In the News

Fish Talk in the News – Friday, July 4

Blue crabs are becoming more abundant north of Cape Cod. Photo credit: Maryland DNR

  • Last Friday, NOAA issued an emergency action altering the rules allowing sectors to carry over a portion of their unused quota to the next fishing year. Sectors that carried over their FY 2012 quota to FY 2013 and, as a result, exceeded catch limits will now be subject to accountability measures to correct this overage. The previous rule allowing carryover was struck down by a ruling from the US District Court in DC in response to a complaint filed by Conservation Law Foundation and Earthjustice, which argued that carryover rules effectively authorized overfishing.
  • On Monday, the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission heard comments from Maine fishermen and officials regarding the state’s elver fishery. The ASMFC presented updated assessments of eel stocks showing depleted populations and discussed proposed management measures ranging from status quo to closure of the fishery. In this year’s elver season, which ended May 31, fishermen caught 9,586 pounds of elvers—about half of previous recent harvests and less than the harvest limit. Elver fishermen opposed more stringent regulations, including lower quotas, and also spoke against a proposal that would send a portion of the elver catch to other states for use in aquaculture trials, but they supported an option for more thorough population surveys. Maine Department of Marine Resources Commissioner Patrick Keliher also said he supports the status quo management measures. Fishermen also questioned the accuracy of the Commission’s identification of downward trends in the fishery, arguing that habitat restoration efforts have balanced out increased fishing pressure in the past three years.
  • Maine’s Natural Resources Council says the removal of two dams on the Kennebec River—the Edwards Dam in 1999 and the Fort Halifax Dam in 2008—has improved the health of river herring and shad runs in the river. The number of alewives counted in the river has grown from 500,000 in 2008 to over two million. These more abundant alewives have also attracted numerous bald eagles to the area. Officials also say water quality has improved.
  • Herring runs in the Nemasket River, however, have dropped off this year. While 840,000 fish were counted in the river last year, this year saw fewer than 600,000. Local fisheries officials say the decline could be linked to an unusually cold winter and may not be indicative of a longer-term trend.
  • Dead menhaden reported by fishermen floating near Cape Henry, Virginia are likely linked to an Omega Protein fishing vessel, according to the Virginia Marine Resources Commission. An Omega Protein spokesman said that when one of their vessels catches more menhaden than it can hold, it dumps the excess and calls other vessels to collect the fish. Last week, a vessel dumped about 30,000 fish but all other boats were already full; the company says the fish were alive when released and only a few thousand could have died.
  • An editorial in the Providence Journal calls the levels of bycatch detailed in a recent Oceana Report “a frightening waste of fish.” The report identified the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic bottom trawl fisheries and the New England gillnet fishery as some of the worst offenders, with up to 22 percent bycatch; the editorial joins Oceana in recommending incentives to adopt bycatch-reducing fishing gear.
  • Maine lobster fishermen are unhappy about new rules that require a reduction in vertical lines to protect whales. Beginning in June 2015, beyond a designated exemption line, lobstermen will have to attach multiple traps to a single vertical line to reduce the number of lines in the water that could entangle whales. Lobster industry advocates say the rule will increase operating costs and cause safety issues, but regulators say they are necessary to protect endangered right whales.
  • Massachusetts has lifted the last of the shellfish closures implemented on June 4 in response to a red tide bloom. The bloom of the biotoxin-bearing plankton was reportedly the most severe in the area since 2011. All razor and softshell clam areas along the North Shore are now reopened, although blue mussels remain banned.
  • Efforts to restore oyster reefs in the Great Bay estuary are making good progress, according to the Nature Conservancy and its partners at UNH. Over fifteen acres of reef bearing more than 13 million oysters have been constructed, and the groups say these efforts will reduce erosion of the estuary, provide habitat for numerous marine species, and filter nitrogen and other pollutants from the water. They aim to restore 100 acres of self-sustaining oyster reefs, which were decimated by disease in the 1990s.
  • An editorial in Bloomberg View highlights the threat of ocean acidification to shell-building marine life. Ocean waters are becoming more acidic to due higher atmospheric carbon dioxide levels, and this acidity harms the development of shellfish and their larvae and threatens shellfish fisheries. The article says stopping acidification will require international cooperation but can also be addressed at local levels by reducing air and water pollution that exacerbate acidification, improving monitoring, and planting sea grass to take up carbon dioxide.
  • David Newman of the Natural Resources Defense Council wrote to the New York Times in response to Paul Greenberg’s opinion piece calling for stronger local seafood markets and a reduction in the amount of seafood we import. Newman notes that the Magnuson-Stevens Act has aided the recovery of these domestic fisheries and warns against recent congressional attempts to weaken this law.
  • Marine scientists say climate change has altered the marine life of Long Island Sound, as warmer waters have made the Sound inhospitable to lobsters. Meanwhile, blue crabs are thriving in the area; the Sound was once the northernmost limit of the crab’s range.

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