In the News

Fish Talk in the News – Friday, May 17

Mayor Carolyn Kirk has released a plan for Gloucester's fishing industry to adapt to the groundfishing crisis. (Photo: Paul Keleher/Wikimedia Commons)

  • New research published in Nature this week focuses on the effect of climate change on commercial fisheries. Warmer waters have already begun to affect the distribution of fish species, as cold-water species move farther north and offshore. As this pattern continues, fisheries will become dominated by warm-water species and regulations will need to adapt to create resilience to these changes. New England fishermen have already felt the effects of climate change on fisheries like cod and lobster and have experienced the difficulty of incorporating these factors into fisheries science and management.
  • After a new Maine bill went into effect on May 1 that opened the fishways on the St. Croix River to alewives for the first time in 22 years, the river herring are now returning to the watershed. On Monday, more than 600 fish were observed heading towards the Grand Falls dam. The St. Croix watershed, which now includes thousands of acres of excellent alewife spawning habitat, could soon harbor one of the largest alewife runs in the country. A rebound in populations of forage fish like alewives would likely support the recovery of cod populations, since river herring are an important food source for inshore cod.
  • As the Maine lobster season ramps up, Canadian lobstermen have once again begun to protest low lobster prices. Last year, a glut of Maine lobster linked to unusually warm waters drove down the prices paid by Canadian processing plants, leading Canadian fishermen to blockade truckloads of Maine lobster. Over 2000 lobstermen have now ceased fishing to protest low prices, but another season of blockades is not expected. Canadian lobstermen have met with government officials to try to work out a deal for higher prices, while Maine fishermen have considered new marketing schemes to drive up demand. It remains to be seen whether lobster abundance will be anomalously high for a second year.
  • The House Natural Resources Subcommittee on Fisheries, Wildlife, Oceans and Insular Affairs will hold an oversight hearing on the reauthorization of the Magnuson-Stevens Act on May 21. The hearing will focus on data collection issues, but witnesses have not yet been announced. Meanwhile, industry members are preparing for this and other discussions leading up to the 2016 deadline for Magnuson reauthorization. Mayor Jon Mitchell of New Bedford led a meeting of the Mayor’s Ocean and Fisheries Council, where industry members called for better cooperative fisheries research and accountability for NOAA.
  • In response to the cuts to many groundfish quotas for the 2013 fishing year, which are expected to hurt the fleet economically, Mayor Carolyn Kirk of Gloucester has released “The Gloucester Bridge Plan: A Response to the New England Groundfisheries Crisis.” The plan outlines the city’s potential response to tough times for fishermen. Among other strategies, it proposes transitional assistance for fishermen and related businesses and redeployment of fishing boats as cooperative research vessels.
  • In addition to problems with poaching and violence and conflict between state and tribal governments, the booming elver fishery in Maine has raised concerns about the health of American eel populations. Elvers—transparent, juvenile eels—are caught in Maine rivers in the spring and summer, and are generally sold to Asian markets for up to $2000 a pound. All states other than Maine and South Carolina have banned fishing for the eels, which spawn in the middle of the Atlantic before the juveniles return to coastal rivers. In addition to fishing, eels are threatened by dams and habitat destruction. Eel populations in the eastern Atlantic have declined by 95 percent, and they were recently listed as an endangered species in Japan. The Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission could take action to reduce the elver catch at its May 21 meeting.

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