In the News

Fish Talk in the News – Friday, July 20

Protection for habitat areas like Cashes Ledge was frequently debated in 2013 (Photo credit: Brian Skerry/NEOO)

  • Following an extremely mild winter and spring that led to warmer ocean temperatures, lobsters in the Gulf of Maine shed their shells almost six weeks earlier than normal this year.  This led to record harvests in June, without the demand needed to get the lobsters off the market.  Consequently, lobster prices have plummeted to lows not seen since the 1970s, meaning lobstermen aren’t even making enough money to cover their costs.  Many Maine lobstermen have voluntarily stopped fishing in an effort to bring prices back up.  Maine legislators have said that while they cannot induce a mandatory industry-wide shutdown, they are committed to working towards resolving the crisis.  Unfortunately, because soft-shelled lobsters are hard to ship, spreading the surplus geographically isn’t a possibility, and consumers outside of Maine are not likely to see any price drops.
  • Check out New England Ocean Odyssey’s latest blog post about red cod, a type of fish that is closely related to the familiar “olive” colored cod but inhabits shallower, kelp-dominated habitats.  More genetic research is necessary to determine how closely the two morphotypes are related.  The red cod featured on New England Ocean Odyssey’s post were photographed by renowned underwater photographer Brian Skerry on Cashes Ledge, about 80 miles off the Massachusetts coast in the Gulf of Maine.
  • Given the most recent stock assessments for cod in the Gulf of Maine, many expect NOAA to make huge cuts in groundfish quotas for the 2013 fishing season.  Congressional delegates from New England states are urging fisheries managers, as well as the House Committee on Natural Resources, to consider all possible options to avoid complete economic collapse of the fishery, which some say would be possible if quotas are set too low.
  • Surveying sea scallops – one of the most valuable fisheries in the nation – used to involve dredging small expanses of the seafloor to sample population demographics.  This method was highly destructive to seafloor habitat and limited in scope.  However, the Habitat Camera Mapping System (HabCam), a new image-based survey method, is improving data collection accuracy, increasing the scale of the surveys, and reducing their impact.  The camera apparatus is towed behind a research vessel about 10 feet off the bottom of the seafloor, capturing images that are processed on board to give scientists information about the sea scallop community in that area.  HabCam systems have been used since 2009, but this year, the newest HabCam model will produce 3D images, providing even more data than previously possible.
  • This article from the summer edition of Edible Cape Cod highlights the importance of highly abundant but underutilized local species in seafood.  While New Englanders tend to think of fish such as cod, haddock, and tuna as “local” to New England waters, many of those populations are overfished and no longer abundant.  Instead, species such as skate, dogfish, monkfish, scup (“sea bream”), and redfish are readily available and sustainably harvested by New England’s commercial fishermen, and there have been many efforts recently to increase public awareness of and demand for these products in fish markets and restaurants.
  • Stellwagen Bank is celebrating its 20th anniversary as a national marine sanctuary this summer.  Stellwagen is New England’s only national marine sanctuary, providing opportunities for scientific research, commercial and recreational fishing and boating, and biodiversity conservation.
  • Some fishermen are worried that measures to protect marine mammals such as seals and porpoises may be partially responsible for both the increase in shark sightings and the decrease in cod abundance in New England waters.
  • The Fisheries Survival Fund wrote a letter to the Northeast Fisheries Science Center (NEFSC) last Friday in response to the NEFSC’s latest Georges Bank yellowtail flounder stock assessment, which determined the stock to be overfished.  As a result, the 2012 quota for Georges Bank yellowtail was reduced to just over 50% of its 2011 level.  The letter acknowledges the need for reduced fishing pressure on yellowtail flounder, but claims that the models used in the stock assessment are flawed and thus should not be used to determine quotas.  The FSF is comprised mainly of scallop fishermen, whose scallop catch can be restricted by a low yellowtail quota because yellowtail are often caught as bycatch in the scallop fishery.
  • On Tuesday, July 24th the film Ocean Frontiers will be shown at 7 pm at 430 Nahant Road in Nahant, MA.  The film screening constitutes the third and final installment of Northeastern University Marine Science Center’s 2012 Cinema by the Sea program.  Winston Vaughn of the Conservation Law Foundation will host a discussion after the film.  Check out the trailer here.

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