In the News

Fish Talk in the News – Friday, November 30

Maine increased the age by which student lobstermen can complete an apprenticeship. Image via nsf.gov.

  • The US Court of Appeals for the First Circuit this week upheld the decision of the district court that the implementation of the catch shares system for the New England groundfish fishery was not a violation of the Magnuson-Stevens Act. Chief Judge Sandra Lynch, in a 68-page opinion released on Wednesday, affirms the lower court’s decision against the cities of New Bedford and Gloucester, and agrees that the sector system is not a limited access privilege program and so did not require a two-thirds referendum. Attorneys for the plaintiffs expressed disappointment with the decision, but said they are unlikely to appeal again. Meanwhile, supporters of catch shares expressed happiness that with legal challenges to the system finally put to rest, the fishery management community can now devote itself fully to the immediate challenges of stock recovery and anti-consolidation measures for the fleet.
  • In a Roanoke Times blog post published this week, the director of fishing operations for Omega Protein and the senior scientist for the Chesapeake Bay Foundation offer differing views on the status of menhaden stocks. Monty Diehl of Omega, by far the largest harvester of menhaden, argues that menhaden are not currently overfished, that there is no scientific basis for a catch reduction, and that cutting menhaden catch would hurt Mid-Atlantic economies. Meanwhile, scientist Chris Moore notes the critical importance of menhaden to marine ecosystems and that current menhaden numbers are the lowest on record. The ASMFC will take action on menhaden catch limits and other conservation measures at a meeting on December 14th.
  • In response to NOAA regional administrator John Bullard’s decision to move a seasonal gillnetting closure from October to February, gillnetters have said they are taking additional efforts to avoid porpoise bycatch. The closure was intended to shut down the gillnet fishery when the risk of porpoise interactions is highest, and was proposed in response to high bycatch and poor compliance with rules requiring the use of “pingers”, which deter porpoises from approaching nets. It was moved to early spring at the fishermen’s request to reduce the economic impact on the fishery. Fishermen’s groups have strongly promoted the use of pingers since the reprieve was granted.
  • The Coast Guard has made use of underwater remotely operated vehicles to search for the body of a fishing captain whose boat, the F/V Twin Lights, sank off the coast of Provincetown on November 18th. Captain Jean Frottier is believed to have gone down with the boat, which apparently capsized after its dredge became entangled in another fisherman’s gear. Officials were able to locate the vessel with sidescan sonar, but due to strong currents they were unable to get a clear image of the wheelhouse. Crew member Eric Rego was saved from the wreck by the crew of the Glutton, a lobster fishing vessel. Frottier is remembered as a sharp wit and loving father.
  • After the New England Fishery Management Council’s vote to increase the dogfish quota by 14 percent for FY 2013, the importance of dogfish to Cape Cod fishermen will continue to grow. Fishermen have increasingly been fishing the abundant small sharks in the wake of cuts to groundfish catch. Dogfish are a low-value species, and are generally exported to European markets. Despite their popularity, dogfish are also problematic, since they eat juveniles of other fish species and can interfere with gillnets and other equipment.
  • The Maine Sea Grant program held a symposium in Portland this week to focus on the science of the booming Maine lobster harvest. Top lobster scientists met to discuss issues like climate change and biodiversity, following a massive lobster harvest this summer that pushed down prices and caused tension with Canadian fishermen. Scientists raised concerns that the large lobster population, while good for fishermen, is very susceptible to rapid environmental shifts like climate change. Because a large abundance of once species is a symptom of poor biodiversity, it means that environmental catastrophe can strike an entire ecosystem in one fell swoop.

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