In the News

Fish Talk in the News – Friday, June 29

Atlantic cod (Photo credit: NOAA)

A report released by the New England Fishery Management Council on Friday, June 22 summarizes the “major actions” taken by the council at their meeting last week in Portland, ME.  These include stricter regulations on New England’s industrial Atlantic herring fleet, as well as a reconsideration of the Georges Bank yellowtail flounder quotas.  One of the most important new regulations, 100% monitoring of the industrial fleet, will shed light on exactly what the fleet is catching and how it is affecting the entire ecosystem.

The U.S. Commerce department announced the new and reappointed members of the regional fishery management councils around the nation.  NOAA’s press release discusses the purpose of the councils and lists the new and returning members.

The Great Works Dam on the Penobscot River in Maine was breached on Saturday, June 23 as part of the Penobscot River Restoration Project.  Work began on the dam on June 11, but this past weekend marked the first time that water has flown downstream unimpeded at the site since 1830.  It is the first of two dams on the Penobscot that will be removed as part of the project; a fish bypass system will be built at a third.

New studies on cod stocks in New England have revealed that their biology and reproductive behavior is much more complex than previously understood.  Tagging studies and genetic research have shown that cod stocks are more mobile and genetically diverse than once thought.  They also have high spawning site fidelity, and are able to return to within 100 meters of their own hatching site.  Compounding these dynamics is the fact that ocean temperatures, which play a role in steering the movement of cod stocks, are shifting with climate change.  These factors make it more difficult than ever for regulators to tailor management policies specifically to cod behavior and biology.  Additionally, the elimination of cod food sources (such as river herring and alewives) due to pollution, overfishing, and dam construction has exacerbated the decline of the cod stock itself.  The result is that New England cod stocks will probably need more time to rebuild than once believed.

The New England Fishery Management Council voted last week to transfer 150 metric tons of the scallop fleet’s yellowtail flounder quota to groundfishermen.  New England’s yellowtail flounder stock is overfished, and the low quotas for yellowtail have been restricting fishermen whose bottom-dwelling target species often result in yellowtail bycatch.  Scallopers, however, have reported that they have not been reaching their yellowtail bycatch quotas.  This led to the quota transfer, which increased the fishermen’s yellowtail quota by 70%.  Nonetheless, many are still worried that yellowtail flounder stocks are not rebuilding on schedule, and further quota cuts may be in store in the future.

For the first time ever, the Long Island Sound lobster fishery will close in 2013 in an effort to conserve the declining population.  Increases in water temperature, polluting runoff, and predator populations are cited as the main causes behind the lobster decline.  Many are calling for an increase in lobster population surveys so the stock can be better managed in the future.

The Conservation Law Foundation and New England Ocean Odyssey announced their collaboration with renowned National Geographic photographer Brian Skerry in a dive project to document the marine environment on and around Cashes Ledge.  Cashes is an underwater mountain range in the Gulf of Maine, just north of Stellwagen Bank, that hosts a biologically diverse and unique ecosystem.  See an interview with Skerry and pictures from his Cashes Ledge dive here.


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