Fishery meltdown



Percentage changes in maximum sustained yields between the periods 1930-1939 and 2001-2010/Christopher M. Free et al

Alaska commercial fisheries look to be  global-warming losers, according to a new study by a group of U.S. scientists, but the study is missing one vital component:



Pound-for-pound salmon remain among the most valued fish in the 49th state, and Pacific Northwest scientists last year concluded salmon are now more abundant than at any time in recorded history, in part due to a warmer ocean.

“High overall salmon abundances primarily reflect high numbers of natural-origin and hatchery salmon in northern regions where habitat is less degraded and warming ocean conditions have been generally favorable for pink, chum, and sockeye salmon,” as the American Fisheries Society summarized the work of researchers Greg Ruggerone and James Irvine.

What is good for one fish, however, is not necessarily good for all fish, a team of scientists led by Christopher Free of Rutgers University reported in a paper published in Science earlier this month.

The study focuses on marine – not anadromous – species.

Free said all salmon were left out. Alaska and Russia are the big natural producers of those fish. Russia had so many pink salmon returning to its streams and rivers last year that the fish overwhelmed processing capacity.

Russia salmon fishermen, like those in Alaska, appear to have benefited heavily from a warmer North Pacific ocean. Alaska salmon harvests hit rock bottom in the 1960s and early 1970s when the Pacific was dominated by a cold regime.

Alaska harvests for more than a decade averaged about 40 million and fell to a mere 22 million in 1974. The 10-year average harvest is now up around 175 million.

Winners and losers

The paper by Free and researchers from the University of California, the University of Washington and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration recognizes the up-and-down realities of climate shifts.

The news might cover only the doom and gloom, but the study notes there are winners as well as losers.

“Some populations responded significantly positively,” the study says, “and others responded significantly negatively to warming….

“Losses from populations responding negatively to warming outweighed gains from those responding positively because negatively responding populations constituted a larger biomass. The greatest losses in productivity occurred in the Sea of Japan, North Sea, Iberian Coastal, Kuroshio Current, and Celtic-BiscayShelf ecoregions, whereas the greatest gains occurred in the Labrador Newfoundland, Baltic Sea, Indian Ocean, and Northeast U.S.Shelf ecoregions.”

Alaska gains and losses were small enough that it failed to make either the biggest-loser list or the biggest-winner list.

The authors said they could find no evidence to, at this time, support the conventional wisdom that as the planet warms there has been a steady, northward movement of ecoregions driving greater productivity in the subArctic and Arctic.

“Studies that project fisheries productivity under future emissions scenarios often predict increases in productivity at the poles and decreases at the equator,” they wrote. “We see no evidence for this prediction over the observed time period, suggesting that contemporary range shifts have yet to drive productivity to the poles or that this prediction is driven by populations not evaluated in this work.”

The authors admit conclusions as to the fate of global fishery stocks are difficult because of the complexity of marine ecosystems and the inherent problems in studying them.

Activity takes place largely out of sight beneath the ocean’s surface in  ecosystems where little things are eaten by big things until some of the surviving little things grow big enough to eat the young of some of the big things.

Complicated predator-prey interactions makes it difficult to predict future productivity based solely on temperatures changes.

“Declines in East Asian fisheries productivity are consistent with single-species studies documenting negative climate impacts in the region,” they write, “though community-scale studies suggest that declining predator productivity may be balanced by corresponding increases in prey productivity.”

Not to mention that there is more to the picture than just temperature.

“Other factors such as changing primary production, dissolved oxygen, pH, and habitat availability may also be influential,” the study says. In many cases, those factors remain little investigated and undefined on a global scale.

Management importance

Where fisheries have been well-managed, the authors added, fish populations seemed more resistant to climate shifts whereas the opposite was true in areas where management was lax.

“We also found that exploitation history and temperature change interacted to determine the vulnerability of populations to warming,” they wrote. “Populations that had experienced intense and prolonged overfishing were more likely to be negatively influenced by warming, especially when they had also experienced rapid warming.”

Alaska fish managers usually get good grades for conservation management.

The study has what might be considered a significant margin of error.

Thought it estimated “that the combined multiple sustained yield (MSY) from the 235 populations (studied) decreased by 4.1 percent  (1.4 million metric tons) from 35.2 million metric tons in 1930 to 1939 to 33.8 million metric tons in 2001 to 2010….the 95 percent confidence interval for this trend ranged from a 9.0 percent decline to a 0.3 increase….”

The weighting of the range toward a decline does, however, make a negative outcome far more likely than a positive outcome, but the losses are so far relatively small.






42 replies »

  1. it looks like the best thing to do is boycott the Alaskan fish industry all together until they stop pumping the market with a billion hatchery fish a year.
    Go plant based, and let whatever natural runs are remaining tine to heal from overharvesting.
    This also helps our environment since agricultural production of animal based proteins (like fish ranching with thousands of fishing boats) are one of the largest contributors of green house gases.
    I know, “Where do you get your protein if you go plant based?”
    “The simplified version is that protein consists of amino acids, which are found in fruit and vegetables. To get nutrients from protein, our bodies need to break it down into amino acids, then build it back up again.”
    “The protein craze isn’t just an unwarranted, over-hyped red herring, it’s harmful. Not only is there evidence that excess protein intake is often stored in fat cells, it contributes to the onset of a variety of diseases, such as osteoporosis, cancer, impaired kidney function, and heart disease.”
    Many ultra marathon runners, MMA athletes and motocross riders have all adopted a plant based diet and are now more successful than ever in their pursuits.
    Food for thought as our planet continues to warm and bring another early Spring to South Central Alaska.

    • Steve,ughm,your passion is great, but think it through.And also just wondering, do you have documentation that ” (like fish ranching with thousands of fishing boats) are one of the largest contributors of green house gases.”.
      Come on, not even close.Not sure what you do for a living, but with whats most likely coming economically and financially,it ain’t enough.
      We all have to make peace with the real world that we find ourselves in eventually.
      By the way, every day outdoors,everyday on boards earning your turns.Or chasing a fish, fur,or feather in a fair manor, is a gift from the gods

      • My passion for what?
        Clean air, fresh water, non hatchery fish in my streams?
        My dedication to writing on this site is more based on the perception that our economy and environment in Alaska is falling down due to “neo-con” corporate influences posing as conservative government agents, but there is plenty of data to back up all of my scientific conclusions as well as my bachelor’s degree that was focused on environmental studies.
        As for my “work”….well, as a homesteader in Alaska….much of my work is unpaid in support of my family, but I have worked for many years as a paramedic and recently as a small business owner.
        As for the fish ranching industry in Alaska, it is turning into an Orwellian nightmare as all the streams I once loved to catch salmon in the Valley are closed to fishing year after year…and then flooded with hatchery pinks during the late runs of silvers in the fall.
        The plant based diet is real and the ultra marathon athletes that have opened my eyes to a new way of life are the true “passionate” folks for us to admire.
        “We estimate that fisheries consumed 40 billion litres of fuel in 2011 and generated a total of 179 million tonnes of CO2-equivalent GHGs (4% of global food production).
        Emissions from the global fishing industry grew by 28% between 1990 and 2011, with little coinciding increase in production (average emissions per tonne landed grew by 21%).
        Growth in emissions was driven primarily by increased harvests from fuel-intensive crustacean fisheries.
        The environmental benefit of low-carbon fisheries could be further realized if a greater proportion of landings were directed to human consumption rather than industrial uses”

      • Dave,
        It is also important to note, that a large percentage of fish caught commercially goes to the Farming of Animals and NOT for feeding of humans even though the fish are “food grade”?
        “A new study has found that out of the 20 million tons of fish caught by commercial industries a year for purposes other than eating, about 90 percent are, in fact, food grade.
        While this might not seem incredibly shocking at face-value, when you learn that these perfectly edible fish are being turned into fishmeal and fish oil, which is primarily used to feed farmed fish or factory farmed animals, such as pigs, and chickens, you’re likely to start scratching your head.”

      • Steve I love all the same things, and several fisheries(in this state) are certainly on a prayer imo.And I agree the protein imbalance for feeding farmed fish is a waste.
        But as far as global fisheries being the boogy man of global warming, the best stats that I could come up with for extreme fuel burn rates was global jet fuel.
        If my shaky old high school math (pre dope smoking days) is still getting the decimal point right, the global yearly average (per 2011) is 290 billion liters.Id be really surprised if that includes the military.
        Just curious in other posts you mention climbing Denali,just wondering how did you get there.

        We all leave a footprint, some more than others

      • Bryan,
        Did you even watch that video?
        There are like 2 guys supporting the coup and a group of a hundred walking down the street supporting “Hands Off Venezuela”?
        What do you think of Trump’s administration putting Abrams on the case?
        Seems like a real “Neo-Con” Gem.
        Looks like Nicaragua all over again, Only this time China and Russia have “investments” in Venezuela…
        “While serving in the administration of Ronald Reagan in the 1980s, Abrams was a star of that Cold War period known as the Iran-Contra affair, during which the US illegally sold weapons to Iran and funneled the proceeds to right-wing Contra forces busily terrorizing Nicaragua.
        In 1991, he pleaded guilty to two counts of misleading Congress about the Reagan administration’s efforts to help the Nicaraguan guerrillas (known as the Contras) during a period when Congress had banned such aid.”

      • Aljazeera? Sheesh.
        “Venezuela’s oil capital, Maracaibo, was ransacked and looted in the midst of a blackout that hit the country around March 7. Even as the lights started to come back on, looting continued and residents overpowered disputed President Nichloas Maduro’s security forces. Store owners are just now starting to clean up, according a new Bloomberg article, which paints a picture of Venezuela as a country on the edge of total anarchy.

        Enrique Gonzalez, an 18 year old bus conductor said: “If people made enough to make ends meet, we wouldn’t be trying to get by like this. This country has gone to hell.” His driver, at the time, was pillaging a Pepsi warehouse, where thousands of bottles had been looted in hours and where people were now ripping out spare copper wire and scrap metal.”

  2. Come on Craig. I respect your work as you are generally even keel but, I’d lay off the “Global Warming” nonsense. NASA, NOAA, and the IPCC have all exagerated, fabriated, or downright lied about their temp data. Is it a milder Winter? Of course. El Nino has played a role in both warmer water temps and outside air temps over the past 5 years.

    This whole “Global Warming” crap is nothing more than a money generating cash cow for the lefties to further their destructive causes. They are the real threat to the planet. “A sucker born every day”.

    • Hi Bryan.

      2 questions for you: 1) Are the polar ice caps smaller this year (and really, any year out of the past 20) than they were, say 40 years ago? Is the amount of ice on glaciers worldwide today greater or smaller than they were 40 years ago by a YUGE amount?

      If you answer No – then we don’t need to continue this conversation, however, if your answer is yes to these questions I would have a follow up question: Why are these changes happening?

      While I’m not a proponent of believing that humankind are 100% responsible for our changing climate, it’s obvious to anyone who has been alive for more than 40 years and has been an avid outdoorsperson that our climate is changing. I know that our world has been in a constant climatic flux, however, you can’t say that we (humankind) are not affecting the planet in negative ways.

      Insinuating that Craig is not operating on an ‘even keel’ for reporting about missing information on a scientific paper because it focuses on our changing ocean environments is ridiculous. Should he focus on our flat earth cover up, the 9/11 inside job or chemtrails? (see what I did there?!)

      Cheers sir!

      • Jack, I think we’re here….
        “Another recent source of climate alarm has been the appearance of a large crack on the Larsen C ice-shelf of the Antarctic Peninsula, which stretches up towards the tip of South America (News Weekly, March 11, 2017).

        The ice-shelf is fed by several glaciers, which flow into the sea.

        The splitting off of ice-shelves is an entirely natural phenomenon, and is the cause of icebergs, which are common around Antarctica and, historically, have been observed as far north as New Zealand’s South Island. The most recent media report of icebergs being seen off the coast of New Zealand was in 2016. Previously, they had been reported in 2009 and 2006.

        Calving of the Larsen C ice-shelf would be the largest recent iceberg to break off from Antarctica, prompting claims that it is caused by global warming or “climate change”.

        However, the overall area of sea ice around Antarctica is close to normal for this time of year, and recent research indicates that temperatures on the Antarctic Peninsula have fallen slightly in recent decades.”

    • Byran: the climate has warmed. i don’t put all that much faith in the temperature numbers, but the northward and southward advances of forests around the globe, the rising level of the treeline around the globe, and the continuing shrinkage of glaciers around the globe is undeniable evidence of long term warming.

      to ignore that would be as silly as to ignore a global advance of glaciers marking the start of global cooling and a new Ice Age.

      that said, i am as uncomfortable with media efforts to stir a social panic about global warming as i am about future predictions as to how high the temperature will go and the various doomsday scenarios as to what it will mean. there is a lot of speculation in all of that.

      and the speculators could be right. but i also have faith, based on the historical record, in the adaptability and ingenuity of the human animal. it is kind of funny that at the same time we’re worrying about how to survive on a warmer earth, we’re talking about ways to colonize Mars with its 95 degree (in the shade) highs and minus-130 degree lows.

      climate change could cause social chaos here on the home rock. no doubt about that. but our species, sadly, has been able to cause a lot of social chaos even without climate stress.

      climate change might even spark another World War, but we’ve done that without climate stress, too. and we survived. i’m comfortable the human species will survive global warming.

      i’m also confident we need to come up with better energy sources for the future. we’re not going to run out of hydrocarbons anytime soon from the looks of it, but we will run out at some time. and though we have coal resources to last for a long, long, time, i’d hate to think of what the earth’s air and water would become if we were forced to rely on those using the emissions clean-up technology of the day.

      the clean-coal technology of today has moved us beyond the days of sooty old England ( but if we were forced back onto coal, the sheer volume of demand would render the cleanup tech irrelevant.

      • Craig, I can get onboard with your assessment. I agree the climate is in a continual change as it has been for 4 billion years.
        What I cannot subscribe to is the money makers and the doomsday cultists like AOC who tell us “we are all going to die in 12yrs”. To a large degree, what we are witnessing in AK over the last 5 yrs is el Nino. Nothing more. It will swing back. But yes, have to move to the moon or mars to save mankind. Hmmm.

      • CK, why don’t we look at the last 4 billion years instead of the last 100-200yrs? Also, we know these “poor” scientists are on the gov dole. Their jobs depend on the lie. Also, why do you think NASA, NOAA, and the IPCC have to fudge and lie about temp increases?

      • Movement of forests could just as well be tied to the increased CO2 levels in the atmosphere. More CO2 = healthier plants which in turn allow them to do a bit better in colder climes. Not the only factor, but one of many. Cheers –

      • agimark, when you say “Movement of forests could just as well be tied to the increased CO2 levels in the atmosphere,” you are basing your “just as well” on what? Is that a feeling of yours or do you have something to back it up?
        It seems to me that your theory would be very easily shown by lab experimentation to be true or not? In other words such a statement, if not already discounted, would be showing up somewhere besides your comment. Thanks.

      • BY – not a theory at all. Relatively old news (2016) via satellite observations. Remember that CO2 is plant food. And that plants in marginal conditions on the edges of deserts and tundra do better when there is more food. On the Slope we saw it after a spill on the tundra. Cleanup is basically roping off the area and using Tide as a dispersant. Roped area is invariably much greener than surrounding tundra for a few years. Oil is also plant food to some extent. Total increase in green coverage due to increased CO2 levels is in the neighborhood of 11% of total land mass on earth. Cheers –

      • agimark, so it’s not a theory but as you said it “could” be an explanation. And that bit about my link being bunk, your argument is with that author and the scientific community. I see that you are influenced by occasional things that appear to support your thinking, as in thicker leaves, etc. as meaning healthier plants that “could” be the reasoning behind forests extending their range. But not a theory? What is it, then?

      • Bill, Science Daily was founded by married couple Dan and Michele Hogan in 1995; Dan Hogan formerly worked in the public affairs department of Jackson Laboratory writing press releases. The site makes money from selling advertisements. As of 2010, the site said that it had grown “from a two-person operation to a full-fledged news business with worldwide contributors” but at the time, it was run out of the Hogans’ home, had no reporters, and only reprinted press releases.
        Feel free to go to my website for some scientific truth:

      • Let’s assume you are correct Bryan-what about the study itself? Is it bunk because it disagrees with your opinion, like agimark? And did you have something to add about increased co2 making for healthier plants to withstand cold, wind, etc??

      • Yes Bill, plants require CO2 to thrive. Studies have shown that spiking carbon levels beyond everyday standards can be very good for forests, with several free-air CO2 enrichment (FACE) experiments all showing that more carbon means deeper roots and growing forests.

      • OK Bryan, how about linking a few of these studies you speak of. We certainly strive for the honor system around here but still like to verify.

      • Bill, do you remember when they said “snow and and record breaking cold” was Global Warming? Remember when a barely called hurricane hit NJ/NY with 70mph winds and it was proof of Global Warming? Do you remember those loons saying Global Warming would cause more hurricanes to hit the USA and we didnt have one hit for 11yrs? I can go on and on but I am driving.

      • Thanks Bryan but your link is quite dated and I suspect that more is known that in it. I did note from it: “Therefore, the response of the land carbon sink to increasing atmospheric CO2 remains the largest uncertainty in global carbon cycle modeling to date, and this is a huge contributor to uncertainty in climate change projections.”
        Again, I suspect that this has numerous updates. Just my opinion.

      • Bill, my assumption is that the study was started in 1996 but, states that it is “Ongoing”. So, again, I assume the data is current. I may be wrong though.

      • I see Bryan that the study ran through 2009 with some conclusions, namely:
        Initial enhancement of net primary productivity was not sustained because of feedbacks through the nitrogen cycle.
        Stable isotope analysis indicated that N availability declined faster in plots exposed to elevated CO2
        This is precisely the same results of the study in my earlier link that agimark said was bunk.
        Frankly, I would have thought this could have been tackled rather easily but for reasons unknown to me it’s not yet.

    • Bryan. is a terrible website to reference. It’s often full of conspiracies and pseudoscience and consistently publishes unverifiable information. Also, you can’t look at the last 20 years in a bubble, that’s a common mistake. Try to look at the last 100-200 years. Climate is the long term, and the weather is short term.

      Can I ask you a question? Have you ever read any real literature or picked up a book on this written from an actual climate scientist with verifable sources? You just can’t read opinion articles on the internet or watch Fox News and be an expert on climate science. It’s great to ask questions, that’s what science is all about, but you need to understand the science. Because science doesn’t care at all about your opinion, it cares about the facts.

      Scientists ask a question, we do the research, and let the facts tell the story. Then repeat similiar experiments a couple thousand times. Scientific consensus.

      There is no world wide climate conspiracy by all the poorly paid scientists.

      Here is a couple of great reference websites:

      Here is a couple regarding Antarctic Sea Ice….record lows just like the Arctic:

      Or if you just want a refresher on science…

      • CK, if you could point me to even one climate study that follows the scientific method, and proves man-made global warming; I would be obliged.

        According to Tony Thomas, a physicist and former Chief Scientist and Head of the Theory Group at U.S. Dept. of Energy’s Jefferson Lab., “Scientific honesty today is either forgotten, ignored, corrupted or trampled upon by supposed scientists in all fields playing ‘publish or perish’ and ‘get that grant’. The climate scientists are particularly bad because the stakes in grants, influence and reputation are now so high.”

        Like any good scientist, I’m a skeptic until proven otherwise with evidence.

      • Some Criteria there Mark! How about you show us one that proves it and takes liberties with the scientific method?
        Nothing wrong with being skeptical but you’ve taken the wrong side here and are going to be severely disappointed IMO.

      • I always find it amusing that so many of us know what we know without knowing anything about what it is we seem to think we know. Turns out there is a study on such things, the Dunning-Kruger effect perfectly describes what we see so often with those who know what they know is right and their belief that they know it because it is so because they said so.

        It constantly amazes me how many people who comment on are subject matter experts on every subject, but specifically anthropogenic global warming, these are usually the same people over and over again. The amazing thing is that most of these Dunning-Kruger experts have no knowledge of anything beyond their local climate for a timeframe longer than their lifetime, they do not know or acknowledge the fact that climate is a worldwide phenomena that has changed throughout the history of the world, constantly, over and over, all the time. Who knew that reading the newspaper and citing a few easily found articles made so many people experts in the field of climate? The act of science is a very specific and repeatable formula to test a hypothesis, having a conclusion and finding proof to support that conclusion is not science. Science by its very nature is skeptical. Consensus is not science, consensus can be influenced by many things including peer-pressure, money, fame, friends, take your pick. Science is repeatable and acknowledges the scientific history, it is not the climate predictors and prophets that we have seen for the past 50 years who have all been proven wrong repeatedly…using science. The climate changes, history shows us that, science shows us that.

        As it turns out these Dunning-Kruger folks well, I don’t want to spoil it for them, but the saying ignorance is bliss sums it up.

      • Steve, they aren’t really “experts” as they are cultists. And since they are cultists who tow the party line and talking points they can never be wrong. Bunch of gullible, brainwashed loons. I want to put a bumper sticker on my vehicle that says – “college is for dummies”, because that is all they turn out these days.

      • Bryan,

        Once upon a time schools taught. They taught people how to think, there were even classes that taught critical thinking. Now-a-days it seems like they teach to the test, meaning you learn how to pass a series of test and then you are set free upon the world. Critical thinking and knowing how to learn are not requirements so people are left to inform themselves or simply parrot everything they were taught in school…how to pass the next test. The problem is, is that, that is not how the world works.

      • Yessir Steve-O your dunning kruger thing is for incompetents that don’t have the ability to recognize their incompetence-sort of for folks who have made too many ski runs without their helmet. You are confusing it as something that is for “readers and thinkers” but we can excuse you here.

      • Actually Bill, the Dunning-Kruger effect is more for people who use helmets rated to 12 mph at speeds well over 12 mph but think they are being safe. You see, a competent person knows that wearing a helmet that specifically says it does not protect them, well, it does not protect them. Where as an incompetent person posts videos online proving they are incompetent while wearing a helmet that does not adequately protect them, all while claiming it does with so much misplaced confidence.

        And it’s not my Dunning-Kruger thing, it’s more of a Dunning-Kruger thing…hence the name of the effect. But thanks for reading about and displaying the Dunning-Kruger effect so brilliantly!

      • Steve-O, I used your dunning kruger because you’ve hijacked it and are using it wrong. However they have described you to a T with your failing to use your helmet while skiing because you feel it may cause some increased risk on your part.
        Further, I can just imagine what you’ve done to your automobile (takin out the seat belts and dismantled the air bags) to keep you from driving beyond your limits. Heheh!

      • Bill,

        Thanks again for thoroughly displaying the Dunning-Kruger effect, I’m sure do appreciate how you are able to show the effect for all to see.

    • 4 Brazilian years is fine, but how about we start with an easier lift, say the last 20,000 years? Its a good thing the Aleutian land bridge didn’t sink on our watch. Can you imagine?

      What caused the glaciers to melt then? Republicans and SUVs?

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