In the News

Fish Talk in the News – Friday, February 7

Cape Cod charter boats are struggling with limits on black sea bass catch.. Photo credit: NOAA/Karen Roeder

  • Many other stakeholders, however, warned that the Hastings proposal would be a severe setback for effective fisheries management. Florida charter fisherman George Geiger said easing rebuilding timelines “would waste years of effort … all in the name of short-term economics.” Pew’s Lee Crockett said the bill would allow continued overfishing and would avoid appropriate environmental review and protections for endangered species. Michael Conathan of the Center for American Progress noted the existing law already has a fair amount of flexibility, with 53 percent of overfished stocks already having rebuilding timelines that exceed 10 years, and said that a proposed provision that would allow overfishing to continue for seven years after it was identified could make rebuilding impossible. Lyf Gildersleeve of Portland, Oregon’s Flying Fish Company argued the current law has succeeded in rebuilding depleted fish populations and has created environmental and economic benefits, and so it should be strengthened, not weakened. Third generation Florida fisherman Donnie Waters said the new bill amounts to “put[ting] our fisheries on credit” and said he is “appalled that Chairman Hastings is considering returning our fisheries to the unpredictable, reactionary free-for-all that existed before 2007.” And Upwell published a Buzzfeed post saying the bill could “disastrously mess up ocean ecosystems.”
  • At a recent Massachusetts Lobstermen’s Association meeting, a senior Division of Marine Fisheries biologist told fishermen that lobster fishing south of Cape Cod “will likely be poor for the foreseeable future.” Bob Glenn linked the decline of Southern New England lobster populations to climate change and rising water temperatures, saying lobsters are laying eggs further offshore in cooler water and the inshore stock “has declined to almost nonexistent levels.”
  • According to the Gloucester Daily Times, Massachusetts could be in a position to receive a good portion of the $75 million in fisheries disaster aid recently appropriated by Congress. Senator Warren’s office says the method of distributing the money is still in development, but that the funds will be given to states as block grants and then be distributed to individual communities. Warren also said she will work to ensure little goes to NOAA for administrative use and confirmed that Massachusetts will need to match 25 percent of the funding it receives.
  • A Canadian businessman thinks he has a solution to the invasive green crab problem that is harming Maine’s shellfish beds. Ron Howse, of New Brunswick’s Tidalwater Seafood Co., plans to catch and process the crabs for meat to export to European and Asian markets. The crabs yield a relatively small amount of meat, limiting their commercial value, but Howse plans to open a processing plant in Brunswick or Bangor to pick the meat from the crabs. He has been paying harvesters 50 cents a pound for their catch.
  • Cape Cod charter fishermen are under pressure from a December Division of Marine Fisheries rule that reduced the recreational black sea bass catch limit from 20 fish per person per day to four. The fishermen say the rule is based on outdated and poorly performed stock assessments, that the fish have become noticeably more abundant in New England in the past few years, and that the black sea bass charter industry contributes millions to the local economy. Black sea bass are managed jointly by the Mid-Atlantic Fishery Management Council and the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission, which are responsible for dividing an overall quota between the states and between the commercial and recreational fisheries. DMF Deputy Director David Pierce noted that the recreational fishery has exceeded its overall catch limit in three out of the last four years, but said that this was a function of there being more fish to catch and that the Mid-Atlantic Council is managing the species very cautiously.
  • The New England Fishery Management Council has released the agenda for its upcoming meeting to be held February 25 and 26 in Danvers, MA. Aside from a brief discussion of recreational accountability measures for Gulf of Maine haddock and cod, the meeting will focus on Habitat Committee updates on the ongoing Omnibus Habitat Amendment Process and will include the selection of preferred alternatives for the amendment.
  • On Thursday, Massachusetts State Senator Bruce Tarr testified in support of a bill to allocate $250,000 per year to a marketing program to encourage the purchase of locally caught seafood. The funds would come from money raised from permits issued by the Division of Marine Fisheries. Twenty-three legislators have co-signed the bill.  
  • New research on 87 marine protected areas indicates that 59 percent of these areas showed little or no improvement in fish populations relative to areas without fisheries restrictions. The study, however, determines that much of this lack of success is due to management failures and identifies five factors that contribute to a marine protected area’s success. These include the amount of fishing allowed within the area, the effectiveness of enforcement, and measures of the area’s age, size, and isolation from heavily fished areas. Overall, the biomass of large fish was 35 percent higher inside MPAs than in fished areas. In areas that score highly on all five criteria, large fish biomass was 840 percent higher.

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