In the News

Fish Talk in the News – Friday, November 2

A satellite image of Hurricane Sandy on October 29, 2012. Image credit: NOAA

  • Hurricane Sandy passed over New England earlier this week with small but notable effects on the fishing industry. In advance of the storm, the Coast Guard called in the fleet, warning of the potential for seas up to 25 feet. New Bedford closed the hurricane barrier ringing its harbor. Lobstermen were concerned that the storm would cause damage to their traps like the 1991 “Perfect Storm”, and many brought in their traps or moved them to deeper water. No New England fishermen were hurt or killed in the storm, but it impacted the industry in other ways—many processors in Southern New England and New York lost power, demand was drastically reduced before and after the storm, and a grounded fleet meant that supply dwindled. The combined effect was essentially a brief industry shutdown, and sales and prices dropped dramatically. Most industry members expected things to return to normal by the end of the week.
  • Hurricane Sandy also caused unexpected problems for the shellfish industry. Massive flooding and power outages led many water treatment plants to shut down. The overflowing plants released large volumes of untreated water and raw sewage into coastal waters. In response, regulators ordered temporary closures of the shellfishing industry in many areas, including large portions of Chesapeake Bay, due to bacterial contamination.
  • In an interview with The Gloucester Daily Times, Congressman John Tierney, the incumbent candidate in the Sixth Congressional District running against Republican candidate Richard Tisei, promised a renewed push to advocate for the fishing industry. Tierney noted that although he thinks the bill needs revisions, he supports the ideas behind Senator Scott Brown’s FISH Act, which would require annual socio-economic assessments of fishery management schemes. He also suggested he would push for the release of the second Smartwood report, which evaluates potential problems with NOAA’s law enforcement.
  • The landfall of Hurricane Sandy earlier this week sparked a dialogue on the connections between climate change, severe weather, and the safety of east coast cities. Just after the storm, the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution released a timely report on the effects of warming on the global water cycle. Warmer temperatures may be increasing evaporation rates and intensifying the cycle, resulting in a greater frequency of severe storms, floods, and droughts. Just prior to the storm, a report written by the Democratic staff of the Natural Resources Committee, at the request of Congressman Ed Markey, explored the potential effects of climate change on New England. The report found that extreme precipitation events are increasing in frequency, that severe storms combined with sea level rise threaten coastal areas, and that warmer temperatures are already altering the makeup and distribution of marine life. It also discussed the potential impacts of climate change on other regional industries, like ski areas and maple syrup production. Area scientists and regulators also warned that the combination of sea level rise and more frequent flooding will continue to impact coastal areas and mass transit in the coming years, and that Sandy should serve as a wake-up call.
  • Hurricane Sandy briefly interrupted public hearings held this week on Amendment 2 to the Interstate Fishery Management Plan for Atlantic Menhaden. Hearings scheduled for Monday were canceled or postponed to later in the week. Amendment 2 would introduce new measures to manage menhaden and curb overfishing, including creating a process to set the total allowable catch for the fishery, accountability measures, and improved data collection. The process has sparked debate between fishermen, who claim the fishery is no longer experiencing overfishing, and recreational fishermen and environmental groups, who believe catch limits must be lowered to encourage recovery of the depleted stocks. The Atlantic States Marine Fishery Commission will make a decision on the measure at a meeting scheduled for December 14th.

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