In the News

Fish Talk in the News – Friday, September 21

The Atlantic sea scallop fishery has gained Marine Stewardship Council certification. (Photo Credit: NOAA)

  • The Groundfish Committee of the New England Fishery Management Council has proposed an alternative that would allow fishing in closed areas during the 2013 season.  The proposed action would allow individual sectors to amend their sector operation plans to include access to the areas, including Cashes Ledge and Closed Areas I and II, among others.  A full amendment to change access rules for the closed areas would require a full scientific and environmental assessment of the effects of the change; the proposed alternative is designed to avoid that process.  The Council will vote on including the alternative in Framework 48 at their meeting on September 25-27th.
  • Bans on the possession of detached shark fins may have a damaging effect on the New England spiny dogfish fishery.  The bans are intended to end the practice of slicing fins off at sea and tossing back the bodies of the sharks.  This method is not practiced in the dogfish industry, which sells fins from sharks already caught and killed for their meat, but proposed bans do not distinguish between methods of obtaining fins.  The valuable fins increase the profit margin for low-value dogfish, and fishermen and processors say a ban could destroy the fishery, which was recently certified sustainable by the Marine Stewardship Council.
  • In this video interview by Grist, Gloucester fish processor Vito Giacalone (son of Northeast Seafood Coalition chairman, Fisherman’s Wharf Seafood owner, and Gloucester Fishing Community Preservation Fund president Vito Giacalone) and Gloucester Fishermen’s Wives Association president Angela Sanfilippo discuss the state of the groundfish industry.  Both note the effects of unusually warm sea temperatures this summer, indicating that cod stocks have moved to colder water, lobsters molted weeks early this spring, and squid have increasingly moved into shallow New England waters.
  • For the 12th straight year, New Bedford is ranked as the highest-earning fishing port in the country, according to a NOAA report released on Wednesday.  The port was ranked 12th by pounds of catch; the high value of New Bedford’s catch is largely due to the scallop fishery.  Gloucester was ranked 17th by value and 19th by weight of catch.  Revenues increased in both ports from 2010 levels, while pounds catch decreased slightly.  Overall, US commercial fisheries landed 1.9 billion pounds more than 2010, bringing in $784 million more in profit.  National landings were the highest since 1994.
  • A new Ecosystem Advisory released by the Northeast Fisheries Science Center suggest that cod stocks are moving northeast in response to drastically warmer New England waters.  The report notes that sea surface temperature along some areas of the east coast were as much as 11oF higher than average this summer, and deep waters in the Gulf of Maine were 2-4oF higher than historical averages.  Overall, sea surface temperatures in the Northeast during the first half of 2012 were the highest on record. Maps of historical cod distribution show a marked, continued movement northward and offshore towards colder waters.  The warm waters may also have influenced the timing and duration of the spring plankton bloom in 2012, with an unusually intense bloom beginning as early as February.
  • Due to low survival rates, the scallop catch could be cut up to 30 percent over the next two years.  The projected catch for the 2013 and 2014 seasons is 40 million pounds, down from 57 million pounds in 2011.  Recruitment, or the survival rate of young scallops, is currently at about 19 percent, down from stronger levels of 35 percent.  The cuts are likely to add more force to the push to open the areas in New England currently closed to fishing for scallops and groundfish.  Meanwhile, the 2012 scallop season may be cut short, as an alert released by SMAST suggests the fishery has already nearly reached its yellowtail flounder quota.  Yellowtail are frequently caught as bycatch by the scallop fishery, so a lack of yellowtail quota can effectively stop fishing.



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