In the News

Fish Talk in the News – Friday, September 13

GMRI's latest Out of the Blue campaign focuses on whiting, also called silver hake. Photo: NY DEC

  • Fishing industry stakeholders continued to respond to the National Research Council’s report Evaluating the Effectiveness of Fish Stock Rebuilding Plans in the United States, which was requested by members of congress. The report has garnered a mixed response. Many have noted its highlighting of the effectiveness of the current iteration of the Magnuson-Stevens Act, which has achieved rebuilding success for a large percentage of previously overfished stocks. Others have pointed out the report’s criticism of strict ten-year rebuilding requirements, noting these deadlines’ lack of responsiveness to changing environmental and economic conditions. The report recommends, among other options, more gradual reductions in annual catch, basing fishing restrictions on mortality, rather than biomass, reference points, and setting acceptable mortality levels well below the maximum yield level to help encourage rebuilding and account for uncertainty.
  • Following the release of the NRC report, the House Committee on Natural Resources held an oversight hearing on Magnuson-Stevens reauthorization on Wednesday. The Committee heard testimony from National Marine Fisheries Service Acting Administrator Sam Rauch, University of Washington scientist Ray Hilborn, and Northeast Seafood Coalition Policy Director Vito Giacalone, among others. Rauch focused on the need for flexibility in rebuilding targets, noted the NRC report’s suggestions of limits based on target mortality rates, and highlighted NOAA’s request for additional funding to support research on the impact of climate on fisheries. Hilborn focused on scientific evidence for productivity regime shifts, which indicates that fish stocks may experience periods of high and low productivity linked to natural cycles rather than stock biomass. He also pointed out the loss of revenue due to fishing stocks at non-ideal mortality levels and the fishing industry’s need for consistent, predictable catch limits. Giacalone focused on the limits of current scientific information and the role of changing environmental conditions and emphasized the groundfish fishery’s immediate need for disaster assistance.
  • A seasonal lobster fishing closure in Long Island Sound began on Saturday. The closure will last through November 28 and is intended to reduce the lobster harvest from the area by ten percent. The Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission required Connecticut and New York to implement measures to reduce landings; lobster fishermen suggested the timing of the closure to coincide with seasonally low prices. While lobster populations in Maine and Newfoundland have boomed, lobsters are depleted in Connecticut waters.
  • The first in a two-part series on food blog Serious Eats focuses on Maine lobstering. The piece tracks a day on the F/V Ruthless, as Port Clyde fisherman Justin Thompson hauls his traps, and touches on current low prices and licensing restrictions that have pushed some out of the industry.
  • New Bedford’s Working Waterfront Festival will take place on September 28 and 29 on the city’s Fisherman’s Wharf. The festival will highlight the local industry, with local seafood dinners, cooking lessons and contests, and the opportunity to tour several commercial fishing vessels.
  • The Gulf of Maine Research Institute’s Out of the Blue Campaign, which highlights lesser-known local seafood choices, continues this month with a focus on whiting. About 20 restaurants are participating by featuring the fish on their menus. The event runs through September 22.
  • New research from Princeton University, published in Science, indicates that shifts in the distribution of marine species have been consistent with the direction and speed of climate change. Rates of sea temperature change are geographically variable, with water temperatures shifting north  in Newfoundland but south in the Gulf of Mexico, for example. The geographic distribution of marine species matches these rates and directions of change closely, and are consistent with temperate marine species predictably redistributing to follow cooler water.

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