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...
Joe Gaydos serves as a governor appointed Commissioner and science and technical advisor to the Northwest Straits Commission.
He shared this from the Northwest Straits Commission meeting on May 20, 2011:
At the meeting today, we heard a great presentation by Dean Butterworth of the National Park Service on the removal of the Elwha Dams, scheduled to begin this September.
This will be a major national and international event.
The three main reasons for removing the Elwha Dam and Glines Canyon Dams from the Elwha river are:
- To benefit salmon and sea-run trout; both dams were built without provision for fish passage and you can still see salmon pooling below the dams, blocked from spawning.
All 5 salmon species as well as 3 species of anadromous trout (steelhead, bull trout and cutthroat) used to inhabit and/or spawn in the Elwha river.
Before the dams, fish could access over 70 miles of streams and freshwater. Since the dams, only the lower 5 miles of the river remain for spawning.
Note: in addition to benefitting salmon and trout, allowing these fishes to re-inhabit 65 miles of freshwater will benefit the riparian habitat as well as over 130 species of animals.
- Dams also block the movement of sediment from the river from moving into the Strait of Juan de Fuca (about 18-20 million yards of sediment are thought to exist trapped behind the dams).
- A giant push by the Lower Elwha-Klallam tribe for full restoration of the Elwha River ecosystem.
To date, there have been numerous studies to direct the removal of the dams as well as on-the-ground work to help open up an area where there will eventually be another delta at the mouth of the Elwha river.
As September draws near and for the next several years in the future, this huge ecosystem restoration story will be talked about all over the country and the world. We'll keep you posted with updates.
Don't miss these two very cool animated visualizations of the removal of each dam.
Note: Some images are static, others are animated. Click on the image to start or advance the slideshow.
More info at http://www.nps.gov/olym/naturescience/elwha-faq.htm
2009 PSGB Research Conference Closing Address – Coast Salish Witness Ceremony and Call to Action Joseph K. Gaydos, SeaDoc Society
Thank you. It is an honor to participate in the Coast Salish witness ceremony. In keeping with the Rock Star Billy Frank's comments on Sunday night about telling the truth, I do have to admit to you all that we did all commit to this before we knew what we were committing to. And the last time I participated as a witness, a lot people got sent to jail and it was a very sticky situation.
Dear SeaDoc Society Supporters,
In 1872, Ulysses S. Grant signed into existence the world’s first national park, Yellowstone. Since then, networks of parks and protected areas on land have benefited wildlife and ecosystems. Now work has begun to establish ocean parks and reserves often called marine protected areas, or MPAs.
Creating ocean parks is not without controversy, however; tribal treaty rights to harvest fish and shellfish, the needs of commercial and sport fishermen, and non-consumptive uses like recreational SCUBA diving and boating need to be considered. To effectively create protected areas and reserves, decision makers need sound scientific information that will allow their decisions to stand the test of time. Can Voluntary No-Fishing Areas be Effective?
The SeaDoc Society is providing sound scientific information about marine protected areas in the Puget Sound Georgia Basin region. In addition to funding and driving scientific research we have co-chaired a collaborative science working group, studied tribal perspectives on protected areas, and delivered scientific presentations to the State Fish and Wildlife Commission, the Northwest Indian Fisheries Commission and the Governor’s office.
In the Puget Sound region and around the world, people are thinking about and creating voluntary protected areas, yet little to no data exist on the efficacy of voluntary MPAs for recovering fish populations. With the help of Eric Eisenhardt and scientific SCUBA divers, the SeaDoc Society just finished collecting data for a first-ever evaluation of voluntary no- fishing areas. Are bottomfish such as rockfish, lingcod and kelp greenling larger or more abundant in voluntary no-fish areas than elsewhere?
Our preliminary evaluation of data collected suggests that in San Juan County there are few to no differences in fish size or abundance between the voluntary no-fish areas studied and similar fished areas. Further analysis this winter will evaluate the data in more detail and the final report will be published and shared with people working to restore and protect marine fish and wildlife populations locally, regionally and internationally. Your support of the SeaDoc Society is helping to secure a healthy future for our marine wildlife, and for our families. For more information on this and other SeaDoc-funded research, please visit www.seadocsociety.org.
Kirsten Gilardi & Joe Gaydos