In the News

Fish Talk in the News – Friday, August 30

A new NRDC report says Canadian lobster and crab fisheries harm northern right whales. Photo credit: Brian Skerry/New England Ocean Odyssey

  • A series of dinners hosted by Boston area restaurants this fall will focus on local, sustainable seafood. As part of an educational effort called Eating with the Ecosystem, chefs will prepare dishes using seafood from Southern New England, the Gulf of Maine, and Georges Bank, particularly unpopular but relatively abundant species like redfish.
  • A massive die-off of bottlenose dolphin off the Mid-Atlantic Coast has been linked to cetacean morbillivirus. 357 dolphins have been found dead since the beginning of July—the worst such event since more than 740 dolphins died in 1987 and 1988. Scientists say the virus could spread southward and result in more dolphin deaths.
  • The Cape Cod Commercial Fishermen’s Alliance has teamed up with the Harwich-based Family Pantry to provide fresh seafood to the food pantry’s clients. The first shipment of scallops was distributed last week. The Alliance has also purchased over 30,000 bushels of surf clam quota to help its fishermen diversify into new markets.
  • Scientists have located a right whale breeding ground in the central Gulf of Maine. Their research, published in Endangered Species Research, indicates that right whales breed in Jordan Basin in December and January. They also located a secondary potential breeding ground in Roseway Basin, off the Scotian Shelf. The findings could have implications for ocean planning and whale conservation efforts.
  • Recreational Nantucket fishermen, like those on the Cape Cod mainland, are frustrated with growing gray seal populations. The seals eat fish, attract sharks, and must legally be avoided while fishing, leading to beach fishing closures. Some fishermen have joined the Seal Abatement Coalition, which advocates for a middle ground between seal populations and human uses. On the other hand, some environmental groups have lauded the growing seal populations as a return to a natural ecosystem balance, and entrepreneurs have developed successful seal-watching tours.
  • While Maine’s lobstermen are frustrated with booming lobster populations that have driven down prices, distributors see the matter differently. Two of the largest distributors, Garbo Lobster Co and East Coast Seafood, have teamed up to open a new processing plant, Maine Fair Trade Lobster Co., the number of processing plants in the state has tripled since 2010, and the state of Maine has invested in marketing programs. Still, scientists warn that Maine’s near monoculture is very vulnerable to environmental change.
  • Scientists are closely studying deep-sea corals in the Northeast’s canyons and seamounts, thanks to the Deep Sea Coral Research and Technology Program established by the 2006 reauthorization of the Magnuson-Stevens Act. Meanwhile, the New England and Mid-Atlantic Fishery Management Councils are developing plans to protect corals from bottom-tending fishing gear. The measures could impact the squid and red crab fisheries.
  • NEFMC members Laura Foley Ramsden and Paul Diodati spoke to State House News Service about changing dynamics in New England’s fish populations. Ramsden noted that overall biomass of fish has grown, but populations have shifted in favor of less marketable species like skate, dogfish, and bluefish. On Georges Bank, scallops have boomed, while lobsters have abandoned Southern New England waters but thrived off the Maine coast.
  • Maine’s Department of Marine Resources undertook a one-day survey of green crab abundance this week. Results of the survey will be used to raise public awareness and help towns develop management plans. The crabs are highly invasive and voracious eaters, and they pose a threat to softshell clams and other shellfish. Populations have boomed in recent years, likely due to warmer waters. Marine Resource Commissioner Patrick Keliher is hoping for a cold winter, which could help reduce crab numbers.
  • Buzzfeed published an article this week on Maine’s elver fishery, focusing on buyer Bill Sheldon. The piece discusses the rapid rise of the juvenile eel fishery, the tenuous ecological status of the eels, and the conflict and criminal activity that surround the fishery.
  • The Economist reports that Arctic tern populations at Maine breeding grounds have fallen 40% in recent years. The rapid decline began about five years ago. It appears to have resulted from a lack of forage species like herring, which is linked to overfishing and climate change. Puffins and razorbills face similar problems.

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