In the News

Fish Talk in the News – Friday, August 23

Summer flounder may be moving north, sparking a debate on quota allocations. (Photo credit: NOAA Northeast Fisheries Science Center).

  • The NEFMC’s Science and Statistical Committee met this week in Boston to discuss stock assessments and fisheries science for cod, haddock, and yellowtail flounder. The Committee discussed whether the acceptable catch for Gulf of Maine haddock should be adjusted in response to spillover from the healthier Georges Bank stock, and considered whether the two stocks should be managed as a single population. They also discussed US/Canada transboundary assessments of yellowtail flounder on Georges Bank, which indicate that yellowtail populations are in very poor shape. Scallop industry group Fisheries Survival Fund has pushed for the Council to abandon these assessments until they are improved, saying they are not accurate enough to inform management decisions.
  • An opinion piece in the New Bedford Standard-Times argues that NOAA’s use of Saltonstall-Kennedy funds for its operations budget is inappropriate. The Saltonstall-Kennedy Act requires the collection of tariffs on seafood imports, and the funds are intended to support domestic fisheries research and marketing. In recent years, as much as 90 percent of these allocated funds have gone towards NOAA’s general operating budget. The opinion piece argues in favor of a $150 million disaster aid proposal that recently cleared the Senate Appropriations Committee. This measure would require that ten percent of Saltonstall-Kennedy funds are allocated to community fisheries research grants.
  • Several articles published this week attempt to explain the disparity between the low prices lobstermen receive for their catch at the dock—at the moment, around $2.20 per pound—and the high prices consumers pay for lobster rolls and entrees. The New Yorker’s explanation was that restaurant owners and grocers intentionally keep prices high to maintain the image of lobsters as a high-quality, luxury product. The Atlantic takes a harder line, calling lobster rolls “a rip-off” while noting that low prices will likely rebound as the animals again become more scarce. Slate, however, argues that the value added by shipping, processing, cooking, and serving lobster leads to the price disparity.
  • In other lobster news, Maine Governor Paul LePage sent boxes of Maine lobster products to each of the other 49 state governors. The promotion is part of Maine’s ongoing efforts to improve lobster marketing, drive up demand, and raise falling prices. Meanwhile, the Gloucester Daily Times responded to last week’s reports of increased abundance of lobster shell disease by noting that while the disease may be a problem in Southern New England waters, its incidence is still very low in the Gulf of Maine.
  • Massachusetts’ commercial summer flounder season ended today, as NOAA officials announced that commercial state and federal catch limits have been reached. Fishermen may not catch summer flounder in Massachusetts for the remainder of the calendar year unless quota from other states becomes available via transfer.
  • A new study published in Nature Communications shows that marine protected areas can have rapid positive effects on fish stocks without economically harming fishermen. The researchers looked at the Goukamma Marine Protected Area off Cape Town, South Africa, and found that while fish populations increased, total catch did not decrease and there was no effect on total travel distance for fishermen.
  • A letter to the editor in the New York Times holds up California as an example of successful coexistence between humans and marine mammals. While reports of conflict with a rapidly growing gray seal population in New England have become commonplace, in California, attacks on sea lions have largely stopped, and residents have begun to accept the more abundant sharks attracted by seals and sea lions as a sign of a healthier ocean ecosystem.
  • A team of scientists from the Northeast Fisheries Science Center, the Virginia Aquarium, and the Coonamessett Farm Foundation have tagged 20 loggerhead sea turtles, NOAA announced this week. The project was funded by the sea scallop industry’s research set-aside program. The tags will monitor turtle locations to help assess behavior, population structure, and interactions with commercial fishing gear

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