In the News

Fish Talk in the News – Friday, July 12

A basking shark, one of 81 marine species WildEarth Guardians say should be listed under the Endangered Species Act. Photo: Brian Skerry/NEOO

  • On Wednesday, NOAA released a proposed rule that would allow groundfish sector vessels to fish in nearly 3000 square miles of previously off-limits areas on Georges Bank. In a statement, NOAA indicated that it believed the proposal would provide greater economic opportunity for fishermen. One fishing industry advocate Jim Kendall said the move “really doesn’t add anything to the plate.” Meanwhile, environmental groups strongly opposed the measure, saying it has not had appropriate environmental review, will cause further harm to habitat and fish populations, and undercuts an ongoing Omnibus Habitat Amendment process to thoroughly analyze and site protected marine habitat in New England. The public has until July 26th to submit comments on the proposal.
  • Environmental group WildEarth Guardians has submitted a petition to the federal government to list 81 additional marine species under the Endangered Species Act. Should the proposal be accepted, it would nearly double the number of marine species with federal protection under the law. Currently, just 94 of the over 2,000 listed species live in the ocean. The species named in the petition range from tiny corals to basking sharks.
  • A group of Maine scientists have noted the need to incorporate the impacts of climate change into fisheries management processes in a new paper published in Oceanography. Warmer waters have been linked to record high elver and lobster catches and the spread of squid along the coast of Maine. Rising temperatures are expected to continue to alter the distribution of commercially significant fish species. Among the recommendations made by the scientists are developing new models to predict climate impacts, revising the permitting process to make targeting new species easier, preparing agencies for shifts in commercial fish species, and reducing the reliance of the fishery management process on historic data.
  • President Obama has renewed a call to move NOAA from the Commerce Department to the Interior Department. His plan would also consolidate six business and trade agencies into a single unit. Officials from the National Weather Service, which is part of NOAA, spoke against the plan, saying they believe their functions are better suited to Commerce. Alaska Senator Mark Begich also expressed concern that NOAA would be buried within the Interior Department, which already oversees a fifth of the United States’ land area.
  • WCAI has launched a 10-part series of stories called “The Long Haul: The Future of New England’s Fisheries.” The first part focuses on the current status of fisheries, noting the high cost of fishing and the rapid decline of fish populations. It also highlights efforts to help stocks recover through market-based conservation programs, monitoring, and transitioning to alternative species. The second article in the series focused on cooperative research and the widespread culture of distrust of federal science. The third notes the decline of river herring and other forage fish and notes their importance as food sources for commercially important species. Part four explains the rising conflict between fishermen and Cape Cod’s booming gray seal population. Part five notes problems caused by marine debris, including discarded fishing gear, which can interfere with active gear and harm fish populations. The series will continue next week.
  • In addition to declining prices caused by an abundance of lobster linked to warming waters, Maine’s lobstermen are calling attention to other problems besetting the state’s lobster fishery. Increasingly abundant green crabs are already harming mussel and soft-shell clam populations; fishermen are now concerned that the crabs may soon begin to devour lobster as well. Town and state agencies are exploring how to manage the crab invasion. In addition, fishermen recently told Maine Marine Resources Commissioner Patrick Keliher that the lack of local processing capacity is problematic, as fishermen are forced to sell their catch to Canadian processors, often for lower prices.

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