In the News

Fish Talk in the News – Friday, January 24

As Pacific shellfish show the effects of ocean acidification, Washington is making efforts to reduce impacts. (Photo Credit: NOAA)

  • A group of senators has written to President Obama asking his administration to take action on seafood fraud. The group, which includes Massachusetts Senator Ed Markey, says that seafood mislabeling threatens consumer health and limits the effectiveness of fisheries laws; the letter calls for new standards for seafood traceability, increased inspections of seafood, and better coordination between NOAA, Customs, and the FDA.
  • The Northeast Fisheries Science Center has indicated that it will conduct a new Georges Bank Yellowtail assessment that will incorporate non-traditional information. According to a letter from NEFSC director Bill Karp to the NEFMC, the assessment will consider more industry data, social science information, and UMass Dartmouth SMAST studies to make catch recommendations, and will embrace an empirical approach to setting this catch advice and reduce its focus on biomass indicators. Karp’s letter stated the science center believes that “a conventional benchmark…is unlikely to be productive,” considering the uncertainty and poor fits to models that have been regular features of recent yellowtail assessments.
  • On Saturday, the Maine Department of Marine Resources announced a closure of six coastal scallop areas for the remainder of the season, effective immediately. The closure was implemented in response to evidence that scallop populations in these areas are being significantly depleted. These areas were all closed between 2009 and 2011, but had since been reopened to limited harvesting. On Thursday, DMR also announced scallop conservation measures for the Cobscook Bay area that will allow fishermen to harvest scallops three days a week in three rotating sets of areas. Meanwhile, WFAE published a piece praising the superior taste and freshness of Maine scallops and suggesting tips for choosing scallops wisely.
  • Maine clam diggers and worm differs are clashing over access to mud flats. The Maine Legislature’s Marine Resources Committee has proposed a bill that would allow towns to prohibit digging in portions of mud flats to protect juvenile clams and build resilience to invasive green crabs. Worm diggers, however, note that the bill would restrict their access to flats. At a hearing on Wednesday, worm diggers expressed concern that the bill would concentrate control of mud flats in the hands of clam diggers and grant them exclusive fishing rights. The committee has adopted an amended form of the bill, which would have a more limited impact on worm diggers but allow towns to fine anyone who tampers with protective green crab fencing.
  • According to a new IUCN assessment, a quarter of the world’s shark and rays are at risk of extinction. The evaluation of 1,041 shark, ray, and chimaera species found that only 23 percent are of “least concern,” and that larger species of rays and sharks, particularly those found in shallow water, are threatened by overfishing, bycatch, and shark finning.
  • The Center for Sustainable Fisheries will head to Seattle in February to spur discussion on changes to the Magnuson-Stevens Act. Representatives of CSF say that because fisheries management has generally been more successful in the Pacific and other regions outside New England, there may be less urgency in these areas to push for changes to the federal fisheries law.
  • The Seattle Times has continued its excellent series on ocean acidification with a piece on national efforts to promote research, mitigation, and adaptation. Lawmakers from coastal states have trouble communicating the magnitude of the threat to their peers in Congress, and it often becomes entangled with political issues surrounding climate change. As a result, states have begun to address the issue on their own. Washington, for example, is supporting research on acidification and encouraging cleanup of polluted marine environments to build resilience. States are also taking action to reduce carbon emissions, the largest cause of ocean acidification. Still, scientists say resources are scarce and acidification may push marine ecosystems toward mass extinctions, while politicians say the federal government will need to take action on emissions and research funding.

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