I.U.U. Fishing/The latest supposed ocean crisis/All the news that’s fit to print? – FishNet-USA

Nils Stolpe/FishNet USA

December 18, 2016

Over the past several years there has been much discussion, debate, posturing, misrepresentation, exaggeration and incipient empire building on and around the subject of illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing. Most of this has been driven by ENGOs and the mega-foundations that support them because they have all of these fish saviors on the payroll with, since the demise of overfishing, not an awful lot to do. Not surprisingly the Obama administration has been complicit in this.

Starting out with a point of clarification, IUU fishing is, or should be, a concern in some areas of the world’s oceans – but for reasons that I’ll get to an a bit, it isn’t, or shouldn’t be, in the U.S. Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ). In spite of this you can bet dollars to donuts that that’s where all of the ENGOs will be focusing their IUU efforts, because it’s a lot more comfortable, convenient and safe to assault domestic fishermen from their cushy digs in Philadelphia or Washington DC than from some tropical or sub-tropical Hell hole where most of the IUU activity is based. And, I’m sure the feeling in those cushy digs in Philadelphia and Washington is that the public and the pols aren’t sophisticated enough to realize this, and in all likelihood – thanks to the mega-million dollar PR juggernaut that is backstopping their efforts – never will be.

That being the case, IUU fishing has become the boogeyman employed by the latest generation of “ocean saviors’ to keep the consuming public convinced that domestic fishermen shouldn’t be trusted, and to keep the millions of dollars needed to support their bloated bureaucracies rolling in.

Cutting through the hype – ‘cause what would an anti-fishing program in the U.S. be without the excessive and expensive hype? – how real is the threat of IUU fishing, who or what does it threaten, and how effective will the control measures that are touted by the anti-fishing ENGOs and directed against domestic fishermen be at doing anything substantive to protect U.S. fisheries or the millions of folks who still consume U.S. fish and shellfish?

Should there be any concern about IUU fishing in our federally managed EEZ fisheries?

Emphatically NO! U.S. commercial fishermen and U.S. commercial fisheries are among the most intensively managed in the world. What this means is any fish or shellfish caught out of season, caught in the wrong place, beyond a definite aggregate weight, of the wrong size, with the wrong gear, with the wrong gear on board, by a boat that is outside of specification, moved from boat to boat, landed at the wrong time or in the wrong place or out of compliance with any of a number of other restrictions is more than likely going to come to the attention of the state and federal authorities. When they do, significant penalties – ranging to hundreds of thousands of dollars in fines, loss of the right to fish, the confiscation of boats and catch, and imprisonment – can and almost always do ensue. Such big-brother-ish mechanisms as on-board observers, satellite tracking (of the fishing vessels, not yet of the fishermen), random and routine inspections at sea and at the dock, night vision optics and aerial surveillance are all used to detect illegal fishing. And, coupled with the significant penalties for infractions, they are effective deterrents.

And the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act mandates that commercial fisheries be managed sustainably. That means that federal fisheries cannot be overfished or, if they are they must be managed with the goal of being rebuilt by a time certain.

(I’ll note here that a diminished fish stock can be declared “overfished” even when fishing is not the culprit. That and inadequate science seem to be the causes of the wildly seesawing summer flounder fishery that I reported on last month. With increasing ocean temperatures we can look forward to an increasing number of “overfished” stocks that are classified that way in spite of the fact that terminating fishing on them will have no impact on their classification.)

Buying domestically produced seafood that was harvested by federally licensed commercial fishermen is a guarantee that it was from a sustainable fishery. Traceability from the ocean to the plate won’t change that one iota.

Is increased traceability necessary to protect consumers of domestically produced seafood?

If it’s domestically harvested seafood, and if it’s harvested by licensed commercial fishermen, traceability will do nothing to make it safer.

Since 1997 the federal Food and Drug Administration has required that domestic businesses that process, handle or transport seafood in the U.S. adopt the Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Point (HACCP) management system. In the HACCP system “food safety is addressed through the analysis and control of biological, chemical, and physical hazards from raw material production, procurement and handling, to manufacturing, distribution and consumption of the finished product” (http://www.fda.gov/Food/GuidanceRegulation/HACCP/). It “focuses on identifying and preventing hazards that could cause foodborne illnesses rather than relying on spot-checks of manufacturing processes of finished seafood products to ensure safety. FDA’s 1997 science-based HACCP regulations initiated a landmark program designed to increase the margin of safety that U.S. consumers already enjoyed and to reduce seafood related illnesses to the lowest possible levels,” (http://www.fda.gov/Food/GuidanceRegulation/HACCP/ucm114930.htm). As long as the seafood in question is “in the system” it works.

So it’s easy to write with full assurance that fish or shellfish harvested by permitted fishermen in U.S. waters is both sustainably harvested and safe for consumers, and no amount of traceability will make it either safer or “more sustainable.”

But where should increased seafood traceability be required?

There are some big oceans out there with an awful lot of boats and even more fishermen. The probability that all of their waters are going to be adequately policed and all of the fish and shellfish harvested from them are going to be adequately inspected in the foreseeable future hovers right around zero. But fortunately that’s not necessary to guarantee that the health of U.S. seafood consumers is protected or that fish and shellfish imported into the U.S. are harvested sustainably. All that’s required is the same level of rigorous policing of those fisheries and the same HACCP requirements – or their equivalent – that domestically produced seafood meets.

Alas, this is nowhere near the actual case.

From the Food and Water Watch 2016 report TOXIC BUFFET – How the TPP (Trans-Pacific Partnership) Trades Away Seafood Safety (http://www.foodandwaterwatch.org/sites/default/files/rpt_1609_tpp-fish-web_2.pdf)

  • The FDA inspects only 2 percent of imported seafood; more than 5.3 billion pounds of seafood entered the U.S. food supply without even a cursory examination in 2015;
  • Less than 1 percent of seafood imports are tested by the FDA at a laboratory for pathogens like Salmonella or Listeria or the presence of illegal veterinary drugs;
  • Although few imports are examined, the FDA rejected 11 percent of inspected shipments for significant food safety problems;
  • Salmonella, Listeria, filth and illegal veterinary medicines were the most common reasons that imported seafood was rejected; and
  • The number of imports rejected for illegal veterinary drugs nearly tripled over the past decade, and made up one-fourth of all FDA refusals between 2014 and 2015.

(The fact that the Trans-Pacific Partnership is dead in the water doesn’t alter any of these points.)

So why is there a push for domestic seafood traceability?

Aside from being yet another  ENGO “make work” project, there isn’t any rational reason. By definition, domestically produced seafood is sustainable and our HACCP-based inspection system has proven to be virtually 100% effective. It’s difficult to look at the traceability efforts as anything more than another punitive measure by ENGOs and their corporate controllers to further burden an industry that is already overburdened by expensive, intrusive and largely unnecessary federal requirements.

And at the last minute….

NOAA/NMFS announced a new program on December 8 that “will trace specific fish and fish products from harvest to entry into U.S. commerce.” From the announcement:

“Today, the U.S. established additional protections for the national economy, global food security, and the sustainability of our shared ocean resources. NOAA Fisheries will administer the Seafood Import Monitoring Program to further curb Illegal, Unreported and Unregulated (IUU) fishing practices and to identify misrepresented seafood imports before they enter the U.S. market.

The program requires that importers report information and maintain records about the harvest, landing and chain of custody of imported fish and fish products for certain priority species identified as especially vulnerable to IUU fishing and seafood fraud. The program will eventually expand to include all species.”

The full announcement is at http://tinyurl.com/jyc5hrm (when I want to direct readers to web pages with prohibitively lengthy URLs I use the Tiny URL website – see the Wikipedia Tinyurl entry  at https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/TinyURL – to generate a shorter URL that links to the original.


More “falling skies” from Pew

The latest bits of doom and gloom in the oceans caused by commercial fisheries deals with so-called “forage species,” which is an interesting bit of media manipulation in and of itself, considering that in the oceans everything, alive or dead,  is eventually forage for something else. But then, with hundreds of millions of dollars from the Pew private bank on Philadelphia’s Main Line (https://www.glenmede.com/our-history) to spend, such manipulation can be frighteningly effective.

So, the latest Chicken Little initiative created by Pew’s stable of “ocean experts” involves Pacific sardines and anchovies.

From the Pew Trusts website:

New research suggests that the population of California anchovies—a critical food source for ocean wildlife such as whales, salmon, brown pelicans, and sea lions—has dwindled to levels not seen since the early 1950s. The research, funded in part by Pew (emphasis added), was conducted by scientists with the Farallon Institute for Advanced Ecosystem Research in Petaluma, California. The study, currently in press with the journal Fisheries Research, was also recently submitted to the Pacific Fishery Management Council. It concludes, “Although current annual catch levels of a few thousand tons are small by historical standards, current exploitation rates could be high given the low stock abundance, and should be taken under consideration by fishery managers.”

This latest expression of over-the-top hype is part of a major ongoing Pew initiative which has been in the making for at least five years.

With anchovies, sardines, menhaden and herring – which have all been anointed as uber-necessary forage species by the Pew claque – proposed restrictions have been predicated on the fact that their harvest negatively impacts populations of the critters that eat them.

Statistics on the harvest of these “forage” species are undoubtedly more reliable than they are for most commercial species because they are generally caught by a limited number of larger vessels and landed in only a handful of ports. Accordingly, they are much easier to keep track of.

Thus it would seem a simple matter for members of the Pew claque to come up with correlations between landings of “forage” species and fluctuations in the populations of the fish, marine mammals, birds or other critters that are supposed to be dependent on them. In an hour or so I can get the annual landings data for any commercially fished species, including these “forage” species, going back to 1950. It shouldn’t be much more trouble to collect the corresponding data for the landings of supposedly negatively impacted gamefish or populations of supposedly negatively impacted seals or whales or ospreys. Yet this hasn’t been done, or if it has been the Pew PR machine hasn’t shared any of the results with the rest of the world.

Once again borrowing from Wendy’s 1984 advertising campaign, “where’s the beef?”

Below is a piece I wrote back in 2012 on astroturf activism as it applies to the Pew forage fish initiative. While the focus then was on menhaden and herring, it has since grown to include anchovies and sardines.

The forage fish fake out

In a column urging that menhaden management be overhauled on the Pew Environment Group website,  Peter Baker wrote “according to a report issued this year by a panel of 13 eminent ocean scientists, forage fish are twice as valuable left in the water as they are caught in a net.” He is referring to the Lenfest Forage Fish Task Force. Forage fish include menhaden and herring.   

The people at the Pew Trusts and more lately the Pew Environment Group don’t like menhaden or herring fishing. That’s not very startling news. In fact, the people at the Pew Trusts/ Pew Environment Group don’t appear to like any kind of fishing, because they’ve spent hundreds of millions of dollars – of course, that’s hundreds of millions of dollars earned by someone else – to curtail fishing in just about any way, shape or form that fishing happens.

The way they’re expressing their dislike of forage fishing has become par for their course of expressing dislike of just about every other fishery; what appears to be a loose confederation of independent researchers and stakeholders and grass roots organizations coalesce into some sort of committee or task force or whatever united behind the righteous cause, which invariably involves either stopping or significantly cutting back some form(s) of fishing, supposedly saving some critical part of some ocean ecosystem or other.

But in the case of saving the East coast ecosystem from the depredations of the supposedly ruinous menhaden purse seiners, how independent are these saviors and the people like Peter Baker who are flogging their “cause?”

Peter Baker is the Director of the Northeast Fisheries Program of the Pew Environment Group. Prior to that he worked for the Cape Cod Commercial Hook Fishermen’s Association. Prior to that he was with the Sierra Club’s Environmental Public Education Campaign. Earthjustice, from which Oceana spun off, was spawned by the Sierra Club.

The Pew Trusts have given $1.5 million to the Cape Cod Commercial Hook Fishermen’s Association, at least $60 million to Oceana and over $23 million to Earthjustice.

I’ve written about the Herring Alliance on the FishTruth.net website at http://www.fishtruth.net/Herring.htm. The original member organizations had received well over $100 million from Pew.

Consider the projects funded by the Pew Trusts (available on the FishTruth website database at http://www.fishtruth.net/ENGO SPENDING.xls) designed to curtail menhaden/herring harvesting listed below. Herring and menhaden are both considered forage fish – fish that serve as food for other fish species – and, though all of the save the menhaden/herring rhetoric studiously ignores it, are also voracious predators of the early life stages of fish and shellfish species that feed on them as adults.

  • 1998 – Conservation Law Foundation – $30,000 – “To promote responsible herring management.”
  • 2004 – National Coalition for Marine Conservation – $558,000 – “To secure an amendment to the Interstate Menhaden Management Plan that would reduce or eliminate fishing of menhaden in the Chesapeake Bay, in order to protect the broader ecosystem of the Bay.”
  • 2004 – Aquatic Farms Limited – $142,000 – “To assess the amount of competition between catch of small forage fish for direct human consumption and for reduction into fishmeal and fish oil for use as aquaculture and agriculture feed.”
  • 2004 – Research Foundation of the State University of New York, Stony Brook – $750,000 – “To establish the Lenfest Forage Fish Task Force that will develop and recommend ecosystem-based standards for the sustainable management of forage fisheries.”
  • 2004 – Research Foundation of the State University of New York, Stony Brook $145,000 – “To advance ecosystem-based fishery management by evaluating the status of understudied fish and other marine species in several regions of the United States that are impacted by the commercial fishing industry.”
  • 2005 – National Coalition for Marine Conservation – $200,000 – “To ensure a new regulatory cap on the industrial harvest of Atlantic menhaden is implemented and enforced.”
  • 2006 – National Coalition for Marine Conservation – $100,000 – “To support efforts to initiate new regulatory actions that will preserve adequate populations of forage fish which support healthy populations of predators, including numerous species of marine mammals, seabirds and fish.”
  • 2006 – Gulf Restoration Network – $210,000 – “To support efforts to stop overfishing, secure conservation-based limits on unintended bycatch of marine life, and to conduct research and prepare a report on management reforms needed in the Gulf of Mexico menhaden fishery to reduce harvests to protect the forage needs of menhaden predators and reduce bycatch of sharks and marine mammals.”
  • 2007 – Cape Cod Commercial Hook Fishermen’s Association – $180,000 – “To provide general operating support policy reform campaigns for herring and groundfish.”
  • 2007 – Cape Cod Commercial Hook Fishermen’s Association – $596,000 – “To support a New England forage fish campaign to ban or severely restrict destructive trawling, reduce allowable herring catches.”
  • 2008 – Research Foundation of the State University of New York, Stony Brook – $3,000,000 – “To conduct scientific research regarding sustainable fisheries management and conservation of threatened and endangered fish.”
  • 2008 – Cape Cod Commercial Hook Fishermen’s Association – $722,000 – “To support activities to reform the Atlantic herring fishery.”
  • 2008 – Earthjustice – $212,000 – “To reform New Englands Atlantic herring fishery.”
  • 2008 – Marine Fish Conservation Network – $125,000 – “For work intended to ensure the full implementation of the Magnuson-Stevens Reauthorization Act and to promote the sustainable management of forage fish species ($100,000) and for general support ($25,000)”
  • 2009 – National Coalition for Marine Conservation – $30,000 – “To develop guidance for conservation of forage fish through an ecosystem-based approach to fisheries management.”

That’s just under $7 million Pew dollars going directly to “save” menhaden and herring.

Of the thirteen “eminent ocean scientists”  on the Lenfest Forage Fish Task Force, nine can be directly tied to Pew funding via academic programs that have received well over $30 million in grants from the Pew Trusts, and four are Pew Marine Conservation Fellows to boot (see http://www.fishtruth.net/Pauly.htm and http://www.fishtruth.net/Pikitch.htm).

The source of funding for the Lenfest Forage Fish Task Force, the Lenfest Ocean Program, is administered by the Pew Environment Group.

The Project Director of the Lenfest Forage Fish Task Force is Christine Santora She was previously employed for five years as a Senior Research Associate with the Pew Institute for Ocean Science.

So we have two ostensibly “grass roots” initiatives supposedly representing the views of a large group of constituents but which are in reality the handiwork of a handful of activist organizations in large part – to the extent of tens of millions of dollars – supported by the Pew “Charitable” Trusts. The Pew Trusts were founded with dollars from Sun Oil’s Pew family and are still largely under the control of the Pew family.

“Astroturf roots” seems a much more accurate descriptor (and I was pleasantly surprised to see that Wikipedia has an entry for “astroturfing,” which it describes as “political, advertising or public relations campaigns that are designed to mask the sponsors of the message to give the appearance of coming from a disinterested, grassroots participant. Astroturfing is intended to give the statements the credibility of an independent entity by withholding information about the source’s financial connection.”)

Unfortunately, at its regularly scheduled meeting last week the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission in what was an obvious bow to public pressure – pressure driven by mega-bucks foundations and the activist organizations they support – rather than sound science, voted for drastic cuts in the menhaden harvest.

The fishermen, the fish and the consuming public deserve much better.

This effort has now been expanded to include Pacific sardines and anchovies, involving the same people, the same unsubstantiated arguments, the same reliance on the fact that hardly anyone has any idea of what’s going under those waves, and the same overfull pots of foundation money. Diane Pleschner-Steeler, executive director of the California Wetfish Producers Association, has been engaged in a campaign to counter this latest chapter in the “we have to stop fishermen from ruining the world’s oceans” playbook. Her most recent effort was an opinion piece in the Monterey Herald titled Extremists manufacture anchovy ‘crisis’ where none exists. It’s at http://tinyurl.com/grpgsup and I strongly recommend you read it, because no one can predict which fishery is going to be targeted next.

An afterword –

I studiously avoid any appearance of politics in FishNet. Fisheries issues are far too complex and much too easily misunderstood without the addition of any further complications, and rest assured that this afterword has nothing to do with the presidential election. What it does have to do with is a compelling demonstration of the fallibility, the out-of-touchedness, the arrogance and the ignorance that permeates our mass media today.

The graphic below was posted on the New York Times website in The Upshot: Who will be President by Josh Katz on November 8 at 10:20 pm. It’s hard to imagine any exercise in prediction being more wrong than the New York Times was here. Going by the election results and a lot of the post-election analysis, Ms. Clinton apparently never had much of a chance of winning. This is the newspaper with the motto “all the news that’s fit to print” displayed on the front page every day, the newspaper with the second largest circulation in the U.S.

So what does this have to do with fishing? For at least the past 30 years the New York Times has been “reporting” on fisheries issues with the same degree of accuracy and inattention to reality that it brought to its coverage of the recently concluded presidential election. Swallowing the doom and gloom predictions of a few foundations and a handful of ENGOs hook, line and sinker, the Times – and a handful of other influential publications – have presented a one-sided view of fisheries issues and have for the most part sloughed off any attempts to have any distortions corrected. We can only hope that in the future Times’ readers will bear in mind just how capable the Times can be of printing news that is about as far as possible from being fit to print.