Why did fishermen see a bounty while scientists in fact called it a bust? Researchers at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Northeast Fisheries Science Center say a change in the forage fish, or small prey species, the cod were eating offers an explanation.
In this week’s Fish Talk in the News, the Boston Globe features Cashes Ledge; Maine grapples with its green crab problem; menhaden catch limits may mean higher bait prices; Massachusetts officials describe their plans to distribute federal fisheries disaster aid; the Maine Lobstermen’s Association may be released from a 1958 consent decree; Matt Jacobson is selected as the director of the Maine Lobster Marketing collaborative; Maine’s fishing stories are preserved through an oral history initiative; an abundance of jellyfish requires more research; Maine’s lobster season starts slowly due to a cold winter; Pacific Coast Federation of Fishermen’s Associations executive director Zeke Grader argues for a strong Magnuson-Stevens Act.
In late fall of 2006, Congress came together to strengthen the primary law that governs our nation’s ocean fisheries—the Magnuson-Stevens Act, originally passed in 1976. A push from leaders on both sides of the aisle, combined with strong support from President George W. Bush, helped overcome political differences.Now the House Committee on Natural Resources has advanced a bill to reauthorize and amend the act. Unlike eight years ago, however, this measure lacks significant bipartisan support—and a number of its provisions would undermine key reforms that have proved instrumental in rebuilding depleted U.S. ocean fish populations.
With the opportunity to extend and improve ocean habitat protections in the Omnibus Habitat Amendment (OHA), the New England Fishery Management Council (NEFMC) should not bury its analysis in the practices and politics of the past, but look towards the very real needs of the present and future. But rather than moving deliberately to improve protection of Essential Fish Habitat and exercising precaution to protect large areas like other fishery management councils are doing, the NEFMC and even NMFS appear poised to promote a final Omnibus Habitat Amendment that will drastically reduce the extent of protected areas and allow trawling and other commercial fishing gear in areas that have served as refuge for innumerable species for nearly twenty years.
We’ve all heard about peer-reviewed stock assessments. That’s what you get when a team of biologists assesses the health of one stock of fish, and another panel of expert scientists, unrelated to the first, reviews that team’s work and determines whether it is good enough to use for fisheries management purposes. If it is, it represents a sort of “gold standard” for fisheries managers, who can then establish regulations based on the assessment, and be reasonably certain that they’re doing the right thing. However, if you go down to the docks, pick up a press release put out by one of the anglers’ rights groups or read some of the comments on Internet chat boards, you’ll find that a lot of people don’t give the peer-reviewed assessments, or the scientists who provide them, much weight.