In the News

Fish Talk in the News – Friday, March 1

NERO has taken emergency action to increase the monkfish catch in 2013. Photo credit: FishWatch.gov

  • Late last week, NOAA’s Northeast Regional Office proposed measures to increase the monkfish catch as an alternative to declining groundfish stocks. The proposed Emergency Action would suspend possession limits for vessels issued a groundfishing permit and a days at sea monkfishing permit. The expansion will allow for a 4.6% increase in monkfish catch, leading to increased revenues of roughly $741,000. The suspension would last for 180 days and could be extended for another 185. NERO indicated that nearly 75 percent of sector groundfish vessels also have a monkfish permit. The proposed rule will be subject to a 15-day public comment period.
  • NOAA regional administrator John Bullard published an op-ed this week expressing uncertainty over the future of the groundfishery. He notes that Gulf of Maine and Georges Bank cod stocks are at a fraction of sustainable levels, and that while environmental factors are likely playing a role, a “day of reckoning” has arrived for New England’s fishermen. While the upcoming catch limit cuts will hurt, says Bullard, the measures are necessary to rebuild the fishery, and taking no action would have hurt more. He also reiterates his intention to allow better access to healthier stocks and reduce monitoring costs.
  • The yellowtail bycatch avoidance system developed by SMAST at UMASS Dartmouth will continue this year, and hopes to include more fishermen and areas. The program is designed to help scallop fishermen avoid yellowtail by collecting and reporting real-time information on yellowtail distribution, allowing fishermen to avoid flounder hot spots. The program played a role in preventing early closures to access areas in 2011 and 2012, and the number of participating vessels has increased from 122 to 243.
  • The Atlantic spiny dogfish fishery has successfully expanded its MSC certification to cover dogfish caught in Connecticut, New York, Pennsylvania, Delaware, and Maryland. The low-value fish is largely exported to the European Union, and NOAA fisheries considers it rebuilt and abundant.
  • A series of public lectures presented by Maritime Gloucester begins next week. The series will focus on how regulatory changes in the fishing industry are affecting both fishermen and consumers. The first lecture, “Fish Fraud, and Forensics”, will focus on recent investigations into seafood fraud and measures to address it, and will include Boston Globe reporter Beth Daley. The series is sponsored by Turner’s Seafood. Meanwhile, the Northwest Atlantic Marine Alliance is partnering with Penobscot East Resource Center to present the “Who Fishes Matters Tour.” The series of workshops across New England will promote fleet diversity and encourage the New England Fishery Management Council to take action on Amendment 18, a suite of measures to address consolidation.
  • Fisheries scientists Daniel Pauly, Trevor Branch, and Ray Hilborn faced off in the February 21 issue of Nature over stock assessment science. Pauly argued that, while catch data do not perfectly correspond to actual fish abundance, it would be dangerous to discount their usefulness in determining the health of fish stocks. He also noted that his research suggests catch is underreported by 30-50% in developed countries and 100-500% in many developing countries. Branch and Hilborn, meanwhile, argued that catch data do not reflect fish abundance, and that managers should instead base their decisions only on stock assessments from research surveys. They particularly take issue with the recently published Ocean Health Index, and insist that fishermen are already catching 80-96% of maximum sustainable yield.

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