In the News

Fish Talk in the News – Friday, October 25

NOAA has announced it will stop printing nautical charts in April. Photo credit: NOAA

  • A Wall Street Journal article highlights the tension between fishermen and at-sea observers and the frequent taunting of observers while on fishing vessels. The article notes incidents of this sort of “hazing” ranging from crews hiding from observers so they miss departures to accusations of ruining the fishing industry. Fishermen say the observers are unaccustomed to life on a fishing boat and are often seasick, in the way, and disrespectful. NOAA says the observers are necessary to enforce fishing regulations and collect data, and has publicly reminded fishermen not to take out frustrations on observers. The article suggests that electronic video monitoring could be a good alternative to at-sea observers.
  • NOAA has announced it will stop printing nautical charts beginning in mid-April. The Federal Aviation Administration, which handles the printing, told NOAA that it will no longer produce physical copies as a cost-cutting measure. While NOAA will still chart waters, the maps will only be available as electronic documents or through private on-demand printing.
  • As the Maine Lobstermen’s Union grows to over 600 members, it has caused a divide among the lobstering community. Many fishermen who believe it will help them lobby for more favorable policies and push for higher prices, but others say unionizing makes no sense for the fiercely independent lobster industry. Others have said the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers, which is organizing the Lobstermen’s Union, does not have the experience to advocate for commercial fishermen and is taking advantage of the lobster industry. Meanwhile, low prices are again causing tension between Maine and Canadian lobstermen. With the majority of Maine lobster processed in Canadian plants, Canadian fishermen take issue with the low price of Maine lobster that drives down the value of their product, while Mainers resent the relatively low cost of processing in Canada and the scarcity of domestic processing.
  • Kyle Murdock, the founder of Sea Hag Seafood, has won the 2013 Yoshiyama Young Entrepreneurs Award. Sea Hag Seafood is a new lobster processing facility in St. George, Maine, intended to increase domestic processing capacity and help Maine lobstermen receive higher prices for their product. The plant has been an overwhelming financial success, and Maine politicians have praised Murdock’s contribution to the local economy.
  • The newly-formed Center for Sustainable Fisheries held its first board meeting this week. The group elected former US Representative Barney Frank as its chairman and UMass Dartmouth professor Brian Rothschild as President and CEO. The group says it seeks to develop a “rational plan” for fisheries management, and it intends to release several position papers in coming months and participate actively in the reauthorization of the Magnuson-Stevens Act.
  • The federal government shutdown continues to bear repercussions for fisheries funding and management. NOAA has indicated that the shutdown will result in delays in the distribution of Saltonstall-Kennedy funds. The funds, tariffs on imported seafood that are used to fund fisheries innovation projects, originally carried a September 29th deadline for proposals and an expected disbursement date in December. NOAA now says they expect the funds to be distributed in late January or early February. Several New England-based business and organizations have applied for grants. NOAA is determining its priorities as it resumes operations following the shutdown, and is working with the regional Fishery Management Councils and the industry to evaluate the impacts of the furloughs.
  • NMFS has lifted the monkfish possession limits on vessels in the Northern Fishery Management Area (north of Nantucket). While vessels fishing under monkfish days at sea permits had this restriction lifted in May, this rule extends that action to groundfish and scallop days at sea vessels. The action is in response to a request from the NEFMC and to the low amount of monkfish currently being caught in the area.
  • The World Wildlife Fund has released a statement calling for no increase in bluefin tuna quotas this year. The organization praised last year’s implementation of a science-based quota for the Atlantic bluefin fishery, but said that any increase in catch could jeopardize the recovery of the species.

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