In the News

Fish Talk in the News – Friday, January 18

Escolar, frequently mislabeled as "white tuna" and used in sushi, may soon be banned in Massachusetts. Photo Credit: Stu Spivack

Escolar, frequently mislabeled as "white tuna" and used in sushi, may soon be banned in Massachusetts. Photo Credit: Stu Spivack

  • The House of Representatives this week effectively eliminated fishing disaster aid from a Hurricane Sandy relief package. Despite pressure from the New England congressional delegation, the House Rules Committee refused to allow a vote on amendments to the Sandy bill that would have allowed for $111-$150 million in aid for fisheries in New England, Alaska, and the Gulf Coast. The bill passed by the House on Tuesday night includes $5 million in aid for fisheries in New York and New Jersey. The Senate version of the bill passed in the 112th Congress did include $150 million in fisheries disaster aid; the Senate will now need to pass a new version of the bill in the 113th Congress. Should the Senate bill again include fisheries disaster funding, the discrepancy between the Senate and House bills will need to be resolved.
  • Steve Urbon of the New Bedford Standard-Times took issue this week with the consideration of Ron Klain, former Chief of Staff for Vice President Joe Biden, for President Obama’s new Chief of Staff. Klain is married to Monica Medina, whose former work for Pew Environment Group and a federal catch shares committee forms the basis of Urbon’s opposition. He believes that Klain’s appointment would be part of a ploy to appoint Medina as NOAA administrator after Jane Lubchenco’s departure in February, although there has been no indication that she is being considered for the post.
  • A paper published this week in The Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences indicates that fish productivity (net population increase) is directly linked to population abundance in 18.3% of stocks, and at least partially linked to abundance in a further 30.5%. In other cases, productivity is either apparently random or varies by “regimes”, natural period fluctuations in productivity potentially linked to environmental variability. The report notes that, if productivity varies unpredictably based on environmental factors rather than abundance, an unexpected “shift to low productivity regime will result in increased risk of overfishing”, while the reverse scenario might result in unnecessarily strict catch limits. Collapsed and overfished stocks were more likely to have changes in productivity linked to these regime changes. The study recommends taking these natural shifts in productivity into account when setting biological targets and catch limits.
  • A new bill to be filed Friday by the Massachusetts Joint Committee on Consumer Protection and Professional Licensure would levy strict fines for distributors and restaurants found to be mislabeling their seafood. It would also make Massachusetts the first state to ban the sale of escolar, a fish often mislabeled as “white tuna” that can have unpleasant digestive effects due to its high wax ester content. The bill follows a series of reports by the Boston Globe on the prevalence of mislabeled seafood in New England stores and restaurants.

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