In the News

Fish Talk in the News – Friday, August 9

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

  • A new study published in Nature, conducted by an international group of scientists from seventeen institutions, has indicated that rising ocean temperatures are pushing marine species closer to the poles. Using data from seven countries, the scientists observed shifts in feeding, reproductive, and migration habits in species ranging from plankton to seals. They found that marine species are moving poleward at a rate of 7 kilometers per year, relative to one kilometer per year for terrestrial species.
  • The Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission met on Wednesday to discuss new regulations for the elver fishery. Currently, only Maine and South Carolina allow fishing for the juvenile eels, which are generally sold live to Asian markets for around $2,000 per pound. A working group recommended against closing the fishery and even supported expanding it to other states, but endorsed adopting a stricter quota system for eels at all life stages and reducing recreational bag limits. Some fishermen have argued that the perceived need to more strictly regulate the fishery is based on faulty stock assessments, but American eels are listed as Threatened by Canada, and European eels are Critically Endangered. For the second time in a row, the ASMFC decided to postpone placing an annual catch limit on the elver fishery, instead directing the Plan Development Team to develop a new proposal that would apply to the entire East Coast and open the possibility of allowing fishing in other states. The ASMFC will review the proposal in October, likely for approval before the next elver season begins in the spring.
  • NEFMC Chairman Rip Cunningham wrote a letter to NERO Administrator John Bullard in response to the Agency’s disapproval of the Council’s plan to require 100% observer coverage for the herring industry. Cunningham expressed frustration with NERO’s apparent unwillingness to compromise effectively on a workable solution to herring management. Environmental groups and fishermen have criticized NOAA’s rejection Amendment 5 to the herring management plan, which they say would help to restore herring stocks and support populations of species that eat herring, including cod.
  • Meanwhile, NOAA also disapproved a petition to list river herring—including alewives and blueback herring—as threatened or endangered. Instead, the agency announced its intent to establish a working group to develop a long-term river herring conservation plan, complete further assessments of river herring populations, and dedicate funds for herring management.
  • President Obama has nominated Kathryn Sullivan to lead NOAA. Sullivan has been serving as Acting Administrator of the agency since Jane Lubchenco’s departure in February. The former astronaut, who helped deploy the Hubble Space Telescope, previously served as Deputy Director of NOAA and oversaw the agency’s satellite monitoring programs.
  • Think Progress has warned that Maine’s current dependence on lobster may leave its fishing industry particularly vulnerable to climate change. Warmer waters in the Gulf of Maine and depleted populations of predators like cod and haddock have contributed to an abundance of lobster—and record low prices. But this near-monoculture could mean that Maine’s fishing industry is a bubble set to pop. Lobster populations have collapsed calamitously in other regions, and if water temperatures continue to rise, the Gulf of Maine may become less hospitable to them. Diversification to other species and aquaculture may be necessary to maintain the health of the fishing industry.
  • Senator Elizabeth Warren published an opinion piece in the New Bedford Standard-Times calling for federal disaster aid for the New England groundfish fishery. She points to the Senate Appropriations Committee’s approval of disaster aid and Saltnonstall-Kennedy grants as important steps towards sustainable fishing communities. She also calls for more cooperative stock assessment research with industry.

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