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In the News
Fish Talk in the News – Friday, April 25
Dam removals are allowing alewives to return to upstream habitat. Photo: Zach Whalen
- The New England Fishery Management Council met this week in Mystic, CT. On the agenda were updates on Northeast Regional Planning Body activities, a discussion of resources to fund at-sea observers, and a consideration of alternatives for Amendment 18, the ongoing effort to promote fleet diversity. The Council approved $800,000 in funding to research methods to reduce groundfish bycatch. It also approved a set of new management measures for the Atlantic herring fishery, which will implement new weighing requirements to ensure more accurate documentation of both herring catch and bycatch. The new regulations also address slippage—catch that is discarded prior to observation and sampling—by creating accountability measures that would require vessels to relocate or terminate their trips if slippage occurs. These measures, if approved by NOAA, will complement the river herring bycatch cap expected to go into effect this summer, but stakeholders are still asking NOAA to require that every herring vessel carry an observer to ensure compliance with regulations and monitor catch.
- Spring river herring runs are benefiting from ongoing efforts to remove dams and restore herring habitat. In Connecticut, a dam restoration on Mill Brook has created a new fish ladder to allow alewives to return to Rogers Lake. The dam had previously separated two alewife populations—one anadromous and one landlocked—for hundreds of years. Meanwhile, in Plymouth, MA, removal of the Off Billington Street Dam and several other dams on Town Brook have allowed 150,000 river herring to return to the stream, and populations are expected to grow further—to up to 1 million—once the Plymco Dam is removed and access to the Billington Sea is restored. On Friday, organizations and stakeholders gathered at the site of the new bridge replacing the dam to celebrate the return of the river herring. Attendees included NOAA Regional Administrator John Bullard, Conservation Law Foundation’s Peter Shelley, and representatives of the Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe. A Herring Run Festival will also be held this weekend in Plymouth.
- A recent survey has found that the number of baby lobsters off the coast of Maine has declined by more than half since 2007. This decline has scientists, fishermen, and regulators concerned that the recent boom in lobster catch will not continue, with a dropoff in landings expected in 2016 or earlier. The trend may be linked to rising water temperatures, since lobsters are particularly sensitive to temperature changes. Some Maine fishermen and dealers, however, say a small decrease in landings may actually help the industry by raising prices, which have been unusually low in recent years.
- Secretary of State John Kerry has announced a global “Our Ocean” conference in mid-June to discuss overfishing, marine pollution, and ocean acidification. The meeting, which will be held in Washington, DC on June 16 and 17, will be attended by government officials, scientists, industry members, and environmental groups from over 80 countries. The State Department said the meeting will not produce a consensus document, but would create “calls to action” for governments and individuals.
- Maine elver dealers say this season has had a “saner” start than in recent years thanks to lower prices and new regulations, which include a swipe card system to track catch and cut down on illegal fishing. Despite the new system, however, two Massachusetts men were arrested last weekend for possession of 31 pounds of elvers without a license.
- Boston University has partnered with local seafood supplier Red’s Best to offer a weekly Catch of the Day meal. BU officials said the easy traceability of Red’s Best’s seafood through the attached QR code was a selling point, since it makes the source of the fish easy to identify and share with students. Red’s Best, located on the Boston Fish Pier, buys from small day boat fishermen throughout New England and uses innovative software to track and sell their seafood.
- NOAA released a final rule this week allowing sectors to continue to access portions of the Nantucket Lightship Closed Area with standard levels of observer coverage. Sectors have been allowed to access these areas since the passage of an interim rule in December 2013; this rule finalizes those interim regulations. Vessels must use selective gear in these areas to reduce impacts on flounder and other species. NOAA also announced partial approval of Framework 51, which sets catch limits for some groundfish species, creates new, longer rebuilding programs for Gulf of Maine cod and American plaice, and prohibits possession of yellowtail flounder by scallop vessels on scallop trips. The rule also announced that accountability measures on windowpane flounder would be in effect in 2014 since catch limits for this species were exceeded in Fishing Years 2012 and 2013.
- NOAA has also released new regulations for recreational fishermen catching Gulf of Maine cod and haddock. The rules shorten the retention season for both species, increase the minimum size for cod, and create a daily bag limit for haddock. The rules are more restrictive than the Council recommended; NOAA says they are necessary to ensure the recreational fishery does not exceed its catch limit in the upcoming fishing year, as it did in FY 2013.