Home | Contact ST  

Follow ST

Marine Resources


July 2012 Issue

California Completes Network Of Marine Protected Areas
The California Fish and Game Commission in June approved and adopted regulations for the North Coast to establish marine protected areas (MPAs), completing the network of MPAs in California's open coastal waters, from Mexico to the Oregon state line. This is the first science-based network of MPAs in the U.S., developed to be consistent with California's Marine Life Protection Act, which requires that California's MPAs be redesigned based on the best available science, with identified goals and objectives. The MPAs are set to go into effect by early 2013.

The public planning process for the North Coast region began in June 2009 and was adopted with broad community support, California's Department of Fish and Game said.

The region covers 1,027 square miles of state waters from the California-Oregon state line south to Alder Creek near Point Arena in Mendocino County. The plan includes 19 MPAs, a recreational management area and seven special closures covering 137 square miles of state waters.

California encompasses 5,285 square miles of open-coast state waters. The open-coast portion of the statewide network of MPAs now includes 119 MPAs, five recreational management areas and 15 special closures covering 16 percent of all open-coast state waters. Approximately half of California's new or modified MPAs are multiple-use areas, with the remaining as no-take areas.

The regulations include a provision for federally recognized tribal members to continue harvesting and gathering fish, kelp and shellfish. The provision will allow noncommercial take to continue, consistent with existing regulations, in MPAs other than state marine reserves, where there is a record of ancestral take by a specific tribe.

Radioactivity Becomes Tracking Tool for Pacific Bluefin Tuna
Radioactive cesium released during the March 2011 Tohoku, Japan, earthquake and tsunami has been carried across the Pacific Ocean to California waters in the flesh of Pacific Bluefin tuna, researchers from Stanford and Stony Brook University said. Anglers reeled in the slightly radioactive fish off San Diego, California, in August.

The 2011 tsunami flooded the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plants, leading to the failure of cooling equipment. The plants overheated, spilling their radioactive cooling water into the sea and leaving behind two radioactive cesium isotopes.

The low levels of radioactivity are not considered a health risk to humans. All living organisms are radioactive due to naturally occurring potassium-40, which, in the bluefin tuna, was more than 30 times higher than the cesium radioactivity. The spill added 3 percent more radioactivity than the background level, the researchers said.

They reported in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences their use of the tuna's radioactive cesium to understand the origin and timing of the fish's Pacific migration.

After the Fukushima spill, the Japanese government monitored radioactivity levels in seafood caught nearshore, and contamination standards were set. But radioactivity was not being tracked in migratory species.

The researchers tested tissue samples from the young bluefin tuna caught off the coast of San Diego for radioactive cesium. The ratio between the two cesium isotopes allowed the scientists to determine that this particular group of Pacific bluefin tuna had left Japan approximately four months earlier, after spending less than a month in the contaminated waters near Japan.

Lawmakers Urge Obama to Defend Dolphin Protection Law
Forty-three Democratic members of Congress delivered in late May a letter to President Barack Obama, urging him to defend a U.S. law protecting dolphins in the Eastern Tropical Pacific.

Rep. Ed Markey (D-Mass.), the ranking member of the House Committee on Natural Resources, made the request after the World Trade Organization (WTO) ruled earlier in May that U.S. dolphin-safe tuna labeling standards are discriminatory.

The lawmakers asked Obama to reconsider economic aid to Mexico if it continues to pursue WTO action. Mexico will receive $33 million in U.S. development assistance this year and has received nearly $200 million since 1999, they noted.

The U.S. and Mexico have been in dispute over Eastern Tropical Pacific fishing practices. The WTO ruling would require the U.S. 'to enforce requirements in other tuna fisheries outside the Eastern Tropical Pacific that are not needed,' because dolphins do not typically travel with tuna schools in these other areas, the lawmakers said.

Mexico uses purse seine nets to catch tuna, which they find by following dolphin schools, with the tuna swimming beneath. This technique has killed about 7 million dolphins since the late 1950s, the National Marine Fisheries Service said. Since Congress adopted dolphin-safe labeling in 1990, dolphin deaths in the tuna industry have dropped 98 percent, the lawmakers said.

They noted that dolphin-safe labeling is not trade restrictive because it is voluntary. Mexico can still export canned tuna to the U.S., but the lawmakers said it cannot use the dolphin-safe label if the fish were captured using a technique that harms dolphins. The letter can be read here.

Fisheries Management Could Solve World Hunger, Report Says
Implementing science-based fisheries management in the 25 countries that control more than 75 percent of the world's fish stocks, specifically measures that reduce overfishing, protect habitat and limit catch, would increase stocks to the point that wild seafood could sustainably feed 700 million people a day, according to an Oceana report in June.

The United Nations estimates a 30 percent increase in world population to 9 billion by 2050. Food production would need to increase 70 percent from 270 million metric tons in 2009 to 470 million metric tons in 2050 to meet the rising demand for food, according to the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization. But terrestrial food production resources are decreasing, and global fish catch has been declining since the late 1980s, Oceana said. If current trends continue, there will only be enough wild seafood to feed half the world's population in 2050.

However, case studies show that science-based management of fish stocks could allow them to rebound, according to the report.


-back to top-

Sea Technology is read worldwide in more than 110 countries by management, engineers, scientists and technical personnel working in industry, government and educational research institutions. Readers are involved with oceanographic research, fisheries management, offshore oil and gas exploration and production, undersea defense including antisubmarine warfare, ocean mining and commercial diving.