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As Congress and presidential candidates trade accusations over immigration reform, advocates and experts urge caution in spreading misinformation; Alabama takes new action IVF policy following controversial court decision; and central states urge caution with wildfires brewing.

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Congress reaches a deal to avoid a partial government shutdown again. Arizona Republicans want to ensure Trump remains on their state ballot and Senate Democrats reintroduce the John Lewis Voting Rights Act.

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Hard times could be ahead for rural school districts that spent federal pandemic money on teacher salaries, a former Oregon lumber community drafts a climate-action plan and West Virginians may soon buy raw milk from squeaky-clean cows.

Analysis: Crews only report 6% of marine mammals caught in set gillnets

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Monday, October 9, 2023   

A new analysis by Oceana found crews in the California set gillnet fishery have severely underreported the number of seals and sea lions caught and killed or injured over the past 20 years.

Researchers estimate fishing crews are reporting marine mammal bycatch just 6% of the time.

Caitlynn Birch, Pacific marine scientist for Oceana, said it proves the need for government observers onboard the boats.

"It's well known by fishery managers that self-reporting is unreliable," Birch asserted. "However, there's no enforcement. If there's no third-party, federal fishery observer out there, they're not going to say that they killed a sea lion?"

The National Marine Fisheries Service stopped posting observers on fishing boats around 2017. The Marine Resource Committee of the California Fish and Game Commission meets Nov. 16 to consider a suite of measures to protect wildlife, including a new observer program.

The Commission and the Department of Fish and Wildlife are working to update management of the set gillnet fishery, improve data collection and reduce bycatch.

Birch argued fishery managers need observers on the vessels or electronic monitoring in order to accurately quantify the fisheries' impacts on wildlife.

"If we don't have correct data we're flying blind," Birch contended. "In terms of trying to manage a fishery that has high rates of bycatch and interacts with protected species."

Log books from 2005 and 2012 showed fishing crews self-reported an average of 12 incidents per year where set gillnets caught a California sea lion or harbor seal. Federal officials estimated the real number is 212 per year, based on fishery data acquired on trips where an observer was on board.

Disclosure: Oceana contributes to our fund for reporting on Climate Change/Air Quality, Endangered Species and Wildlife, Environment, and Oceans. If you would like to help support news in the public interest, click here.


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