In the News

Fish Talk in the News – Friday, May 24

Acting Assistant Secretary Eric Schwaab has announced he is leaving NOAA. Photo credit: NMFS

  • Acting Assistant Secretary Eric Schwaab announced this week that he will be leaving NOAA to join the Baltimore National Aquarium as its Senior Vice President and Chief Conservation Officer. Schwaab’s move leaves another vacancy at NOAA after Administrator Jane Lubchenco left the agency in February.
  • Regulators from the New England Fishery Management Council and the National Marine Fisheries Service sent an open letter to New England’s fishermen asking them not to take out their frustration on fisheries observers. Since the sharp cuts to catch limits of several groundfish species went into effect on May 1, reports of verbal abuse of at-sea fisheries observers have increased, with some fishermen complaining that the observers are inexperienced at sea and that the cost of taking on the required observers can exceed their fishing revenues. The regulators reminded permit holders that
  • After several hours of discussion, the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission on Tuesday decided to postpone a decision on management of the elver fishery for several months. Representatives to the commission from Maine had put forth a proposal that would allow fishing for the juvenile eels to continue in the state’s rivers, but would require more assessments and monitoring. The commission countered with a proposal that would close the controversial fishery entirely. The delayed decision will allow Maine’s representatives to negotiate a compromise. Fishing for elvers is allowed only in South Carolina and Maine. The eels can fetch over $2000 per pound, and are a major source of income for many in Maine, but poaching and conflict with state authorities are common.
  • Counts of alewives in rivers along the North Shore are way up this year. In the Merrimack River, volunteers have counted 16,799 alewives swimming upstream so far this year, compared to 1809 last year and a low of 51 in 1996. After river herring stocks crashed in the mid-1990s, a push for efforts to restore the populations began. Since then, dam removals and fishway construction, habitat preservation, water quality improvements, and regulations to reduce marine bycatch of river herring have aided the return of the fish to New England rivers.
  • Scientists with the Coonamessett Farm Foundation are concerned that a parasite could be preventing the rebound of yellowtail flounder populations. The parasite, Ichthyophonus, infects the liver, kidneys, and heart of older yellowtail flounder, killing the fish. High rates of infestation have been witnessed since 2011. The parasite has also been documented in winter flounder, trout, cod, and herring.
  • Michael Conathan of the Center for American Progress wrote this week that climate change and warming waters may mean a paradigm shift for global fisheries. Species may not be able to adapt to rapidly changing conditions, depleting stocks in warm areas and altering the distribution of temperate species. Fishermen may struggle to adjust to these new ecological conditions.
  • The House Committee on Natural Resources held an oversight hearing on the reauthorization of the Magnuson-Stevens Act on Tuesday. The hearing focused on data collection issues. Dr. Kevin Stokesbury of the School of Marine Science and Technology at UMass-Dartmouth called for innovation in stock assessment techniques and a return to absolute measures of abundance, rather than a dependence on complex population modeling.



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