In the News

Fish Talk in the News – Friday, July 19

A new NRDC report says Canadian lobster and crab fisheries harm northern right whales. Photo credit: Brian Skerry/New England Ocean Odyssey

  • $150 million in fisheries disaster relief funding has been attached to the current Senate Appropriations Bill. The move follows a series of failed efforts by the New England delegation to secure federal disaster money through the Farm Bill, the Hurricane Sandy disaster relief bill, and other appropriations. The $150 million would be divided between fisheries in New England, the Gulf of Mexico, and Alaska, per NOAA’s recommendations. The funds would be sourced from tariffs collected on seafood imports under the Saltonstall-Kennedy Act, and would go towards community-based plans to help coastal economies. The bill would also require NOAA to use other Saltonstall-Kennedy funds for cooperative fisheries research and at-sea monitoring, rather than internal management. The appropriations bill with fisheries funding has passed the Senate’s Commerce, Justice and Science Subcommittee and Appropriations Committee, but must still pass the full Senate and House.
  • The debate over NOAA’s proposed rule to open 3,000 square miles of protected habitat to commercial fishing continued this week. Both environmental groups and fishing industry members expressed displeasure with the proposal. While conservationists argue that the move will destroy important habitat and further imperil fish populations, industry representatives say that the requirement for independent observers on every trip within these areas—which will be paid for by fishermen—means that they won’t be able to afford fishing in these new areas anyway. NOAA Regional Administrator John Bullard, however, said the proposal was a reasonable compromise that would provide some economic relief to the industry. The public has until July 26 to comment on the proposal.
  • Massachusetts has lifted its ban on the sale of domestic lobster tails within the state. Previously, consumers and businesses in the state could purchase whole American lobsters, but lobster tails had to be sourced from foreign waters—usually South Africa or Australia. An amendment to the budget bill signed by Governor Patrick last Friday will now allow the sale of American lobster tails weighing over 3 ounces. Maine lobstermen, meanwhile, are focusing on new marketing efforts to drive up low prices, and the city of Portland finalized deals to lease state pier space to two lobster processing and wholesale businesses.
  • Last Friday, NOAA announced a proposal to reduce marine mammal entanglement in trap and gillnet fishing gear. The proposed rule would push fishermen to use more traps on fewer buoy lines to reduce entanglement risk, implement seasonal trap fishing closures in areas with high numbers of marine mammals, and require more prominent markings on traps and gillnets. The rule is targeted particularly at reducing mortality of right, humpback, fin, and minke whales. 16 public hearings will be held along the east coast to solicit feedback on the proposal. Some local fishermen argued that putting more than one trap on a line is dangerous and that whales are already sufficiently protected, since their numbers are growing. Other Cape Cod fishermen, meanwhile, have completed voluntary whale disentanglement training in an effort to help protect and rebuild whale populations.
  • State lawmakers have approved $400,000 for the operation of the Newburyport Shellfish Purification Plant. This state-owned processing facility purifies clams that have been exposed to polluted coastal waters by holding them in tanks for several days and allowing them to filter out contaminants. The plant also desands shellfish to improve their marketability to restaurants and consumers.


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