In the News

Fish Talk in the News – Friday, April 12

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

  • Local communities are beginning to enjoy the spring herring runs as river herring return to fresh water to spawn. In Massachusetts, the Nemasket supports the largest run, with access to over 5000 acres of upstream spawning habitat. Meanwhile, in Connecticut, the Department of Energy and Environmental Protection has extended the ban on fishing for river herring for another year. The ban prohibits fishing for alewives or blueback herring in inland or marine state waters to encourage the recovery of these stocks—the number of herring passing over the Holyoke Dam on the Connecticut River dropped from 630,000 in 1985 to 39 in 2012.
  • Another bill under consideration in Maine, L.D. 939, would allocate $3.5 million annually to the Maine Groundfish Permit Bank in an effort to “provide Maine fishermen access to additional groundfishing quota at affordable rates.” The move would also allow the permit bank to avoid federal restrictions on the distribution of permits to larger boats from smaller communities, encouraging vessels over 45 feet to fish from Maine ports. A second bill would allow Maine groundfishermen to sell their lobster bycatch, a move that lobstermen strongly oppose.
  • Maine’s elver fishery continues to be dramatic and divisive. The tiny juvenile eels are extremely valuable, often fetching over $2000 per pound. As a result, they attract illegal fishing and have caused conflict between Maine’s government and the Passamaquoddy Tribe, which state officials say has allocated far more licenses than allowed under state law. Multiple reports of nets cut by poachers have surfaced. In addition, the large sums of cash held by elver buyers have reportedly caught the attention of gangs.
  • New Bedford seafood processors are looking to diversify their businesses. Some of the largest suppliers have begun to move away from a primary focus on scallops and are looking to transition to value-added processed products. The expansion may also mean a turn to more imported seafood.
  • An article on menhaden in The Cape Cod Times this week focuses on the importance of menhaden to striped bass populations. Menhaden are perhaps the single most important food source for striped bass, and they help bolster the immune system functions that help bass fight mycobacteriosis. These small fish also serve important water quality functions as they filter water for phytoplankton.
  • The disastrous Gulf of Maine shrimp season ends tonight at midnight. The catch this season was the smallest since 1978, when the fishery was completely shut down; while last year’s catch was 5.3 million pounds, this year’s barely topped 662,000 pounds. Boats largely stopped fishing for shrimp weeks ago. Warm water temperatures have been blamed for the abysmal catch.
  • Debate over opening New England’s closed areas to commercial fishing—a measure currently being considered by NOAA—continued this week. Carl Safina’s Blue Ocean Institute argues that climate change provides another strong argument for keeping habitat protected, pointing out that NOAA’s own National Fish, Wildlife, and Plants Climate Adaptation Strategy recommends protecting habitat as a way to build resiliency to environmental change. Meanwhile, Eco Ocean notes that Saving Seafood’s promotion of rotational closures is misleading, since these new closures are not proposed as part of the process currently underway to open closed areas.

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