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In the News
Fish Talk in the News – Friday, July 26
Demolition began on the Veazie Dam on the Penobscot River this week.
- Lawmakers continue to discuss a federal appropriations bill that would allocate $150 million for disaster aid for fisheries in New England, Alaska, and the Gulf of Mexico. The budget measure was approved by the Senate Appropriations Committee last week, but still needs to pass the full Senate and the House. In addition to directing funds to fisheries research and community-based efforts, the measure would “direct NOAA to close NERO (the Northeast Regional Office) immediately and to dissolve all necessary operations into existing facilities located throughout the region.” This directive is supported by Maryland Senator Barbara Mikulski, who has pushed for the closing of NERO in the past. The bill has garnered mixed reviews, with many officials and lawmakers opposing the breakup of NERO but supporting the allocation of funds to support a struggling industry grappling with the effects of severely depleted fish populations. Senator Elizabeth Warren recently spoke with Saving Seafood and supported immediate financial assistance for fishermen.
- The Congressional Subcommittee on Oceans, Atmosphere, Fisheries, and Coast Guard held a hearing this week regarding the reauthorization of the Magnuson-Stevens Act, which is due to be completed in 2014. Witnesses included NOAA Regional Administrator John Bullard, NEFMC Chair Rip Cunningham, and Cape Cod Commercial Fishermen’s Alliance Chair Nick Muto, among others from New England and the Mid-Atlantic. While most witnesses expressed general approval of the current iteration of the Magnuson-Stevens Act while identifying some opportunities for improvement, New Hampshire Senator Kelly Ayotte used the hearing to express her frustration with the scientifically mandated sharp cuts to catch limits for cod and haddock, noting that many New Hampshire fishermen are going out of business. John Bullard responded that NOAA is doing everything possible to help fishermen transition to healthier stocks and allow cod and haddock to recover.
- A Boston Globe editorial this week expressed support for the NMFS proposal to open nearly 3,000 square miles of previously protected habitat to commercial fishing. The piece noted that neither environmentalists nor fishermen are happy with the proposal, but called it “worth a try” and a “sensible attempt at compromise.” In contrast, an editorial in the York County Journal Tribune said the proposal was “a useless move that was intended as a gesture”, arguing that the requirement for vessels fishing in the areas to carry and pay for an independent fisheries observer means that fishing there will not be economically feasible, and that smaller vessels do not have the range to reach the areas anyway. Conservation groups, meanwhile, argue that the proposal has not had proper environmental review and will cause immediate damage to fish habitat and populations.
- Demolition of the Veazie Dam on Maine’s Penobscot River began on Monday. The breach of the dam is a result of a partnership between the state, the Penobscot River Restoration Project, and numerous conservation groups. The dam removal will provide free fish passage to an additional 1,000 miles of river habitat, which advocates say will contribute to the recovery of native Atlantic salmon and forage fish like alewives and shad. Nearly 300 people gathered to watch the demolition, which was also praised by federal officials and members of the Penobscot Indian Nation. Meanwhile, in Massachusetts, state officials released thousands of shad larvae into the Charles River in Waltham in an attempt to restore populations of these native forage fish.
- Puffins are nesting successfully on Maine islands in an apparent reversal of conditions last season, when many puffins starved due to a herring shortage. Researchers say this year’s puffins are finding plenty of fish, although their numbers are still lower than usual.
- Oyster growers on the Cape were the target of a robbery last week. 12,000 oysters and thousands of dollars of equipment were stolen from a shellfish farm at Crowes Pasture, operated by James Ward. It is the second oyster theft in the area this year.
- The Penobscot East Research Center is testing a scale model of a new lobster boat design, which could increase fuel efficiency by 20 to 25 percent. The boat is a trimaran (three-hulled) design, which reduces drag without compromising the width and stability of the vessel.
- Former Chairman of the New England Fishery Management Council Joseph Brancaleone passed away this week. Brancaleone was the captain of the Joseph and Lucia II and became increasingly involved in fishery management in New England before a move to Florida.
- According to oceanographers at Dalhousie University, the average temperature of the Atlantic Ocean is 4 degrees Fahrenheit higher than it was at this time last year. Fishermen in Nova Scotia have noted water temperatures in the 70s, very unusual for this time of year, as well as a greater abundance of warm-water species.