In the News

Fish Talk in the News – Friday, January 10

A new NRDC report says Canadian lobster and crab fisheries harm northern right whales. Photo credit: Brian Skerry/New England Ocean Odyssey

  • Connecticut Surfcasters Association secretary Robert Cohn wrote to the Hartford Courant calling for strengthening of the Magnsuon-Stevens Act. Cohn calls the Act “the most important federal tool for the recovery of commercially and recreationally important fish species,” and says that while some seek to weaken the effectiveness of the act, strengthening it is the best way to rebuild fisheries and support coastal economies.
  • Recent research led by Dr. Robert Arlinghaus suggests that the traditional fisheries management technique of setting a minimum catch size may be flawed. Minimum catch sizes are intended to limit the take of juvenile fish and allow fish to spawn prior to harvest. This policy, however, does not account for the greater ecological value of larger spawning fish, which generally have greater reproductive productivity than their smaller counterparts. To protect these larger, more productive fish, these recent studies suggest replacing minimum size limits with “harvest slots,” which limit catch of both the smallest and largest fish of a certain species.
  • This week’s rough weather conditions led to a tough trip for one Gloucester lobster crew. The Michael & Kristen faced 50 to 60 mph winds, heavy snow, and 20 to 25 foot swells on an eleven-day trip to Georges Bank. The boat returned to Gloucester on Monday with vessel and crew unharmed. Meanwhile, a New Bedford fisherman recalled his 1966 rescue by a Russian crew. His boat, the Venture I, was hit by a rogue wave that caved in the pilothouse during a strong storm on Georges Bank. The Russian processing vessel took injured crewmembers aboard and helped tow the Venture I to safety.
  • The comment period on new bluefin tuna regulations ends today. Lee Crockett of the Pew Charitable Trusts wrote a Dot Earth column for the New York Times saying the new rules do not go far enough to conserve bluefin tuna. In particular, the proposal would increase the quota for surface longline fishermen. This fishing method is far less selective than rod and reel or harpoon fishing, resulting in greater bycatch of depleted bluefin tuna. Crockett suggests that rather than increasing the longline bluefin quota to account for this incidental catch, NOAA should maintain the cap on bluefin catch by longlines and expand seasonal restrictions on longlines to reduce bycatch.
  • Following a series of public hearings, elver fishermen in Maine are still divided on the best method to reduce the catch of these juvenile eels. The Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission has asked the state to reduce catch by 25 to 40 percent, and has considered either a derby-style fishery with an overall catch cap or an individual quota system. Less than half surveyed fishermen said they supported each of these options, with those who favor a derby saying it will reward hard-working fishermen and increase revenues, while those who prefer an individual quota say it will discourage poaching and stabilize businesses. The Department of Marine Resources has indicated it will make a decision prior to the next ASMFC meeting on February 6.
  • A Huffington Post piece published this week links the collapse of Maine shrimp with the boom of lobster populations in the Gulf of Maine. While the collapse of shrimp is related to overfishing, poor recruitment of juvenile shrimp has also been linked to rising water temperatures. On the other hand, record high lobster catch in Maine may be connected to a rise in metabolic rates due to warming waters. Still, temperatures may have risen too high in Southern New England, leading to reduced numbers of lobsters there. As temperatures continue to rise, lobsters in the Gulf of Maine may be threatened as well.
  • The Natural Resources Defense Council released a report on marine mammal bycatch in foreign countries that export seafood to the United States, called “Net Loss: The Killing of Marine Mammals in Foreign Fisheries.” The report argues that while the Marine Mammal Protection Act reduces marine mammal kills by domestic fisheries, the United States has not adequately enforced the Act against foreign fisheries that export to the United States as required by law. Nearly 91% of seafood consumed in the US is imported, and the report argues that the majority of these products violate the MMPA. It calls for the US to set and enforce higher standards, including observer programs, to ensure imported seafood meets MMPA requirements. It also identifies particular fisheries it says violate the act, including eastern Canada’s lobster and crab fisheries, which may harm northern right whales. The World Wildlife Federation Canada took issue with this identification, however, saying that the Canadian lobster fishery has taken extensive steps to protect right whales, the crab fishery poses a minimal threat, and any boycott of Canadian seafood would be misguided.

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