates of cardiovascular disease, obesity and diabetes. Full story

Region 12, ARMM rally for Philippine Halal Industry implementation
COTABATO CITY (BFAR) – Several technical agencies in Region 12 and the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) convened here Wednesday to discuss the implementation of Republic Act No. 9997 creating the National Commission on Muslim Filipinos (NCMF).

Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR) Region 12 Director Sani Macabalang pointed out that the law, which was approved in February this year, still lacks implementing rules and regulations (IRR). “The 90-day period (allowed by law) has lapsed,” he said. “The IRR should have already been drafted and approved.  No other agency except the [NCMF] is given the power to promote and develop the Philippine Halal Industry.”

Several technical agencies are mandated to assist the development of the industry, including BFAR, the National Meat Inspection Service, Bureau of Agriculture and Fisheries Product Standards, Bureau of Animal Industry; Bureau of Food and Drugs, Department of Science and Technology (DOST), Department of Trade and Industry and Department of Tourism.

In Region 12, BFAR works with the Bureau of Public Information-ARMM, DOST-Region 12, DOST-ARMM and Department of Agriculture and Fisheries-ARMM to assist and support the NCMF, particularly with respect to its technical, regulatory and monitoring functions. Full story

PCG bares sea pirates’ new modus operandi
MANILA, 24 May 2010 (PNA) – Admiral Wilfredo Tamayo, Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) commandant, said called for cooperation among ASEAN countries to address sea piracy following the reports that sea pirates have developed a new method of operation.

Tamayo said sea pirates have begun seizing entire vessels plying international routes and later selling them as “different” ships to unsuspecting buyers. This modus operandi was uncovered with the arrest of seven Indonesians who are now detained in General Santos City.

Tamayo explained that in the past, pirates would only remove valuables from the vessels and then leave. The PCG has stepped up the gathering of intelligence information to better understand the sea pirates’ patterns of operation and counter their illegal activities.

Three incidents have been recorded so far involving the seizure of foreign ships and their crews. The first incident happened last February 7 and involved the M/T Asta, which was later found in Surigao del Norte under a new name, Roxy-1.

Last April 27, sea pirates seized the Malaysian tugboat “Atlantic 3” that was towing the barge “Atlantic 5.” The two vessels, renamed “Marlin VII,” were later found sold to a buyer in General Santos City. Tugboats sell for about Php20 million in the Philippines.

Piracies are usually perpetrated at night, and the crews are subsequently released, often aboard a life raft near the Spratly Islands.

“We need to establish closer monitoring and information sharing with our ASEAN neighbors,” through the Singapore-based RECAAP-ISC (Regional Cooperation Agreement on Combating Piracy and Armed Robbery Against Ships in Asia-Information Sharing Center),” said Tamayo.

The PCG has asked several Philippine government agencies for assistance in solving piracy, including the Office of Transportation Security, Philippine Navy, Philippine National Police-Maritime Group, Department of Foreign Affairs and the National Bureau of Investigation. Full story

Taiwanese poachers pay USD25,000 fine
TUGUEGARAO CITY, Cagayan (M. Prudencio/BFAR) – Four Taiwanese fishermen who were apprehended for poaching and illegal fishing in Cagayan Valley in September 2009 paid the government a compromise fine of USD25,000 to settle their administrative case.

Assistant director Gil Adora of the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR) said that the early resolution of the case through the payment of an acceptable penalty worked to the government’s advantage because the accused were able to present a reasonable argument for their presence in Philippine waters at the time of their arrest. They asserted they were merely taking shelter from prevailing bad weather, and showed a certification from PAGASA to prove their claim.

Adora also noted that the fishing gear found on the boat was designed for deepwater fishing and not suitable for use in the area where the apprehension was made, which was only 1.5 nautical miles from the nearest shoreline.

BFAR agreed to a compromise fine after determining that the Taiwanese did not have the capacity to pay the minimum fine prescribed by law and had to secure a loan in their home country just to pay the compromise amount.

The Taiwanese, identified as Liou Rong Tsair, Guu Ming Jong, Huang Ping Ho and Lee E Ren, were apprehended off Calayan Island, Cagayan on September 20, 2009. The foreigners were abroad their vessel, marked BK 6705, when they were apprehended by elements of the local Philippine Coast Guard based on the island municipality located north of Cagayan. Full story

9 Chinese poachers nabbed, 10 others missing in high seas off Palawan
PUERTO PRINCESA CITY, 29/30 May 2010 (PNA/R Anda/inquirer.net) -- Operatives of the Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) arrested nine Chinese fishermen for illegal poaching off Balabac Island in southern Palawan.

The undocumented Chinese fishing vessel, with bow number 05022, was also seized after yielding two embalmed sea turtles and several bottles, which were suspected to contain giant clam meat, according to PNA.

Ten other crew members were reported missing and may have been left in small sampan boats after their mother ship was apprehended.

The Philippine Daily Inquirer learned from various sources that the nine Chinese nationals of the fishing boat Song Song Hai 05022, who were brought to the capital Saturday from Balabac, told investigators that 10 of their companions were left behind, including the boat captain.

“They gave us the names of the 10 others who they claimed were left behind,” said lawyer Adel Villena of the Palawan Council for Sustainable Development.

The fishing boat tried to elude the patrol vessel of the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources and the Coast Guard for over half an hour early Thursday, some 45 nautical miles northwest of Balabac Island.

Among the items found inside the vessel were 19 identification cards, 10 of which had no claimants among the apprehended boat crew, according to investigators. Seized were various fishing paraphernalia used for capturing marine turtles, including bales of nets and cotton-like stuffing materials and formaldehyde.

The investigators reported that the wooden boat was also equipped with an aquarium designed to hold live marine animals for long periods. They believed the boat was engaged primarily in collecting marine turtles and stuffing them for ornamental purposes.

A Chinese embassy official who visited the suspects refused to confirm the information.

The nine Chinese nationals under Coast Guard custody were identified as Huang Pu, Ho Chang, Jian Yet, Ho Ta, Dyu Song, Seng Fa, Hu Yung, Lin Shing and Ho Sy. At least four complaints were filed against them, including poaching and illegal gathering of rare and endangered marine species.

Villena said they have strong evidence against the suspects, but expressed concern about the government’s “low rate of success” in prosecuting cases of poaching by foreign nationals due in part to diplomatic pressures.

“There has been no real success in prosecuting them (foreign poachers). We’re just hoping that the new rules on environmental cases issued by the Supreme Court can make a difference,” she added. Full story: Inquirer; PNA

World

Regulations, economic crisis squeeze seafood industry -- UN
NEW YORK, 26 Apr 2010 (UN News) -- New regulations, such as retailers’ requirement that fish must be certified as sustainable, and the impact of the global economic crisis are affecting the seafood industry, especially producers in developing nations, the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) said today.

Half of all fish imported by rich nations, valued at $43 billion annually, comes from the developing world, and the industry directly employs 45 million people, while approximately half a billion people rely on fish for some or all of their incomes.

But for poorer nations, getting their fish to market is becoming increasingly difficult, FAO noted.

As of the start of this year, the European Union, the world’s largest import market for fish, requires that all imports of wild fish come with a certificate validated by the fisheries authorities of the country flagging the vessel that originally caught them.

Through this new regulation, which other major markets are contemplating putting into place, the EU is hoping to combat illegal, unregulated and unreported fishing, but compliance is placing burdens on exporters.

Also, growing numbers of retailers, such as Trader Joe’s in the United States, will only carry fish certified as coming from a sustainable fishery, further raising the compliance bar.

Such regulations mean that small-scale producers must acquire the technical know-how, familiarize themselves with best practices, invest in upgrading equipment and learn the new paperwork and procedures.

Compounding this is the global economic downturn which resulted in a drop in imports in almost all fish markets last year, FAO pointed out, with estimates for 2009 showing a drop in value from 2008, when exports were valued at over USD100 billion.

For its part, the agency’s Subcommittee on Fish Trade, set up in 1985, seeks to bring together both importing and exporting countries to find ways to “create an enabling environment for the sector to develop while successfully addressing the challenges that development presents,” said Ichiro Nomura, FAO Assistant Director-General for Fisheries and Aquaculture.

“Market access requirements can be shaped to create incentives to achieve sustainable fisheries,” he stressed, calling on policy-makers to ensure that such measures are “sound, science-based, transparent and do not create unnecessary barriers.”

The agency has long called for good management of fisheries by developing nations if they are to continue operating in the long-run, as increased demand for fish can potentially lead to over-exploitation and wasteful use of stocks. Source

More states endorse UN treaty to curb illegal fishing
NEW YORK, 29 Apr 2010 -- Five more States have signed a United Nations treaty that aims to curb illegal fishing by denying port docking rights to ships involved in the illicit practice.

The five new signatories to the agreement – Australia, Gabon, Peru, New Zealand and Russia – bring to 16 the number of States that have ratified the treaty, which requires signature by 25 countries to enter into force.

The Agreement on Port State Measures to Prevent, Deter and Eliminate Illegal, Unreported and Unregulated Fishing was brokered by the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO).

Eleven other FAO members – Angola, Brazil, Chile, the European Community, Iceland, Indonesia, Norway, Samoa, Sierra Leone, the United States and Uruguay – signed the agreement in November 2009 after it was approved by the agency’s governing conference.

“Once it becomes active, this will be the most significant international treaty dealing with fisheries since the 1995 UN Fish Stocks Agreement,” said Changchui He, FAO’s Deputy Director-General, following the signing of the agreement by Russia at the agency’s headquarters in Rome today.

“We take it as a very positive sign that the Russian Federation as well as other recent signatories have come on board. It indicates a broad level of support. The sooner the treaty receives the required 25 ratifications to become active, the sooner countries will have a valuable new tool for combating illegal fishing,” he added.

“Port state measures” refer to actions taken to detect illegal fishing when ships come to port. The actions can include inspection of documentation, catches and equipment when boats land to take on fuel and supplies or offload fish, or requiring vessels to make activity reports before entering port.

Vessels found to be involved in illegal fishing can be denied docking rights, causing considerable financial losses to their owners. Such measures are among the most effective means of preventing the import, trans-shipment or laundering of illegally caught fish. Full story

UN-backed study reveals rapid biodiversity loss despite pledge to curb decline
NEW YORK, 30 Apr 2010 -- Global biodiversity has been declining alarmingly despite a pledge by world leaders in 2002 to help curb the loss of earthly life forms, a new United Nations-supported study shows.

“Our analysis shows that governments have failed to deliver on the commitments they made in 2002: biodiversity is still being lost as fast as ever, and we have made little headway in reducing the pressures on species, habitats and ecosystems,” said Stuart Butchart of the UN Environment Programme’s World Conservation Monitoring Centre (UNEP/WCMC) and BirdLife International, and the paper's lead author. The study is published in the latest edition of the journal Science.

In more than 30 indicators – measures of different aspects of biodiversity, including changes in species’ populations and risk of extinction, habitat extent and community composition – the study found no evidence of a significant reduction in the rate of decline of biodiversity.

The pressures facing biodiversity continue to increase, the study reveals, and concludes that the 2010 target for reducing the loss of biodiversity has not been achieved. The findings represent the first assessment of how the targets made through the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) in 2002 have been missed.

“Since 1970, we have reduced animal populations by 30 per cent, the area of mangroves and sea grasses by 20 percent and the coverage of living corals by 40 per cent,” said UNEP’s Chief Scientist, Joseph Alcamo. “These losses are clearly unsustainable, since biodiversity makes a key contribution to human well-being and sustainable development, as recognized by the UN Millennium Development Goals (MDGs),” he said. Full story

UN agencies highlight problem of child labor in fisheries
10 May 2010 – The plight of child workers in fisheries largely goes unnoticed because data on the issue is not readily available, a group of experts brought together by the United Nations has warned.

“Worldwide, 132 million girls and boys aged 5 to 14 years old work in agriculture – this figure includes children working in fisheries and aquaculture,” said Rolf Willmann of the UN Food and Agriculture Organization’s (FAO) Fisheries and Aquaculture Department. “But because child labor in fisheries is so widely dispersed in small-scale and family enterprises – or is actively hidden by employers – it is difficult to obtain hard data on the true extent of the problem. This makes it difficult for many policy-makers to tackle it,” he added.

To address information gaps, FAO, in cooperation with the UN International Labour Organization (ILO), recently convened a workshop of international experts to share information and come up with policy recommendations specific to child labor in fisheries. They include legal measures and enforcement, policy interventions, including education, development and livelihoods support, and better data collection to close information gaps.

According to FAO, fishing is possibly one of the most hazardous occupations in the world, and while child labor in fisheries occurs in all regions, it is most widespread in Africa and Asia. Children engage in activities that range from active fishing, cooking on boats, diving for reef fish or to free snagged nets, herding fish into nets, peeling shrimp or cleaning fish and crabs, repairing nets, sorting, unloading, and transporting catches, and processing or selling fish. Full story

World lags far behind on sustainable development goals, UN chief warns
NEW YORK, 24 May 2010 -- The United Nations commission entrusted with harmonizing economic development with environmental conservation wrapped up its annual session today with Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon warning that the world is way behind schedule in setting its ecological house in order.

“Few of the challenges identified at the Rio Earth Summit have been adequately tackled,” he told delegates attending the 18th session of the Commission on Sustainable Development, referring to the 1992 UN conference in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, which sought to recast development and halt the destruction of irreplaceable natural resources and the pollution of the planet. “New ones have gained added urgency.”

Ban announced the appointment of UN Under-Secretary-General for Economic and Social Affairs Sha Zukang as chairman of the “Rio+20” conference, to be held in Brazil in 2012 in an effort to spur further action.

“Let us recapture the solidarity and creativity of the Earth Summit. We have a responsibility to future generations to implement what we have pledged. Good ideas are not enough. We need focused action. We know what we need to do. We know what works. The time for delay is over. The time for delivery is now,” he concluded.

The Rio+20 Summit, mandated by the UN General Assembly in 2009, will focus on four areas: review of commitments; emerging issues; green economy in the context of poverty eradication and sustainable development; and institutional framework for sustainable development. Full story

WTO chief says US blocking trade deal
MANAMA, 16 May 2010 (R Wright/The National) -- The US is the main obstacle to concluding the recently restarted Doha round of trade negotiations, says Pascal Lamy, the director-general of the World Trade Organisation (WTO).

Speaking yesterday at the Bahrain Global Forum, he said that barring a single issue concerning fishery subsidies, an agreement was largely in place. However, “the United States is seriously attempting to conclude these negotiations on more US terms than are already on the table. We need the US president to take a risk and send a bill to Congress in the hope of getting it through.”

The trade negotiations began in November 2001. The objective is to lower trade barriers around the world, which allows countries to increase trade globally. However, they stalled on issues including agriculture export and fisheries subsidies in 2008.

Yesterday, Mr Lamy said that agriculture was no longer preventing a deal, barring a few small amendments, and added that the US, EU and Japan had all agreed to drop export subsidies. “We are not 100% there but, politically speaking, most of it is on the table,” he said.

In the view of the WTO, a successful conclusion could inject up to USD300 billion (Dh1.1 trillion) a year into the global economy and be completed within six months. Full story

Greening’ global fisheries could boost fish stocks, UN report says
NEW YORK, 17 May 2010 -- An USD8 billion investment annually in rebuilding and ‘greening’ the world’s fisheries could both increase fish catches and generate USD1.7 trillion in long-term economic returns over the next four decades, according to a new United Nations report.

An influx to the fishing sector – with funding being covered by scaling down or phasing out the nearly USD30 billion worth of subsidies in place currently – is needed to curb the excess capacity of the world’s fishing fleet while supporting workers in alternative livelihoods.

Funding is also vital to reform the management of fisheries through such policies as setting up marine protected areas to allow depleted stocks to recover and to grow, says the Green Economy report, whose preview version was released today.

“Fisheries around the world are being plundered or exploited at unsustainable rates,” said Achim Steiner, Executive Director of the UN Environment Programme (UNEP). “It is a failure of management of what will prove to be monumental proportions unless addressed.”

The choices governments make now and in the coming years regarding the fishing industry will impact more than half a billion people, he pointed out. Full story

World's oceans could be completely depleted of fish in 40 years: UN report
18 May 2010 (N Klopsis/Daily News) -- The world’s oceans may be completely depleted of fish in 40 years if action is not taken to replenish stocks, the United Nations is warning in a new report.

In a preview of its upcoming report entitled the Green Economy, the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) states that “mismanagement, lack of enforcement and subsidies totaling over USD27 billion annually have left close to 30% of fish stocks "collapsed.”

“If the various estimates we have received ... come true, then we are in the situation where 40 years down the line we, effectively, are out of fish,” Pavan Sukhdev, head of UNEP’s Green Economy plan, told Agence France Presse on Monday.

The report estimates that 35 million fishers and 20 million boats are actively trawling the world’s waters, with fisheries supporting about 8% of the global population.

Currently, only 25 percent of fish stocks - consisting mostly of lower-priced species – are considered healthy or reasonably healthy, according to the UNEP report.

The report outlined several steps that may potentially replenish global fish stocks, including the phasing-down of government subsidies for fisheries, enacting policies to protect depleted stocks, and cutting down on the amount of active fishing vessels and fishermen. The plan is estimated to require “an investment of between USD220 to USD320 billion worldwide.” Full story

Global fish production continues to rise
20 May 2010 (S Pappas/Worldwatch.org) -- Total global fish production, including wild capture and aquaculture, rose to approximately 159 million tons in 2008, the most recent year with data. This is a 1.27% increase from 2007 production levels.

Aquaculture, after growing steadily for the last four decades, now contributes nearly half of the fish produced worldwide and is expected to catch up to wild capture by 2012. Overall, 77% of fish production is for human consumption; the remainder is used for non-food production, mostly in the fishmeal and fish oil industries and for livestock feed.

In 2006, the average global per capita fish production was 3.3 tons per year. Some regions, however, had per capita production rates well above that. Europe and Oceania reported per capita output at 21.4 and 25.1 tons per year respectively. While Asia only produced 2.5 tons per year per person, it does contain 85.8% of the world’s fishers and fish farmers. In stark contrast, Europe and Oceania only have 1.7 and 0.1% of the world’s fishers and fish farmers.

Global per capita fish consumption has been increasing steadily from an average of 9.9kg in the 1960s to an average of 14.4kg in the 1990s and 17.1kg in 2009. Fish provided about 7.6% of the animal protein consumed by humans in North and Central America, more than 11% in Europe, 19% in Africa, and 21% in Asia.

Rising incomes, improved infrastructure, and diversification in diets are pushing developing countries toward significantly higher fish product consumption. In many small island developing nations and coastal countries, such as Bangladesh, Cambodia, and Ghana, fish supply at least 50% of the total animal protein intake. Fish and fishmeal also provide a crucial and cheap source of animal protein and micronutrients for HIV/AIDS patients in developing countries. Source

UN conference tackles overfishing
NEW YORK, 24 May 2010 (UN News) -- A five-day conference on fish conservation opened at United Nations Headquarters in New York today amid warnings that three quarters of the world’s fish stocks are in distress and nearing depletion while marine ecosystems continue to deteriorate.

Conference chairman David Balton, United States Deputy Assistant Secretary for Oceans and Fisheries in the Bureau of Oceans, cited overfishing, the effect of fishing on the marine environment and the need for further assistance to developing countries as among the forum’s main issues.

The conference is reviewing implementation of the 1995 UN Fish Stocks Agreement that established a legal regime for long-term conservation and sustainable use of straddling and highly migratory fish stocks. It will provide an opportunity for countries to consider new measures to tighten implementation of the legal regime.

The agreement, which took effect in 2001 and has 77 States parties, covers highly migratory species that regularly travel long distances, such as tuna, swordfish and oceanic sharks, as well as straddling stocks that occur both within the exclusive economic zone of coastal States – up to 200 nautical miles offshore – and areas beyond and adjacent to that zone, including cod, halibut, pollock, jack mackerel and squid. Full story

Ports 'failing to halt illegal fishing'
21 May 2010 (M Kinver/BBC News) -- Global measures to regulate the fishing industry lack the capability to tackle illegal catches, warn researchers.

Writing in the journal Science, they say that up to 26m tons of fish, worth an estimated USD23bn (£16bn), are landed illegally each year. They add that a global monitoring and information sharing network is needed to crack down on illegal operators.

Eighty percent of the world's fish stocks are deemed to be fully or overexploited.

"Illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing is a global problem and it needs a global answer," said co-author Kristin von Kistowski, a senior adviser to the Pew Environment Group, a US-based think tank. "By creating this first comprehensive overview of port state performance, we have identified the weaknesses and problem in the system."

Under the UN's Convention on the Law of the Sea, the control of a vessel's activities is the responsibility of the "flag state", the nation where the boat is registered. But in November 2009, in an effort to strengthen measures to tackle IUU fishing, the UN approved a legally binding Port State Measures Agreement (PSMA) that would require the "port state" to close its ports and ban the landing of fish of any vessel listed as being involved in illegal or unregulated activities.

To date, 15 nations and the EU have adopted the PSMA -- 25 nations (the EU counts as one nation in this case) need to ratify the agreement in order for it to take effect.

The research highlighted three key concerns:

  • Insufficient vessel information - only one third of the vessels on the IUU list could be tracked over the six-year period reviewed by the study

  • Lack of compliance - port states only fulfilled their obligation in one out of four cases

  • Regional focus - IUU listed vessels simply landed their fish in ports where strict observance of the measures was not in place. Full story

90% of global fish stock of large fish gone
8 Jun 2010 (UN News) -- The world had already consumed 90% of the global stock of large fish on the high seas — a third of it caught by illegal, unregulated and unreported vessels, according to marine experts and legal scholars who spoke at a United Nations press conference today as the United Nations kicked off the second annual World Oceans Day.

They said the rest of the fish could disappear by mid-century, threatening the well-being of oceans and humans alike, warning that, unless humankind reversed course soon, it could be too late.  “The actions that will be taken, starting now, for the next 10 years, may be the most important in the next 10,000 years,” said Sylvia Earle, National Geographic Explorer-in-Residence and Adviser to Disneynature on the film Oceans.

The Disneynature production, screened at Headquarters at 6 p.m. tonight, aims to raise public awareness about the need to better protect the sea.  Also tonight, New York City’s Empire State Building was to be lit up in white, blue and purple to signify the entirety of the oceans, from the shallows to the darker depths.  “Anything we care about — our economies, our health, our security, life itself — depends on the fact that this is a blue planet,” Earle said.  “It’s our responsibility as never before to enable the ocean to prosper.”

Humans had eaten not only 90 per cent of large fish, but also smaller species like tuna, swordfish, shark and herring, while dumping ever-increasing quantities of plastics and other garbage into the seas. This has altered the seas in ways that scientists could not keep pace with, having merely scratched the surface of marine exploration, understanding and conservation, Earle said.  Ignorance and complacency were a big part of the problem, she added.  “There are a lot of people who still think it’s okay to put into the ocean whatever we want to, that it will be all right, and to take out of the ocean, without limit.”

Earle said people could contribute on the basis of individual capacity, from legal experts working to enact and enforce rules to schoolchildren tapping into the consciences of policymakers and societies through letter-writing to curb the overfishing of tuna, swordfish and shark and to support protected areas. Full story

Delegates meet to discuss better implementation of UN ocean treaty
NEW YORK, 21 Jun 2010 -- Delegates gathered at United Nations Headquarters in New York today to explore ways of improving the implementation of a global treaty aimed at protecting oceans and the resources they hold from a range of threats, including pollution, climate change, illegal fishing and crimes.

Experts attending the five-day meeting of the UN Informal Consultative Process on Oceans and the Law of the Sea will assess the needs for national and regional capacity-building as they seek to come up with the appropriate knowledge to help states protect oceans in accordance with the provisions of the UN Law of the Sea Convention.

In his report to the General Assembly on oceans and the law of the sea, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon pointed out that because seas are interconnected, assistance intended to strengthen capacities to manage ocean-related activities can ultimately benefit all States. He noted that effective protection of oceans continued to be hampered by capacity limitations, especially in developing countries.

“These limitations and challenges may constrain the potential for states, in particular developing countries, especially the least developed among them and the small island developing states, to benefit from oceans and seas and their resources pursuant to the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea,” the Secretary-General said in his report. Full story

Migratory species face disaster from climate change, UN-backed report warns
NEW YORK, 24 Jun 2010 -- Migratory species face disaster from the effects of climate change unless urgent action is taken, according to the preliminary findings of a forthcoming United Nations-backed report.

“Increasing temperatures, changes in precipitation, sea level rise, ocean acidification, changes in ocean currents and extreme weather events will all affect migratory species populations,” said Aylin McNamara, who led the research project at the Zoological Society of London.

“It's hard to see how any of these species will be able to survive” under the current “business as usual” approach to controlling greenhouse emissions, she said. “I'm afraid that's how serious the situation is.”

International efforts for species conservation across national borders and to mitigate climate change are imperative, McNamara added. “These vulnerability assessments show us the likely order in which these species will become extinct” if such action is not taken.

The research, conducted in support of the Convention on the Conservation of Migratory Species of Wild Animals of the UN Environment Programme (UNEP), shows that even subtle changes in environmental conditions caused by climate change could have catastrophic consequences for animals that migrate.

Loggerhead turtles, for example, face the loss of suitable beaches for nesting due to sea-level rise, while a rise in temperature could cause the entire male population of a species to be eradicated. Green turtles, hawksbill turtles and leatherback turtles are also at high risk from climate change, along with the blue whale, West African manatee and giant catfish.

“Migratory species are particularly threatened by climate change as they depend on different habitats to breed, feed and rest,” the executive secretary of the Convention’s Secretariat, Elizabeth Maruma Mrema, said. Full story

Tuna industry urged to regulate by-catch
24 Jun 2010 (N Eckersley) -- The tuna industry is being urged by the International Seafood Sustainability Foundation to regulate by-catch -- the capture of undersized specimens and fish other than tuna -- to increase fishery sustainability.

The ISSF, a global partnership between scientists, the tuna industry and WWF, is urging RFMOs to adopt uniform best practices consistent with the United Nations Fish Stocks Agreement to reduce the amount of non-target animals such as sharks, turtles and small tuna incidentally taken during tuna fishing.

Best practice would require members to collect and report fishery data on bycatch, disseminate that data, evaluate the impact of tuna fisheries on by-catch species and encourage ecosystems research; adopt measures that minimize waste; and adopt measures to mitigate by-catch.

“Adopting these best practices would be a never-before-seen level of progress,” ISSF President Susan Jackson said. “This kind of uniformity among RFMOs would bring us much closer to a comprehensive, global approach to tackling by-catch issues in tuna fisheries.” Full story

UN bares plan to create new body for ecosystems and biodiversity
A gathering of 85 member countries of the UN has set in the motion plans to create an international body for monitoring the state of global biodiversity. It is hoped that the proposed ‘Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services’ (IPBES) will unite and streamline biodiversity research and monitoring from countries around the globe.

The overall role of the IPBES will be to conduct periodic assessments of Earth’s biodiversity and ‘ecosystem services’. These include ecosystems outputs such as fresh water, fish, game and timber as well as the stability or otherwise of the climate. These assessments will be used to answer questions about how much biodiversity is declining and what the implications of extinctions and ecosystem change might be for humanity.

The actual scope of the body will be much larger, with a focus on uniting research groups around the world and increasing knowledge and resource sharing. The IPBES will help to train environmental scientists in the developing world, both with a budget of its own and by alerting funders to gaps in global expertise. The organization will also identify gaps in research and highlight tools, such as models, for policy-makers looking to apply a scientific approach to decisions on issues such as land management.

The IPBES will operate along similar lines as the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. Although the latter has come in for some criticism lately over dubiously apocalyptic claims about the Himalayan glaciers, there is no doubting the good work it as done for research into Climate Change.

Anne Larigauderie, executive director of Paris-based Diversitas, a facilitator for biodiversity science, says that the IPBES could turn the “fragmented” field of biodiversity research into a more coordinated “common enterprise” that will lead to better models of future biodiversity changes. Full story

Independent UN expert urges legal reforms to boost right to food
14 May 2010 (UN News) – The right to food has gained significant recognition in Africa, Asia, Latin America and South Asia, but more national institutional reforms are needed to ensure that the fight against hunger is rooted in legal mechanisms, a United Nations expert has said.

"Boosting food production should not be confused with realizing the human right to food," said Olivier De Schutter, the UN Special Rapporteur on the right to food. "If the international community is willing to reinvest in agriculture, the real question today is not "how much," but "how,"" he stated in a briefing note released today.

"We tend to forget that in the fight against hunger, processes and institutions are as vital as new seeds; legal frameworks as necessary as agricultural investments; and participatory institutions as impactful in the long term as bags of fertilizers," De Schutter said in his review of progress made by countries in implementing the human right to food at the national level.

"It [right to food] has an influence on some land or fishing policies, on coordination among ministries, and the use of public resources. These are key steps for lasting progress, and they are totally different from the classic recipe of increasing food production," he added.

The review gives several examples of successful initiatives that have upheld the right to food.

In South Africa, traditional fishermen went to court after they lost their fishing rights due to new governmental fisheries policies. In 2007 the Government and the fishermen agreed to an order by the South African Equality Court requiring both parties to develop a new policy and legislative framework to accommodate and recognize the socio-economic rights and the right to equitable marine resources of traditional fishermen. Full story

Business leaders increasingly worried about biodiversity loss – UN-backed report
NEW YORK, 13 Jul 2010 (UN News) -- One in four corporate titans worldwide views biodiversity loss as a threat to their business growth, according to a new United Nations-backed study released today.

The study found that more than half of chief executive officers surveyed in Latin America and 45% of their counterparts in Africa see biodiversity decline as detrimental to profits, compared to less than 20% in Western Europe.

The publication also found that business leaders who do not include the sustainable management of ‘natural capital’ as part of their strategies may be at a disadvantage in the global market.

Compiled by The Economics of Ecosystems and Biodiversity (TEEB), a body hosted by the UN Environment Programme (UNEP), the study said that 80% of consumers would stop purchasing products from companies that disregard ethical considerations in their sourcing practices.

“Through the work of the TEEB and others, the economic importance of biodiversity and ecosystems is emerging from the invisible into the visible spectrum,” said Pavan Sukhdev, TEEB Study Leader and head of UNEP’s Green Economy initiative.

The new report points to multinational mining giant Rio Tinto as one company that has committed itself to having a so-called “Net Positive Impact” on biodiversity, developing new methods of assessing the biodiversity values of its landholdings. It has also started to apply biodiversity compensation in Madagascar, Australia and other countries.

Coca Cola, Walmart and BC Hydro are among corporations with similar commitments on softening biodiversity loss. Full story

Industry fishing for profits, not predators
24 Jun 2010 (S Hines/PhysOrg.com) -- People who fish for a living pursue top profits, not necessarily top predators, according to the first-ever analysis of worldwide catch and economic data for the past 55 years.

This differs from the observation raised 10 years ago that humans were "fishing down" the food web. It was assumed that catches of the predators at the top of the food chain, such as halibut and tuna, were declining after fishers started landing more fish from lower on the food chain, such as herring and anchovies.

The idea was that people had targeted fish at top of the food web causing declines that forced harvests of fish at ever lower "trophic levels" in the food web. Proponent of the idea at the time wrote, "If we don't manage this resource, we will be left with a diet of jellyfish and plankton stew."

Fishing down the food web has been debated by biologists and fisheries managers since the idea emerged. However, some in the news media, as well as a number of conservation groups and individuals, accepted the hypothesis without question, according to Suresh Sethi, a University of Washington doctoral student in aquatic and fishery sciences.

"We wanted to examine why fishermen might be motivated to preferentially harvest different trophic levels and our data showed that fishing down the food web -- by moving from higher to lower value species -- is an incomplete story of the evolution of global fishery development," says Sethi, lead author of a paper on the subject published this week in the early edition of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. "We found no evidence that humans first developed commercial fisheries on top predators then sequentially moved to species lower in the food web since the 1950s. Instead, those who fish for a living have pursued high revenue fisheries, no matter what the trophic level of the species."

It's important to know what motivates those who fish for a living as nations move toward ecosystem-based management, Sethi says. "Attributes related to economic opportunity will be important for understanding which species are susceptible to new fishery development or expansion of existing harvest when costs and benefits are altered, for example, through government subsidies," the paper says.

The new research considers the assumption that fish at the top of the food web are targeted because they have the most economic value. Some do, but many don't.

Take price. The authors divided fisheries into three groups and used a worldwide economic database to find that average prices for the lowest trophic levels, which includes pricey shellfish such as shrimp and abalone, were 25% higher overall than fish at the highest trophic level. Prices for the lowest level were 45% higher than for the middle group, which includes fish like herring.

In the drive to catch fish with the best economic value, species that are super abundant present some of the best opportunities. Alaska pollock, for example, are caught in great quantities in the Bering Sea and are a very valuable fishery even though the fish is inexpensive to buy and not high on the food web. Similarly, species found in shallower water were targeted first because they are less expensive to catch and therefore profitable even if they don't fetch top prices, the researchers said. The fishing industry also preferred larger-body fish that can be made into more kinds of products, some with higher values. Full story

Protected corals increase fishing profits
NAIROBI, Kenya, 13 May 2010 (EurekaAlert) –The Wildlife Conservation Society today announced findings from a study showing that closures and gear restrictions implemented in fishing areas can increase fishery revenue and net profits. The landmark findings, presented today at the Subsidiary Body on Scientific, Technical, and Technological Advice of the Convention on Biological Diversity held in Nairobi, Kenya, will help usher in a new era of acceptance for fishery management solutions that provide for local communities while protecting the world's priority seascapes.

The extensive 12-year study recorded information on 27,000 fish caught within three fishery locations on Kenya's coast: one abutting an area closed to fishing; a second located far from the closure area and with restrictions on seine nets in place; and a third open to fishing without restrictions and located far from closure areas. In the first area, results showed that fish migrating into the fishery from the closure area included more preferred species, as well as larger fish. These fish commanded higher prices per pound. The surprising effect of the closure was an increase in revenue to the fishers. Further, the study found that restrictions on the use of seine nets in the second area also increased fishery revenue.

"Resistance to closures and gear restrictions from fishers and the fishing industry is based largely on the perception that these options are a threat to profits. These findings challenge those perceptions." said author Tim McClanahan, Wildlife Conservation Society Senior Conservationist. “By showing that prized species and larger fish are entering fisheries indirectly through the closures, we see that closures are a direct benefit to the fishers." Full story

Scientists offer new take on selective fishing
29 Apr 2010 (CSIRO) -- A new, less selective approach to commercial fishing is needed to ensure the ongoing productivity of marine ecosystems and to maintain biodiversity, according to a paper in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America.

The paper, ‘Ecosystem-based fisheries management requires a change to the selective fishing philosophy’, was written by a team of authors led by Shijie Zhou of Australia’s Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization (CSIRO) Wealth from Oceans Flagship.

Zhou says ecosystem-based fisheries management (EBFM) is broadly practiced as a means of reducing the impact of fishing on marine ecosystems while ensuring sustainable fisheries.

He says fishing methods under EBFM vary greatly in how selectively they catch fish. The common view is that highly selective methods that catch only one or a few species above a certain size limit are more environmentally responsible.

But recent advances in fishery science and ecology suggest a selective approach may exacerbate rather than reduce the impact of fishing on both fisheries and marine ecosystems.

“Selective fishing alters biodiversity, which in turn changes ecosystem functioning and may affect fisheries production, hindering rather than helping to achieve the goals of EBFM,” Dr Zhou says. “These effects have been overshadowed to some extent by a focus on overharvesting. We believe it is time to critically rethink traditional selective fishing approaches that might not protect ecosystems and fisheries as intended, but may in fact make them more vulnerable to large changes in structure and function.”

Zhou and his co-authors propose a “balanced exploitation” approach combining reduced fishing effort, less selective fishing strategies, and better use of the catch to help achieve sustainable overall yields while maintaining healthy ecosystems.

“The trade-off is lower exploitation levels on currently highly targeted species against better use of more parts of the ecosystem,” Zhou says. “Fisheries production could actually increase through better use of non-target species, while reducing unsustainably high catches of target species, thereby helping to meet the challenge of increasing global food demand.”

Zhou says the implications of such a change in approach would need to be considered by a wide range of stakeholders including fishermen, fishery managers and conservation agencies. Source

Small sea snail damaging world’s coral reefs
28 May 2010 (Victoria University) -- Victoria University research has found that a small sea snail may be causing significant damage to coral reefs in the Pacific, even more so than climate change or coral bleaching.

Dr Jeff Shima, a Senior Lecturer in Marine Ecology and Director of Victoria’s Coastal Ecology Laboratory, has studied the worm snail Dendropoma maximum in the field at Moorea, French Polynesia.

"Our research looks at the effects of this often overlooked ‘zoological oddity.’ It’s incredible that such a small snail can have such a significant impact. The adverse effects of this largely unstudied snail on coral reefs rival and exceed those of coral bleaching, climate change and human impacts. This small snail may be having a catastrophic impact."

The worm snails reduced skeletal growth of certain corals by up to 81% and halved their survival rate. Susceptibility to damage varied among coral species.

Similar patterns of devastation have been recorded in other areas, such as the Red Sea. The snail is common in the Pacific and seems to be becoming more widespread. Full story

Researchers find first proof that chemicals from seaweeds damage coral on contact
12 May 2010 (ScienceDaily) — Field studies have shown for the first time that several common species of seaweeds in both the Pacific and Caribbean Oceans can kill corals upon contact using chemical means.

While competition between seaweed and coral is just one of many factors affecting the decline of coral reefs worldwide, this chemical threat may provide a serious setback to efforts aimed at repopulating damaged reefs. Seaweeds are normally kept in check by herbivorous fish, but in many areas overfishing has reduced the populations of these plant-consumers, allowing seaweeds to overpopulate coral reefs.

A study documenting the chemical effects of seaweeds on corals was scheduled to be published May 10, 2010 in the early edition of the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS). The research was supported by the National Institutes of Health, the National Science Foundation, and the Teasely Endowments at the Georgia Institute of Technology.

"Between 40% and 70% of the seaweeds we studied killed corals," said Mark Hay, a professor in the School of Biology at Georgia Tech. "We don't know how significant this is compared to other problems affecting coral, but we know this is a growing problem. For reefs that have been battered by human use or overfishing, the presence of seaweeds may prevent natural recovery from happening at all."

Coral reefs are declining worldwide, and scientists studying the problem had suspected that proliferation of seaweed was part of the cause -- perhaps by crowding out the coral or by damaging it physically.

Using racks of coral being transplanted as part of repopulation efforts, Hay and graduate student Douglas Rasher compared the fate of corals from two different species when they were placed next to different types of seaweed common around Fijian reefs in the Pacific -- and Panamanian reefs in Caribbean. They planted the seaweeds next to coral being transplanted -- and also placed plastic plants next to some of the coral to simulate the effects of shading and mechanical damage. Other coral in the racks had neither seaweeds nor plastic plants near them.

The researchers revisited the coral two days, 10 days and 20 days later. In as little as two days, corals in contact with some seaweed species bleached and died in areas of direct contact. In other cases, the effects took a full 20 days to appear -- or for some seaweed species, no damaging effects were noted during the 20-day period. Ultimately, as much as 70% of the seaweed species studied turned out to have harmful effects -- but only when they were in direct contact with the coral.

To confirm that chemical factors were responsible, Hay and Rasher extracted chemicals from the seaweeds -- and from only the surfaces of the seaweeds. They then applied both types of chemicals to corals by placing the chemicals into gel matrix bound to a strip of window screen, forming something similar to a gauze bandage and applying that directly to the corals. To a control group of corals, they applied the gel and screen without the seaweed chemicals.

The effects confirmed that chemicals from both the surface of certain seaweeds and extracts from those entire plants killed corals.

"In all cases where the coral had been harmed, the chemistry appeared to be responsible for it," said Hay. "The evolutionary reasons why the seaweeds have these compounds are not known. It may be that these compounds protect the seaweeds against microbial infection, or that they help compete with other seaweeds. But it's clear now that they also harm the corals, either by killing them or suppressing their growth."

The researchers studied coral of different species in the Pacific and Caribbean, matching them up against different species of seaweed common to their geographic areas. The coral species chosen -- Porites porites in Panama and Porites cylindrica in Fiji -- are among the hardiest of coral, suggesting that other species may be even more dramatically affected by the seaweed compounds.

Conducted during 2008 and 2009, the study adds new information about the decline of reefs worldwide, and reinforces the importance of maintaining a healthy ecosystem that includes enough herbivorous fish to keep seaweed under control.

"Removing the herbivorous fishes really sets up a cascade of effects," said Hay, who holds the Harry and Linda Teasely Chair in the Georgia Tech School of Biology. "The more you fish, the more seaweeds there are. The more seaweeds there are, the more damage is done to the coral. The less coral there is, the fewer fish will be recruited to an area. If there are fewer fish, the seaweeds outgrow the coral. It's a downward death spiral that may be difficult to recover from." Full story

Improved prawn developed
28 Jun 2010 (CSIRO) – Scientists at Australia’s Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization (CSIRO) and the prawn industry have bred an improved Black Tiger prawn which is producing record yields in aquaculture farms and winning awards. So good are these prawns that they have won five gold medals at the Sydney Royal Easter Show in the past two years, including ‘Champion of Show’, the highest award possible.

The scientists from CSIRO's Food Futures Flagship have used DNA technology to ensure the breeding program captures the very best Black Tiger prawn stocks that nature can provide and boost the performance of stocks each breeding season.

With about 50% of all prawns sold in Australia currently imported from countries such as China and Vietnam, developing an Australian prawn that breeds in captivity and is completely sustainable is a major gain for both the local prawn industry and consumers wanting to buy Australian seafood. 

After eight generations of selective breeding, one of CSIRO's industry partners, Gold Coast Marine Aquaculture, has this year achieved average yields of 17.5 tons per hectare – more than double the industry's average production. Several ponds produced 20 tons per hectare and one produced a world record yield of 24.2 tons per hectare.

Leader of the CSIRO Food Futures Flagship prawn research project, Dr Nigel Preston, said this specially bred prawn has the potential to revolutionize the local and international prawn farming industry. Full story

Ocean acidification: 'Evil Twin' threatens world's oceans, scientists warn
1 Apr 2010 (ScienceDaily) — The rise in human emissions of carbon dioxide is driving fundamental and dangerous changes in the chemistry and ecosystems of the world's oceans, international marine scientists have warned.

"Ocean conditions are already more extreme than those experienced by marine organisms and ecosystems for millions of years," the researchers say in the latest issue of the journal Trends in Ecology and Evolution. "This emphasises the urgent need to adopt policies that drastically reduce CO2 emissions."

Ocean acidification, which the researchers call the 'evil twin of global warming', is caused when the CO2 emitted by human activity, mainly burning fossil fuels, dissolves into the oceans. It is happening independently of, but in combination with, global warming.

"Evidence gathered by scientists around the world over the last few years suggests that ocean acidification could represent an equal -- or perhaps even greater threat -- to the biology of our planet than global warming," co-author Professor Ove Hoegh-Guldberg of the ARC Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies and The University of Queensland says.

More than 30% of the CO2 released from burning fossil fuels, cement production, deforestation and other human activities goes straight into the oceans, turning them gradually more acidic.

"The resulting acidification will impact many forms of sea life, especially organisms whose shells or skeletons are made from calcium carbonate, like corals and shellfish. It may interfere with the reproduction of plankton species which are a vital part of the food web on which fish and all other sea life depend," he adds.

The scientists say there is now persuasive evidence that mass extinctions in past Earth history, like the "Great Dying" of 251 million years ago and another wipe-out 55 million years ago, were accompanied by ocean acidification, which may have delivered the deathblow to many species that were unable to cope with it.

"These past periods can serve as great lessons of what we can expect in the future, if we continue to push the acidity the ocean even further" said lead author, Carles Pelejero, from ICREA and the Marine Science Institute of CSIC in Barcelona, Spain. "Given the impacts we see in the fossil record, there is no question about the need to immediately reduce the rate at which we are emitting carbon dioxide in the atmosphere," he said further. Full story

Carbon emissions threaten fish populations
6 Jul 2010 (ARC COE-CRS) -- Humanity’s rising CO2 emissions could have a significant impact on the world’s fish populations according to groundbreaking new research carried out in Australia.

Baby fish may become easy meat for predators as the world’s oceans become more acidic due to CO2 fallout from human activity, an international team of researchers has discovered.

In a series of experiments reported in the latest issue of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Science (PNAS), the team found that as carbon levels rise and ocean water acidifies, the behavior of baby fish changes dramatically – in ways that decrease their chances of survival by 50 to 80%.

“As CO2 increases in the atmosphere and dissolves into the oceans, the water becomes slightly more acidic. Eventually this reaches a point where it significantly changes the sense of smell and behavior of larval fish,” says team leader Professor Philip Munday of the Australian Research Council’s Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies (CoECRS) at James Cook University. “Instead of avoiding predators, they become attracted to them. They appear to lose their natural caution and start taking big risks, such as swimming out in the open -- with lethal consequences.”

Dr Mark Meekan from the Australian Institute of Marine Science (AIMS), a co-author on the paper, says the change in fish behaviour could have serious implications for the sustainability of fish populations because fewer baby fish will survive to replenish adult populations. “We already know this will have an adverse effect on corals, shellfish, plankton and other organisms with calcified skeletons. Now we are starting to find it could affect other marine life, such as fish.” Full story

Mangrove loss outpacing destruction of land-based forests -- UN
NEW YORK, 14 Jul 2010 -- Despite restoration efforts by some countries, mangroves are being lost at a rate three to four times higher than land-based forests, with one-fifth of all of the world’s mangroves thought to have been lost in the past three decades, according to a new United Nations report.

Mangrove losses have slowed to 0.7% annually, but the authors of the new atlas – the first global assessment of mangroves in more than a decade – warn that any further destruction due to shrimp farming and coastal development will result in significant economic and ecological declines.

Mangroves – forests straddling land and sea – are believed to generate up to USD9,000 per hectare, a strong argument in favour of mangrove management, protection and restoration.

The global area of mangroves, some 150,000 sq km, is equivalent to the area of Suriname or half of the Philippines.

“Together, the science and the economics can drive policy shifts,” said Achim Steiner, Executive Director of the UN Environment Programme (UNEP).

He noted that 1,200 protected areas are safeguarding one-quarter of the world’s remaining mangroves while many countries are embarking on major restorations, “a positive signal upon which to build and to accelerate a definitive response in 2010, the UN’s International Year of Biodiversity.”

More than 100 top mangrove researchers and organizations provided data, reviews and other input for the World Mangrove Atlas, a joint effort of UNEP, the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), and other groups.

“Mangrove forests are the ultimate illustration of why humans need nature,” said Mark Spalding, lead author of the publication, which he noted illustrates the “extraordinary synergies” between people and forests. Source

UN meteorological agency reports end to El Niño pattern over the Pacific
NEW YORK, 6 Jul 2010 -- The weather pattern known as El Niño rapidly dissipated in early May, giving way to the development of cool, neutral to weak La Niña conditions in the tropical Pacific Ocean, the United Nations World Meteorological Organization (WMO) reported today.

El Niño refers to an abnormal warming of surface ocean waters in the eastern tropical Pacific, while La Niña is characterized by unusually cool ocean temperatures in the eastern equatorial Pacific. Both events can disrupt the normal patterns of tropical precipitation and atmospheric circulation, and have widespread impacts on climate in many parts of the world.

The prevailing conditions are more likely than not to strengthen into a basin-wide La Niña over the coming months, according to the El Niño/La Niña update issued by WMO.

By mid-June, the sea-surface temperatures had decreased to approximately 0.5 degrees Celsius below normal over the central and eastern equatorial Pacific, near the borderline of La Niña conditions.

Further, below average sea temperatures exist beneath the surface of the central and eastern equatorial Pacific. Forecast models continue to predict further decreases in the central and eastern Equatorial Pacific sea-surface temperature. In particular, most dynamic models strongly favor further La Niña development, according to WMO.

While it is likely that La Niña conditions will further develop in the next several months, the timing and magnitude of such an event in 2010 are as yet uncertain, with no indications at this time of a particularly strong event in terms of sea-surface temperatures.

The unusual climate patterns and extremes that occur in association with La Niña conditions also occur independently of La Niña, and therefore individual users of climate information should seek detailed interpretation for their locations and sectors, WMO said in the update. Full story

Experts advise countries to look beyond "cost-benefit" analysis in climate change adaptation
JOHANNESBURG, 6 July (IRIN) - You can put a price tag on the cost of building a dyke to protect people from sea-level rise brought on by climate change, but not on how they will benefit from it, say the co-authors of a new paper calling on countries not to restrict themselves to cost-benefit analysis.

Co-authors Rachel Berger, a climate change policy advisor to Practical Action, an international development charity, and Muyeye Chambwera, a researcher at the UK-based International Institute for Environment Development, said they were prompted to write their paper because countries were in danger of focusing exclusively on the cost-benefit analysis approach.

Quantitative cost-benefit analysis is "information-intensive," making it expensive to use in small-scale projects, so planners at community level usually do not use it. Besides, "Some development NGOs take the view that the local people should usually decide themselves what they want to invest in, using their own criteria," said Berger and Chambwera.

"Most climate change adaptation cost reports produced recently have used the cost-benefit analysis tool," Chambwera noted. What set their alarm bells ringing was the agenda of a recent workshop organized by the Nairobi Work Programme (NWP) on how to use cost-benefit methods for adaptation planning at country and community levels.

The NWP was set up in 2005 under the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change to help developing countries understand and assess the impact of climate change and help them adapt.

Berger and Chambwera's paper had raised "crucial issues to get us beyond mindless 'plug-and-chug' approaches to using cost-benefit analysis to try to make crucial decisions about whether to take certain actions to adapt to climate change," said J. Timmons Roberts, Director of the Center for Environmental Studies at Brown University, in the US. "The problem is that in our society the language with the most weight is that of money, so there will always be pressure to reduce the complexity of decision-making to tallying up the costs and benefits in some oversimplified currency metric."

Roberts, who has produced key research on the role of foreign aid in addressing climate justice issues, commented: "The key to me is that for each adaptation action, or non-action, different people reap the benefits from those who bear the costs. For this reason, cost-benefit analysis is indeed nearly useless at the local or even national level."

Chambwera and Berger said they were not discounting cost-benefit analysis, which has its benefits an international scale, and cited the Stern Review on the Economics of Climate Change, produced by economist Nicholas Stern for the British government.

The "Stern Review's finding that the cost of inaction on climate change is 20 times higher than the cost of action has stimulated international policies, leading to local action around the world," they pointed out. But when countries drew up adaptation programmes they would have to be "informed by other factors, such as risk assessment, and not just by costs and benefits." Full story

UN and Oxford University unveil new index to measure poverty
NEW YORK, 14 Jul 2010 -- The United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and Oxford University today launched a new index to measure poverty levels which they said give a “multidimensional” picture of people living in hardship, and could help target development resources more effectively.

The new measure, the Multidimensional Poverty Index, or MPI, was developed and applied by the Oxford Poverty and Human Development Initiative (OPHI) with UNDP support, the two institutions said in a joint press release.

It will be featured in the forthcoming 20th anniversary edition of the UNDP Human Development Report, and replaces the Human Poverty Index, which had been included in these reports since 1997.

This year’s Human Development Report will be published in late October, but research findings from the MPI were made available today at a policy forum in London and on line on the websites of OPHI and the UNDP Human Development Report.

The MPI assesses a range of critical factors or “deprivations” at the household level: from education to health outcomes to assets and services. Taken together, these factors provide a fuller portrait of acute poverty than simple income measures, according to OPHI and UNDP.

The measure reveals the nature and extent of poverty at different levels: from household up to regional, national and international levels. The multidimensional approach to assessing poverty has been adapted for national use in Mexico, and is now being considered by Chile and Colombia. Full story

Asian nations leading the way in “green economic stimulus packages – UN
NEW YORK, 30 May 2010 -- Asian nations, particularly China and the Republic of Korea, are surging ahead of other major world economies with ‘green’ investments as a major part of their economic and employment recovery packages, according to a new book co-published by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP).

“The financial and economic crisis triggered a fundamental awareness that investments in the environment may be the key to tackling multiple challenges from climate change and food shortages to natural resource scarcity and unemployment,” says UNEP Executive Director Achim Steiner.

He adds that the book, entitled A Global Green New Deal: Rethinking the Economic Recovery, underlines that while some economies have seized this opportunity, others have not. “With the exception of several Asian economies, there remains a gap between ambition and action,” he notes.

Authored by Edward Barbier, a leading economist and consultant to UNEP’s Global Green New Deal/Green Economy Initiative, the book notes that China spends more than a third of its stimulus package – equal to 3% of its gross domestic product (GDP) – on areas such as high-speed rail and boosting growth in wind and solar power and energy-efficient lighting.

The country is already the leading global producer of solar cells, wind turbines and solar water heaters, with its renewable energy sector valued at $17 billion and which employs close to 1 million people or 0.1% of the working population.

The Republic of Korea, for its part, is allocating 95% of its fiscal stimulus – 3% of GDP – into environmental sectors including low-emission vehicles, the publication points out. As part of its five-year green-growth investment plan, the country plans to spend $60 billion to cut carbon dependency with the aim of boosting economic growth to 2020 and generating up to 1.8 million jobs.

This is in contrast to the United States green stimulus, which represents only 0.7% of GDP, and that of the European Union, which stands at 0.2% of GDP.

“With China and South Korea leading the way in environmental investments, other G20 countries [a group of the major economies which accounts for two-thirds of the world’s population] must unite to promote a sustainable global economic recovery both through fiscal stimulus and long-term policy implementation,” says Barbier, an economics professor who is based at the University of Wyoming in the US.

“Indeed without a long-term vision on how to further catalyse and embed the environment within the economy, there is a real danger that many of the G20’s green stimuli will wither and simply go to waste,” he adds.

Barbier estimates that of the $3 trillion spent or earmarked globally for fiscal stimulus, just over $460 billion is aimed at green investments – around 15% of the total fiscal stimulus or around 0.7% of the G20’s GDP.

China and the Republic of Korea lead the way at 3% of GDP, followed by Saudi Arabia, 1.7%; Australia, 1.2% and Japan, 0.8%. Full story

Abu Dhabi to farm bluefin tuna soon
ABU DHABI, 5 May 2010 (R Absal/gulfnews.com/EAD)-- The Abu Dhabi government hopes to soon begin bluefin tuna culture, using advanced technological support from a top Japanese university, officials disclosed yesterday.

The Environment Agency of Abu Dhabi (EAD) inked an agreement with Japan's Kinki University to cooperate in the fields of aqua culture research and development. A feasibility study on setting up a farm using closed re-circulating aquaculture systems will be prepared in September, with hopes of launching a pilot project, officials told Gulf News.

While technological aspects and expertise will be the responsibility of the university, EAD will be in charge of the logistical and financial aspects of the project.

The Atlantic bluefin tuna (Thunnus thynnus), also known as the northern bluefin tuna, giant bluefin tuna (for larger individuals exceeding 150kg or 300 pounds) and formerly as the tunny, is a species of tuna native to both the western and eastern Atlantic Ocean, as well as the Mediterranean Sea. The species, a close relative of the Pacific bluefin tuna and the southern bluefin tuna, has been recorded in the Black Sea in the past, but is now believed to be extinct there. Full story

UAE: Awareness campaign promoting sustainable fisheries launched
WAM Abu Dhabi, 25 Apr 2010 (WAM) -- The Emirates Wildlife Society (EWS) and World Wildlife Fund (WWF) have launched the "Choose Wisely" campaign, aiming to raise awareness of the status of UAE fish stocks and to promote sustainable fisheries.

Recent surveys conducted by the EWS-WWF have shown that 66% of the UAE population eat fish at least once a week. The high demand for seafood is putting an increasing pressure on the fish stock, resulting in a noticeable decline of about 80% over the last 3 decades. Hamour, a highly favoured fish in the UAE, is being overfished 7 times beyond its sustainable level, with a decline of 87-92% since 1978, putting it at the top of the overfished species list.

Razan Khalifa Al Mubarak, Managing Director of EWS said: "We bring this campaign to the residents of the UAE to empower them with consumer information about the status of valuable local species and inspire them to Choose Wisely."

A wallet size consumer guide has been developed with the support of Environment Agency- Abu Dhabi (EAD), classifying 19 popular fish types into 3 categories, based on stock assessment studies that have been carried out by scientists at EAD. The guide assigns a colour to each of those categories; red distinguishing overfished types that include many of the popularly consumed fish, such as Shaari, Kanaad, Farsh, and Hamour, and orange and green to indicate less exploited species.

The guide is available in print from EWS -WWF offices and can also be accessed and downloaded from the campaign's website<www.choosewisely.ae>. For those who enjoy cooking, a database of recipes based on sustainably fished species is also available at www.choosewisely.ae. The campaign has also launched a 5-month "Sustainable Fish Dish" challenge, encouraging people to come up with recipes for sustainable fish. Details of the challenge can be found on the campaign website. Full story

Study suggests decline in UK fish stocks more severe than thought
4 May 2010 (C Davies/guardian.co.uk) -- The United Kingdom's modern fishing fleet must work 17 times harder for the same catch as their sail-powered Victorian counterparts, a study has claimed, suggesting the decline in fish stocks is more profound than previously thought.

Records of fish landings dating back to the 1880s showed UK trawlers – then fishing closer to port – landed twice as much fish in 1889 as today, despite advances enabling crews to fish further, faster and deeper. Researchers say the results indicate technological developments and the exploitation of new fishing grounds have served to mask the "extraordinary" decline of fish in British waters.

In England and Wales, 19th century fishermen were landing four times as much as today.

In 1937, at the peak of the UK's fishing industry, the catch was 14 times what it is now, the study, by the University of York and the Marine Conservation Society, said. The availability of bottom-living fish has since fallen by 94%.

Examining previously overlooked government records, researchers calculated the "landings of fish per unit of fishing power" (LPUP) by comparing the effort trawling vessels put in with the amount they caught to assess the availability of fish. The crash has been huge for some species. From 1889 to 2007, the LPUP declined 500 times for halibut, more than 100 times for haddock, and more than 20 times for plaice, wolffish, hake and ling. Cod had declined by 87%, the study, published by the online science journal Nature Communications, found.

The figures indicated fish stocks were in decline well before the amount of fish being caught went "catastrophically downhill" in the 1960s, the study's authors said. They called for much stronger reform of the EU common fisheries policy to allow for recovery of fisheries in the seas around the British Isles. Full story

Major US fishery takes a beating after oil spill
NEW ORLEANS, 13 May 2010 (A Ogle/AFP) — One of the biggest victims of the huge oil spill slamming Louisiana's economy is the region's largest fishery, which has seen its catch drop 50% at a critical time in the season.

Three weeks into the six-month fishing season, the Gulf of Mexico oil slick has made a "just dreadful" impact on the industry, said Daybrook Fisheries president Gregory Holt. He described his business as the region's "economic generator" as far as fisheries are concerned.

"We've lost 50% of our fishing grounds, and it means we're around 50% down in our normal catch," Holt said.

He noted the "extensive" costs of operating in areas still open for fishing, with 20-hour round-trips now the norm for fishing boats heading west from the mouth of the Mississippi River into the gulf.

Last week, Louisiana state officials banned fishing in large expanses of coastal waters for at least 10 days amid fears oil could contaminate the catch. While a small area has been reopened, the growing slick -- a "nightmare," in Holt's words -- looks set to disrupt business for some time to come.

An estimated 210,000 gallons of crude are spewing each day from a leaking mile-deep (1,500 meters) pipe in the Gulf of Mexico, ruptured by an April 20 explosion that rocked a BP-leased rig before it caught fire and sank, claiming the lives of 11 workers. Full story

EU rejecting less Asian seafood
10 May 2010 (fishupdate.com) – The European Union is rejecting much less fish and seafood from South East Asia than a year ago, according to reports from the region.

Less than half of Malaysian seafood exporters barred from selling to Europe in 2008 have complied with the rules and resumed exports, said the European Union ambassador Vincent Piket. Out of the 26 companies disallowed, only five are back on the list and another two in the process of being re-listed, he said.

Since the ban, the industry had focused on ensuring the biggest exporters complied with EU health standards first.

In June 2008, the Malaysian government voluntarily decided to temporarily freeze exports of aquaculture products to the EU after exporters failed to meet health standards. It forced some seafood processors to appeal to the state government for help as they have been severely hit by the ban.

And from India come reports that the number of rejections of Indian shrimp (scampi) by the European Union has fallen drastically after the modalities of testing the exports for the banned antibiotic nitrofuran were modified last September. Full story

Argentina’s commercial hake fishery has “two years left”
5 Jun 2010 (Mercopress) -- Over the last 20 years, abundance of common hake (Merluccius hubbsi) has declined 80% in the Southwest Atlantic as a result of overfishing, claims Argentina’s Fundación Vida Silvestre, Wild Life Foundation, (FVSA).

The NGO also warns that currently 61% of hake catches is Argentina are made up of juveniles, a trend that if allowed to continue would lead to the collapse of the fishery in less than two years’ time.

For this reason, FVSA has launched a campaign urging Argentine consumers to only buy hake fillets of more than 25 cm in length.

FVSA also is critical of the latest measures announced by the Argentine government and the lack of control over the fleet targeting shrimp (Pleoticus muelleri), which discards hundreds of tons of juvenile hake during that activity in the South Atlantic.

“Boats that catch shrimp in the San Jorge gulf annually discard between 40,000 and 50,000 tons of hake which do not appear in the statistics” underlines Guillermo Cañete, coordinator of the Marine Programme and a FVSA fisheries scientist. ”Fishing specimens that do not reach 34 cm in length are a phenomenal waste of biological production and reproductive capital.”

As to the future and the outlook for the industry, Cañete anticipates that “fish are not going to disappear, but rather the fishermen, because if the resource descends beyond a certain level, the activity simply turns non profitable.”

Hake which is Argentina’s main seafood resource represented 40% of total seafood landings in 2007, a third of the country’s exports and 60% of the industry’s jobs. Full story

Taiwan's 2010 bluefin tuna catch drops 60%
Taipei, 18 Jun 2010 (Yang S/E Hsu/CNA) – Taiwan reported Thursday a drop of 60% in the bluefin tuna catch in 2010 after a proposal to ban trade in the fish was rejected at a meeting of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) in March.

So far this year Taiwan has caught 1,141 bluefin, representing a 60% drop compared with the catch of 2,821 in the same period of last year, Fisheries Agency Director-General James Sah said.

At the Donggang fish market in Pingtung County -- Taiwan's main port for tuna -- fishermen have only landed 795 bluefin so far, less than half of the 2,132 landed in the same period of 2009, he added.

The wholesale price of the fish tripled from the NT$200 to NT$300 (USD9.3) per kilo it fetched in 2009 to between NT$600 and NT$800 this year in Taiwan, Sha noted. Full story

First US-Indonesia ocean exploration agreement signed
26 May 2010 (US-CTI) -- US Secretary of Commerce Gary Locke, together with scientists and experts from the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), visited Muara Baru, a commercial fishing port in North Jakarta to oversee the signing of the first-ever US-Indonesia ocean exploration agreement and to address joint efforts to prevent illegal and unregulated fishing.

These “extraordinary natural resources,” said Locke, “sustain the lives of hundreds of millions of people living in this region and benefit many millions more worldwide. The health of the environment and health of the economy go hand-in-hand, and the United States is committed to actively partnering with the Republic of Indonesia on issues of vast importance to our two nations, Southeast Asia, and the planet itself.”

Through the US Coral Triangle Initiative Support Program and other efforts, NOAA, the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) and partners are working together with Indonesia and Coral Triangle countries to strengthen enforcement and sustainable management of fisheries and conservation of the marine environment and coral reefs.

Gaza fishers foundering because of Israeli blockade
WASHINGTON, 28 Jun 2010 (PalestineNote.com) – Gaza fishermen met yesterday to air their concerns over a fishing industry that faces continued obstacles from the Israeli siege, Ma’an News Agency reported Monday.

Members of the Gaza’s Fishers Union gathered at the headquarters, where Union chief Saed Zyadeh led the meeting. He encouraged members to express their problems, compiled suggested solutions, and assured his audience he would bring the issues to local officials and human rights organizations.

By far the largest grievances held by Gaza fishermen flow from the limitations enforced on them by the Israeli military. As part of an Israeli-enforced blockade, intensified following the 2007 Hamas take-over of the Strip, fishing boats cannot venture more than three miles beyond the coast. Many fishermen say the restrictions leave them with their nets lightened and the waters overfished. Many take the risk and sail to deeper waters for their catch, but this often leads to confrontations with Israeli forces and confiscation of their boats.

Many fishermen, facing lighter catches and decimated incomes, have had to turn to fish farms, a BBC report showed earlier this year. But even this entrepreneurial effort faces difficulties under the blockade, which makes it difficult to import much of the needed technology. Full story

Israel bars fishing in Sea of Galilee
23 Apr 2010 (A O’Sullivan/The Media Line) -- In the coming six weeks the Israeli government will gradually enforce a total ban on fishing in the Sea of Galilee in an effort to bring it back to life. The new, two-year ban will force some 200 licensed fishermen out of the Sea of Galilee in search of a new trade.

“We will support the fishermen and make sure the lake is restocked with fish,” Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said when announcing the ban after his weekly Cabinet meeting.

The Sea of Galilee has witnessed a dramatic decline in fish, largely due to illegal practices such as catching breeding fish and preventing fish populations from growing. Millions of hungry migratory birds also feed heavily on the fish.

The ban on fishing in the fresh water Sea of Galilee in northern Israel has been discussed for some time. A joint, formal plan was recently formulated by Israel’s Agriculture Ministry, Environment Ministry and Treasury.

“There is a worldwide trend in the decline of fish,” Hagay Noyberger, chief fishing ranger from the Israeli Ministry of Agriculture tells The Media Line. “In Israel it’s the same. It’s caused by pollution, overfishing, global warming and other phenomena.”

Menachem Goren, an aquatic biologist from Tel Aviv University, says overfishing was the principal problem in the declining fish stocks.

“There are too many fishermen, too many boats, overfishing and no management,” he says, speaking in his laboratory with shelves full of bizarre sea creatures preserved in jars. “The situation has become very bad not just in the reduction in the numbers of fish, but also in the size of those which remain.”

The Ministry of Agriculture reports that there has been a steady 20 percent decline each year in Israeli fish catches. In 2000, for example, there was almost 4,000 tons of fresh catch recorded. By 2006, just over 2,000 tons of fresh fish were caught.

Unlike neighboring countries, Israel does not ban fishing during the three to four month fish reproduction season, thus denying the fish population a chance to recover.

“In most Mediterranean countries, fishing is banned during the summer time and this allows the fish to breed and to grow,” says Prof. Goren. “Here in Israel we don’t have any regulation of this kind right now. So the fishermen fish all year round and they don’t give the fish any chance. They remove the mothers while they are small before they get to maturity and that is it.”

Noyberger says this too was about to change. “We want to close areas to fishing in order to replenish the stock. It is a long process and not something that takes a day or two,” the fish ranger reveals. Full story

Isolation a threat to Great Barrier Reef fish
6 Jul 2010 -- At first glance it may seem like a good idea to be a fish living the quiet life on a small and isolated reef. But a team of researchers has found that the opposite is the case on Australia's Great Barrier Reef.

Using 15 years of long-term monitoring data collected from 43 reefs by the Australian Institute of Marine Science (AIMS), the researchers from AIMS and the University of Adelaide have found that fish living on small, isolated reefs face a greater risk of local extinction.

The results have been published in Ecology, the journal of the Ecological Society of America.

"Our results support the idea that small and isolated reefs are more susceptible to local species extinctions because of the tendency for their fish populations to be more variable," says project leader Dr Camille Mellin, a Postdoctoral Fellow from AIMS and the University of Adelaide's Environment Institute. "Isolated reefs receive relatively fewer `immigrant' fish from adjacent reefs. If there is a disturbance to the population, such as a cyclone or coral bleaching, fish species on isolated reefs are much slower to recover. These populations are not as resilient to changes and are not easily replenished, increasing their probability of extinction."

By contrast, larger, more populated reefs see fewer large fluctuations in the fish population. This is partly due to the increased competition between species, and partly because of predators, which keep the population size in check.

"Our research suggests that conservation resources might be better allocated to the protection of large, connected habitats," Mellin says. Full story

Resources 

Guidelines to Reduce Sea Turtle Mortality in Fishing Operations
These Guidelines build on global efforts aimed at developing techniques that reduce sea turtle mortality due to fisheries and show that often-simple changes in fishing techniques and practices, coupled with the use of "turtle-friendly" technology, can make a difference. It includes drawings and diagrams that can guide fishers in taking onboard its suggestions. The various methods are categorized according to the type of fishery to which they are suited and the advantages and disadvantages of each method are summarized for ease of reference.

FAO technical paper: International management of tuna fisheries
This paper demonstrates that the scientific advice for the management of tuna stocks is not generally followed, at least not on a timely basis. The underlying issues that account for the failure of RFMOs to meet global standards and expectations are discussed and rights-based management systems are advanced as a means of addressing some of the management shortcomings.

Network of protection for North America's marine ecosystems: Online map and other resources
The Commission for Environmental Cooperation (CEC) has brought together tools and resources to help decision makers, industry, universities and other learning institutions, as well as concerned citizens, better understand North America's shared ocean resources. These maps and publications include:

  • A new map viewer using Google Earth to explore all of the Atlas' marine ecosystems maps and data;

  • Marine Ecoregions of North America: a set of maps and detailed descriptions that provide a platform for sound management and conservation of marine biodiversity;

  • Baja California to the Bering Sea: an assessment of 28 priority conservation areas requiring concerted conservation action along North America's West Coast; and

  • Conservation action plans for four marine species of common concern for North America: vaquita porpoise, humpback whale, leatherback turtle and pink-footed shearwater.

To explore the CEC's marine information and view an introductory video, visit the Commission’s website.

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This website was made possible through support provided by the USAID under the terms of Contract No. AID 492-C-00-03-00022-00. The opinions expressed herein are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of USAID. As long as proper reference is made to the source, articles may be quoted or reproduced in any form for non-commercial, non-profit purposes to advance the cause of marine environmental and fisheries management and conservation.