In the News

Fish Talk in the News – Friday, December 12

NOAA Fisheries is responsible for inspecting imported seafood products. The United States imports about 94% of its seafood. Illegal, unreported, and unregulated fishing such as mislabeling or overfishing is a major issue. 25% of wild-caught seafood imports worldwide are illegal according to a study published in Marine Policy. Image credit: NOAA News.

  • Seafood fraud ranks third in illegal trafficking behind guns and drugs. Baltimore Sun’s series on fish fraud reports that due to a shift in NOAA enforcement policies the number of seafood fraud cases has dropped by more than a third since 2008. According to the article, Jane Lubchenco “moved [the agency] away from investigative criminal agents…and toward uniformed ‘enforcement officers’ who focus on patrol and compliance.” Many Northeastern fishermen disagree with this approach as they claim that the Northeast has since been subject to stricter regulations than any other region. $1.2 million in fines was actually refunded to the region; however, former assistant administrator for NOAA Fisheries Eric Schwaab claims that Northeastern fishermen “were granted short-term flexibility at the expense of long-term sustainability.”
  • More on seafood fraud, the Obama Administration is drafting recommendations to curtail illegal, unreported, and unregulated (IUU) fishing. The administration supports the passage of an international treaty banning illegal fishing vessels from port. According to head marine policy at WWF Michele Kuruc, “illegal fishing has been identified as the single greatest threat to sustainable fisheries in the world today.”
  • Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission reduced striped bass harvest by 25%. ASMFC approved the rule after new data showed high mortality rates and a declining female spawning population.
  • MAFMC will be discussing new rules for Maine and New Hampshire’s recreational black sea bass fisheries. Scientists say populations are moving north due to increased water temperatures.
  • A state government survey showed that Maine scallop abundance significantly differs along various parts of the coast. Areas that are performer better than others are the Bold Coast, Little Kennebec, and Englishman Bay.
  • Massachusetts fishermen are waiting to receive a second round of disaster relief aid from NOAA, a total of $8.3 million. Members of the Massachusetts congressional delegation sent letters last week urging Commerce Secretary Penny Pritzker to release the funds before the end of the year.
  • A Baltimore Sun article features Mid-Atlantic deep sea corals and speaks to the importance of habitat protection. More than 40 coral species have been discovered in underwater canyons along the Mid-Atlantic Coast, environments that NRDC’s fisheries policy director Brad Sewell calls “treasure troves of discovery.” MAFMC must decide whether or not to protect these areas from commercial fishing gear.
  • Humpback whale sightings in New York City are on the rise. This year, whales were spotted 87 times, and 19 individuals have been identified. No one is sure why the whales have returned to New York, but observers say it could be due to the rise in menhaden populations (a favorite prey item) as well as a result of cleaner water.
  • Maine’s Commission to Study the Effects of Coastal and Ocean Acidification on Commercially Harvested and Grown Species finalized its set of recommendations that will be sent to the legislature. Ocean acidification (OA) is a growing threat to Maine’s marine environment, coastal communities, and economy. The Commission’s recommendations follow six goals: monitor and investigate OA, reduce CO2 emissions, reduce nutrient runoff, increase mitigation capacity, educate and engage stakeholders, and maintain a sustainable focus on OA.
  • The city of Gloucester received at $310,000 grant from the Massachusetts Department of Energy and Environmental Affairs to remove a concrete fish ladder and create salt marsh habitat as well as restore a floodplain. The project is of particular important to alewives, American eel, and rainbow smelt populations which rely on these habitats for spawning and nursery grounds.
  • NOAA announced that the Northern and Southern Temporary Paralytic Shellfish Poisoning Closed Areas will be reopened to whelk, conch, snail, and scallop harvesting effective January 1. Massachusetts Division of Marine Fisheries will regularly monitor the areas for threats to public safety.
  • NEFMC will develop an Atlantic herring acceptable biological catch rule for 2015. Incidental catch limits for the herring fishery are already in effect. Herring are an important prey fish for cod, and protecting the species is one way to help rebuild the Gulf of Maine cod population.
  • Former administrator of NOAA (2009-2013) Jane Lubchenco has been named the first U.S. Science Envoy for the Ocean. As stated in an EDF post, “Jane can help bring the best scientific understanding and practical solutions for getting more fish in the sea, more food on the plate, and more prosperous communities around the world.”
  • Cape Ann Seafood Exchange (CASE) has entered the US Acadian redfish, haddock, and Pollock otter trawl fishery for MSC assessment. If successful, this will be the first New England groundfish fishery to receive MSC certification, which CASE hopes will boost market viability. CASE works with local fishermen and the majority of fish from the fishery is sold in New England.
  • NOAA Fisheries finalized revisions to the Atlantic Large Whale Take Reduction Plan after input from Massachusetts government, lobstermen, and other stakeholders. The closure area will be increased by 912 square miles and will be effective starting February 1, 2015.
  • After being forced to close in November, Joe’s Lobster Mart has reopened under new management. Scott Thayer, the previous general manager, received permission from the Massachusetts Department of Public Health to reopen the store on Monday.
  • New England Fisheries Management published its November/December report. The report includes information of scallops, groundfish, and more.


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