The Berkley Conservation Institute (BCI) is part of Pure Fishing, which is part of Jarden Corporation. BCI was developed to support conservation and angler recruitment efforts. We cooperate with fishing groups, conservation organizations, customers and other industry partners to protect our fishable waters. We collaborate to enhance populations of important sport fish and to introduce the next generation to the delight of angling….and to teach them to lead the fight for conservation. We are advised by a Conservation Leaders Advisory Team of Carrie Wilson, Noreen Clough and Dr. Bill Taylor. This passion for stewardship has been a foundation of our company for over 70 years.
Climate change will have major impacts on watersheds and fishery resources over the next 50-100 years. Berkley Conservation Institute will encourage US and Global efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions to slow the rate of climate change over the century. We must also incorporate the expectation of climate change impacts in natural resource management decisions made today. Another key issue for 2011/12 will be to help sportsmen understand the potential impacts to fish and wildlife and to push for strategic investment and long term management strategies by America’s fish and wildlife management agencies. In 2008 we co-authored a major report outlining a pragmatic, realistic strategy to restore Pacific Salmon. We will work with the media to communicate strategies to protect and restore wildlife in the age of global warming. In 2010, we were invited many times to speak on this topic to sportsmen’s groups and fish/wildlife professionals.
Clean Water-Healthy Streams and Lakes We will work to ensure wetlands and fishable waters are cleaned up to meet the fishable and swimable standard of the Clean Water Act of 1973. We will continue to advocate for strengthening protections for wetlands and small streams. Decisions by the US Supreme Court have weakened the Clean Water Act, particularly with respect to protecting the wetlands. BCI will work with FishNet and the Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership (TRCP) to support legislative or regulatory fixes to this problem. The degradation of our headwater streams will threaten water quality for healthy communities and fisheries/ wildlife habitat.
Energy Development/Gulf Oil Leak. The disastrous oil leak caused by the collapse of the Deepwater Horizon oil rig in 2010 has created a huge and damaging impact to fishing in the Gulf of Mexico. Fortunately, it appears that actual damage to fish and wildlife habitat was less than originally feared. Now, the focus is on using the fines and damage assessment funds to restore the wetlands and coastal habitat of the Gulf region and to strengthen stock assessments for sustainable fisheries.
However the bigger issue is making sure that regulatory oversight ensures that disasters like this never happen again. This event shows what happens when worst case scenario planning and redundant protection mechanisms are ignored because of short term costs.
On the broader energy front, 2011 is a great time to advocate for more sensible siting and development of oil/gas, wind and wave energy while ensuring the sustainability of our marine fisheries resources and while maintaining access to key fishing areas. We will also work to improve the protection of waters and habitat associated with onshore energy development in the Rocky Mountain Front and other areas, particularly in the West. Another growing issue is the siting of renewable energy sites in the West and offshore, as well as the transmission corridors.
BCI works with State and Federal fisheries managers on a number of issues each year. BCI is an active member of FishNet, a national coalition of fisheries advocates.
Magnuson Act Implementation In 2011, it is imperative that implementation of the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act be improved to avoid excessive and damaging fishing closures such as the bottom fishing closure in the South Atlantic to protect red snapper. South Atlantic red snapper need to be rebuilt, but in a manner and at a schedule that will allow fishing for other species. Fortunately, a large closure to bottom fishing in the South Atlantic was avoided in 2010, but smaller closures to protect key species of the snapper/grouper complex in the South Atlantic and Gulf of Mexico continue.
The 2006 amendments to the Magnuson-Stevens Act require the development of annual catch limits and accountability measures for all managed fish stocks in America. A problem is establishing such ACL’s and AM’s for stocks where stock assessments are absent or inadequate. The balancing of stock assessment availability and their use in establishing ACL’s and AM’s is a focus of strengthening the implementation of the Magnuson-Stevens act. Neither fishing nor conservation benefit from managing fisheries based on guesses as to abundance and productivity. Science-based catch limits are critical to public support for fisheries restrictions.
Administrative and legislative solutions are being pursued to allow rebuilding of key species while maintaining access to other species in the complex. BCI is working closely with American Sportfishing Assn., Coastal Conservation Assn., the Center for Coastal Conservation and other partners to find solutions and to help National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration improve catch accounting and stock assessments. We are absolutely committed to sound conservation and sustainable fisheries.
FishSmart: Operation Deep Release In 2011, a workshop was held regarding improving catch and release survival of rockfish/snapper/grouper brought to the surface from significant depth. These fish often suffer from barotrauma, which is the expansion of the swim bladder/stomach and the eyes, caused by decompression. If released on the surface, most of these fish cannot swim back to depth and will die. The results of the workshop showed that by decompressing these fish by using devices to get them back to depth quickly before release, nearly all these fish can survive. These studies were done on key West Coast rockfish species. Studies are needed to determine if these same results will apply to key species like red snapper and gag grouper in the South Atlantic/Gulf of Mexico. If so, anglers may be able to release protected species with high survival while fishing for more abundant species. This project is part of a broader effort called FishSmart (see www.fishsmart.org).
Marine Reserves 2010 was an important year to work with other fisheries and environmental interests to find a good compromise regarding establishment of Marine Reserves (no fishing zones in the Ocean). Fishing gear should not be damaging key marine fish habitats and fisheries must be sustainably managed. However, we will fight against unwarranted or excessive closures of fishing access. Clear objectives, evaluation of economic/social impacts and a transparent, inclusive process for government decisions on this issue is required. Oregon and California are key states as both have ongoing processes involving fishermen and other conservation interests. Good progress on finding solutions was realized in Oregon in 2010 and 2011. However, excessive closures of fishing areas in California continue under the Marine Life Protection Act are continuing. We are fighting these unnecessary closures as part of the Coalition for Sustainable Oceans.
Marine Spatial Planning This idea to zone the Ocean to avoid conflicts in use is a key concept of the Obama Administration’s Ocean Policy. Many in the fishing industry are skeptical of these efforts for fear that they are an effort to impose marine protected areas on the fishery under the guise of conservation. This is similar to our experience with the Marine Life Protected Act closures in coastal California. BCI has advocated that the Obama Administration demonstrate the concept with a pilot approach. Involvement of the coastal States fish and wildlife departments is critical and they are currently strapped for funds to accomplish their base responsibilities. Without additional funding, it is unlikely that coastal States can bring their expertise to bear on this effort.
Pacific Salmon Recovery In 2011/12, BCI will continue to work with sportsmen’s organizations and environmental advocates to ensure a long-term recovery strategy for Pacific Salmon listed under the Endangered Species Act. The severe fisheries restrictions in recent years in the Columbia River and along the Pacific Coast show current efforts are not enough to ensure sustainable fisheries and the economic benefits they contribute. 2011 is a particularly important year for advancing the progress already made on facilitating the removal of obsolete dams on the Klamath and the Lower Snake rivers that have disproportionate negative impacts on salmon. In recent years, we made huge progress towards eliminating these obsolete dams. A long-term plan to better balance water use between power, agriculture and fisheries is needed on the Sacramento, Klamath, Columbia and many other Pacific Coastal streams. We will continue to fight efforts to water down the Central Valley Improvement Act, which provides water for fish in the Sacramento River in California.
Additionally, the collapse of the Sacramento River Fall Chinook salmon, with resulting catastrophic fisheries closures in 2008, and extended into 2009 brings urgency to resolving the issue of excessive pumping of fresh water from the Sacramento Bay Delta. 2011 is the year we expect Judge James Redden of the Federal Court of Portland, Oregon to determine the adequacy of the hydrosystem biological opinion for the Columbia River. This decision will have huge implications for the future of wild salmon listed under the Endangered Species Act and the hatchery salmon that support most tribal and non-Indian fisheries.
In 2011/12we will continue to advocate for harvest reform on the Columbia river to restrict damaging gill net fishing to off channel areas to improve the conservation of wild stocks and also to improve the economic benefits that stable recreational fisheries can provide to the region (see www.safeforsalmon.com).