In the News

Fish Talk in the News – Friday, July 5

Two species of Pseudocalanus, which are an important food source for larval cod. Photo: Kwasniewski Slawomir/WoRMS Gallery

  • A new study published by NMFS scientists in Progress in Oceanography last week points to the role of climate change in the slow rebound of cod populations. The researchers examined the response of two species of zooplankton—both important food sources for larval cod—to warming waters. They found that these plankton species have declined in abundance on Georges Bank and in the Gulf of Maine, and that the areas of decline coincide with areas of poor cod recruitment. These findings suggest that climate change is playing a role in low cod recruitment and may be slowing recovery by depleting cod food sources. The study underscores the importance of incorporating environmental variability in fisheries management and building strong fish stocks to create resilience to climate change.
  • The opening of fishways at the Grand Falls Dam on the St. Croix River earlier this spring is already having positive effects for alewives and other species. Alewives began entering the river on May 7 through the Milltown counting station. Unfortunately, heavy rains and high water have blocked the fish from reaching spawning areas for much of the spring, leading to a small run, but scientists are hopeful that a much larger spawning population will pass the fishways in 2014. Scientists project the river could soon support a run of up to 10 million alewives, providing an excellent food source for other fish species like cod and haddock. Some smallmouth bass guides, however, are considering further legal challenges to free alewife passage, despite the scientific consensus that bass and alewives are mutually beneficial.
  • Members of industry and of the New England congressional delegation have written to the USDA in support of a Section 32 commodity purchase of spiny dogfish. Dogfish are relatively plentiful in New England, but low commercial demand means prices are low. A federal purchase of dogfish, which would likely be used in schools and food assistance programs, would likely help drive up prices and expand domestic demand. The fishermen and members of congress argue that this would serve as an effective economic support mechanism for the industry as it struggles with cuts to groundfish catch limits.
  • For the second year in a row, a lobster glut has led to low prices for New England consumers. Lobster is now selling in many places for $4.99 to $5.99 a pound, and fishermen are receiving $3 to $4 per pound; prices are expected to drop further as the summer progresses. Last season, an abundance of Maine lobster caused the glut; this year, Maine’s catch has been lower but New Bedford fishermen are having a boom season. Meanwhile, a coalition of lobster stakeholder groups launched a campaign on Tuesday to raise public awareness about the effects of ocean acidification and climate change on Maine’s lobster populations.
  • Nine members of the Massachusetts congressional delegation have requested a meeting with newly-appointed Commerce Secretary Penny Pritzker. In their letter, the members of congress indicate their intent to speak with Secretary Pritzker regarding her department’s role in managing New England’s fisheries. They call attention to the economic hardships faced by New England’s fishermen and reaffirm their intent to seek federal disaster relief funds and changes to fisheries regulations.
  • The New England Fishery Management Council is seeking two fishermen to participate in an Electronic Monitoring Working Group. The group will examine barriers to the successful implementation of electronic monitoring, which may eventually replace some at-sea monitoring as a lower-cost method to observe catch attribution and compliance. Statements of interest are due to the Council by Friday, July 19.
  • A new FAO report titled “Edible insects: Future prospects for food and feed security” points to the possible benefits of using insect meal, rather than the more commonly used fish meal or vegetable protein, as a food source in commercial aquaculture operations. Insect meal could be a more cost-effective and energy efficient source of protein for farmed fish.

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