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Mar 10, 2015

04:27:10 GMT--Non-categorized event - North-America - USA

EDIS Number: UEV-20150310-47264-USA

Date / time: 10/03/2015 04:25:33 [UTC]

Event: Non-categorized event

Area: North-America

Country: USA

State/County: State of California

Location: [California coastal region]

Number of Deads: N/A

Number of Injured: N/A

Number of Infected: N/A

Number of Missing: N/A

Number of Affected: N/A

Number of Evacuated: N/A

Damage level: N/A


With the number of sardines along the Pacific coast plummeting, a commercial fishing ban looms on Monterey's most iconic fish. A draft report released by federal regulators last week shows there aren't enough sardines left to sustain a fishery. If those findings hold up to the scrutiny of independent experts, the Pacific Fishery Management Council could cancel the 2015 sardine fishing season when it meets in April. "Our fishing is making the crash so much worse than it would have naturally been," said Geoff Shester, California program director for the advocacy group Oceana. "This is unquestionably and unequivocally a result of overfishing." The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration projections show 2015 levels of Pacific sardines would fall well below 150,000 metric tons, the level needed to allow even a modest fishing season. Those figures demonstrate a precipitous crash from the more than 1 million metric tons that the assessment reported in 2007. Shester's position is not held by the fishing industry, which has argued with environmental groups over the root cause of the decline. The controversy revolves around the species' natural ebb and flow, which has been studied by biologists for decades. Diane Pleschner-Steele, executive director of the California Wetfish Producers Association, criticized NOAA's assessment, especially the acoustic sensors that scientists stick in the water to capture a snapshot of fish populations. Those surveys miss fish near the surface, which is precisely where sardines spend their time, she said. "I'm sure Oceana will be banging the drum saying, 'Oh no, the sky is falling, you can't take one more fish,'" Pleschner-Steele said. "They're just so off the wall. They're incredible." As the temperature of the ocean fluctuates over the years, sardines tend to flock to warmer waters. But no one is sure exactly what's causing the current crash, which began in 2007. "We're making the same mistakes we did during Cannery Row," Shester said. At mid-century, up to 10 million metric tons of sardines roamed the waters off the coast. But there was no fishery management and the population dropped rapidly as sardine fishing boomed in Monterey. But, Shester said, the federal Pacific Fishery Management Council, which sets fishery policy off the West Coast, and the industry never admit that fishing contributes to the decline.

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