Stop insuring fishery pirates
Sep27

Stop insuring fishery pirates

By Dana Miller, postdoctoral researcher at the University of British Columbia’s Fisheries Economics Research Unit in Vancouver, Canada. “Pirate” evokes images of legendary figures from the days of the great tall-masted sailing galleons, like Captain Henry Morgan, the famous 17th century “pirate of the Caribbean.” But piracy is still with us today, and modern pirates do not only steal from passing ships. They take from the common treasury of the ocean: the shared fisheries that states, fishers, and scientists spend many diplomatic hours working to apportion fairly and sustainably. I and my colleagues revealed that modern-day pirates in the form of illegal fishers are able to purchase insurance coverage for their blacklisted vessels. Our research appears this month in the September 2016 issue of Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment. Captain Morgan reportedly used one of the earliest systems of workers compensation insurance. If a pirate lost a limb during a raid, they were financially compensated for the loss. Now, nearly 400 years later, pirates can obtain insurance services from the same institutions that insure legal vessels. We identified the insurers of 67 vessels known for their involvement in illegal, unreported, or unregulated (IUU) fishing activity. Some of these vessels are well known and have been written about in high profile news articles. Without insurance, fishing companies may face enormous financial losses should an accident occur. Not only is insurance accessible to illegal fishers, it is also valued by these criminals enough to be purchased even for smaller vessels, when it isn’t legally required. If insurers change their policies to make it harder for illegal fishers to purchase insurance, we believe fewer of these fishers will find it profitable to participate in illegal fishing. At a minimum, insurers should consult officially verified illegal vessel lists to make certain listed vessels are not granted insurance. By transforming their current role from facilitating illegal fishing to deterring it, insurers can enable the use of marine insurance as an economic tool in the global fight against illegal fishing. Further reading: Miller, Dana et al (2016) Cutting a lifeline to maritime crime: marine insurance and IUU fishing. Front Ecol Environ 14(7):357–362, doi:1002/fee.1293 Illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing (IUU) combined vessel list “A renegade trawler, hunted for 10,000 miles by vigilantes.” NYTimes feature story about the Thunder by Ian Urbina, 28 July 2015...

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ESA Policy News January 28: State of the Union, Senate votes on climate science, NMFS releases climate strategy
Jan28

ESA Policy News January 28: State of the Union, Senate votes on climate science, NMFS releases climate strategy

Here are some highlights from the latest ESA Policy News by Policy Analyst Terence Houston. Read the full Policy News here.  STATE OF THE UNION: OBAMA URGES ACTION ON CLIMATE, EDUCATION OPPORTUNITY In the wake of a mid-term election with considerably low voter turnout, President Obama’s 2015 State of the Union address focused on issues that energized various Democratic constituencies. Central topics included income and gender inequality, educational opportunity and climate change. The president directly responded to the “I’m not a scientist” refrain used by climate skeptics, saying “Well, I’m not a scientist, either. But you know what, I know a lot of really good scientists at NASA, and at NOAA, and at our major universities.  And the best scientists in the world are all telling us that our activities are changing the climate, and if we don’t act forcefully, we’ll continue to see rising oceans, longer, hotter heat waves, dangerous droughts and floods, and massive disruptions that can trigger greater migration and conflict and hunger around the globe.” President Obama asked Congress to close tax loopholes and use the added revenue to help families pay for college as well as investing in infrastructure and research. The president also mentioned his plan to expand access to community college and called on Congress to pass legislation to reduce student debt. Click here to read the full State of the Union address. Click here for more information on the president’s community college proposal. HOUSE: SCIENCE COMMITTEE APPROVES NEW OVERSIGHT, SUBPOENA RULES On Jan. 27, the House Science, Space and Technology Committee held a business meeting to adopt its rules and oversight plan for the 114th Congress. The normally routine meeting became contentious as members adopted new rules that minority members cited as unprecedented. At issue were rules that allowed the chairman to issue unilateral subpoenas and shorten the notice time required before committee votes. Chairman Lamar Smith (R-TX) stated the rule changes were necessary because the Obama administration has been slow to respond to information requests. Reciting several historical events where the committee exercised its investigative authority—including the deadly Apollo 1 fire that killed three astronauts, the Space Shuttle Challenger and Columbia disasters— Ranking Member Eddie Bernice Johnson (D-TX) noted the chairmen at the time did not take action that suppressed the rights of members of either party who did not agree with him. The rules were approved along partisan lines. Click here to view the full hearing. SENATE: LAWMAKERS AGREE CLIMATE IS CHANGING, DISPUTE HUMAN CONTRIBUTION As the Senate debated a bill to expedite approval of the Keystone XL pipeline, Democratic lawmakers sought votes to put their Republican colleagues on record regarding climate science. Senators adopted an amendment by...

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ESA Policy News, February 28, 2014: Supreme Court hears EPA challenge, POTUS links CA drought to climate change
Feb28

ESA Policy News, February 28, 2014: Supreme Court hears EPA challenge, POTUS links CA drought to climate change

WHITE HOUSE: OBAMA PROPOSES CLIMATE FUND AMONG ACTIONS TO ADDRESS DROUGHT

On Feb. 14, President Obama spoke in Fresno, CA regarding his plans to assist California amid its drought crisis. The president took the opportunity to relate climate change to the incident and discuss his latest proposal to address the issue.

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ESA Policy News, February 14, 2014: Keystone Pipeline, fisheries reauthorization debate, and FWS criticized in wolf delisting.
Feb14

ESA Policy News, February 14, 2014: Keystone Pipeline, fisheries reauthorization debate, and FWS criticized in wolf delisting.

Here are some highlights from the latest ESA Policy News by Policy Analyst Terence Houston.  Read the full Policy News here. DEBT CEILING: CONGRESS PASSES BILL EXTENDING DEBT LIMIT TO 2015 This week, the House and Senate passed a bill to extend the debt ceiling through March 2015. The bill was passed shortly after the US Department of Treasury announced it had to resort to extraordinary measures to keep the nation from defaulting on its federal debt. Passage of the clean debt ceiling occurred after several alternative proposals, including one to add legislation approving the Keystone pipeline, could not garner a majority of the Republican conference. Consequently, House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH), realized he would have to rely on a proposal that could gain backing of a majority of House Democrats. Congressional Democrats were steadfast in echoing the president’s sentiments that any legislation to increase in the debt ceiling be a clean bill free of extraneous measures. The bill passed the Senate by a vote of 55-43 with all Republicans voting no. It passed the House with the support of 28 Republicans and opposition from two Democrats (Reps. Jim Matheson (UT) and John Barrow (GA). The 28 Republicans consisted of House Speaker John Boehner (OH), Majority Leader Eric Cantor (VA), Ken Calvert, (CA), Dave Camp (MI), Howard Coble (NC), Chris Collins (NY), Charlie Dent (PA), Mike Fitzpatrick (PA),Michael Grimm (NY), Richard Hanna (NY), Doc Hastings (WA), Darrell Issa (CA), Peter King (NY), Frank LoBiondo (NJ), Kevin McCarthy (CA), Buck McKeon (CA), Pat Meehan (PA), Gary Miller (CA), Devin Nunes (CA), Dave Reichert (WA), Harold Rogers (KY), Peter Roskam (IL),Ed Royce (CA), Jon Runyan (NJ), John Shimkus (IL), Chris Smith (NJ), David Valadao (CA) and Frank Wolf (VA). NSF: US GLOBAL LEAD IN SCIENCE INNOVATION INVESTMENT CONTINUES TO FALL On Feb. 6, the National Science Foundation’s National Science Board (NSB) released a report, which concludes that a select group of foreign countries, including China and South Korea, are now contributing a greater share of their economies to research and development (R&D) investment than in decades past. Since 2001, the share of the world’s R&D performed by the United States has decreased from 37 percent to 30 percent in 2011. Meanwhile, Asian countries’ share of global R&D has risen from 25 to 34 percent over the same period. China’s share alone spiked from four percent to 15 percent over that decade. The report found that women compromised a higher proportion of occupations in social sciences (58 percent) and life sciences (48 percent) than in engineering (13 percent) and computer and mathematical sciences (25 percent). It also stated that while Hispanics, blacks and...

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In ecology news: bicentenarian rockfish, floating tuna attractors, death tangles for silky sharks
Jul05

In ecology news: bicentenarian rockfish, floating tuna attractors, death tangles for silky sharks

THIS STORY about a man and fish (a shortraker rockfish, Sebastes borealis) started as a little local news spot in the Daily Sitka Sentinel in late June – man catches record-breaking 39.08-pound rockfish! Could be 200 years old! [Update 7/8/2013 — The Alaska Dispatch reported Friday that Alaska Fish and Game determined the fish was only 64 years old. — Thanks to Benjamin Walther for the tip.] It suddenly blew up into a wide-release story in the slow news week around the July 4th holiday, with headlines like this one from io9: “Man catches freaky 200-year-old fish, promptly kills it” or a slightly different take from the L.A. Times: “Ancient rockfish caught in Alaska: Why nobody threw it back.” A graduate student posting as “Dr What?” took up oi9’s gauntlet: “This guys was fishing at 900 feet. That depth is the equivilent of 30 atmospheres of pressure. Rockfish have a gas filled sack called a swim bladder that helps them maintain their buoancy. From that depth, the swim bladder would have massively expanded and almost surely killed the fish before he got it to the surface. I study rockfishes (I’m a marine biologist in Central California) and anything deeper than about 400 feet dies when you get it to the surface. Anything deeper than about 50 feet needs assistance returning to the bottom to recompress. This guy couldn’t have known what he had until he got it the surface and by then it was dead. Cut him some slack.” A long thread ensues in which Dr What? explains some science and explains some of his own personal opinions (without mistaking one for the other, for the most part – which isn’t easy), and wins over a few io9 commentators. Occasionally, fisheries conservationists defend recreational fishermen, comments are worth reading, and people play nice on the internet. I could not confirm Dr What?’s statement that the fish’s otoliths (analogous to inner ear bones in a mammal, fish otoliths accumulate rings of carbonate that record years lived) put the fish’s age at closer to 100 years, however. As far as I can tell, the Alaska Department of Fish and Game is still working on it. IN OTHER fish news, a report published on e-View in Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment this week found that silky sharks are swimming head-on into “fish attracting devices” (FADs—basically, tangles of junk and old nets with a strange and mysterious magnetism for tuna) and becoming entangled. The authors estimate that hundreds of thousands of silky sharks die in FADs, yearly. Read about it in Conservation Magazine. John David Filmalter, Manuela Capello, Jean-Louis Deneubourg, Paul Denfer...

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EU reforms fishing policies
Jun05

EU reforms fishing policies

By Peter Janetos, ESA public affairs intern As noted in a New York Times article on May 30, 2013 a unanimous agreement between all 27 European Union (EU) member states will reform and change current fishing policies to make fishing more sustainable across the region.  This marks the biggest fishing reform in Europe since 2002.  The decision was reached Thursday by the European fisheries commissioner Maria Damanaki, Ulrike Rodust German Member of Parliament representing the European Parliament, and Simon Coveney, Irish fisheries minister representing the EU fisheries ministries. The current policy is considered an utter failure and has resulted in 80 percent of Mediterranean and 47 percent of Atlantic fish stocks and fisheries to be overfished. “If we carried on, potentially 90 percent of all fish stocks would be unsustainable and at risk within the next decade” said European Parliament member Chris Davies. Cod is the primary fish caught by EU members in the Atlantic and has been significantly declining over the past three decades.  The new reform measures are predicted to essentially halt overfishing by 2015 and revive all stocks by 2020.  EU member states will be required to set quotas backed by scientific research by 2015 to give fish enough time to reproduce and grow.  Anglers will now have to abide by the newly implemented maximum sustainable yield (MSY), which limits fish catch to the amount a given stock can reproduce in one year.  Also new is a ban on the practice of improperly discarding unwanted fish “bycatch”.  These unintentionally caught fish — accounting for nearly 25 percent of total catches – are thrown back and usually die.  Under the new agreement anglers may only throw back 5 percent of their bycatch.  This reform also addresses the concern of EU conduct in overseas waters. EU boats will now only have access to surplus fish in territorial countries, not part of the EU. As described in the Times article, the reform is significant because it breaks with the old tradition of EU countries catering to their respective constituencies at the expense of the overall fisheries.  European Officials praised the agreement calling it “a historic step for all those involved in the fisheries and aquaculture sectors.” Pew Charitable Trusts’ EU marine program director, Uta Bellion, characterized it as a “tremendous win for fisheries, the environment, and the European people. By agreeing to rebuild fish stocks, set a legally binding target to end overfishing, and reducing bycatch and discarding, European leaders finally showed the resolve needed to secure a future for a vital industry and the citizens that have come to depend on it for food.” However, some believe the...

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ESA Policy News: February 1

Here are some highlights from the latest ESA Policy News by Science Policy Analyst Terence Houston.  Read the full Policy News here. BUDGET: CONGRESS PASSES BILL TO SUSPEND DEBT CEILING TEMPORARILY On Jan. 23, the House passed H.R. 325, the No Budget, No Pay Act. The bill would temporarily eliminate the debt ceiling until May 19 while temporarily suspending pay for Members of Congress until the House and Senate each pass a budget. The measure prevents the nation from defaulting on its debt, potentially into August if the US Department of Treasury takes extraordinary measures. The bill gives additional breathing room to a series of fiscal debates set to occur in March concerning budget sequestration and continuing appropriations for Fiscal Year 2013. A trigger of automatic across-the-board spending cuts to both defense and non-defense discretionary spending programs will occur on March 1 unless Congress can come up with a plan to reduce the debt beforehand. Under H.R. 325, if either the House or Senate fails to pass a budget by the April 15 deadline, all income earned by the members of that chamber would be set aside. The members pay would be received in full once a budget is passed or on the final day of the 113th Congress at the end of calendar year 2014. The technical decision to withhold members pay as opposed to eliminating it indefinitely seeks to minimize conflicts with the 27th Amendment to the US Constitution, which prevents Congress from changing its pay after it has already convened. The bill also does not require both the House and Senate to pass the same budget, unlikely to occur, given the current party division between the two chambers. Murray takes Senate Budget Committee reins A new key player in federal debt talks this year will be Sen. Patty Murray (D-WA), who assumes the chairmanship of the Senate Budget Committee. Even before the House legislation was finalized, Chairwoman Murray had pledged that the Senate would put forward and pass a budget this year, which would mark the first time the Senate has passed a budget since 2009. The Senate Budget Committee has posted a site that allows individuals to solicit their ideas on how to achieve fiscal reform as well as share stories of how federal investment has impacted them. To view the site and offer comments, click here. WHITE HOUSE: PRESIDENT EMPHASIZES NEED TO ADDRESS CLIMATE CHANGE IN SECOND INAUGURAL ADDRESS After a year of relative silence on the issue of climate change, President Obama gave the topic center stage in his second inaugural address. “We will respond to the threat of climate change, knowing that the...

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ESA Policy News: October 12

Here are some highlights from the latest ESA Policy News by Science Policy Analyst Terence Houston.  Read the full Policy News here.  EDUCATION: SUBCOMMITTEE CHAIRMAN REQUESTS GAO REVIEW OF REGULATORY IMPEDIMENTS TO UNIVERSITY RESEARCH  On Oct. 3, House Science, Space and Technology Subcommittee on Research and Science Education Chairman Mo Brooks (R-AL) sent a letter to the Government Accountability Office (GAO) requesting a review of regulatory actions that may hinder research at the nation’s universities. The letter comes following  a recent report from the National Research Council of the National Academies entitled Research Universities and the Future of America: Ten Breakthrough Actions Vital to our Nation’s Prosperity and Security. Among its recommendations was a call to “reduce or eliminate regulations that increase administrative costs, impede research productivity, and deflect creative energy without substantially improving the research environment.” The National Academies report also recommends raising government, industry and philanthropy support for Research and Development (R&D) to three percent of Growth Domestic Product, fully funding the America COMPETES Act and “doubling the level of basic research conducted by the National Science Foundation, the National Institute of Standards and Technology, and the Department of Energy’s Office of Science.” To view Rep. Brooks’ letter, click here. The full National Academies report and a PDF summary is available here. FORESTS: SUPREME COURT SUSTAINS ROADLESS RULE On Oct. 1, the United States Supreme Court stated it would not review a Clinton administration roadless rule that protects 45 million acres of national forest from road construction and logging. The decision ends a decade of legal challenges that began when the rule was first finalized in January 2001. Petitioners had asked the Supreme Court to overturn a decision last year by the 10th US Circuit Court of Appeals, which upheld the Clinton rule and reversed a US district judge’s determination that the rule had created de facto wilderness and violated the National Environmental Policy Act. Petitioners included the state of Wyoming, the Colorado Mining Association and the American Petroleum Institute. After the ruling, Gov. Matt Mead stated that while he had concerns about what the decision would mean for economic opportunity in his state, he intends to work collaboratively with the US Forest Service to address these issues. INTERIOR: NOMINATIONS SOUGHT FOR CLIMATE CHANGE ADVISERS The US Department of Interior (DOI) is seeking nominations for a new panel to be composed of outside scientific experts to help inform the agency’s work on the impacts of climate change on natural resources. Those nominated would serve on DOI’s Advisory Committee on Climate Change and Natural Resource Science. The committee will advise the US Geological Survey’s National Climate Change and Wildlife Science Center (NCCWSC)...

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