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Thursday, February 18, 2016
The Blob is Dead!

  According to two WA State meteorologists, Cliff Mass and Nicholas Bond, “The Blob” is disappearing from the NE Pacific Ocean and El Nino is weakening also. Both weather phenomena have wreaked havoc on our coastal and off-shore fisheries. Last summer Albacore tuna raced far and wide for schools of bait and the winter Dungeness crab season opened late in WA and Oregon and may open soon in CA. The CA market squid disappeared totally this winter along with the CA sardine. The squid remain in the cool deep waters during an El Nino. They will return next winter. The sardine, however, follows a 55-60 yr. wax and wane cycle and we are right smack in the middle period (2010-2030) when the biomass diminishes below fishible levels. Without these bait fish, our albacore didn’t collect under big schools of bait like normal.

   The Blob was the result of a high pressure ridge over the North Pacific which persisted much longer than expected. The effect was to diminish surface winds which stir up the ocean and cause the upwelling of cold water from the deep. This is nutrient rich water bearing zooplankton and diatoms, are an essential part of the aquatic food chain. The coastal waters were warmer than normal from the effects of El Nino and the off-shore waters of Washington and Oregon were warmer and less abundant with bait fish because of The Blob. 

   The Blob also had a deleterious effect on the baby salmon emerging into the open ocean from all the big river systems such as the Columbia, the Frasier, the Puget Sound system, and the Northern California rivers. There was less food around the coasts, and then out to sea was the Blob with virtually no bait fish. We wish the baby salmon well on their 2-4 year ocean going journey. 
 The squid will survive and come back next winter in Southern California. They thrive in 56-62 degree water and those temperatures will fill in by next Fall.  Squid are bait, with a life span of 10 months on the average. Albacore love to eat squid. Anchovies are another bait that salmon and albacore favor. In 2014 off of Big Sur, in one hour, we saw over 40 humpback whales, and thousands of porpoise and pilot whales feeding on massive schools of anchovies. The anchovy stock had reached its zenith . Now the anchovy and sardine stocks are down sliding into the trough of the 55-60 year climate cycle which will be at its lowest abundance level for sardines in 2020. The salmon stocks will diminish also until their reemergence in the peak years of 2030-40.

   In the meantime, the demise of The Blob and the slow demise of El Nino are very good signs that our albacore, crab, shrimp, and squid fisheries will get back to normal. The salmon fishery for Fraser River sockeye does not look good this summer, and the CA sardine fishery probably won’t open until after we're in Davey Jones' Locker. Fishermen are always optimistic or we wouldn’t throw off the lines and head to sea. We are going fishing anyway because that’s what we do. The weather will always weather on us and the fish supply will always wax and wane. Good riddance to both The Blob and El Nino!

Below are some links to blogs, articles and papers which I read along with seed catalogs for winter fare. “The demise of the Warm Blob”

FAO Fisheries technical paper #410 (Food & Agriculture Organization of the United Nations)
"Climate change and long term fluctuations of commercial catches"

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