In the News

Fish Talk in the News – Friday, February 14

The Northeast Regional Office announced this week that it has changed its name to the Greater Atlantic Regional Fisheries Office. Image via NOAA/GARFO website.

  • NOAA Fisheries announced this week that it has changed the name of its Northeast Regional Office to the Greater Atlantic Regional Fisheries Office at the direction of Congress. NMFS said the new name better reflects the extent of its management area and its attempt to expand its presence in the Mid-Atlantic Region. It says it does not expect the name will have a large impact on its constituents, but that it will immediately begin phasing the new name into its print and electronic materials.
  • Last week, the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission approved a plan that would see Maine reduce its elver harvest with a statewide quota of 11,749 pounds rather than a cap on the number of licenses. This quota represents a 35 percent reduction from last year’s catch reported by dealers, but only a 14 percent reduction from the catch reported by fishermen (the discrepancy has been attributed to illegally caught elvers from out of state). This arrangement is expected to reduce the tension between the state and the Passamaquoddy Tribe over the tribe’s issuing of its own licenses for the fishery, and would restrict the tribe only to an overall 1,650 pound catch for the 2014 season. The plan would also implement individual catch quotas on state elver fishermen based on three years of catch history, but tribal fishermen would not have individual quotas. The agreement collapsed on Wednesday, however, when state officials said the deal violated the state Constitution and would be unenforceable, because the separate regulations for tribal and non-tribal fishermen violate the state’s equal protection measures. The elver season is scheduled to begin on March 22, leaving little time to develop a new management agreement.
  • More opposition arose this week to Rep. Doc Hastings’ draft Magnuson-Stevens reauthorization bill. Captain’s Finest Seafood CEO William Ward said that “we’ve got to be very, very careful” that flexibility in rebuilding timelines doesn’t “further [erode] the ecological base and sustainability of fisheries,” and that the benefits of a rebuilt red snapper fishery could easily disappear within a few years. David Moss, a recreational fisherman on the South Atlantic Fishery Management Council’s Snapper-Grouper Advisory Panel, said the bill “would gut one of the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act’s most successful conservation provisions,” and that there is “no denying that annual catch limits…are good laws that should not be gutted just as they are showing success.” Meanwhile, Doc Hastings announced that he will retire from Congress when his term ends later this year. He is likely to be succeeded as Chair of the Natural Resources Committee by Rep. Louie Gohmert of Texas.
  • A new deal will allow oyster farmers to use floating gear in a 50-acre area off North Truro. State regulators had previously objected to use of this type of equipment because of the greater risk of whale and turtle entanglement, and had required lines to have a breakaway force of 600 pounds and gear to be secured on the seafloor during the right whale season. The new agreement increases that limit to 1,100 pounds to ensure the gear will not come loose during storms and allows more access to gear during the right whale season.
  • Maine has closed Cobscook Bay, the St. Croix River, and five smaller coastal areas to scallop fishing for the remainder of the season. The closures went into effect Saturday and follow similar closures announced last month; they are intended to protect scallop stocks in coastal areas. The state’s scallop season is scheduled to end March 20.
  • The Northeast Fisheries Science Center has released a data report from last summer’s pilot cooperative flatfish survey. The study, conducted on the F/V Mary K and F/V Yankee Pride, was intended to demonstrate how industry-based surveys could augment existing fisheries data collection methods. The data were also presented on Wednesday at SMAST and may be incorporated into a new empirical Georges Bank yellowtail assessment to be conducted in April.
  • Lower catch limits due to severely depleted fish stocks means Massachusetts will lose about $34 million in direct revenues in 2013, according to a letter Governor Deval Patrick send to Commerce Secretary Penny Pritzker. The letter was written in support of the recently appropriated $75 million in disaster funding for fisheries and also advocated distribution strategies for that funding, including a direct subsidy to fishermen and a long-term load fund.
  • State and local officials met with Massachusetts clammers this week in Newburyport to discuss the impact of invasive green crabs on the clamming industry. Warm waters and little competition have allowed green crabs to boom in the region, and the crabs prey heavily on juvenile shellfish. Solutions suggested at the meeting included population control measures and the development of a market for the crabs, which are currently used only as bait.
  • A piece in the New Bedford Standard-Times this week focuses on the plight of homeless fishermen in the city. Many scallopers, in particular, are left homeless after retirement or job loss, despite New Bedford’s status as the highest-earning fishing port in the country. They also frequently suffer from health problems related to a life at sea.


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