In the News

Fish Talk in the News – Friday, November 9th

The Lenfest Forage Fish Task Force has published peer-reviewed science on the importance of forage fish like these menhaden. (Photo credit: Phillip Jones; Photo courtesy of South Carolina Department of Natural Resources)

  • The aftermath of Hurricane Sandy continues to impact New England fishermen. Reduced demand for seafood combined with an influx of fishing boats into port just before the storm has resulted in sharp reductions in fish prices. Groundfish prices in markets in Maine and Massachusetts have dropped by as much as $3-$5 compared to pre-storm prices. Fish sellers expected prices to rebound by the end of the week.
  • Fishermen in New Jersey have called on Governor Chris Christie to push for a federal disaster declaration for the New Jersey fishing industry. The industry was heavily affected by Hurricane Sandy, with 13-foot storm surges damaging boats, piers, and fish markets. Recreational fishermen were also hit by damage to marinas and tackle shops. The Magnuson-Stevens Act allows for a disaster declaration if widespread conditions, including natural disasters, impact a fishery on a regional scale. A disaster declaration could be followed by the provision of federal disaster aid. The industry has two months to assess the damage under the Magnuson-Stevens Act, but one Mid-Atlantic Fishery Management Council representative said he expected at least $100 million in damages.
  • The battle over menhaden continued in New England op-eds this week. In Seacoast Online, a Hampton resident expressed her concern over the crucial ecosystem role of the forage fish and their rapid decline, asking the ASMFC to create stringent regulations to restore the menhaden fishery. Meanwhile, in South Coast Today, managers of Channel Fish Co. in Boston noted the important role of menhaden in supporting fishing communities from New England to Chesapeake Bay, argued that recent overfishing has been slight and infrequent, and expressed doubts over stock assessments. They asked the ASMFC to refrain from taking drastic action, saying sharp cuts would have a devastating economic impact. Meanwhile, executives at Omega Protein, by far the largest catcher of menhaden and producer of fish meal and fish oil, announced that their company saw a 73% increase in profits in 2012 Q3 from the previous quarter, despite reductions in fish oil yield. The Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission will take action on catch limits and other regulations for menhaden at a meeting on December 14th.
  • The New England Fishery Management Council has set a special one-day meeting for December 20th to take final action on groundfish allocations for the 2013 fishing year and Framework 48, which may include measures to allow sectors to request access to areas currently closed to groundfishing. The council had earlier indicated in the agenda for its November 13-15th meeting that it might not take final action on these issues until a later date. The yellowtail flounder and windowpane flounder allocations to the scallop fishery will be determined at the November meeting. Gulf of Maine cod allocations will wait until January at the earliest due to a pending stock assessment.
  • The Northeast Fisheries Science Center, NOAA Northeast Regional Office, and New England Fishery Management Council have teamed up to hold a one-day forum on groundfish science today, November 9th, in Portsmouth. The panelists will discuss stock assessments and fishery modeling to improve the understanding of these methods among fishermen, and will focus on improving cooperation between industry, scientists, and regulators.
  • New Bedford Mayor Jon Mitchell wrote a letter this week to NOAA’s Northeast Fisheries Science Center arguing that fishermen have no confidence in groundfish stock assessments. Mitchell argued that fishermen would be more willing to accept the expected sharp cuts in cod and yellowtail catch limits if they could be more certain that stock assessments are correct. Scallop fishermen, for example, have been far more ready to accept 2013 quote cuts because they have confidence in the scientific data and believe that current reductions will improve future catch. Mitchell argues that NOAA should consider the Massachusetts Marine Fisheries Institute’s proposals to participate in a stock assessment review and increase collaborative research to improve the dialogue between scientists and fishermen.

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