In the News

Fish Talk in the News – Friday, December 14

NOAA Administrator Jane Lubchenco will step down in February. Photo Credit: NOAA

  • Discussion is ongoing at the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission over cuts to menhaden catch. ASMFC has already voted in favor of introducing a total allowable catch, and just after noon approved a 20% cut to the harvest. Cuts of between 0% and 50% of previous catch were on the table, with environmental groups pushing for large cuts to save the rapidly declining fish population, but the state of Virginia and large fishing interests pushing for a cut of only 10%. The debate follows a public comment period in which the ASMFC received over 100,000 comments in favor of menhaden conservation and the recent revelation that Omega Protein—by far the largest menhaden harvester, which claims that cuts to the harvest will kill American jobs—has hired hundreds of foreign workers to man its processing plants. Many at the meeting have held up signs in favor of menhaden conservation, while fishermen circled the room to oppose cuts to the harvest. The ongoing discussion can be heard by calling 1.480.297.0020 (Access Code: 184-827-617).
  • NOAA Administrator Jane Lubchenco announced her resignation this week. She will leave NOAA at the end of February to return to academia. Lubchenco, a highly regarded marine scientist, had a controversial tenure at NOAA. She oversaw the implementation of Amendment 16 to the Northeast Multispecies Fishery Management Plan, which introduced strict catch limits and created sector management. In her resignation letter, she pointed to 20 of the agency’s accomplishments under her tenure, including ending overfishing and beginning to rebuild depleted stocks, and many environmentalists have praised her efforts. Some fishing interests, meanwhile, have said her policies precipitated economic disaster in the fishery.
  • In response to The Boston Globe’s recent reporting on seafood fraud, a former fisherman wrote a letter to the editor noting the role of declining fish stocks in the widespread mislabeling of seafood in local markets and restaurants. The Globe had previously identified the substitution of Pacific cod for Atlantic cod as one of the most common infractions. The fisherman asserts that, due to the collapse of the cod population, fishermen are no longer able to catch sufficient Atlantic cod to meet demand, making substitution a necessity. He argues that the directed fishery should be shut down to allow for the rebuilding of Atlantic cod stocks.
  • An op-ed published in The Cape Cod Times questions NOAA’s apparent unwillingness to release a report on enforcement practices. The Commerce Department has supported an investigation by Special Master Charles B. Smartwood III into improper enforcement of fishing rules by NOAA officials. The release of the first report resulted in numerous reparations to fishermen. The second report is complete but has not been publicly released, and Senator John Kerry has written to Commerce Secretary Rebecca Blank demanding its publication. The article argues that its release will contribute to a more stable regulatory environment and improve relations between NOAA and fishermen.
  • Fourteen senators this week asked for fisheries disaster funding to be included in any emergency supplemental appropriations bill for Hurricane Sandy relief. In response, the Senate Appropriations Committee included $150 million in aid as part of the FY2013 Disaster Assistance Supplemental, which must still go to the full Senate and pass the House. The $150 million would be divided between all fisheries currently in a state of declared disaster, including the New England groundfish fishery, the New Jersey fishery impacted by Hurricane Sandy, the Chinook salmon fishery of Alaska, and the oyster and blue crab fisheries of Mississippi. The ad would be provided to NOAA, which would then have to submit a spending plan to the Appropriations Committees within 45 days detailing how the funds would be distributed.
  • Warming waters and ocean acidification are severely threatening the clam population on the Maine coast. Warmer water temperatures create good conditions for green crabs, which devour larval clams. More acidic waters thin clam shells and stunt growth. Chad Coffin of the Maine Clammers Association says he believes all shellfish populations in the area will collapse within three to five years.

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