In the News

Fish Talk in the News – Friday, September 28

The three east coast fishery management councils have signed an MOU to protect deep sea corals. Photo Credit: NOAA

  • At their meeting this week, the New England Fishery management Council took steps to approve a measure that could open current groundfish closures for the 2013 fishing season.  The measure, approved in a 16-1 vote, would allow sectors to amend their Sector Operation Plans to include access to current groundfish mortality closures, including Cashes Ledge, the Western Gulf of Maine, Closed Areas I and II, and the Nantucket Lightship area.  The areas, which in some cases have been closed for nearly two decades, are intended to provide fish stocks with protected habitat crucial for spawning, growth, and recovery.  Environmental groups spoke out against the measure, with CLF’s Peter Shelley arguing that the move is a clear violation of the National Environmental Policy Act.  The Council vote added the measure to the next Framework Adjustment to the Multispecies Fishery Management Plan.  The measure could be formally approved at the Council’s next meeting on November 13-15 in Newport, RI.
  • NOAA regional administrator John Bullard has reversed his position on the timing of a consequence closure for gillnetters intended to minimize the bycatch of harbor porpoises.  Bullard had originally upheld the closure scheduling for October and November, noting that poor compliance with requirements to install porpoise-deterring “pingers” on gillnets had created the necessity for the measure.  Fishermen argued that moving the timing of the closure to February and March would be a win-win, reducing impacts on the fishery while having no significant impact on the porpoise bycatch; pollock fishing is better in the fall, and porpoise bycatch is higher in the early spring.  After listening to fishermen’s pleas for a change on Tuesday, Bullard reversed his position on Wednesday and set the closure to begin February 1.  Fishermen lauded the decision.
  • NOAA will propose to exempt the scallop fishery from accountability measures for yellowtail flounder catch exceeding their 2013 limits, so long as the catch remains below the 2012 allocation of 307.5 metric tons.  The sea scallop industry has recently argued that low yellowtail limits will cripple the fishery, since bycatch is nearly unavoidable for scallop harvesters.  NOAA had previously adjusted yellowtail allocations, allowing more bycatch for groundfishermen but reducing the allocation for scallopers; startlingly low stock assessments for yellowtail have resulted in the overall reduction of bycatch limits.  Scallopers have also recently argued for more access to Essential Fish Habitat closed areas; they already have some access to groundfish mortality closed areas through special access programs.
  • The first part of a two-part series published in Seacoast Online highlights the culture of distrust between fishermen, scientists, and regulators.  The article interviews gillnetters about their objections to catch shares, focusing particular on consolidation and problems with potential sector contribution allocations.  It also discusses the concerns of fishermen over the consequence closures for gillnetting, intended to protect harbor porpoises.  The closure was altered by NOAA regional administrator John Bullard during the New England Fishery Management Council meeting this week in response to fishermen’s concerns.
  • An issue brief from the Center of American Progress explains the techniques behind the stock assessments used to inform catch limits for American fisheries, particularly the Northeast groundfishery.  It focuses on the sources of data, the role of cooperative research and observer records, the occasional disparities between stock assessments and conditions reported by fishermen, and the reasons why updated stock assessments can sometimes drastically change our understanding of the status of a particular fishery.
  • NOAA scientists have found hotspots of deep water corals in underwater canyons off the US northeast coast, generally in water between 650 and 6500 feet deep.   The study suggests that a coral habitat suitability model, in development by the Northeast Fisheries Science Center, could predict the likely locations of high density coral areas.  The canyons were surveyed this summer from the NOAA ship Henry B. Bigelow included Veatch and Gilbert canyons off Georges Bank.
  • A series of articles in the Boston Globe has exposed problems with excessive water and ice in seafood sold in New England supermarkets.  Ice and water content means that the weights indicated on labels are inaccurate, so consumers pay artificially high prices for their seafood.  The Globe found that the problem is widespread in the region, with the Henry Gonsalves Co., which distributes seafood to Market Basket, Shaws, Stop & Shop, and other markets, being the most frequent offender.


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