In the News

Fish Talk in the News – Friday, October 12

Fisheries managers should take an ecosystem-based approach, including protection for forage fish like these river herring. (Photo Credit Tim and Doug Watts)

  • Fishermen and lawmakers continue to oppose the 10-year rebuilding deadlines for overfished stocks set by the Magnuson-Stevens Act, according to an article published by the Associated Press this week. The deadlines were put in place to ensure that regulators took immediate action to end overfishing, and environmental groups support them as a necessary aspect of stock restoration. Fishermen and some lawmakers, including US Representative Barney Frank, argue the mandate is arbitrary and harmful, and that the damage it has caused to industry has created the necessity for the $100 million in disaster aid recently proposed by New England congressional delegations.
  • Penobscot East Resource Center’s New Entrants Project, a new initiative funded by the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation, will help Maine fishermen entering the groundfish business attain the necessary permits and catch entitlements and will provide them with free business planning services. The program is intended to support the diversification and expansion of Maine’s fishing fleet.
  • A dead finback whale found floating in Boston Harbor last week has washed up on Rainsford Island, off the coast of Hull. The whale carcass was an unusual sighting in the Harbor, where only three to four live whales are spotted each year. A team from the New England Aquarium will conduct a necropsy to determine if the whale died of natural causes, a boat strike, or entanglement with fishing gear, although the rocky terrain and lack of a dock on the island has complicated the process.
  • NOAA regional administrator John Bullard has joined the Environmental Defense Fund, the Pew Environment Group, and other environmental organizations in supporting a federal effort to limit the accumulation of catch shares in the Northeast groundfishery. Large industry groups like the Northeast Seafood Coalition have disputed the need for consolidation controls imposed by the NEFMC, arguing that these concerns should instead be addressed at the individual sector level. At its November meeting, the Council will set its priorities for next year, which will likely include addressing fleet consolidation through Amendment 18 to the Northeast Multispecies Fishery Management Plan.
  • An early wave of cod has brought large offshore trawlers to inshore waters, according to The Gloucester Daily Times. NOAA reported that in from October 8-11, 8 vessels over 70 feet in length had fished on the inshore grounds of Middle Bank, less than an hour from the coast. The vessels fish out of Gloucester and Boston. The presence of large trawlers in inshore waters has led small dayboat fishermen to complain that the large trawlers overexploit the only stocks small boats can access, threatening the viability of the dayboat fleet. Some fishermen have called for the reinstatement of daily catch limits or other measures to limit the take of large boats in nearshore waters.
  • An article in Natural History Magazine focuses on the troubled past, ecological importance, and gradual restoration of the alewife.  Once extremely common in eastern North American rivers, the alewife has declined rapidly due to overfishing, pollution, and dams blocking the anadromous fish from their spawning habitat.  As forage fish for countless larger species, the alewife has extreme ecological importance.  Restoration efforts, particularly in Maine’s rivers, are underway, but more work will be required to restore the alewife population and strengthen the health of other species that depend on it.

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