Seafood supply altered by climate change

The global supply of seafood is set to change substantially and many people will not be able to enjoy the same quantity and dishes in the future due to climate change and ocean acidification, according to UBC scientists.

These findings were released today in Japan by the Nereus program, an international research team led by UBC scientists and supported by the Nippon Foundation. The Nereus program was formed to study the future of the world’s oceans and seafood resources. Today it released a summary of the first phase of its research in a report titled ‘Predicting Future Ocean.’ Researchers say that the future supply of seafood will be substantially altered by climate change, overfishing and other human activities.

“The types of fish that we will have on our dinner table will be very different in the future,” said William Cheung, UBC associate professor and the co-director of the Nereus program. “Fisheries will be catching more warm-water species, with smaller size, and that will affect fish supply through our domestic and oversea fisheries as well as imports.”

The report highlighted climate change, ocean acidification, overfishing and destruction of marine ecosystems as the primary drivers of ocean change. Researchers say these changes will lead to a decline in fisheries in many regions and alter marine biodiversity and food web structures.

Researchers say there are solutions to help the ocean and communities prepare for the future. These include improving ocean governance globally to ensure sustainable fisheries and the need to limit carbon dioxide emissions.

“Global marine ecosystems have already been largely altered by overfishing,” said Daniel Pauly, professor at UBC and an advisor to Nereus. “This report clearly points out that any solution needs to deal with the CO2 problem as well.”


Corps Has “Removed” 125 Cormorants (So Far)

June 12, 2015  • 


During the day, crews from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Wildlife Services typically survey the island and the cormorants’ habitat, corps spokesman Matthew Eppard said Friday.

The birds are shot at night using rifles equipped with silencers and lead-free ammunition, as required by the environmental impact statement. Teams work in two and threes and are armed with .22 caliber rifles, using night vision scopes. Shooting at night is meant to reduce disturbances to other species and also helps hunters identify cormorants that have chicks (they’re trying to avoid killing roosting pairs to avoid leaving hatchlings without parents).

Shot cormorants are removed from the island and surrounding waters as quickly as possible using all-terrain vehicles and small, inflatable boats. They’re taken to a nearby disposal area where they are either buried or incinerated.

Current plans are to continue removing birds from the island for several more months.

“I know it will go into the fall,” Eppard said.

The corps has said it needs to substantially reduce the number of cormorants in the Columbia River estuary to protect salmon and steelhead runs protected by the Endangered Species Act. The corps’ three-year plan calls for killing about 11,000 adult birds, more than a third of the 30,000 birds on the island, and spraying vegetable oil on more than 15,000 eggs to keep them from hatching.

A federal judge earlier this month rejected an attempt by a coalition of animal rights groups to block the project. District Court Judge Michael Simon said the groups failed to show the plan would cause irreparable harm to the species, which biologists say eat millions of juvenile salmon annually.

Each Thursday by 9 a.m. the corps will update results from culling and egg oiling that occurred during the previous week on the cormorant EIS web page at

Tribes, Fisherman Rally For Sea Lion Removal

Wildlife Photography ©Jim Robertson, 2015. All Rights Reserved

Wildlife Photography ©Jim Robertson, 2015. All Rights Reserved

Tribes, Fisherman Rally For Sea Lion Removal

Around 200 fisherman and tribal members rallied near Willamette Falls Saturday. They showed support for a bill that would allow tribes with fishing rights to kill some sea lions on the Columbia river.

Sara Thompson, with the Columbia River Inter-Tribal Fish Commission, says sea lions have eaten about twice as many fish as usual at the dams this year.

“We’ve seen probably, just in the quarter mile below Bonneville dam, over 8,000 Salmon and Steelhead consumed by sea lions,” she said.

The bill, HR 564, is  sponsored by Oregon Democrat Kurt Schrader and Washington Republican Jaime Herrera-Beutler.

State wildlife managers in Oregon, Washington and Idaho already have the authority to trap and kill sea lions, and have euthanized at least 30 this year.

The bill would also allow states and tribes to target sea lions that prey on a broader range of fish, not just those that snack on threatened salmon.

Federal biologists say the high number of sea lions spotted this year on the Columbia are the result of strong smelt and salmon runs. They say unusually warm ocean temperatures have made it difficult for the marine mammals to find prey off the California coast and have driven them north.

The Columbia Cormorant ‘Cull’ Begins



Associated Press

Published:May 28, 2015 8:46AM

Armed with rifles equipped with silencers, government hunters have started shooting seabirds on an uninhabited island at the mouth of the Columbia River, to reduce their consumption of juvenile salmon migrating to the ocean.

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers acknowledged Wednesday that wildlife control personnel from the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Wildlife Services started over the weekend implementing the corps’ plan to cut by more than half the numbers of double-crested cormorants nesting on East Sand Island between Oregon and Washington, where they eat millions of juvenile salmon migrating to the ocean. The island is the biggest double-crested cormorant nesting site in North America, and some of the salmon are protected species.

Bob Winters, program manager for the corps, said a team of three to four wildlife control personnel armed with .22-caliber rifles would be killing birds on the island through August. The goal is to reduce the colony from about 14,000 breeding pairs to 5,600 pairs by 2018.

The Audubon Society of Portland has challenged the killing in a federal lawsuit that argues the corps is ignoring the biggest threat to salmon, hydroelectric dams on the Columbia. Conservation director Bob Sallinger called on the corps to allow independent observers on the island so the public can know how the killing is being carried out, and to call off the killing until the lawsuit has run its course.

“The idea of turning the largest cormorant colony in the United States into as shooting gallery and killing cormorants on the nest is a low point in terms of recent wildlife management efforts,” Sallinger said.

Winters said Wildlife Services personnel are focusing on portions of the colony where eggs have yet to hatch, so as not to create a situation where chicks are left without parents to feed them. Numbers of how many birds have been killed and eggs oiled to prevent them from hatching are to be posted on a corps website on Thursdays each week.

He added the corps has a contract with people who are verifying the culling is being done in accordance with the environmental impact statement.

Sans Sea Lions, the Port of Astoria Would Miss the Boat

Situated near the mouth of the Columbia River at the top of the Oregon Coast, Astoria, can be a nice small town to visit, if you like sea lions. If not, it can be a cold, heartless and otherwise pretty boring place. DSC_0043

The entertaining pinnipeds lounging, cavorting and guarding their tiny spot on a couple of the docks in the town’s East Moring Basin are a must see for anyone who enjoys connecting with the wildlife close-up.

DSC_0055 DSC_0073

Unfortunately, a few of the locals are more fulfilled by hating and shooting the friendly, comical sea lions despite the steady draw they bring to this depressed and rather depressing town which makes a temporary living through extraction of dwindling natural resources, such as fish and trees (many of which are shipped to China on giant, diesel carbon-spewing container ships). Not unlike so many other instances in society, it’s really only a few local people, claiming all for humans, who want the sea lions evicted, but they don’t mind ruining it for everyone else.                                                          

Also see:

Text and Wildlife Photography ©Jim Robertson, All Rights Reserved

Text and Wildlife Photography ©Jim Robertson, All Rights Reserved

A similar situation is going on in nearby Gearhart, just north of Seaside, Oregon. A herd of Roosevelt elk recently moved into the quietish town (after being crowded out of their former home by development, including a Home Depot, Petco, Staples, Dollar Store, a couple of auto dealerships, and a relocated, expanded super-Costco, with more to come soon—all, ironically—on “Dolphin” Lane). For now they enjoy the dunes along the beach, but that could all change if the few who resent wildlife in their proximity have their way…


When Humans Declared War on Fish
When Humans Declared War on Fish


ON Friday we humans observed V-E Day, the end to one part of a global catastrophe that cost the planet at least 60 million lives. But if we were fish, we would have marked the day differently – as the beginning of a campaign of violence against our taxonomic classes, one that has resulted in trillions of casualties.

Oddly, the war itself was a great reprieve for many marine species. Just as Axis and Allied submarines and mines made the transportation of war matériel a highly perilous endeavor, they similarly interfered with fishing. The ability to catch staple seafoods, like cod, declined markedly. Freed from human pursuit, overexploited species multiplied in abundance.

But World War II also brought a leap in human ingenuity, power and technical ability that led to an unprecedented assault on our oceans. Not only did ships themselves become larger, faster and more numerous, but the war-derived technologies they carried exponentially increased their fishing power.

Take sonar. Before the 1930s, electronic echolocation was a barely functioning concept. It allowed operators to trace the vague contours of the seafloor topography and crudely track the pathway of a large moving object. But the war pushed forward dramatic advances in sonar technology; by its end, sophisticated devices, developed for hunting submarines, had grown infinitely more precise, and could now be repurposed to hunt fish.

Schools of fish could soon be pinpointed to within a few yards, and clearly differentiated from the sea’s bottom. Coupled with high-powered diesel engines that had been developed during the global conflict, the modern fishing vessel became a kind of war machine with a completely new arsenal: lightweight polymer-based nets, monofilament long lines that could extend for miles and onboard freezers capable of storing a day’s catch for months at a time.

Even human resources developed during the war were later redirected toward fishing: Japanese fighter pilots adept at spotting subsurface Allied submarines were later retrained to look for whales. Likewise, more than a few former Allied pilots found postwar employment hunting bluefin tuna and Atlantic menhaden.

In some ways, the “war machine” wasn’t a metaphor. Across South Asia, leftover explosives were “recycled” for “bomb fishing,” an obscenely destructive way of killing coastal fish, which turned many coral reefs into rubble fields. And the technological overkill continued into the Cold War era: Satellite imagery and GPS technology originally intended to track the movements of the Soviet nuclear arsenal eventually allowed well-populated fish habitats to be clearly identified from space.

Because the war incentivized the creation of ships with much longer oceangoing ranges, it also meant that fishing was transformed from a local endeavor into a global one. “Industrial fishing,” maybe the first globalized economic enterprise, meant the wholesale, permanent occupation of marine ecosystems, instead of the local raids practiced by previous generations.

In addition, emerging economies of scale meant that it wasn’t just the target fish that suffered. With the invention of postwar super trawlers that scooped up everything in their path, a sort of scorched-earth approach to fishing became commonplace.

Taken collectively, the rise of postwar fishing technology meant that the global reported catch rose from some 15 million metric tons at war’s end to 85 million metric tons today – the equivalent, in weight, of the entire human population at the turn of the 20th century, removed from the sea each and every year.

Only the turn of the third millennium saw a new kind of reprieve, this time not caused by human adversity, but by the insight that we need to make peace with other species as well. Growing signs of exhaustion and failure in global fisheries made humans reconsider the totality of their assault.

Marine protected areas, an environmental version of a demilitarized zone, started to spring up, and now cover some 3.5 percent of the ocean. Countries formerly at war began to work together to hammer out new deals for fish, exemplified by both the recent revision of the Common Fisheries Policy in Europe and new efforts underway at the United Nations to better regulate fishing on the high seas, the 60 percent of the oceans outside national control.

Collateral damage to sharks, turtles, whales and sea birds is increasingly becoming unacceptable. And some of those same technologies once used to kill fish with precision are now being used to save them: War-inspired satellite technology is being deployed to identify and pursue rogue vessels fishing illegally.

But in remembering the end of World War II and the deliberate steps that led to a lasting peace, we might contemplate a broader Marshall Plan, which would further restrain our destructive tendencies and technological powers elsewhere, not just in fishing the oceans, but in mining, drilling and otherwise exploiting them.

To be sure, the postwar assault on fish mostly sprang from an honorable intention to feed a growing human population that boomed in a prosperous postwar world. But as in war, everybody loses when there is nothing left to fight for. Only when we fully embrace that simple fact, and act accordingly, will our celebrations resonate among what the author Henry Beston called those “other nations caught with ourselves in the net of life and time.”

Paul Greenberg<> is the author, most recently, of “American Catch.” Boris Worm<> is a professor of marine conservation biology at Dalhousie University, Nova Scotia.

A version of this op-ed appears in print on May 10, 2015, on page SR4 of the New York edition with the headline: When Humans Declared War on Fish.


Endangered Perspective: The Alarming Case of the Atlantic Puffin

Puffins by Brian Gratwicke via Flickr

Puffins by Brian Gratwicke \ CC BY 2.0 via Flickr

There’s perhaps no seabird more iconic to the Maritimes than the Atlantic puffin, a bird as modest and beautiful as the region itself.

At first glance this seabird resembles the penguins of Antarctica, with a black back and white underbelly, but what sets the Atlantic puffin apart is the spectacular colouration of its bill and face, which blossom with sharps reds, yellows and blues during mating season. When the season ends, however, this rainbow beak sheds much of its bulk and becomes a dull, uniform grey. This transformation is so dramatic it was originally thought the Atlantic puffin was two separate species.

The Atlantic puffin is a poor flier, beating its wings 300-400 times a minute just to stay airborne. They’re even prone to crash landings. But what they lack in flight, they make up for at sea. The puffin spends the majority of its life in water, either floating on the waves or diving to extreme depths in pursuit of its fishy food. Its wings are used as powerful flippers and it can snatch several dozen fish with each dive.

The exploitation of these adorable mariners began in the 1600s and took the usual forms.

The exploitation of these adorable mariners began in the 1600s and took the usual forms. We hunted them for their meat, fat and feathers; we destroyed their breeding groups and robbed their burrows of eggs; we introduced invasive pests like feral cats and rats to their remote island colonies; we even caught scores of them with our fishing gear, first by accident and later on purpose.

It’s nearly impossible to tell how abundant puffins used to be on the east coast, but they certainly numbered in the millions. 365,000 breeding pairs is the best modern estimate I could find, encompassing colonies from northern Maine to the Canadian Arctic. Approximately 60 per cent of those 365,000 pairs are found on three islands in Witless Bay, Newfoundland, about half an hour south of St. John’s.

There are smaller colonies dotting the east coast, ranging from the 10,000 puffins nesting on Machias Seal Island in New Brunswick to the few hundred living across the entire province of Nova Scotia, mainly on Cape Breton and on Pearl Island in Lunenburg County.

We don’t hunt them anymore. We don’t touch their eggs or fish irresponsibly in their waters, but there’s still something very insidious taking place in the aforementioned island reserves, something which is claiming the lives of thousands of puffin babies and putting the species at risk.

They’re starving to death.

The stomachs of recently deceased babies were filled with gravel and dirt, a sure sign of starvation.

This phenomena was first observed in the 1960s in Norway, with its coastal islands home to one of the largest colonies of Atlantic puffin in the world. Fewer and fewer babies were surviving each year, culminating in a 99.9 per cent mortality rate by 1977. The stomachs of recently deceased babies were filled with gravel and dirt, a sure sign of starvation.

This tragedy was linked to the collapse of fish stocks, namely herring, due to overfishing in the region. Similar drops in survival rates were observed in the 1980s in Witless Bay following the collapse of capelin stocks. Now with climate change warming the oceans and remaining fish stocks migrating to cooler waters, puffin parents are left with no fish small enough to feed their children.

Only in the last couple years, starvation has been observed among puffins in both Maine and New Brunswick, a terrifying testament to the state of our coast.

For the sake of this seabird, Atlantic Canada must do its part to encourage sustainable fishing practices and to combat climate change. Either that or, heaven forbid, we stop using the Atlantic puffin in our tourism ads.

Lawsuit filed to stop cormorant slaughter by federal agencies

April 20, 2015: Five conservation and animal welfare organizations initiated a lawsuit today against the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and USDA Wildlife Services to stop the slaughter of thousands of Double-crested Cormorants in the Columbia River basin. According to the lawsuit, the agencies are scapegoating the native birds for salmon declines while ignoring the real threat to salmon: mismanagement of the federal hydropower system. Unless stopped, the agencies will kill more than 15 percent of the entire population of Double-crested Cormorants west of the Rocky Mountains.

The federal agencies are set to kill more than 10,000 Double-crested Cormorants using shotguns as the birds forage for food over water. Snipers with night vision goggles and high-powered rifles will also shoot birds from elevated platforms as the birds care for their eggs and young on their nesting grounds at East Sand Island in the Columbia River. The agencies also plan to destroy more than 26,000 Double-crested Cormorant nests through oiling of eggs, egg failure, and starvation of nestlings whose parents have been shot.

“This is not about birds versus fish,” said Bob Sallinger, Audubon Society of Portland conservation director. “The Corps and other federal agencies have proposed rolling back dam operations that benefit salmon while at the same time targeting thousands of cormorants. Blaming salmon and steelhead declines on wild birds that have coexisted with salmon since time immemorial is nothing more than a diversion.”

The lawsuit identifies several ways in which the Corps and Fish and Wildlife Service violated federal laws in their decision to move forward with the cormorant slaughter, including by refusing to analyze alternative dam operations to benefit salmon as required by the National Environmental Policy Act and the Migratory Bird Treaty Act. In addition, the agencies failed to utilize available non-lethal methods of cormorant control, such as habitat modification on East Sand Island.

“The Corps has lost four lawsuits in federal court over the past decade due to its failure to address the impacts of dams on salmon,” said Stephen Wells, ALDF executive director. “Rather than addressing this ongoing violation of federal law, the Corps is now trying to blame wild birds who co-existed with healthy salmon runs for millennia before the Corps of Engineers came on the scene.”

It is particularly troubling that the Corps and the Service both admit that this slaughter will drive cormorant populations below sustainable levels. The agencies define a “sustainable” cormorant population as one that is “able to maintain a long-term trend with numbers above a level that would not result in a major decline or cause a species to be threatened or endangered.”

“It is unprecedented that federal agencies would deliberately drive a native species below levels defined as sustainable,” said Michael Harris, Friends of Animals’ legal director. “We expect the federal government to protect native wildlife, not intentionally cause major declines.”

“The agencies need to stop scapegoating these native birds,” said Collette Adkins, a senior attorney at the Center for Biological Diversity. “The Corps’ refusal to modify dam operations is the real threat to salmon, and the deaths of thousands of cormorants will be another casualty of the agency’s mismanagement of the Columbia River ecosystem.”

“The saddest part about this action is that it will do little or nothing to protect salmon,” said Sharnelle Fee, director of the Wildlife Center of the North Coast. “The science supporting this lethal control action is remarkably weak and this action is virtually meaningless from a salmon recovery perspective.”

Cormorants eat a very small portion of migrating salmon and also eat their predators, so the killing will have little benefit for salmon. But the killing will have a significant impact on the cormorant population. According to scientific experts, cormorant populations are under tremendous pressure throughout the Western United States from natural hazards such as drought and climate change. They are also under pressure from deliberate hazing, harassment and lethal control by humans. Western cormorant populations are currently less than 10 percent of their historic levels.

The plaintiffs on this lawsuit are: Audubon Society of Portland, Center for Biological Diversity, Wildlife Center of the North Coast, Animal Legal Defense Fund, and Friends of Animals. Plaintiffs are represented by Dan Rohlf and Earthrise Law Center. The plaintiffs will seek an injunction to stop the killing while the case proceeds through the court system.

Complaint for Declaratory and Injunctive Relief – filed by plaintiffs on April 20, 2015.

Learn more about the Audubon Society of Portland’s work to protect cormorants on East Sand Island.

How You Can Help

Please make a donation to support the Audubon Society of Portland’s efforts to protect East Sand Island cormorants from horrific lethal control.

Double-crested Cormorant - Jim Cruce
Double-crested Cormorant – Jim Cruce

Groups sue Corps over Cormorant-Kill

April 23, 2015

The Army Corps of Engineers proposes to kill thousands of the double-crested cormorants nesting on Sand Island near the mouth of the Columbia River because the birds eat too many young salmon and steelhead.
The Wildlife Center of the North Coast joins lawsuit against cormorant killing

COLUMBIA RIVER — A permit the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers needed to proceed with its plan to kill thousands of double-crested cormorants nesting on the Lower Columbia River’s East Sand Island is now in place — and so is the first lawsuit.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service issued a depredation permit April 13. The permit, valid through Jan. 31, 2016, will allow contractors to kill 3,489 double-crested cormorants and 5,879 nests, 105 Brandt’s cormorants and 10 pelagic cormorants in 2015.

On April 20, the Audubon Society of Portland, along with four other nonprofit or volunteer-led organizations, filed a complaint for declaratory and injunctive relief against the Corps, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the U.S. Department of Agriculture Wildlife Services, which is authorized by the Fish and Wildlife Service to kill the allowed number of birds and eggs.

The Wildlife Center of the North Coast, a private volunteer-based nonprofit, recently joined the lawsuit.

Audubon argues cormorants are being blamed for damage to salmon runs that is actually caused by dams, and that the Corps’ management plan would cause the Western population of double-crested cormorants to dip below “sustainable levels” as defined by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service itself.

With the lawsuit filed, the Audubon Society of Portland will seek an injunction to put a halt this year to the Corps’ plans to cut the nesting population on the island almost in half by 2018.

“I don’t know exactly where this is going to take us,” said Amy Echols, assistant chief with the Corps’ public affairs office in Portland, about the complaint.

Bob Sallinger, the society’s conservation director, is also concerned about the timing of the culling. Peak nesting season is approaching on the island — Oregon State University researchers on the island say the first eggs are usually laid between mid-April and early May — and the Corps estimates that an additional 3,489 nestlings and eggs might die if their parents are shot and they are orphaned. A Corps spokesperson said contractors are on the island now, erecting fencing that will separate out nesting areas, but that it will be several more weeks before they begin killing the birds.



Port to Fence off Astoria Sea Lions

Wildlife Photography ©Jim Robertson

Wildlife Photography ©Jim Robertson
The Port of Astoria is putting up barriers to sea lions in the East End Mooring Basin.
By Edward StrattonThe Daily Astorian  April 22, 2015

The Port of Astoria will begin fencing off the docks at the East End Mooring Basin this week to keep sea lions off, Executive Director Jim Knight announced at the Port of Astoria Commission meeting Tuesday night.

The obligation of the Port is to protect the publicly owned docks, he said, and other possible solutions, such as lightly electrified pads, didn’t work out.

“I’m also curious to see where the sea lions go,” Knight said, adding jokingly he hopes they won’t make their way to the Port’s West End Mooring Basin.

Commissioner Stephen Fulton asked about an offer he’d heard in the community to build a sea lion-specific dock.

Mike Weston, the Port’s director of business development and operations, said sometime last year, the Port had been approached by Sea Shepherd with an offer to pay for a sea lion dock. But the offer would have stipulated that the Port expel the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife from the East End Mooring Basin, Weston added, and the Port can’t control what the state does.

ODFW periodically traps and brands sea lions at the basin, as part of a tracking effort. It’s authorized by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration to kill up to 93 sea lions a year found predating on salmon at Bonneville Dam.

Larger issue


The sea lion issue has been a divisive one, with members of the Sea Lion Defense Brigade regularly attending Port meetings and squaring off with diametrically opposed audience members, and often Port Commissioner Bill Hunsinger.

“We don’t have to, in the Port of Astoria, provide a sanctuary for sea lions,” Hunsinger said, adding that nature’s balance is out of whack, with sea lions possibly finding a new place to breed and live full time now that they’re starving in California.

Biologists from NOAA have pointed to odd wind patterns leading to rising ocean temperatures affecting the food source of sea lions, largely sardines. Female sea lions are taking longer to find food for their pups, who are looking for food on their own before they are ready, and washing up emaciated along the West Coast. Meanwhile, sea lions are moving north and into the Columbia River to take advantage of strong runs of smelt and salmon.

Numbers of sea lions spiked during the smelt run in March, with one count by the ODFW estimating more than 2,300 in the East End Mooring Basin. The situation seems to have boiled over, with a federal investigation by NOAA agents into possible sea lion shootings at the basin earlier this month.

“Clearly there is something wrong with ocean conditions,” and sea lions need more support than ever before, Astoria resident Ted Thomas said. He asked the Port Commission to publicly condemn the possible shootings, state its support for the Marine Mammal Protection Act and release to the public the same surveillance tape footage Port staff gave to NOAA investigators.

Members of the Sea Lion Defense Brigade, including Stacey McKenney and Veronica Montoya, approached and commented about how the sea lions are so noisy because of the ODFW branding.