In the News

Fish Talk in the News – Friday, December 27

The New York Times remembered when "America's rivers ran silver" with shad. Photo: Jim Cummins/Chesapeake Bay Program

  • Maine Coast Fishermen’s Association’s Ben Martens called the Northern Shrimp fishery the “first casualty of New England warming water.” The ASMFC recently called off the 2014 shrimp season in response to stock assessments indicating a population collapse. In particular, surveys indicated three straight years of recruitment failure, indicating that young shrimp are failing to reach maturity and enter the fishery. Martens connects this failure to unusually warm waters in the Gulf of Maine. This region is the southernmost extent of the range of Northern Shrimp, and shrimp success has been lower during previous warm water events. Martens says fisheries managers should attempt to respond to this pattern, possibly  by anticipating good year classes when waters are cooler and lowering catch when temperatures rise. He also says managers should be cautious not to make climate change “the universal scapegoat” or “an excuse to pass the buck on fisheries management.”
  • An op-ed in the Hartford Courant asks Connecticut’s congressional delegation to strengthen rebuilding and sustainability requirements through the reauthorization of the Magnuson-Stevens Act. Author Jennifer Herring says rolling back rebuilding timelines for depleted stocks “would be a grave mistake.” Instead, she calls for updates to the law to account for environmental change and new technologies—in particular, a new emphasis on ecosystem-based management, forage fish, bycatch reduction, and habitat protection.
  • Shad are recovering in the Potomac River, according to biologist Jim Cummins. After reaching historic lows in the 1970s, the shad population has grown rapidly since the 1980s, thanks to new pollution controls and sewage treatment plants that helped to improve the Potomac’s water quality. Still, shad’s recovery is threatened by the midwater trawl fishery, which catches shad as bycatch while targeting Atlantic herring.
  • As 2013 draws to a close, $150 million in federal fisheries disaster aid is still under discussion in Congress. The aid could be included in the upcoming appropriations bill, which must be drafted by January 15th. Massachusetts Senators Warren and Markey have both indicated that securing this aid funding is a top priority. Similar fisheries disaster appropriations have failed several times over the past year, and the aid package may face an uphill battle in the House.
  • Maine’s aquaculture industry is experiencing a revival, in part due to the success of oyster farming. These cold water oysters take two years to mature, but are a high-value product with a large commercial market. Around 650 people are now working in Maine’s aquaculture industry, up from fewer than 100 after a decline in the early 2000s. Around a third of these are employed by salmon farms, but the shellfish sector has grown by 6 to 10 percent per year for the last decade.
  • A Bangor Daily News piece highlights Maine scallop divers Paul Cox and Jason Leighton. Divers don dry suits and scuba gear to harvest scallops by hand during the winter months. The number of licensed scallop divers declined from 1,122 in 2000 to 167 as the fishery transitioned to a limited-entry system and divers began aging out.
  • NOAA has announced a new effort to improve the quality of its fisheries data. The Northeast Regional Office will work with the Gulf of Maine Research Institute and the School of Marine Science and Technology to survey external data users, including state and federal agencies, business, and NGOs, and determine how to improve data collection and management.
  • A recent report from the Center for Biological Diversity says that rising sea levels threaten 233 endangered and threatened species. The report, Deadly Waters, demonstrates that sea level rise will harm or eliminate habitat for these species, particularly in coastal areas like beaches and salt marshes. Affected species include loggerhead sea turtles, monk seals, and terrestrial species like key deer.

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