Humboldt Currents Fall 2015

Casey Allen Humboldt Currents, Marine Protected Areas

National Marine Fisheries Service

I am very pleased to report that HSU grad student Liz Perkins, who conducted the first Pacific halibut study funded in partnership by HASA and Sea Grant, is working for NOAA’s National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS). Liz is in charge of compiling fishery projects that align with NMFS commitment to protect and enhance recreational fishing. Although the National Rec Fish Policy and Implementation Plan does not fund these projects, being on the list is an endorsement that makes outside funding easier to obtain. Locally submitted projects include an expansion of the Pacific halibut projects Liz and Miki Takada have conducted by doing a genetic analysis of the samples already collected. The results could provide information as to whether we have a local breeding population of Pacific halibut.

Another ambitious but exciting project is tagging Pacific halibut with GPS pop-up tags. This could shed light on the movements of Pacific halibut in and out of our area. The tags can be set to store data for a period of time, release from the fish, and transmit the data via satellite link. The tags are expensive, around $5,000 each, but the fish does not have to be recovered to collect the data. These projects will help answer the larger question of population diversity. Currently, Pacific halibut are managed as a single biomass, suggesting our fish migrate to other areas of the northeastern Pacific Ocean. If we can prove there is a local breeding population, management methods would be modified. Whether this benefits local recreational halibut anglers remains to be seen.

The last project submitted to the Rec Fish Implementation Plan is the artificial reef project. There is more academic interest in the project because the research that could be conducted will answer questions about the movement of adult rockfish and theories on larval dispersal. The location of the artificial reef, just outside Humboldt Bay, will make the studies easier and less expensive to conduct.

HSU grad student, Miki Takada, is working over the winter to age the odoliths she collected from Pacific halibut taken last season from North Coast ports and Charleston, Oregon. Miki’s work builds on the study conducted by Liz Perkins and was funded by HASA and Sea Grant. The results will be very interesting (comparing Oregon and California fish) and should be available by spring 2016.

MPA Collaborative North Coast Forum

I attended the first MPA Collaborative North Coast Forum (second in the state) at the River Lodge Conference Center on November 17th. About 65 people were made up mostly of folks who worked for the Marine Protected Area Initiative or on the baseline study projects. Representatives from the Del Norte, Mendocino, and Sonoma Collaborative gave presentations as well as folks from San Diego and Oregon. There was a large contingent from California
Department of Fish and Wildlife, Humboldt State University, and local Tribes. Only a handful of us represented fishing interests.

A main theme in the discussions was around education and outreach and each Collaborative was engaged in creating a video showcasing their MPA network. I was surprised at some of the talk which explained that middle class folks and above are getting the message about the importance of MPAs and the regulations against take. They said lower class people were not getting the message. It was hoped the videos and increased signage would help. I saw a statistic from the North Central Coast that said out of 221 marine violations 6% were on MPAs. Locally, our Game Wardens are understaffed but with the remoteness of our MPAs I wonder how vulnerable they really are. New wardens are going through the academy and are predicted to be working by the end of year.

Erin Meyer leads the MPA baseline monitoring program.

Erin Meyer leads the MPA baseline monitoring program.

I was most interested in the baseline study projects. They started in 2014 and just finished their second season in the
field collecting data. All projects are due to report in 2017 when, based on the results, adaptive management discussions will begin. The baseline data is billed as a “snapshot in time” that will give researchers in the future something to compare to. It is unknown at this time if the results will influence decisions by fisheries managers outside the MPAs.

A few interesting highlights of the preliminary results include the Subtidal Rocky Reef project in 4-12 meters of water. It was found that there are more abalone outside the MPA because the sea urchins have taken over inside the MPA. Since the apex predator, sea otters , are absent there is no control over the urchins. People commercially harvesting urchins have taken over that role. Eliminating that activity allowed the urchins to take over leaving no room for the abs.

The Mid Depth Rock and Deep Ecosystems project in 20-500 meters used a Remote Operated Vehicle (ROV) with six mounted cameras to video survey the life on the bottom. They said they found large numbers of blue, black, and canary rockfish. They also found large numbers of yelloweye rockfish. They did not indicate whether these fish were in or outside MPAs. They have hundreds of hours of video to study as they count the creatures they encountered on film.
There are 11 baseline projects underway that cover every aspect of Marine Protected Areas including socioeconomics and human dimensions. Results of the monitoring will be posted at Results from the North Central Coast are already there. From what I witnessed at this forum I am optimistic that the lessons learned from the creation of Marine Protected Areas and the scientific monitoring will show how resilient the ocean is and how recreational fishing has little detrimental effect on the health of the ocean and its inhabitants.

News Release from the CDFW

The California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) will hold five public workshops to discuss groundfish management in California. Attendees will hear an overview of recent groundfish management and scientific developments, and then participate in focused stakeholder discussions on potential changes to recreational and commercial fishery management measures for 2017 and 2018. Several new groundfish stock assessments conducted in 2015 show some previously overfished stocks have been restored, possibly allowing for increased fishing opportunities

Eureka: Dec. 2, 2015
Eureka Public Marina, Wharfinger Building, Bay RoomPicture5
1 Marina Way, Eureka, CA 95501 

Fort Bragg: Dec. 3, 2015
California Fish and Wildlife Office
32330 North Harbor Drive, Fort Bragg, CA 95437

CDFW staff will interact with participants to learn about their preferences for various management measures, including season dates, potential changes to Rockfish Conservation Areas and bag limits – including the possibility of retaining canary rockfish. CDFW is also seeking input on strategies to best minimize interactions with cowcod and yelloweye rockfish, which remain overfished. The public is encouraged to provide input to managers and representatives based on their own personal experience that will assist in the development of groundfish management. 
Groundfish fishing regulations are developed through a collaborative regulatory process involving the Pacific Fishery Management Council, the National Marine Fisheries Service, CDFW, other West Coast states, and the California Fish and Game Commission.

The Trinidad Pier Young Anglers Tournament

This was the second year for the Trinidad Pier Young Anglers Tournament held on a sunny Sunday, October 4th. The first year saw 38 kids participate while this year attracted 56 youths.
The event was hosted by the Cher-Ae Heights Indian Community, Ed Roberts of the California Department of Fish and Wildlife, and Ken Jones of the United Pier and Shore Anglers of California. Sponsors included HASA, Pacific Outfitters, Mad River Tackle, Costco of Eureka, and the International Game Fish Association (IGFA).

Loaner rod and reels with bait were provided for those without their own gear. A point system was used and the young anglers were assisted by volunteers or mom and dad. The wind held off and although not a lot of fish were caught everyone obviously had a great time. A ton of fishing rods, reels and related gear was raffled and awarded. Winners received a certificate from the IGFA and a copy of Ken Jones book, Pier Fishing California.

All of the organizers and sponsors I talked to deemed the tournament a great success and vowed to hold it again next year. I know we’ll be there. Visit our Facebook page for more photos.