SeaDoc is funding a creel survey project to determine the size of the recreational harvest of Surf Smelt.
Why not just have anglers report their catch like we do with salmon and crab?
Strangely enough, Surf Smelt is the one marine fish that you DON'T need a state fishing license to catch.
As one of our very important forage fishes, smelt have a critical place in the Salish Sea food web. Knowing the recreational catch is important so we can determine if harvest is impacting smelt populations or the other fish, birds and mammals that depend on smelt for food.
A creel survey is pretty straightforward: staff from the Washington Department of Fish & Wildlife go out to popular fishing spots, interview smelt anglers and examine their harvest to find out how much they cought. Joe Gaydos reports, anecdotally, that most of the people he chatted with were happy to talk to him, already had fishing licenses, and used their catch for food.
Want to learn see pictures and video of the smelt harvest or learn more about forage fish issues? Read on!
Learn more about SeaDoc's work on forage fish at the following pages:
- Joe Gaydos's 2012 letter to the editor of the Seattle Times making the case for why we need to focus on forage fish
- Research on how changes in forage fish availability affect the reproductive success of Common Murres on Tatoosh Island
- An overview of Nacho Vilchis's project to understand marine bird declines in the Salish Sea
- Summary of the 2011 Forage Fish Needs Assessment Workshop sponsored by SeaDoc and others.
Video (11 seconds; opens in new window):
Alternate link: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yRCawph2-TA
All video and photos by J. Gaydos.
On March 23, 2012, the Seattle Times published a letter to the editor by Joe Gaydos and Ginny Broadhurst & Caroline Gibson (of the Northwest Straits Commission) under the title, Forage fish could dwindle as harvest increases.
The Times limits letters to 200 words. We're sharing a slightly longer version below:
The story by Craig Welch is definitely worth reading: “New school of worry at sea,” page one, March 16.
This past week (June 28 & 29, 2011) SeaDoc co-hosted a Rockfish Recovery Workshop in Seattle with the State Department of Wildlife and NOAA Fisheries.
Nearly 100 scientists, fisheries managers, fishers and SCUBA divers attended the 2-day workshop to discuss the current state of knowledge on rockfish and to identify future needs related to recovering depleted rockfish populations in the Salish Sea.
There are 28 species of rockfish in the Salish Sea. Thirteen (13) are listed as species of concern and recently 3 species were listed under the US Endangered Species Act.
In addition to helping organize the workshop, SeaDoc also helped bring in Canadians to share their perspective on what has and has not worked with rockfish recovery on the other side of the border.
A lot of the research SeaDoc funded over the last 10 years was presented and plans were laid for moving rockfish recovery forward. The meeting proceedings will be published soon and will be available here on the SeaDoc website.
In the meantime, here's a recap:
(Please note that this summary is taken from my notes and if there are errors or misstatements they are mine, not the researchers/presenters! -Joe T.)
Historical Context Session
Wayne Palsson spoke on the biology and assessment of rockfishes in Puget Sound. Rockfishes are a diverse group of species with different life histories. They require various habitat during different life stages. They are adapted for slow growth, long survival, late maturity, low natural mortality rates, and high habitat fidelity. These are all factors that make recovery tough. There's a lack of long-term data that makes it hard to create conventional age-structure population models and biomass dynamic models.
Chris Harvey reviewed the ecological history of rockfish exploitation in Puget Sound. Rockfish bones have been found in middens dating back 1,500 years. Much of the fishing pressure on rockfish began after the Boldt decision in 1974, which required that harvests in Puget Sound be coequally managed by the State government and the Treaty Tribes of Washington. It's also been influenced by demographic trends and by the promotion of the fishery by State government. (Unfortunately, as covered in Wayne Palsson's talk, it wasn't until 1982 that scientists learned that rockfish were generally 2 to 3 times longer lived than they'd thought, which meant the existing population models were not accurate.) By the time management efforts were deemed necessary, the greatest harvests had already occurred.
Anne Beaudreau discussed her work to reconstruct historical trends in rockfish abundance. The lack of data on historical populations of rockfish is a major barrier to developing sustainable fisheries. Beaudreau and colleagues interviewed 101 individuals ranging in age from 24 to 90 years to try to derive trends in the abundance of rockfish from 1940 to the present. Of particular interest was the evidence of "shifting baselines." To a statistically significant degree, each age group of respondents interpreted the conditions at the beginning of their awareness as "abundant" and saw declines from there, but what was "declining" to an older person was "abundant" to a younger person.
Benthic Habitat Surveys/Rockfish Abundance Estimates Session
Gary Greene presented the Salish Sea sea floor mapping project, which has produced bathymetric and habitat maps of the San Juan Islands area. Rockfish prefer particular habitat types, and the multibeam echosounders used by Greene and his colleagues allows these potential habitat areas to be identified. (Other participants were very interested in having these maps for other areas in the Salish Sea.
Bob Pacunski spoke on work to use non-lethal methods to survey rockfish populations. Traditional trawl or long-line sampling results in fish mortality, but using a small remotely-operated vehicle has been shown to be effective at providing population surveys.
Joan Drinkwin of the Northwest Straits Foundation spoke on the threat posed to rockfish by derelict fishing gear, including both nets and traps. The Northwest Straits Initiative has removed 3,860 nets from Puget Sound, all at less than 105 feet deep. There are 950 shallow-water nets still in the water, and at least 70 in deeper water. Based on studies of net mortality by the SeaDoc Society, approximately 1,600 rockfish per year are captured and killed in derelict nets each year in the United States portion of the Salish Sea.
...More coming soon...
If you see derelict fishing gear such as ghost nets or abandoned crab pots, you can report it by calling 855-542-3935.
You can also report gear you've lost.
This is a new toll-free phone number established by the Washington Department of Fish & Wildlife to make it easier for boaters and divers to report derelict gear.
Northwest Straits has removed more than 3,800 derelict fishing nets and over 2,000 lost crab pots from Puget Sound since 2002. Over 200,000 animals (fish, birds, marine mammals) were found entangled in the gear.
When reporting lost gear, please indicate the date of sighting, type of gear, approximate water depth, general location, and latitude and longitude if available.
Lead fishing sinkers that get lost have been demonstrated to kill loons nesting on many freshwater lakes in Washington State.
Loons winter on the Salish Sea and summer and breed on inland freshwater lakes.
On December 6th the Washington Fish and Wildlife Commission announced a restriction on the use of lead fishing tackle at the 13 common loon nesting lakes in Washington.
SeaDoc provided scientific information, including the Wildlife Society's position statement on lead toxicity and wildlife, to the Fish and Wildlife Commission regarding this issue.
This ban should decrease loon deaths due to lead poisoning and is good news!
From the WDFW press release:
The Washington Fish and Wildlife Commission approved restrictions on the use of lead fishing tackle at 13 lakes with nesting common loons during its Dec. 2-4 meeting in Olympia.
The commission, a nine-member citizen panel appointed by the governor to set policy for the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW), adopted a proposal that prohibits the use of lead weights and jigs that measure 1 ½ inches or less along the longest axis at 12 lakes.
Those 12 lakes include Ferry and Swan lakes in Ferry County; Calligan and Hancock lakes in King County; Bonaparte, Blue and Lost lakes in Okanogan County; Big Meadow, South Skookum and Yocum lakes in Pend Oreille County; Pierre Lake in Stevens County; and Hozomeen Lake in Whatcom County.
In addition, the commission banned the use of flies containing lead at Long Lake in Ferry County.
The restrictions, which take effect May 1, are designed to protect loons from being poisoned by ingesting small lead fishing gear lost by anglers.
Shellfish harvesting has been closed in numerous Washington counties due to the presence of the marine biotoxin Alexandrium, which causes Paralytic Shellfish Poisoning (PSP). Harvesting is closed whenever naturally occurring harmful biotoxins are detected. Once called "red tides," blooms of naturally occurring biotoxins are now more commonly referred to as Harmful Algal Blooms as there are some red algal blooms that are not harmful. Naturally occurring biotoxins like PSP are not destroyed by cooking or freezing. Please check the Washington State Department of Health for more information and each time before you harvest shellfish: http://ww4.doh.wa.gov/gis/mogifs/biotoxin.htm
Courtesy of SeaDoc intern Sara Heidelberger.
Vermillion Rockfish by J. Nichols
[Comments are now closed on this plan. We will update the site with information on the final plan when it's available.]
Rockfish populations are in trouble, and the Washington State Department of Fish and Wildlife is writing the first Puget Sound Rockfish Conservation Plan.
This is a major step in protecting rockfish. Like the killer whale and salmon recovery plans, it creates a coordinated plan for recovery.
The plan is currently a draft, and comments are being accepted until January 4, 2010.