In the News

Fish Talk in the News – Friday, February 8

New research on spiny dogfish has indicated they don't migrate as much as previously assumed. Photo credit: NOAA

  • Meetings continued in Maine this week to discuss options for avoiding another lobster glut like the one that caused a dramatic drop in prices last summer. The glut of lobster has been linked to warmer water and reduced competition from declining cod stocks. Most lobstermen agree that action must be taken to reduce the oversupply of lobster, but few agree on what the plan of action should be, with options including price controls and better marketing.
  • The already shortened northern shrimp season is facing even tighter restrictions in the face of steeply declining shrimp biomass. Shrimp trap fishermen have already agreed to reduce their daily catch from 800 to 500 pounds. Many are reporting they cannot catch enough shrimp to turn a profit despite a large increase in prices, and catches have been small across the board since the season began on January 23.
  • New research on spiny dogfish has indicated their migration patterns may be quite different than previously assumed. A long-held belief says that dogfish migrate south for the winter and return to New England in the Spring, but the research, which involved tagging dogfish with acoustic tags, indicates that only a small fraction of the dogfish migrate, with 75% remaining in place. Stomach content analysis also indicated that dogfish compete directly with cod, bluefish, and striped bass. Dogfish catch limits have been raised in recent years, and many fishermen are turning to them as an alternative to groundfish. The low-value sharks are often exported to Europe, where they are used to make fish and chips.
  • Carl Safina has written an opinion piece for National Geographic admonishing the decision by New England fishery managers to open groundfish closed areas to commercial trawling. Safina argues that the closed areas, some of which have been in place for decades, have been successful in protecting juvenile fish and supporting larger, older fish populations. He also says that opening the closed areas would put marine mammals, including porpoises and right whales, at risk.
  • Following the Senate’s approval of a Hurricane Sandy relief package that did not include any aid for the New England groundfishery, Massachusetts congressman John Tierney has promised to introduce a new bill for disaster relief funds. The bill would redirect funds generated in fiscal year 2014 from the Saltonstall-Kennedy Act to those states currently affected by fisheries disasters. In fiscal year 2013, these funds amounted to $124 million. From 2015 onward, the bull would direct the funds to fisheries research and monitoring through the creation of regional committees to develop investment plans.  The Saltonstall-Kennedy Act of 1954 imposes a tariff on all imported fish products; the funds are currently directed to the Department of Commerce and the operations fund at NOAA.
  • Gloucester fishing entrepreneur Vito Giacalone has been exonerated by an independent review of his potential conflicts of interest between his roles on the Gloucester Fishing Community Preservation Fund and the Northeast Seafood Coalition, and his sons’ operation of the BASE seafood auction. The allegations claimed he used his position to influence fishermen to do business with him, and that the GFCPF unfairly allocated leases through insider dealings. The investigation, led by former attorney general L. Scott Harshberger, found the allegations were baseless and promoted by a small group of Giacalone’s competitors. It recommended changes in governance for the fund to avoid future allegations. Some have already taken issue with the investigation, noting that it was paid for by GFCPF and thus could not be impartial.

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