In the News

Fish Talk in the News – Friday, August 24th

Gray Seals

Rebounding gray seal populations have again sparked controversy. (Photo Credit: NOAA/NEFSC)

  • NOAA has asked Congress to keep the New England Regional Office in Gloucester.  A plan by Senator Barbara Mikulski of Maryland would move the office to Silver Springs, MD, near the NMFS national headquarters.  Senate Report 112-78 for the Commerce, Justice, Science, and Related Agencies Appropriations Act of 2012 included a request for NOAA to provide a report on the possibility of relocating the office.  In that report to Congress, NOAA argued that the move would be costly and disruptive to management goals in the short term and would negatively impact communication with the fishing industry in New England.
  • The Boston Globe this week published an editorial in support of John Bullard as he steps into the role of NOAA Northeast Regional Administrator.  The Globe praised the former New Bedford mayor’s conciliatory attitude, sense of moderation, and experience on all sides of the fishing industry.
  • New England commercial fishing is the most dangerous profession in the country, according to an article by WBUR.  Commercial fishing is ranked by the Bureau of Labor Statistics as the deadliest profession in the country, and the Northeast groundfish fishery and Atlantic scallop fishery rank in the top five most hazardous by number of fatalities.  The Coast Guard is not currently authorized to perform seaworthiness inspections on fishing vessels, although the U.S. Coast Guard Reauthorization Act of 2010 requires that it conduct checks every two years to ensure safety equipment is up to date.
  • Just three months after beginning sales, the Scituate-based South Shore Seafood Exchange is rapidly growing in popularity.  The exchange functions as a community supported fishery; customers purchase ten-week shares of fillets from a selection of local fish.  The program allows fishermen to sell their catch locally and improve education about less popular fish species.  The group now has over 100 members, with long-term plans to build a store on the waterfront to sell fresh fish directly to consumers.
  • Rising seal numbers in New England waters are causing concern among coastal residents.  Gray seals were nearly absent in New England waters in the 1960s, but populations have recovered dramatically since the Marine Mammal Protection Act of 1972.  The seals can be aggressive towards fishermen and swimmers, and as a favored prey species of great whites, they may be contributing to the rise in shark sightings off Cape Cod this summer (check out this video of a great white eating a seal off Chatham on August 22nd).  The seals are also a major concern for commercial and recreational fishermen, who say that the seals routinely strip fish from their lines and nets and may be slowing the recovery of groundfish stocks.  NMFS and the New England Fisheries Management Council currently have not incorporated the increase in seals into estimates of natural groundfish mortality due to a lack of good estimates on population and predation.
  • Rising demand in Asia has created a rush to catch conch in New England.  The fishery brought in $6 million last year, and fishing effort has more than doubled in the past 5 years.  Little is known about the biology of the channeled whelks, though, and there is concern that many caught at the minimum legal size have not yet had the opportunity to spawn.  The state will hold public hearings in the fall to consider increasing the minimum size limit from 2.75 inches to 3.5 inches.
  • Thanks to a renovation project on the Mystic Lakes Dam that created a new fish ladder, river herring have made it to Upper Mystic Lake on their own for the first time since the Civil War.  The Mystic River Watershed Association’s Herring Monitoring Program counted 21,052 herring passing through the fish ladder, leading scientists to estimate the overall population migrating to the lake at 198,932 individuals.
  • Classic Cooks Catering was victorious in this week’s Seafood Throwdown at the Cape Ann Farmers Market.  The event raises awareness of local seafood by asking competitors to create a dish featuring a sustainable species donated by the Cape Ann Fresh Catch program.  This year, ocean perch was the featured fish.

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