In the News

Fish Talk in the News – Friday, October 11

A 30-acre mussel farm has been proposed on a site adjacent to the Cape Wind area (Photo Credit: NOAA)

  • A proposed 30-acre mussel farm adjacent to the Cape Wind area in Nantucket Sound would be the first offshore aquaculture project in federal waters. The leasing permitting process for offshore aquaculture is currently unclear, but is managed by the Army Corps of Engineers. The public comment period on the proposal recently ended, and the permit should be issued within 60 days. Concerns include the potential for turtles and whales to become entangled in nets and lines, although mussel farmers say their thicker lines and marker buoys will limit entanglement risks. Commercial fishermen who fish in the area have expressed little concern with the proposed project. The mussel farm could produce 100,000 pounds of mussels annually.
  • After 20 years of closures, surf clam beds on Georges Bank are reopening to fishing. Concerns about blooms of algae containing toxins that cause paralytic shellfish poisoning—also known as red tide—resulted in a ban on clam dragging on Georges Bank beginning in 1990. Another algal bloom resulted in more closures in 2005. Over the past five years, NOAA has conducted trials with a single vessel in a limited area to test the safety of surf clams. This vessel uses an FDA testing kit to evaluate each load of clams, and FDA officials say no clams have exceeded maximum toxin levels since 2008. NMFS and the FDA have now expanded the trial to allow other fishermen to drag for surf clams in these areas—any fisherman who completes a training program on the testing requirements can harvest clams.
  • The New England Aquarium has teamed up with Gorton’s, Darden Restaurants, and other large seafood companies as an advisor on seafood sustainability. Together, the aquarium and the seafood companies work to assess environmental impacts of specific species and make improvements where possible, including changing a feed source for farmed tilapia and attaining MSC certification for the Russian pollock fishery.
  • Last week, the Commercial Fisheries Research Foundation hosted a summit on industry-supported stock assessment science. Fishermen, fisheries managers, and scientists discussed case studies from Norway, Nova Scotia, and the Falkland Islands to examine how fishermen may better participate in data collection for the stock assessment process. Key points included the need to develop better trust and communication between fishermen and fisheries scientists and to provide appropriate incentives for industry involvement in collaborative research.
  • The Wellfleet Oyster Festival is scheduled for next weekend, October 19-20, drawing attention to some of the problems facing oyster production in the region. Infections from the Vibrio bacterium have risen quickly, resulting in widespread closures of oyster beds along the South Shore and on Martha’s Vineyard. Several farms on the Cape have also been victims of theft of oysters and equipment.
  • Among numerous other fishery management slowdowns and concerns caused by the government shutdown, state agencies have been left on their own to deal with stranded and entangled marine mammals and turtles. If the shutdown continues to next month, it could also impact the annual North Atlantic right whale survey.
  • A comment published in Nature this week calls for a “global ocean-observatory network” to be established within the next five years to collect baseline data on ocean health. As nutrient runoff, pollutants, acidification, and warming place additional stress on ocean ecosystems, it will be crucial to have baseline and ongoing oceanographic and ecological data to determine changes and impacts. Longer time series of ocean data are few and far between—particularly for ecological surveys—but are critically important.
  • A new genetic study of river herring populations has indentified distinct genetic stocks. The researchers identified three distinct alewife stocks (Northern New England, Southern New England, and Mid-Atlantic) and four blueback herring stocks (Northern New England, Southern New England, Mid-Atlantic, and South Atlantic). Southern New England and Mid-Atlantic stocks of both species have experienced the most severe declines. The identification of distinct river herring populations could have implications for management decisions, and the scientists recommend that the Mid-Atlantic states in particular devote more attention to river herring management and restoration.


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