Santa Cruz Good Times

Wednesday
May 27th
Text size
  • Increase font size
  • Default font size
  • Decrease font size

Bait, Trawl, Switch

news1bottomtrawling1Environmental agencies and Monterey Bay trawlers propose exchanges between protected areas and fishing grounds

Bottom trawling is a traditional but controversial means of fishing that drags heavy nets along the seafloor, churning up and scooping in sand-dwelling fish like sand dab and halibut, along with everything else in its path. It has been described in some studies as being similar to a farmer plowing his fields.

The difference in plowing the floor of a place like the Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary (MBNMS), however, is that much of it has taken millennia to develop, becoming one of the most revered and mysterious ecosystems on the planet.

But, thanks to ongoing research in the Monterey Bay and in offshore waters, new sections of the MBNMS's underwater terrain have been identified by Oceana, an international ocean conservation and advocacy organization, and other research groups as significantly less vulnerable to trawlers' dragnets than other, more complex areas. As a result, Oceana is proposing reopening sections to trawling in coming years on the condition that new closures be made in federal water fisheries outside of the bay, where highly vulnerable ecosystems have been discovered.

“We're essentially looking at these areas as bargaining chips,” says Geoff Shester, the California program director for Oceana.

The areas that could be reopened in the MBNMS are primarily soft substrate, mostly void of coral shelf and major bio-diversity, but still productive fishing grounds for trawlers, he says.

“The idea is to trade areas that appear to be muddy and flat in exchange for these rich, complex, coral-covered canyon walls that are just epic habitats,” Shester says.

Shester says these soft-sediment flat areas being considered for reopening are still vulnerable to trawling, but not as severely as the coral reef zones.

“There's relatively less impact,” he says. “It's really a lesser evil. There's less of a long-term impact in some places than in others.” 

Trawling, a system fishermen have utilized in the Monterey Bay for the past 100 years, became heavily regulated in federal waters in 2006 by the Pacific Fishery Management Council (PFMC) and was outlawed in coastal California waters by the state legislature in 2005, though there are minor exceptions in Southern California.

After the closures in state and federal waters, about 40 percent of the MBNMS remained open to trawling, which Shester says seems like a lot, but left trawlers struggling.

news1bottomtrawling2Trawlers drag large nets along the ocean bottom to collect sand-dwelling fish such as halibut and sand dab. Trawl gear can also cause severe damage in areas with coral reef and other complex ecosystems. Illustration by Joel Hersch.Due to regulations and market pressures, trawlers in Central California have all but thrown in the towel. There are only about three trawlers left between Half Moon Bay and Morro Bay, but plenty of antagonism remains between the fishing community and environmental agencies, says Captain Jim Moser, a 40-year troller and member of the Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary Advisory Council.

“Most of the guys have been put out of business,” he says.

The current discussions of trade represent a break in a longstanding stalemate between fishing interests and environmental groups, Shester says.

“We've been at war, fully polarized,” he explains. “This is an opportunity for renewed peace talks. Now, maybe, we can have an arrangement that makes the fishermen happier and us happier, as well.”

Jiri Nozicka, the only trawler remaining in Moss Landing, says that there has been an approximate 90 percent reduction in the local trawling fleet since 2006.

He says environmental groups in California have “held fishing interests hostage.”

“We're happy that these talks are happening, but we hope that it's going to come in time when there is actually any fleet still left,” Nozicka says.

The meetings, which are taking place in Monterey, include trawlers, Oceana and other NGOs, the MBNMS, the PFMC, and the City of Monterey.

Monterey Harbormaster Steve Scheiblauer says the loss of trawlers has had big impacts on the City of Monterey, harbor infrastructure, and the fish market.

“In the last decade, in the Monterey Bay Area, we went from getting about 60,000 to 80,000 pounds of California halibut every year to 6,000 to 8,000 pounds,” he says, adding that, “When the regulations were put in place, years ago, they were very broad brush. This could lead to much more finely-tuned boundaries.”

The negotiations to reopen portions of the Monterey Bay to trawling in exchange for closures in federal water regions are piggybacking on a proposal that the MBNMS, headed by Superintendent Paul Michel, submitted on July 31 to the PFMC, which has similar goals but entirely in federal waters.

“We've kind of gotten to third base already,” Shester says of MBNMS's July proposal. “And we're deciding whether or not to take it all the way to home plate.”

The new concept of cross-trading between the Monterey Bay and federal waters, which does not yet have a specific proposal for regions, will go before the PFMC in November, at which point the council will decide whether it's something they would consider moving forward with.

The trade off would grant more closures than reopenings—a ratio of about 150 square miles reopened to 250 closed, Shester says. Nozicka frowns on this aspect of the deal. “It's almost two to one,” he points out.

The PFMC opens the door to new proposals on closures and openings in the federal waters every five years, which came around this year, says David Crabbe, a member of the council and commercial fishermen out of Monterey.

“We now have a lot of new data that tells about the habitat, so we've had some meetings with the Sanctuary on where we could improve protection for high-value habitat areas and open up high-value fishing areas,” he says. “It would be a win-win.”

The discussion of closing certain federal waters in exchange for opening state-regulated waters is an unprecedented one, so, Shester says, they do not know yet how viable it is.

“It's kind of a big political crapshoot,” Shester says. “But we've realized that we can do this—the trawlers and conservation groups have gotten together and said, ‘Look, we can negotiate and compromise.’”

The danger, he says, will be how to get both the state and federal government entities to agree and fulfill their closures and re-openings in coordination after a deal is forged.

“If just the state opens the bay, but the feds don't fulfill their part of the bargain, we get screwed, or vice versa,” Shester says. “It's very tenuous, so both sides are going into it very cautiously.”

Shester notes that, while the MBNMS has federal protection, federal agencies do not impose fishing regulations in it, though they do have that authority. Because the state passed trawling laws in 2005, any reopening must go back through the state legislature.

In November, Crabbe says the PFMC will decide whether or not to move forward in evaluating Oceana's closure proposals for federal waters. If they do move forward, there would be a full evaluation in 2014.

Shester says that if the federal proposals for the PFMC progress, and Oceana and trawlers can agree on a deal, they would go “arm in arm,” along with the City of Monterey, to the state legislature and express their support for very specific reopenings in the Monterey Bay. Shester says they would reach out to California Assemblymember Mark Stone, of the 29th District, to bring the state waters proposals before the legislature in 2015 and implement closures and reopenings by 2016.

“If everyone does agree and we have widespread Kumbaya,” Shester says, “then I think this could sail through the legislature.”

Shester says the proposal to open new area in the MBNMS is not an inconceivable compromise.

“We never said, 'No, we will never allow any reopening of trawling in Monterey Bay—over our dead bodies,’” he says. “We just said, 'We need to have a scientific program, assess what type of habitat it is, and what the effects of trawling are going to be.’”


Trawling Under the Microscope
Last month, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), in collaboration with trawlers, conducted a study on the effects of Light Touch Trawl Gear in the Monterey Bay using underwater cameras, says Paul Reilly, a senior environmental scientist for the California Department of Fish and Wildlife.

The only form of trawling allowed in state waters is with Light Touch Trawl Gear in the California Halibut Trawl grounds, off the coast of Santa Barbara.

Reilly says the results of the study, which was conducted to determine the viability of future trawling in the Monterey Bay, will not be available until the end of the year.

He refrained from commenting on the effects of bottom trawling.

“Not many studies have been done on trawling and not enough information is available to say what it does and doesn't do to the bottom,” he says.


Comments (3)Add Comment
...
written by Jim Moser, September 20, 2013
There is a huge difference in fishing gear types, techniques , Wish you would get your facts straight before going to print. I have never Longlined in my life as I told you on the phone I am a long time Troller and the subject of your article is Trawling. I would be happy to meet with you and explain and demonstrate the differences. I tried to get back to you through the Good Times phone system but to no avail. thanks
Jim Moser
old guy
written by Dave Allison, September 19, 2013
Geoff, I always hate to give up protected areas for unprotected areas because the unprotected areas are usually bottom-trawled clean and dirty before they are yielded up by the industry but you are a damned good negotiator and if you can get much for little, more power to you.
Senior associate for calling BS at Allison Associates.
written by Dave Allison, September 19, 2013
Excuse the awful justification here but the video is worth watching as is the stupid defense of bottom trawling. Paste to your browser and enjoy the video and the flabby faced defender as well.

http://www.undercurrentnews.com/2013/09/18/major-msc-clients-demand-formal-apology-on-msc-video/#.Ujvb_MUo7ct

Write comment
smaller | bigger

busy
 

Share this on your social networks

Bookmark and Share

Share this

Bookmark and Share

 

Ocean Odyssey

Sailing the high seas from Santa Cruz to French Polynesia, Sally-Christine Rodgers documents the trials, tribulations and joys of exploring the world by boat

 

Gemini Festival of Goodwill, World Invocation Day

This entire week is a preparation by the New Group of World Servers (NGWS) for the June full moon (Tuesday) and to welcome the Forces of Reconstruction, great outer planetary forces streaming into the Earth at the Gemini Solar Festival. The Gemini Festival at the June full moon is called the Festival of Goodwill and World Invocation Day (recitation of the Great Invocation, the mantram of direction for humanity, hourly around the world). During the (12 degrees) Gemini festival, the Wesak blessing of the will-to-good is released and radiated (Gemini distributes) to humanity. When the will-to-good is received, humanity is then able to radiate goodwill to each other and to the kingdoms. The Gemini Festival is the third of the Three Spring Festivals (triangle of Force), setting the spiritual template and resources for Earth for the rest of the year (‘til next spring). This festival recognizes the true spirit of humanity—aspiring toward and seeking the will of God, dedicated to right human relation. At the full moon, the Divine nature of humanity is recognized. Christ stands with humanity, leader of his people, “the Eldest in a great family of brothers” (Romans VIII, 29.) Each year at the Gemini festival, Christ preaches the last sermon of Buddha, His brother, a sermon calling forth human and spiritual unity, represented by an outflow of love (work of the Christ) and wisdom (work of the Buddha). The forces of reconstruction stream in during the Festival, ushering in an era of pronounced creative activity, rebuilding the tangible world on new creative lines. This necessitates the total destruction of the old forms no longer useful for the new world era. Everyone is invited. Join us everyone for this Festival of Goodwill by reciting the Great Invocation.

 

The New Tech Nexus

Community leaders in science and technology unite to form web-based networking program

 

Film, Times & Events: Week of May 29

Santa Cruz area movie theaters >
Sign up for Good Times weekly newsletter
Get the latest news, events

RSS Feed Burner

 Subscribe in a reader

Latest Comments

 

The Main Avant

Jozseph Schultz caters New Music Works’ 35th annual Avant Garden Party, plus brews for a cause

 

What will Santa Cruz be like in the future?

 society that is more awakened and realizes its own value and the beauty of the stunning Earth. Marguerite Clifford, Felton, Nutrition Health Care

 

Chesebro Wines

Piedras Blancas-Roussanne 2011

 

Real Thai Kitchen

Ratana Bowden on why Thai cuisine isn’t as spicy as everyone thinks