In the News

Fish Talk in the News – Friday, November 15

A scientist thinks aquaculture may be the solution to protect clams from green crabs. Photo by David Reed (dreed41) via Flickr.

  • Two articles published this week focus on seafood consumers’ attachment to overfished species like cod and salmon and unwillingness to branch out to more abundant species like dogfish. A Salon piece notes that while flaky, mild dogfish are popular in the UK as fish and chips and their populations are relatively healthy in the Northeast, chefs in the US have been hesitant to introduce the species to their menus. It discusses the possibility of changing the fish’s name to something more palatable. Meanwhile, WBUR talked to a Cape Cod fisherman who said he “has never seen cod fishing this bad” and local chefs who said they import most of the cod they serve from Iceland. The article mentioned local efforts to create a local market for dogfish, including the push for a federal commodities purchase.
  • Researchers at GMRI have reported a three to five degree increase in water temperatures in the Gulf of Maine since 2012. As a result, species typically found further south, like mackerel and black sea bass, are appearing more frequently in this area. Cod may also be moving further north and offshore to cooler water.
  • Maine will introduce changes to elver management in 2014 to fulfill its promise to the ASMFC to reduce catch by at least 25 percent. Quotas will be reduced and fishermen will be issued cards that must be swiped when selling elvers. The cards would automatically assign the catch to a license number and make a record of the catch, and are an effort both to improve data collection and to reduce illegal fishing. Some regulators and fishermen are worried that the new rules will exacerbate conflict with the Passamaquoddy Tribe, which clashed with the Maine government over its issuing of elver licenses in 2012. Charges against several members of the tribe for fishing with invalid licenses were dropped this week after the Penobscot County District Attorney decided it was unfair to pursue legal action against individual fishermen caught up in a larger dispute between the tribe and the state.
  • UMass Dartmouth’s SMAST is completing another round of testing on its video fish counting technology. The new technology relies on acoustic sensors and video cameras to count fish passing through survey trawls without bringing the fish aboard. Researchers are currently completing survey passes with the video technology and comparing them to similar passes with traditional methods to assess the new technique’s accuracy.
  • The Gloucester Fishing Community Preservation Fund, the Northeast Seafood Coalition, and the Cape Cod Commercial Fishermen’s Alliance have joined forces to provide new gillnet pingers to fishermen at low or no cost. The pingers repel porpoises from nets, reducing bycatch. They break easily and frequently need replacement, typically costing about $70 each.
  • The ASMFC is finalizing its stock assessment update for Gulf of Maine shrimp and will likely release it sometime next week. Early information says the data reflect recruitment failures and the lowest biomass numbers since recordkeeping began in 1984.
  • A bipartisan group of 38 lawmakers from 10 states has sent a letter urging eight congressional leaders to include $150 million in disaster funding for fisheries in any 2014 appropriations bill. The lawmakers suggest the funds could be used for emergency assistance, economic development programs, and scientific initiatives. Several members of the New England congressional delegation signed the letter.
  • Maine is experimenting with green crab control methods to protect clam beds from the predatory invasive species. Potential techniques include using crab traps or fencing around clam beds. The crabs are highly invasive and thrive as sea temperatures rise, and each crab can eat up to 40 small clams per day. They are considered a serious threat to the shellfish industry in Maine and Massachusetts, particularly Ipswich’s softshell clam fishery.
  • A loan from community development corporation Coastal Enterprises helped executive Mike Cote revitalize a local seafood canning company and the town that depends on it. After $600,000 in financing allowed for updates to canning equipment, Bar Harbor Foods now distributes chowder, clam juice, and other seafood products nationwide, and it employs 30of the 480 residents of Whiting, ME. Community development organizations like CEI can create unusual opportunities for coastal and rural businesses.
  • In a study to be presented during climate talks in Poland next week, scientists say ocean acidification could increase by 170% by 2100, and that 30% of marine species are unlikely to survive this change in ocean chemistry. They also state that they have very high confidence that acidification is caused by anthropogenic increases in atmospheric carbon dioxide. The oceans have already become 26% more acidic since the Industrial Revolution, and some organisms like pteropods are already showing the effects of acidification. Cold water is most susceptible to acidification, and the entire Arctic could become hostile to marine life by 2100.
  • In a blog post on, Charter boat captain and MAFMC member John McMurray calls for managing river herring and shad through a fishery management plan. He says that it is clear that these forage fish are in need of conservation, that river herring are caught in large enough numbers that they are clearly “in the fishery”, and that under these circumstances, the Magnuson-Stevens Act mandates that they be federally managed. While bycatch caps and avoidance efforts are a good step, McMurray says, it is disappointing that the Mid-Atlantic Council voted against completing a DEIS to analyze the impacts of bringing these species under federal management. 100% observer coverage for the herring trawling fleet would also be a good option, but it is unlikely NOAA will step up to bear part of the cost of this coverage. Ideally, the industry will cover the full cost of these observers and the MAFMC’s working group will find a way to effectively limit river herring and shad catch.


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