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Fraser Sockeye deaths blamed on virus/ Updated

After months of reputedly being muzzled, DFO scientist Kristi Miller testified at the Cohen Inquiry. DFO head of molecular genetics Dr. Kristi Miller may have found the so-called smoking gun that is killing sockeye in the Fraser River. Miller and her colleagues have concluded that many sockeye are entering the Fraser in a weakened state, possibly because of viral infections, which may be caused by salmon leukemia, or a contagious virus. Miller said that fish with the genomic sequence she has identified are generally more susceptible to death in rivers and are clearly ailing before reaching freshwater rivers. More here

Dr. Miller created a stir at the hearing on Wednesday when she said the parvovirus “could be the smoking gun” in the disappearance of millions of Fraser sockeye in 2009. One day later, she tried to pour cold water on that statement and cautioned a lot more work is needed. “What I really meant was that this could be a major factor, not the major factor, because I also agree with others that there is no major single factor. I did put a lot of ifs, ands, or buts at the time I made that statement. The main one is that we have to be able to demonstrate that we have an infectious disease, that it causes mortality.” More here

On Thursday, it emerged that Dr. Miller's husband is a "major shareholder" in a B.C. aquaculture company that raises farmed shellfish, and that she has served as "chief scientific advisor" to the company's U.S.-based parent, Ocean Smart Inc.

TAGS: fisheries, sustainable, Fraser River, sockeye salmon, viral infections, salmon mortality, Cohen Commission, Kristi Miller

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Atlantic cod stocks show signs of recovery/Updated

According to new research published July 27 in Nature, cod and other groundfish populations off the east coast of Canada are showing signs of recovery more than 20 years after the fisheries collapsed in the early 1990s. The research, undertaken by scientists at DFO's Bedford Institute of Oceanography and Queen's University, shows that cod, as well as other groundfish populations, are increasing in numbers off the coast of Nova Scotia. The stidy indicates that ecosystem hifts prevented the stocks from replenishing before now. When cod and groundfish were plentiful, they fed off smaller "forage fish." When overfishing depleted the bigger fish's populations, the forage fish turned to bigger fish's spawn for food, including baby cod.Over the years, the forage fish population swelled to almost 900 times its original numbers, preventing groundfish stocks from recovering. A subsequent decline in forage fish numbers  has facilitated the recovery of the cod and haddock populations on the Scotian Shelf. The scientists speculate that this "bodes well" for other collapsed fisheries north of Nova Scoptia, such as off the coast of Newfoundland. More here and here

NOTE:There has been extensive media of this story in the past couple of days. Much of it exagerates the area and extent of recovery for cod. This study deals only with the Eastern Scotian Shelf. One of the best summaries of the research and its implications can be found here

TAGS: fisheries, sustainable, Atlantic cod, haddock, Atlantic groundfish,  recovery, forage fish, ecosystem shifts, Bedford Institute, Queen's University, Ken Frank, William Leggett

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Global Trends in Marine Fishery Status

Trevor Branch and Ray Hilborn, with some colleagues, have published a paper in Conservation Biology contrasting global trends in marine fishery status obtained from catches and from stock assessments (here).On the basis of catch trends, it has been suggested that about 70% of all stocks are overexploited due to unsustainable harvesting and 30% of all stocks have collapsed to <10% of unfished levels. In Branch et al (2011)'s comparison of biomass data with catch trends, catch trends overestimated the percentage of overexploited and collapsed stocks. Although their biomass data were primarily from industrial fisheries in developed countries, the status of these stocks estimated from catch data was similar to the status of stocks in the rest of the world estimated from catch data. They  concluded that at present 28–33% of all stocks are overexploited and 7–13% of all stocks are collapsed. Additionally, the proportion of fished stocks that are overexploited or collapsed has been fairly stable in recent years.

TAGS: fisheries, sustainable, overfishing, overexploitation, fishery trends, marine fishery trends, Trevor Branch, Ray Hilborn

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Is a Fisheries Apocalpyse Imminent?

Niels Daan and three colleagues have published a new paper challenging prophecies that an apocalyse in world fisheries is  imminent  (Available here) The prediction by Worm et al. (2006) that by 2048 all commercially exploited stocks will have collapsed through continuing overexploitation became a focal point for public and media concern about the state of world fisheries. Indeed it received saturation media coverage around the world and is still widely cited as reflecting the status of world fisheries. Several fundamental objections have been raised against the methods underlying this prediction. In 2009, Worms collaborated with some of his critics in a substantial revision in  the interpretation of stock-status development  (Worm et al., 2009). Daan et al (2011) have added their voices to the criticism of the methodology of the original analysis. They concluded that the method is both technically and conceptually flawed, and that any predictions derived from it represent flawed prophecies.

TAGS: fisheries, apocalyse, sustainable, overfishing, Boris Worms, Niels Daan

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EU Common Fisheries Policy Reform/Panacea or Fantasy

In mid-July the EU announced its long-awaited proposals for reforming the Common Fisheries Policy (CFP). It has acknowledged that previous policy efforts have been a failure. Critics have been urging a more conservation-based focus while industry spokesmen wanted change as long as it didn't affect them adversely. According to Commissioner Maria Damanaki changes were needed because scientific models suggested that only eight of 136 fish stocks in European Union waters would be at sustainable levels in 2022 if no action were taken. One of the fundamental changes is the introduction of tradable fishing rights, which would be imposed at the national rather than the European Union level. In theory this would put responsibility for safeguarding fish stocks with the industry and help reduce overcapacity. She also addressed another thorny issue, discarding. All fish would now be landed and counted against quotas. But there were no proposals to to directly reduce the tremendous overcapacity in the European fleet. NGOs have questioned whether the tradeable fishing rights will help reduce capacity and the fishing industry is divided with small boat owners generally opposed. More here

TAGS: EU, fisheries, sustainable, overfishing, Common Fisheries Policy Reform, Commissioner Maria Damanaki , tradeable fishing rights, individual quotas

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