In the News

Fish Talk in the News – Friday, July 18

Beachgoers have noticed an unusual abundance of jellyfish, including the lion's mane jellyfish, off the Maine coast this year. Photo credit: Sean Colin/John Costello/NSF

  • On Sunday, the Boston Globe featured Cashes Ledge, a currently protected area 80 miles off the coast of Cape Ann that could be reopened to trawling through the Council’s Omnibus Habitat Amendment. The Globe calls Cashes Ledge “one of the region’s most distinct marine habitats” and notes the importance of the ledge and surrounding areas for marine biodiversity and the recovery of cod populations. The area has been closed for 12 years, but the Council’s current preferred alternative would reopen 75 percent of the area to trawling. Fishermen say opening the area would allow them easy access to more plentiful fish, but scientists and environmental advocates say the idea is “unconscionable” and would hurt fish populations, harm an ecosystem dependent on the ledge’s rich kelp forest, and destroy “what is basically a museum of life in the Gulf of Maine.”
  • Maine continues to grapple with how to address the spread of invasive green crabs that threaten the state’s clams and eelgrass beds. Scientists think rising temperatures have contributed to the rapid growth of green crabs, which devour softshell clams. The Department of Marine Resources is considering options including trapping the crabs and altering rules to make catching them easier. Meanwhile, private enterprises are considering how to process the crabs into meat, fish food, or fertilizer. State scientists are also working to survey the crab population and determine its effects on the marine ecosystem.
  • Reductions in catch limits for Atlantic menhaden have succeeded in reducing the harvest of this important forage species. The Asbury Park Press notes that while “nature seems to be endorsing the move,” some commercial and recreational fishermen are concerned over the rising price of menhaden, commonly used as bait for lobsters and stripers. Fishermen are expecting a scarcity of menhaden in the late summer and fall as states begin to fill their quotas.
  • At one in a series of public meetings, Massachusetts state officials described their plan to distribute $8.2 million in discretionary federal aid to the groundfish industry. This portion of the aid is one of three parts of a federal fisheries disaster funding package; other components include direct payments to fishermen and a buyback program still under development. State officials indicated they intend to use the funds paid to the state for direct assistance to crew members and shoreside businesses, vocational and safety training, cooperative research programs, and seafood marketing. Meanwhile, Steve Eayres of the Gulf of Maine Research Institute wrote to the Gloucester Daily Times to suggest a portion of the funds could be used to improve the fuel efficiency of the fleet, which would allow fishermen to reduce their operating costs in the short and long term.
  • The Department of Justice has filed a brief indicating it will not oppose releasing the Maine Lobstermen’s Association from a consent decree related to a 1958 antitrust lawsuit. The decree resulted from a lawsuit alleging the organization was involved in lobster price fixing; it prohibits the group from engaging in any activity that could affect the supply or price of lobster. The Association says it will continue to stay out of price discussions, but that vacating the decree will allow it to restructure as a nonprofit and advocate more effectively.
  • Matt Jacobson has been selected as the first executive director of the Maine Lobster Marketing Collaborative. Jacobson has 20 years of experience in sales and marketing for nonprofits and railroad companies. He told the Portland Press Herald he hopes to “make it better for everyone in that supply chain” and open new markets. The state formed the collaborative in 2013 to bolster demand for Maine lobster.
  • The Maine Coast Fishermen’s Association’s Oral History Initiative is preserving the stories of Maine’s fishermen through a multimedia presentation at the Harpswell Heritage Land Trust. The recorded stories of some of the state’s seasoned fishermen have been edited into 13 short videos, many of which comment on the rapid change in the groundfish industry related to the depletion of many species of fish.
  • An unusual abundance of jellyfish off the Maine coast may be linked to climate change, coastal oxygen depletion due to nutrient pollution, or overfishing of other species. Scientists in the state say there’s an immediate need for more research on jellyfish and the factors contributing to the apparent increase in their populations.
  • Relative to the past two years, Maine’s lobster season has started slowly. The molt, which occurred in mid to late June in 2012 and 2013, has yet to occur this year due to a cold winter. Biologists say they expect the molt to occur soon and are still anticipating a strong season. Lobster industry members note that this later molt is “more representative of a traditional lobstering season” than the past two years, when molts came earlier than expected due to high water temperatures.
  • Pacific Coast Federation of Fishermen’s Associations executive director Zeke Grader wrote to the Sacramento Bee arguing that the Magnuson-Stevens Act has been successful in encouraging the rebuilding of depleted fish stocks. He says the flexibility many are pushing for in the reauthorization of the act is “merely code for fudging – fudging on catch limits, fudging on rebuilding, fudging on the science.” Instead, he says, the reauthorization should maintain limits on overfishing and rebuilding requirements, and should encourage ecosystem-based management, improved funding for fisheries science, and more cost-effective monitoring.


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