An Ecosystem Approach to Fisheries Management Planning workshop in North Samar, Philippines

by Supin Wongbusarakum
River

Vessel moored by the banks of the river in North Samar, Philippines. Photo: NOAA Fisheries/Supin Wongbusarakum

“As a government employee, I will share all my knowledge and put in all my effort by doing my tasks the best I can to ensure success of the Ecosystem Approach to Fisheries Management (EAFM) plan. Being new to the government and the concept, I will study and do more research on how to make this more effective. As an individual, I will encourage my friends to protect nature in any simple way they can in their every day life.”

– A commitment statement by a local governmental unit officer at the EAFM Workshop, Calbayog, Philippines, January 30–February 2, 2017
Fresh fish at a harbor market

Fresh fish sold at the local harbor market. Photo: NOAA Fisheries/Supin Wongbusarakum

We arrived in the town of Calbayog in Visayas Province, Philippines the weekend before our EAFM workshop, supported by USAID, with partners from the USAID-funded ECOFISH project and officers from the Philippines Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources. We began setting up the room for the workshop activities and EAFM planning process. Collectively, we pooled our creativity to transform a long, narrow room into a welcoming venue where approximately 50 local governmental unit officials from 16 municipalities from the region could work together for the next four days. The objective for the workshop was to develop an EAFM plan for the fisheries management unit in the San Bernardino Strait and Ticao Pass—moving from theory to practice with an ecosystem approach to fisheries management and sustainable development. Because we needed to reserve wall space to display workshop output each day, we posted some of the posters on the ceiling. Surprisingly, everything looked great!

Abundance of Nipa palms in the wetland

Nipa palm trees line the coast of the wetlands. Photo: NOAA Fisheries/Supin Wongbusarakum

From the windows of the meeting room, we could see a big river with incredibly lush and green vegetation along both banks and mountains in the distance.  The light evening breeze matched the slow and gentle flow of the river. As the sun dropped below the horizon we found ourselves wrapped in a pleasant stillness, with just the sound of the water slipping by and evening insects as company. Most of us were in deep thought about what we would need to do to ensure that this workshop for EAFM planning in the Philippines would be a success and set a good precedent for more to follow.

Sunset in Calbayog

The sun sets behind a boat on the Calbayog coast. Photo: NOAA Fisheries/Supin Wongbusarakum

As night fell, a local ECOFISH staffer said we might see fireflies. Having been in many places where wetlands were paved over for development, I could not remember the last time I had seen fireflies. Then, in the midst of this reverie, I heard our ECOFISH colleagues shout, “Fireflies!” Here and there around us were tiny flashing lights. As the night got darker, some trees along the banks were filled with hundreds of fireflies. The effect was magical. Throughout the EAFM planning workshop, this image of firefly-lit trees kept surfacing as a reminder that there are still places where development has not covered over nature’s magic, and as an incentive for achieving a balance between people’s resource needs and the management and stewardship of ecosystems.

Boat by river bank

Fishing boat moored on the banks of the river. Photo: NOAA Fisheries/Supin Wongbusarakum

In the workshop, we discussed this goal of balancing ecological health with human well-being through good governance. We outlined the principles of an EAFM that include coordination and cooperation for multiple objectives and precautionary approaches to address uncertainty. We went through a full EAFM planning process—the local governmental officials defined their fisheries management area, threats and issues, goals, objectives, management activities, monitoring, and financial plans. Similar to many of the areas where we work, the major threats and issues discussed in Calbayog were related to degraded fisheries resources, poverty, illegal fishing, and weak enforcement. These problems are interlinked and have to be addressed holistically, which is exactly what an ecosystem approach to fisheries management offers. We discussed different ways to sustain fisheries and develop alternative livelihoods that will help lessen pressures on marine resources. We also took into consideration different ways to engage other stakeholder groups that rely on these marine resources.

On the last day, I was asked to help close the workshop. I shared my thoughts about the fireflies of Calbayog, my impressions of the immensely valuable wetlands surrounding us, and how our work together would contribute to conserving coastal and the marine resources for future generations. The abundance of fireflies in Calbayog was not just a magic moment in my life, it was for me, a sign of how much nature around us remains intact. I asked all the participants to reflect on how each of us is committed to the goal of balancing nature and human well-being. One by one, participants came up and posted commitment statements as we thanked each other for contributing to a very productive workshop. We all agreed that it is important to continue working together so that future generations will be able to witness natural occurrences as magical as the fireflies of Calbayog.

With thanks to USAID, ECOFISH, and the Philippines Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources for supporting this workshop.

 

How Much Does it Cost a Fishery to Save a Single Sea Turtle?

by Minling Pan

If you ever wondered how much it costs a fishery to save a sea turtle, check out this new study conducted by Dr. Minling Pan of the Pacific Islands Fisheries Science Center (PIFSC) Socioeconomic program and Dr. Shichao Li, formerly of the Joint Institute for Marine and Atmospheric Research of the University of Hawaiʻi.

According to their study, the answer to this question is quite straightforward: a fishery’s cost of saving a turtle depends on the rate of sea turtle bycatch (unintended and unwanted catch) in the fishery. In short, the higher the bycatch rate, the lower the cost to save one sea turtle (through regulating the fishery to reduce sea turtle interactions).

This finding suggests that it would be more cost effective if sea turtle conservation efforts or regulations — such as seasonal or area closures, sea turtle caps, or effort caps — take place in fisheries where bycatch rates are high. Given the transboundary nature of sea turtle and swordfish populations, these results provide insights into opportunities for fishery managers to explore win-win solutions in promoting sea turtle conservation while maintaining sustainable fisheries.

Measuring the cost of saving sea turtles

To measure the cost of saving one sea turtle in a fishery, Drs. Pan and Li developed a spatial and temporal model of sea turtle interactions the Hawaiʻi swordfish fishery. This model enables prediction of sea turtle interaction rates associated with each unit of swordfish fishing effort and the economic returns of the fishing effort by area and time.

They used a Generalized Additive Model approach, developed by PIFSC colleagues Kobayashi and Polovina (2005), to estimate sea turtle interactions associated with fishing effort in various seasons and locations. They added to the model economic returns associated with fishing effort by estimating a fishing trip cost function using ongoing trip cost data collected through a collaborative effort between the PIFSC Socioeconomics Program and the Pacific Islands Regional Office (PIRO) Observer Program.

courtesy: PIRO Observer Program

courtesy: PIRO Observer Program

The analysis compares the costs of saving one sea turtle across international fisheries with various sea turtle bycatch rates, and the team examined the trade-offs between saving one sea turtle and the economic returns of fishing operations in different seasons and different areas.

The study found that between 1994 and 2003, the Hawaiʻi swordfish fishery interacted with one loggerhead sea turtle for every 23,000 pounds of swordfish caught. This swordfish catch would be valued at approximately $50,000 in 2015 swordfish prices. After NOAA Fisheries imposed new regulations on gear and bait in April 2004, the sea turtle bycatch rate for the fishery dropped significantly.

Thus, in recent years, the fishery has interacted with one loggerhead for every 238,000 pounds of swordfish caught. This amount of catch is worth $520,000 in 2015 swordfish prices. Consequently, the marginal cost to a fishery, in terms of lost revenues, for saving an additional sea turtle is higher when the sea turtle bycatch rate is low, the researchers found.

If you are interested in finding out more detailed information, click the link below to read the newly published paper:

Evaluation of Fishing Opportunities under Sea Turtle Interaction Limits – A Decision Support Model for Hawaii-based Longline Swordfish, Xiphias gladius, Fishery Management.

For more information about this and other research from the PIFSC Socioeconomics Program visit our websitebrowse recent blog posts, or contact us by email:  pifsc.socioeconomics@noaa.gov

SE16-01: Samoa Researchers Join the NOAA Samoa Archipelago Fisheries Research Cruise

The final leg of SE16-01, the Samoa Archipelago Fisheries Research Cruise, took place around the islands of Upolu, Manono, and Savai’i, Samoa.  During this leg, researchers from 2 Samoa agencies, the Ministry of Natural Resources and the Environment (MNRE) and the Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries (MAF) joined the cruise.  Both agencies brought their own research agendas to the cruise but also assisted the NOAA researchers in their mission.

Figure 1. NOAA and MNRE researchers conduct coral bleaching survey using snorkel.

Figure 1. NOAA and MNRE researchers conduct coral bleaching survey using snorkel.

MNRE assigned 2 researchers to conduct coral bleaching and seagrass surveys.  Coral bleaching surveys by MAF and NOAA researchers took place via snorkel at 23 sites around Savai’i and Upolu (Fig 1).  Preliminary findings indicate:

  • the reef slope is not as affected by bleaching as the reef flat:
    • reef slope = 10% bleached with 10% severity and primarily Pocillopora species
    • reef flat – 20% bleached with 25% severity and primarily Acropora (Fig. 2)
  • the 2015 bleaching event was more severe (60-70% bleached corals) then the current event.
  • in general, Samoa does not appear to be experiencing bleaching as severe as other places in the South Pacific (e.g. GBR) however, it is important to note that there is minor bleaching related to increased water temperature.
Figure 2. Bleaching of Acropora on the east side of Savai’i. Notice the bleaching of the branch tips.

Figure 2. Bleaching of Acropora on the east side of Savai’i. Notice the bleaching of the branch tips.

MNRE also conducted a seagrass snorkel survey around Manono tai Island.  The entire island was surveyed in one day (Maria Satoa is an extreme seagrass snorkel surveyor) (Fig. 3)!  Preliminary findings indicate:

  • confirmed 2 species of seagrass around the island (Halophila ovalis and Syringodium isoetifolium)
  • both species were found in shallower water but Syringodium isoetifolium was less abundant in deeper water
  • the SW side of the island had the greatest seagrass density (90% coverage) and the SE had the lowest density(2%)
  • both species on the western-most point of the island had cyanobacteria growing on the leaves (Fig.4)
Figure 3. MNRE staff surveying the seagrass beds and collect samples around Manono tai Island.

Figure 3. MNRE staff surveying the seagrass beds and collect samples around Manono tai Island.

Figure 4. NOAA and MNRE researchers consult about cyanobacteria growing on seagrass leaves.

Figure 4. NOAA and MNRE researchers consult about cyanobacteria growing on seagrass leaves.

MAF supplied a large amount of fishing ‘local knowledge’ and provided many staff members for NOAA operations.  They participated in bottomfishing operations from small boats, spearfishing, and the 2 MNRE surveys (Fig. 5).  At the end of each day they jumped in and assisted with the tedious and sometimes messy fish processing.  They also took the opportunity to search for many of the nearshore and offshore fish aggregating devices (FADs).  Unfortunately, only 1 of the nearshore FADs and none of the offshore FADs were still in place.

Figure 5. MAF staff participating in the various SE16-01 operations.

Figure 5. MAF staff participating in the various SE16-01 operations.

Over the last 10 days the ship’s complement was exposed to many aspects of Samoan culture.  We learned how to shred coconuts, the names of Samoan fish and fishing techniques and our vocabulary greatly expanded ;).  It’s been an honor and privilege to work with the Samoa researchers (Fig. 6) and we look forward to many more collaborative efforts.  For more on this collaborative effort, check out:

http://www.samoaobserver.ws/en/13_04_2016/local/4882/Local-scientists-benefit-from-international-project.htm

Fa’afetai.

Figure 6. MAF staff, keeping things safe!

Figure 6. MAF staff, keeping things safe!

For a cruise overview, click here.

To read about the SE16-01 Blog 1 – Outreach event with American Samoa Community College Students, click here.

To read about the SE16-01 Blog 2 – Secretary of the Office of Samoan Affairs, District Governor of Manu’a, and District Governor of American Samoa East District visit the NOAA Ship Oscar Elton Sette in Pago Pago, American Samoa, click here.

To read about the SE16-01 Blog 3 – Nightlight fishing for atule in American Samoa, click here.

To read about the SE16-01 Blog 4 – Bottomfishing for samples, click here.

To read about the SE16-01 Blog 5 – Spearfishing for samples, click here.

 

 

SE16-01: Spearfishing for samples

Coral reef fishes represent a highly diverse and economically important component of tropical marine fauna globally. Coral reef fisheries support coastal communities and island nations across the Indo-Pacific, including US jurisdictions in the Central, Western and South Pacific. Species on coral reefs live in the shallow coastal environment and have a wide range of body sizes, color patterns, life spans and reproductive strategies. Understanding the life history strategies of harvested species is very important for enhancing our ability to sustainably manage coral reef fisheries. Several decades ago, it was commonly believed that most coral reef fish species were short-lived (lifespans of only a few years) because there were so many conspicuous species competing for similar resources. However, once scientists started using otoliths to age tropical fishes, we learned that many families lived unexpectedly long lives, up to 30 years or more. Even more surprising has been the more recent investigation of changes in lifespan and maximum body size across different areas. Investigating spatial variation in life history traits of harvested coral reef fishes is a major objective of the Samoa Archipelago Fisheries Research Cruise.

DCIM100GOPROGOPR0017.

Diver with spear

DCIM100GOPROGOPR0138.

Diver with speared fish around belt

Fish life history strategies change across space as a response to changes in the environment (for example: ocean temperature, primary productivity, habitat distribution and availability, level of competition with other species for resources). Hence, fish from low latitudes with warm ocean temperatures will often be short-lived and smaller-bodied on average, whereas the same species from a slightly higher latitude (colder ocean temperatures generally) will be longer-lived and reach a larger body size. These metabolic changes to growth rate and life span are important to fisheries yields, and scientists onboard the Samoan Archipelago Fisheries Research Cruise are working to better understand these changes.

DCIM100GOPROGOPR0145.

Terminal male bullethead parrotfish (Chlorurus spilurus)

DCIM100GOPROGOPR0172.

Spearfishing operations on the small boats

During this research cruise aboard the NOAA Ship Oscar Elton Sette, we are targeting several species of coral reef fish for life history research. Among these is the bullethead parrotfish Chlorurus spilurus. This species, with its similar sister species Chlorurus sordidus, spans from the Northern Red Sea to the Hawaiian Islands to French Polynesia to southern Africa and is among of the most common parrotfish species in the world. Collections of these species have been undertaken at 30 locations across their entire range spanning from highly populated areas to remote uninhabited islands (for example, Rose Atoll) to better understand the magnitude and influence of certain environmental drivers of life history variation. So far we’ve learned that maximum age and maximum body size can more than double from one location to another. That means that a particular species might reach over twice as big and twice as old as the same species in a different location!

IMG_3105

Spearfisher looking for fish

IMG_3943

Bumphead parrotfish (Chlorurus spilurus) awaiting processing

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

PIFSC Scientist, Brett Taylor (left) removed otiliths from fish while Cassie Pardee records data

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

PIFSC Scientist, Brett Taylor (left) removed otoliths from fish while Cassie Pardee (middle) assists and Louise Giuseffi (right) records data

For a cruise overview, click here.

To read about the SE16-01 Blog 1 – Outreach event with American Samoa Community College Students, click here.

To read about the SE16-01 Blog 2 – Secretary of the Office of Samoan Affairs, District Governor of Manu’a, and District Governor of American Samoa East District visit the NOAA Ship Oscar Elton Sette in Pago Pago, American Samoa, click here.

To read about the SE16-01 Blog 3 – Nightlight fishing for atule in American Samoa, click here.

To read about the SE16-01 Blog 4 – Bottomfishing for samples, click here.

 

SE16-01: Bottomfishing for samples

The primary objective of the NOAA/PIFSC Life History Program is to provide the basic biological and ecological information of subsistence, recreationally, and commercially valuable species for stock assessment and management purposes.  The more we know about a species life history (age structure, growth rates, morality rates, size- and age-at-sexual maturity), the more accurate are the estimates of stock status (i.e. number of fish in a local population) which, in turn, can lead to more appropriate management for sustainable fisheries.  Samples from Samoa Archipelago bottomfish (palu-lua, palu-malau, palu-sina and other deepwater snapper (Figure 1) are difficult to obtain for a variety of reason therefore; our knowledge of these species is lacking.  A major objective of the Samoa Archipelago Fisheries Research Cruise is to gather as many samples as possible for laboratory analysis and life history estimation at the NOAA Inouye Regional Center (home of the Life History Program).

Figure 1. Select bottomfish from Samoa captured during SE16-01 waiting to be processed.

Figure 1. Select bottomfish from Samoa captured during SE16-01 waiting to be processed.

During this cruise aboard the NOAA Ship Oscar Elton Sette, we are targeting the following deepwater snappers:

Common English Name Scientific Name Samoan Name Hawaiian Name
flame snapper Etelis coruscans palu-malau onaga
pygmy ruby snapper Etelis carbunculus palu-malau ehu
giant ruby snapper Etelis sp. palu-malau *
crimson jobfish Pristipomoides filamentosus palu-ena’ena opakapaka
goldflag jobfish Pristipomoides auricilla palu-ave yellowtail kale kale *
goldeneye jobfish Pristipomoides flavipinnis palu-pa’epa’e *
rusty jobfish Aphareus rutilans palu-gutusiliva lehi

* does not occur in Hawaii

These species are concentrated near deep-slope environments at depths ranging from 60 fathoms (360’, 110 meters) to 220 fathoms (1,320’, 402 meters).  Many of the targeted species have a strong species-specific habitat preference associated with substrate.  Yet even though these fish require certain types of high structural complexity, we see there is much overlap in the fish among the depth distributions.  The essential fish habitat of pinnacles, drop-offs and rocky substrate for bottomfish species are limited due to this area being primarily volcanic seamounts, thus, targeting these locations can be difficult.  In an effort to aid in the location of preferred bottomfish habitat, the potential fishing sites are identified using the ships instruments during nightly and early morning surveys.  Scientists then use displays on their small boat to zero in on the fish.  However, scientists need more than the knowledge of where a specific fish might be located in the ocean.

Scientists often recruit experienced fishermen to assist with the collection of specimens for their research. With the help of fishermen, scientists have collected fish using techniques similar to the commercial bottomfish fishery in the Hawaiian archipelago (Figure 2).  These fish are collected on a “rig”, which consists of a series of hooks that are arranged in varying distance from the bottom.  Each “rig” is weighted with a 4-5 pound weight to ensure that the deep depths of the preferred habitat are reached.  When a fish is hooked, they are brought to the surface using hydraulic and electric fishing reel (Figure 3).  When fish aren’t being caught scientists use video cameras in deepwater housings to determine if the fish aren’t there or are there and just aren’t biting at that time (Figure 4).

Figure 2. Scientists and fisherman collecting samples during SE16-01. Note: it’s not always sunny skies in Samoa.

Figure 2. Scientists and fisherman collecting samples during SE16-01. Note: it’s not always sunny skies in Samoa.

Figure 3. Scientist excited about a fish on the line (if you listen carefully you can almost hear her yelling “hanapa’a!”). Notice the electric fishing reel.

Figure 3. Scientist excited about a fish on the line (if you listen carefully you can almost hear her yelling “hanapa’a!”). Notice the electric fishing reel.

Figure 4. A still frame from the bottomfishing camera. A GoPro in a special housing is deployed on the fishing line and videos fish, their behavior and habitat.

Figure 4. A still frame from the bottomfishing camera. A GoPro in a special housing is deployed on the fishing line and videos fish, their behavior and habitat.

Any fish collected is a valuable asset to the research mission and kept in the most pristine condition until it can be ‘processed’ for research analysis (Figure 5).  During fish processing, scientists on board weigh, measure and determine the gender of each fish.  They then extract otoliths (fish ear “bones”) for age estimates, gonads (ovaries and testes) for reproductive status, and fin clips for genetic studies that identify stock structure.   It is important to note that some of the fish captured during the cruise are used to feed the crew or are saved for public outreach events.  However, the majority are frozen for distribution to local charities whenever we reach port.

Figure 5. Scientist processing assembly line. All fish are identified to species, weighted, measured, and sexed. Biological samples (otoliths, gonads, fin clips) are extracted for life history studies.

Figure 5. Scientist processing assembly line. All fish are identified to species, weighted, measured, and sexed. Biological samples (otoliths, gonads, fin clips) are extracted for life history studies.

The fishing has been good in American Samoa (Figure 6).  We have collected enough samples that soon after the cruise we should be able to start producing life history information for Samoan Archipelago bottomfish.  We aim to build collaborations with our Samoan colleagues from the Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries and the Ministry of Natural Resource and Environment because they are the local knowledge.  In fact, many are participating in the final leg of SE16-01 which begins on March 30, 2016 (US) and focuses on the Independent State of Samoa waters (upcoming blog).

Figure 6. A 31 kg Etelis sp. being weighted by scientists aboard the NOAA Ship Oscar Elton Sette. This fish will provide vital information about this newly described species that was recently distinguished from its congener Etelis carbunculus.

Figure 6. A 31 kg Etelis sp. being weighed by scientists aboard the NOAA Ship Oscar Elton Sette. This fish will provide vital information about this newly described species that was recently distinguished from its congener Etelis carbunculus.

Stay tuned to the PIFSC Blog for more updates from the Samoa Archipelago Fisheries Research Cruise.  Next we’ll be showing you highlights from our coral reef life history research…

For a cruise overview, click here.

To read about the SE16-01 Blog 1 – Outreach event with American Samoa Community College Students, click here.

To read about the SE16-01 Blog 2 – Secretary of the Office of Samoan Affairs, District Governor of Manu’a, and District Governor of American Samoa East District visit the NOAA Ship Oscar Elton Sette in Pago Pago, American Samoa, click here.

To read about the SE16-01 Blog 3 – Nightlight fishing for atule in American Samoa, click here.

 

SE16-01: Nightlight fishing for atule in American Samoa

A PIFSC sponsored Rose Atoll Marine National Monument and American Samoa Archipelago Ecosystem Science Implementation Workshop was held in May 2015 at the Tauese P.F. Sunia Ocean Center. This workshop pinpointed several high priority American Samoa research items (see workshop report here).  One of the concerns centered on the observations of a decline in the American Samoa atule (also referred to as akule) (Selar crumenophthalmus) runs.  Atule typically live outside the bays and exhibit annual spawning migrations inside bays where they are harvested by village residents.  In addition to providing food, this traditional fishery is deeply rooted in Samoa and is culturally important.

The PIFSC Samoan Archipelago Fisheries Research Cruise sought to provide baseline information about atule by developing a survey to assess the current status of atule.  The operational plan was to use a nightlight, lowered from the NOAA Ship Oscar Elton Sette, to attract atule to the ship, capture them using hook-and-line, and quickly measure before releasing them alive (Fig. 1).  This data would provide insight about the offshore distribution of atule and the population’s size classes.  Future surveys could examine site-specific atule life history traits by collecting otoliths for ageing studies and gonads for reproductive studies.  All of this information would help assess current atule stock status for sustainable management.

Figure 1. Scientist measuring an atule during the Samoa Archipelago Fisheries Research Cruise.

Figure 1. Scientist measuring an atule during the Samoa Archipelago Fisheries Research Cruise.

Despite fairly intensive fishing efforts (every night from 8:00 pm to 12:30 am) offshore from a variety of bays with traditional atule runs (Fagatele, Leone, Faga’sa, and Aoloau) catch rates were disappointing.  Fish schools were difficult to locate.  When located, the ship drifted too fast and they were lost.  However, sample sizes were large enough to identify two primary sizes classes offshore.

Sometimes the best scientific efforts don’t pay out.  But we did learn that using a big ship to catch little fish may not be the best way to survey the atule population.  Scientists are currently discussing other survey methodologies (never give up!).

However, the scientists aboard the NOAA Ship Oscar Elton Sette have been very successful in their other endeavors during this cruise.  Stay tuned to the PIFSC blog for cruise updates as we follow the scientists during the Samoa Archipelago Fisheries Research Cruise.

For a cruise overview, click here.

To read about the SE16-01 Blog 1 – Outreach event with American Samoa Community College Students, click here.

To read about the SE16-01 Blog 2 – Secretary of the Office of Samoan Affairs, District Governor of Manu’a, and District Governor of American Samoa East District visit the NOAA Ship Oscar Elton Sette in Pago Pago, American Samoa.