Fall 2003

Plundering the Pacific

Part 1: The CATS
Who Run
the Fishhouse

Imagine the CEO of Weyerhaeuser appointed to run the national forests. As part of the deal, he gets to keep his old job. Federal law wouldn't allow it, of course. It's a simple conflict of interest. But when it comes to the folks who regulate ocean fishing, conflicts of interest are not only permissible, they're a regular part of the game. Full story.

Western Pacific council pushes plan to quash historic coral reserve. Council puts corals, spiny lobster and rare monk seal at risk so a few can profit. Full story.

They took millions of lobsters, and monk seal pups starved to death. Graphic (large file).

Science Friction. Industry resists Pew Commission’s call for change. Full story.

Marine mammals killed by Pacific fisheries. Graphic (large file).

How to speak “fisheries”. Full story.



Part 2: The Rockfish Files.

Documents show the Pacific Fishery Management Council ignored scientific advice as it let the bottom dwellers crash. Full story.

These stocks are down. Hundreds of tons of imperiled rockfish are killed and wasted as bycatch each year in West Coast fisheries. Graphic (large file).

Private ownership of a public resource? The IFQ debate. Full story.


Part 3: Essential Coral Gardens

North Pacific council rejects plan to protect coral and sponge, though the plan meant
little reduction in commercial fishing. Full story.

Protecting our Undersea Yellowstones. Scientists find marine reserves build bigger fish and produce more young. Full story.

From Baja to Bering. Exploring coral and sponge secrets along the West Coast and Alaska. Graphic (large file).



Net effects: A conservation map of the North Pacific. Graphic (very large file).



Fixing our Failed Fisheries.

What you can do for the Pacific Ocean.


More information:

North Pacific Ocean Conservation Directory.


Poachers R Us
A follow up article from Dec. 31, 2003, in the Honolulu Weekly









2003 Cascadia Times


Plundering the Pacific


Protecting Our Undersea Yellowstones

Scientists find marine reserves build bigger fish and produce more young


More than ever, scientists are seeing great value in protecting networks of wilderness areas under the sea.


The Cascadia Times Fall 2003 issue, "Plundering the Pacific," investigates the decline of the North Pacfic Ocean and its wildlife in the wake of decades of industrial scale fishing.

The 24-page print edition contains numerous graphics and full-color photographs that richly illustrate this report. Please support Cascadia Times with your subscription or by making a donation. Thank you!

Reprints are available for $5 each. For reprint information, please contact us at cascadia@spiritone.com.

Citizen groups from Baja to the Bering Sea have organized loosely coordinated campaigns that are putting this new science to work.

Marine Reserves are areas that are completely protected from all extractive activities. The protections are more stringent than Marine Conservation Areas, Marine Protected Areas or National Marine Sanctuaries, which allow at least some taking of fish and other activities.

Biologists have long known that protecting an area of the ocean can do wonders for the ecosystem. But they weren’t sure whether marine reserves would also help the economies of fishing communities.

A Florida study found that fish born in marine reserves are caught hundreds of miles outside of the reserve. This may mean the reserve is supplying the local fishery. Another study found that a larger vermilion rockfish off the West Coast produces many more young than a smaller one. A 23-inch vermilion had 1.5 million offspring, compared to 150,000 from a 16-inch fish.

“We see a significant increase in the productivity of an individual fish inside the reserve,” said Elise Granek, an Oregon State University researcher.

Last fall, the state of California took the first step in establishing a network of reserves on the West Coast. The state approved reserves around the Channel Islands off Santa Barbara. All are within the state’s three-mile territorial waters. A second phase calls for a corresponding network of reserves in federal waters beyond the three-mile zone. The reserves provide no-take and partial-take fishing in specific areas.

A three-year process led to the reserves, including a 17-member group that met monthly, composed of sport and commercial fishermen, divers, environmentalists, scientists, and coastal residents.

The reserve leaves more than 80 percent of state waters open for fishing, with closures spread among the different fisheries that operate near the islands. Proponents say the network won’t bring big back depleted rockfish all by itself, but it will help to improve the dismal situation for Southern California’s badly depleted rockfish populations.

New efforts to protect marine areas in Oregon and Washington are not as far along.

In Oregon, marine protected areas are not new. The state's coastal waters, designated as Oregon's Territorial Sea, are collectively considered to be a marine protected area. Yet, according to Oregon’s 2000 State of the Environment report, “most marine protected areas in Oregon... are not designed to protect ecosystems or biodiversity.” Oregon’s Ocean Policy Advisory Council has delivered recommendations for action. They include a limited system of marine reserves but no suggested locations.

In Washington, the Northwest Straits Commission, established by Congress in 1998, is working with local committees to protect and restore marine resources and habitats in north Puget Sound. Since 1999, People for Puget Sound, Georgia Strait Alliance, and a coalition of 20 citizens groups have been working to establish a protected area in waters shared by British Columbia and Washington state.

Also in British Columbia, Living Oceans and Canadian Parks and Wildlife are working to protect the world’s largest glass sponge reef located in Hecate Strait in the Central Coast. The federal government has known about the reef for a decade but has yet to act.

In Alaska, the Board of Fisheries established a marine protected areas committee with members from industry, communities and conservation, to develop a process for implementing reserves. The committee bogged down over the basic discussion of, “Why are they needed anyway?” said Ben Enticknap of the Alaska Marine Conservation Council. The Board put the whole process on indefinite hold.

The Pacific and North Pacific Fishery Management councils are developing marine reserve policies. n