In the News

Fish Talk in the News – Friday, April 18

Diversifying your seafood choices can help promote healthy ocean ecosystems. Why not give dogfish a taste? Image via NOAA Fisheries.

  • Charter boat captain and Mid-Atlantic Council member John McMurray wrote a blog for Reel-Time.com saying the Doc Hastings Magnuson-Stevens Act reauthorization draft “is really awful on a number of levels.” In particular, he says the bill would allow overfishing to continue for too long, potentially causing permanent harm to fish stocks, by allowing a number of unreasonable exceptions from rebuilding timelines. It would also allow Councils to set catch limits at the overfishing limit rather than the scientifically-set acceptable biological catch, allowing far riskier levels of fishing. McMurray also objects to the draft’s language exempting fishery management actions from the National Environmental Policy Act, allowing Councils to make management decisions under the Endangered Species Act, and limiting the use of fisheries data for marine spatial planning, saying he’d “like to think that some of the suggestions are so outrageous…that this bill has no chance.”
  • Meanwhile, a second Magnuson reauthorization discussion draft, this one produced by Alaska Senator Mark Begich, began to circulate this week. Begich’s draft incorporates subsistence fishing into the Act, makes more reference to tribal roles in fishery management, and includes some ecosystem-based management goals, including bycatch avoidance and more direct forage fish management. It would also require stock assessments on managed fish stocks to be conducted at least every five years.
  • Federal and state lawmakers are working to pass legislation to cut down on seafood mislabeling and fraud. South Carolina and Maryland have both recently introduced bills creating penalties for mislabeling local seafood. Meanwhile, Senator Ed Markey has introduced the federal Safety and Fraud Enforcement for Seafood Act, which would require information about the origin of seafood to be available through its final sale. Last year, Oceana conducted DNA testing on purchased seafood samples and found that 33 percent were mislabeled.
  • The Massachusetts Division of Marine Fisheries (DMF) has warned boaters in Cape Cod Bay to watch out for right whales feeding in the area. An aerial survey conducted last week found around 90 whales in the bay; the whales migrate north from their southern breeding grounds to feed in the spring. DMF has asked boaters to reduce speeds to less than 10 knots and use a lookout to help avoid collisions.
  • New research suggests ocean acidification could cause fish to lose their fear of predators, disrupting the marine food chain. Scientists observed the behavior of fish at natural carbon dioxide vents off Papua New Guinea and found that fish in these more acidic waters exhibit bolder behavior and were attracted to the odor of predators due to altered never stimulation mechanisms. The study suggests acidification could make fish more vulnerable to predation.
  • Joe Cassone of Greenwich, CT’s Conservation Commission is working to help baby eels pass dams on the Byram River. Adult eels return to saltwater to spawn, and juvenile eels swim back upriver in the spring. Dams like those on the Byram can prevent eels from reaching their habitat. Cassone has developed an eel trap that he places at the base of these dams, and he transports the eels he catches upstream by hand. Last year, he caught and transported over 500 baby eels; he hopes to increase that number to the thousands this year.
  • The start of Maine’s elver season has been marked by small catches and low prices. Dealers are paying about $400 to $650 per pound for the juvenile eels, down from up to $2,000 last year. Unusually cold water in Maine’s rivers has contributed to a slow start for the season, as eels remain in saltwater later into the spring rather than beginning to migrate upstream. Maine implemented new elver regulations this year, including individual catch limits and a swipe card monitoring system, in response to a request by the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission that it reduce catch by 25 to 40 percent.
  • NOAA released proposed regulations for the spiny dogfish fishery this week. The proposed rules, developed by the New England and Mid-Atlantic Fishery Management Councils, would implement a research set-aside program, update essential fish habitat definitions, allow catch limit specifications from one year to roll over to the next if the development of new limits is delayed, and eliminate the split allocation of dogfish quota between two fishing seasons. Comments on the proposed rules must be received by May 12.
  • British fisheries consultant Tom Watson spoke to the Massachusetts Lobstermen’s Association last week and told gathered fishermen that while adapting to offshore wind farms was an adjustment, it is not an insurmountable challenge. Watson is from Fleetwood, England, a port surrounded by three offshore wind farms. Watson said he has not heard of a single fisherman who went out of business as a result of the farms, of any exodus of fish from the area, or of any collisions or incidents with the turbines. He recommended to local fisherman that they develop an open dialogue with developers early on to ensure their interests are protected. In Fleetwood, for example, developers paid fishermen to avoid the farm area during construction and set up a fund to support fishing infrastructure.

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