In the News

Fish Talk in the News – Friday, September 7

A school of bluefin tuna. Many juvenile bluefin have been tagged as part of the "Tag a Tiny Tuna" program. (Photo credit: NOAA Fisheries Service)

  • An oral argument was held Wednesday in the US Court of Appeals for the First Circuit to determine the legality of the implementation of Amendment 16 to the Northeast Multispecies Fishery Management Plan, which introduced sector management to the groundfishery.  Attorneys for New Bedford and Gloucester argued against lawyers for the federal government and Conservation Law Foundation, which had intervened on the side of the government.  In June 2011, the US District Court rejected the plaintiffs’ arguments against catch shares and upheld Amendment 16; New Bedford, Gloucester, and some fishermen’s associations appealed the decision.  Up for argument on Wednesday was the definition of a limited access privilege program (LAPP).  Under the Magnuson-Stevens Act, any LAPP—or program which creates permits for exclusive individual rights to fish for a certain portion of the total allowable catch—requires a referendum before implementation.  The appellees argued that potential sector contributions are not exclusive individual permits but rather a piece of data, as they must be pooled, distributed, and fished under a sector, and that consolidation issues are already being addressed by Amendment 18 discussions.  No timeline was given for a decision, although Chief Judge Lynch noted the high profile and importance of the case.  Read Peter Shelley’s response to the argument here; an audio recording can be heard here.
  • The glut of New England lobster this summer may be linked to warmer waters, according to fishermen interviewed by Grist.  The fishermen report a particularly unusual June, with lobsters shedding nearly a month and a half earlier than is commonly observed, and lobstermen pulling in much higher numbers earlier in the season.  The overabundance of New England lobster led to low prices for lobster and conflicts between Canadian lobstermen and processors.
  • In a blog post for the Center for American Progress, Michael Conathan argues that it’s time to “hit the reset button” on the New England groundfishery.  Catch shares, he argues, are not the problem—the real issue is too many boats going after too few fish.  The fleet will have to become leaner to adapt to dwindling stocks, and it would be preferable to handle this transition in an organized, managed way rather that to simply let the weakest boats go out of business.  Ideally, a smaller fleet would allow stocks to rebuild and create an opportunity for boats to reenter the industry once fish are more plentiful.
  • The New England Fishery Management Council has announced the agenda for its next meeting on September 25-27 in Plymouth Harbor.  The agenda can be found here; it includes discussion of recent stock assessments, reports on committee actions, and an initial overview of 2013 management priorities.  The public will be able to view the meeting online by registering for a webinar here.
  • Fishermen out of Newburyport are reporting frequent catches of bonito.  In previous years, bonito have generally appeared no farther north than the south coast of Cape Cod.  Unusually warm water temperatures this year are likely contributing to the changing distribution of these small, striped fish.  Other species whose range is generally limited to warmer waters, including black sea bass, scup, and fluke, have also been spotted unusually far north this summer.
  • Boston Mayor Tom Menino and New Bedford Mayor Jon Mitchell have agreed to cooperate on bringing more fresh fish to local farmers markets.   Fresh local fish were sold at Boston farmers markets this summer for the first time since the 1990s as part of a pilot program initiated by Menino; Boston’s inspections department lifted regulations banning the sale of seafood at the markets in May.
  • A study published on Wednesday in Nature highlights the ways that deep-sea trawling may be affecting the morphology of underwater canyons.  According to the researchers, who measured silt flow in the canyons through video and sampling, trawling rivals landslides and storms as a shaper of the underwater environment.  Trawling has doubled the amount of silt flowing into the canyons since the 1970s, potentially altering habitats and affecting diversity.  The study was conducted in canyons off the coast of Spain, but its findings may be equally applicable to underwater canyons in New England, like those found along the south edge of Georges Bank.

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