In the News

Fish Talk in the News – Friday, January 3

Maine may soon implement the first management plan for rockweed harvesting. Photo via Wikimedia Commons.

  • Former NEFMC member Richard Allen wrote to the New Bedford Standard-Times arguing that New England’s current groundfish disaster is not the first of its kind. Allen says the region’s first fisheries disaster occurred as early as 1789, when Congress enacted the first subsidy for Massachusetts’ groundfish fleet. Other collapses followed, with foreign trawlers creating a crisis in the 1960s. The creation of the exclusive economic zone then created an optimistic business environment, and the groundfish fleet doubled in size, but the fishing area was simultaneously constricted by the exclusion of previously accessible Canadian fishing grounds. As a result, most groundfish stocks crashed in the mid 1990s. He concludes that the roots of the current crisis began long before the passage of the Magnuson-Stevens Act and the current environmental movement, and argues that the historical and scientific context of the current crisis must be properly understood in order to pursue a solution.
  • River herring restoration is booming in Rhode Island. Dam removal, fish ladder construction, and bycatch avoidance programs have assisted the recovery of river herring runs in Rhode Island; last year, the Division of Fish and Wildlife counted over 100,000 fish. Restoration work has largely focused on rivers like the Blackstone, Pawtuxet, and Pawcatuck.
  • With the 2014 shrimp season cancelled, Maine fishermen say they are hopeful the fishery will have a chance to recover. 2013’s season produced the worst harvest in decades, and stock surveys showed historically low populations. A combination of overfishing and warm water temperatures likely contributed to the collapse. While many fishermen say they consider the moratorium an investment in the future of the fishery, others say the complete closure is unnecessary and will cause undue harm by eliminating markets for Maine shrimp.
  • A New York Times piece tells the harrowing story of a Montauk fisherman who fell overboard last summer and spent hours adrift before being rescued fifty miles off the coast of Long Island. John Aldridge slipped off the deck of the Anna Mary after a cooler handle broke; he used his rubber boots as flotation devices before finding and holding on to a lobster buoy. A Coast Guard helicopter rescued him after early twelve hours in the water.
  • Massachusetts State Senator Bruce Tarr has introduced a bill to improve seafood marketing. Intended to ease the economic impacts of the ongoing fisheries crisis, the bill would create and fund a Massachusetts Seafood Marketing Program within the Division of Marine Fisheries. The program would be responsible for taking actions to promote local seafood products, educate the public on fisheries, and stabilize market prices for seafood.
  • Maine regulators are developing the first management plan for rockweed. The number of rockweed harvesters doubled between 2004 and 2012, and the rockweed industry brought in $20 million last year. The seaweed is harvested from rocks in the intertidal zone and is processed for use in pharmaceuticals, fertilizers, and animal feed. The management plan would create guidelines for harvesting rockweed sustainably, but would not impose regulations. The Department of Marine Resources will send the proposed management plan on to the Legislature later this month.
  • Maine’s Department of Marine Resources held the final public hearing on elver management on Thursday in Brewer. The DMR may cut the elver catch by up to 40 percent in response to a request by the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission.
  • A new study led by scientists from Florida State University says that overfishing can lead to permanent ecosystem changes. Overfishing of even a single species can push ecosystems past tipping points and into permanently altered states, according to research on six case studies ranging from Atlantic cod to Namibian sardines. The researchers argue that fisheries managers must place more focus on overfishing, ecosystems, and species interactions.
  • Local cod are scarce in Cape Cod seafood restaurants. After a population collapse and resulting cuts to catch limits, the fish are difficult to find, and many restaurateurs have begun to substitute Icelandic cod or other species. While many Cape Cod fishermen have turned to catching relatively abundant dogfish, there is almost no domestic market for these fish.

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