In the News

Fish Talk in the News – Friday, February 17

Leatherback sea turtles are threatened by entanglement in fishing gear when searching for jellyfish in New England waters. Image via NOAA/NMFS.

  • Researchers are concerned that the birth rate of North Atlantic right whales is in decline. Only three whales have been born so far this winter. A New England Aquarium scientist told the Cape Cod Times that births haven’t been this low since 2000. The low birth rate is particularly concerning because of the high number of fishing gear entanglements, which can lead to death. It’s estimated that only 524 individuals are left in the population.
  • Conch serve as a good alternative fishery for Massachusetts fishermen, but recent increased participation in the fishery is resulting in a declining stock. After the number of traps in the water increased from 100,000 to 400,000 between 2005 and 2011, conch landings reached 3.6 million pounds in 2012. Then in 2015, landings dropped to 1.6 million. The stock is under stress and individuals are undersized, unable to reach sexual maturity. The Massachusetts Division of Marine Fisheries is considering increasing the minimum harvest size as a solution. Managers will discuss the proposal at the Massachusetts Advisory Commission meeting on March 9.
  • ASMFC has scheduled public hearings to discuss the management plan for southern New England lobster. There will be a total of seven hearings, from Maryland to Massachusetts. The first hearing is scheduled for March 15 in Belmar, NJ.
  • A recent NPR story highlighted a new study that said 90 percent of wild fish used for fishmeal are suitable for “direct human consumption.” About 25 percent of global fish catch is used for fishmeal rather than human consumption, most of which goes towards aquaculture production. There are some efforts, however, to use alternatives to fishmeal in aquaculture.
  • The 11th International Conference and Workshop on Lobster Biology and Management, which attracts biologists, oceanographers, industry members, and fishery managers, will be held in Portland, Maine this year. The event will be June 4-9 and will focus on environmental change.
  • Fishery managers are considering measures to reduce sea turtle entanglement in conch trap lines in Nantucket Sound, where there are the highest number of fatal entanglements in Massachusetts. Leatherback sea turtles migrate through the sound in the summer months in search of jellyfish. An August closure for the fishery is one consideration since August is a quieter month in the fishery. Some worry, though, that a closure will impact those that do still fish during August, and without traps and lines in the water, the spawning conch will be more vulnerable to trawlers.
  • New Hampshire fishermen David Goethel sued the federal government for shifting the cost of at-sea monitors to the fishing industry. The lawsuit is now moving to the Court of Appeals. Arguments are scheduled to begin on March 7.
  • The New England Fishery Management Council is seeking comments to guide the development of a new monitoring amendment for the New England groundfish fishery. The purpose of the amendment is to “improve reliability and accountability” in the fishery. There will be five public meetings around New England in the month of March, as well as one webinar. Scoping comments are due on April 3, 2017.

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