In the News

Fish Talk in the News – Friday, October 19th

A map showing the distribution of unusually high sea surface temperatures (in red) around New England in January 2012. Photo credit: NOAA/NEFSC

  • Many Cape Cod fishermen oppose reopening the current year-round fishing closures, according to an article published in The Cape Codder this week. Fishermen have expressed concerns that opening the closures would spell the end of the already depleted Georges Bank cod stocks. Fishermen also told NOAA Regional Administrator John Bullard that they are worried that the low cod catch limits are putting pressure on haddock stocks, that abundant dogfish and gray seals may be consuming much of the cod population, and that the herring cod and haddock feed on have been depleted by midwater trawling. The fishermen voiced their insights during a listening session in Brewster held last Thursday; Bullard has been conducting a series of open meetings around New England since taking on his new role this summer. Meanwhile, recreational fishermen also spoke out against opening the closed areas at a meeting of the Recreational Advisory Panel on Oct. 3.
  • A new site created by the University of Michigan catalogs numerous case studies in marine ecosystem-based management. The project includes more than 60 examples of integrated management of ocean life from around the globe, an interactive map of the locations of all projects, and a synthesis of lessons learned from these efforts, and is intended to serve as an aid to practitioners and policymakers working to implement ecosystem-based management schemes.  The case studies highlighted include the Georges Bank Cod Hook Sector, the pilot sector program developed by the Cape Cod Commercial Hook Fishermen’s Association as a precursor to Amendment 16 and sector-based groundfish management in New England.
  • UMass Dartmouth’s School for Marine Science and Technology (SMAST) has decided to conduct an independent stock assessment of New England groundfish. Spurred to action by doubts surrounding the reliability of the assessments conducted by the Northeast Fisheries Science Center, which have resulted in projected cuts of 50-70 percent for 2013 catch limits of key species like cod and yellowtail flounder, the group will use an innovative towed underwater vehicle to count fish with acoustic imaging, laser diffraction data, and high-resolution photos. SMAST previously conducted surveys of Atlantic sea scallops before being replaced by WHOI’s new Habcam technology this year.  The group’s initial scallop surveys in the late 1990s revealed far higher scallop abundance than had previously been observed by federal regulators, leading to the rejuvenation of the scallop fishery.  The relatively high level of confidence in SMAST surveys has led to a greater acceptance of recent cuts to the scallop quota, according to one scallop fisherman.
  • Barramundi may be an ideal fish for sustainable aquaculture practices, according to a Grist article that highlights Australis, an aquaculture company based in Turners Falls, MA. Barramundi are frequently farmed in Australia and are popular in Thai cuisine, but are relatively unknown in the United States. Relative to other large predatory fish like cod and salmon, barramundi require a smaller amount of feed sourced from smaller forage fish, improving their sustainability. Herbivores like tilapia are still more efficient, but these fish lack the high levels of omega-3 fatty acids found in barramundi.  Australis’ Turners Falls facility has earned a green Seafood Watch rating, but its larger Vietnam farm with offshore marine pens has yet to be certified.
  • The record warm water temperatures around New England last winter were linked to a divergence of the Gulf Stream, according to research published by WHOI scientists last month and an announcement last week.  The Gulf Stream reached 200 kilometers north of its mean position last October through December, contributing to temperatures as much as 7 degrees Celsius warmer than normal. Data for the study came in part from the eMolt program, a result of collaboration between researchers and fishermen to place temperature probes on lobster pots.
  • The Northeast Seafood Coalition, which represents many of the largest commercial fishing operations in New England, has released a statement expressing hesitant support of accumulation cap measures for the Northeast Multispecies Fishery Management Plan.  NSC expressed concerns that accumulation cap measures, which would limit the amount of catch entitlement carried by any individual boat, would force the sector program into the criteria of a Limited Access Privilege Program under the Magnuson-Stevens Act, which would then require a referendum before implementation.  While NSC expressed a commitment to reducing fleet consolidation, it also suggested that accumulation problems would be better addressed at the individual sector level rather than at the regional Council level.

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