In the News

Fish Talk in the News – Friday, February 22

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

  • Lawmakers in Maine are evaluating two competing bills aimed at restoring alewives to the St. Croix watershed. The ecologically important fish have been blocked from their historic spawning grounds by a series of dams since the early 1800s, leading to a population collapse. Restoration efforts have faced opposition from recreational fishermen who believe the alewives compete with smallmouth bass, despite scientific evidence that the river herring do not harm and may even support bass populations. The first bill, introduced by Governor Paul LePage, would adopt a gradual approach to restoring the fish to their spawning grounds. The other, supported by environmental groups, commercial fishermen, and the Passamaquoddy Tribe, would open dams immediately. Measures to restore alewives to the upper portions of the river were mandated by the EPA last year; opening the spawning grounds will allow populations to rebound, providing an improved source of food for commercially important inshore species like cod.
  • In the wake of cuts to 2013 catch limits for New England cod, Chef Michael Leviton has called for chefs and consumers to turn to “trash fish” like redfish, sea robin, and pollock. These lower-value species are not as commonly eaten as local favorites like cod, but their stocks are generally in better shape. Leviton points to species like skate and monkfish that were once considered trash fish but are now highly regarded. He also warns of the risk of overexploiting this species as they become more popular, since there is generally poor scientific information about underutilized stocks. Leviton is hosting a “trash fish” dinner on March 10th at Area Four in Cambridge, MA, featuring scup and dogfish, among other species.
  • Members of the Northeast Seafood Coalition have written to 25 Senators and Congressmen from the Northeast, repeating their call for interim measures that would allow overfishing to continue for another year, avoiding the cuts to catch limits approved by the New England Fishery Management Council. NOAA regional administrator John Bullard has already said he finds the interim measure option blatantly illegal and morally unjustifiable. In the letter, the Coalition, a fishing industry advocacy group, suggests that scientifically-set catch limits were unfairly influenced by environmental groups (despite the scientists’ own claims that, if anything, their estimates were overly optimistic). They also call for NMFS to cover the full cost of at-sea monitoring and conduct more stocks assessments, and for Congress to allocate disaster relief funding.
  • Discussion of the impending cuts to catch limits for several New England stocks continued this week. Associated Press writer Jay Lindsay argued that due to the high level of seafood imports in the United States—just 9 percent of seafood eaten in the country is domestically caught—the effect of the cuts might be minimal for consumers. Some fishing industry advocates joined environmental groups in calling for a cod fishery shutdown, although their reasoning was slightly different—a shutdown, they say, might draw the attention necessary to secure disaster relief funding for the groundfishery. Meanwhile, Carolyn Kirk, the mayor of Gloucester, pondered how to transition the port from fishing to new industries other than tourism, including the possibility of using a portion of any allocated disaster relief funds to build infrastructure. Calls for better stock assessments were also renewed.

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