In the News

Fish Talk in the News – Friday, November 22

Maine's farmed salmon industry brought in $81 million last year. (Photo Credit: Maine DMR)

  • The New England Fishery Management Council held a one-day meeting this week. Prior to the meeting, NOAA Regional Administrator John Bullard wrote to the Gloucester Daily Times, praising the scallop and summer flounder fisheries as models of sustainability, saying that while there are many challenges ahead for groundfish, rebuilding stocks ultimately leads to economic opportunity. At the meeting, discussion largely focused on a proposal to shut down the midwater trawling fleet unless NOAA or the industry could cover the cost of placing observers on every vessel. Many fishermen are concerned about the effect of the midwater herring fleet, which frequently catches haddock as bycatch, on groundfish populations. Both NOAA and herring fishermen have argued that they are unable to pay the cost of full observer coverage. The Council ultimately did not implement the ban, instead proposing a meeting with NMFS officials to discuss options. A discussion on management priorities for groundfish in 2014 was postponed until December due to time constraints.
  • The International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tunas began its annual meeting in Cape Town, South Africa this week. The Commission will set the international bluefin tuna quota for 2014; environmental groups have pressured ICCAT to keep the quota at the same levels as 2013 to allow the depleted species to recover. Other bluefin conservation measures up for consideration include the implementation of an electronic documentation system to reduce fraud. ICCAT will also consider creating catch limits for mako and blue sharks.
  • New research by a group of UK scientists suggests that cold-water plankton are adapting poorly to climate change. The researchers examined a 50-year dataset from the Northeast Atlantic and found that the range and abundance of a cold water species declined while a warm-water species thrived and expanded its range. The warm water species blooms at a different time than the cold water species, and so is not a viable food source for cod, hake, and other fish species. Meanwhile, an ecosystem advisory released by NEFSC shows that while 2013 water temperatures in the Northeast Shelf area were slightly lower than the record high temperatures observed in 2012, plankton biomass in the Gulf of Maine and on Georges Bank hit record lows. The Gulf of Maine bloom, in particular, was so small as to be barely detectable.
  • Preliminary results of an August survey of Maine’s green crab population show that 94 percent of the deployed traps caught at least one crab, with some areas averaging almost 200 crabs per trap. The Department of Marine Resources plans to release full results of the survey at a December 16 Conference at the University of Maine. The population of highly invasive green crabs has exploded in recent years, and fishermen and scientists are concerned about their effect on eelgrass beds and softshell clams.
  • An experimental survey of Georges Bank yellowtail flounder conducted by UMass Dartmouth’s School of Marine Science and Technology has shown higher than expected flounder abundance. The team led by Kevin Stokesbury has completed eight survey trawls, counting over 300 fish per trawl in one instance. The survey, funded partially by a state grant, is testing new video surveying technology.
  • Oyster farmers along the South Shore are recovering after a monthlong closure, August 30-October 5, due to an outbreak of Vibrio, a bacterium occasionally found in raw shellfish that causes gastrointestinal illness. While most restaurants and fish markets had no trouble substituting oysters from other areas, aquaculture operators in Duxbury and other nearby towns were hit hard by the ban—the first time Massachusetts has closed specific oyster beds in response to reports of Vibrio.
  • A decade after Maine’s salmon farming industry crashed due to fish disease and Clean Water Act violations, Maine’s aquaculture industry has begin to bounce back. Last year, Maine’s farmed salmon brought in $81 million, second only to lobsters in total revenue. State officials say the state’s aquaculture industry is more resilient than ever due to diversification to new species, particularly shellfish. Meanwhile, federal officials are debating the potential of an organic label standard for aquaculture products. The standards are complicated by the uncertain provenance of fish meal used for food, which is often sourced from depleted forage stocks, and some watchdog groups say the National Organic Program is stretching its standards to far in an effort to certify more products.
  • Representatives of the newly-formed Center for Sustainable Fisheries, which counts former SMAST Dean Brian Rothschild, former Congressman Barney Frank, and former New Bedford Mayor Scott Lang as board members, discussed their plans to restructure the Magnuson-Stevens Act with fishermen in Montauk. Their plans include reorganizing catch shares systems, implementing electronic monitoring, accounting for changing environmental conditions, and refocusing Magnuson on attaining optimum yields and improving economic conditions. Dr. Rothschild said that the collapse of the cod fishery did not have “anything to do with overfishing”, while Scott Lang said that claims of overfishing are unfounded and that he was certain that someone in the House was “looking for a way to open the door to get us more fish.”
  • A letter to the Portland Press-Herald says that climate change and ocean acidification are now undeniable, and warns of the effects that acidification will have on Maine’s shellfish and lobsters. The letter calls for Maine and the US to take a leading role on climate change.
  • A Forbes Magazine piece claims that “we seem to heading back toward those dark days” for the striped bass fishery. Recreational and commercial angling has led to a rapid decline of striped bass since 2006. Massachusetts officials have recommended a 38% cut to the commercial harvest, but the ASMFC will not take action until 2015. The article calls for a voluntary reduction in the recreational harvest by anglers and party boats.
  • The EPA has awarded $256,650 to Northeast States for Coordinated Air Use Management to repower eight commercial lobster boats. The boats’ current aging diesel engines will be replaced with cleaner, EPA certified engines, improving fuel efficiency and reducing pollution from particulates.

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