In the News

Fish Talk in the News – Friday, June 13

Recent surveys show a dropoff in larval lobster numbers. Image credit: NEFSC/Alice Bui

  • Fishing industry members have continued to voice frustration over the $33 million in federal disaster funding allocated to the northeast groundfish fishery. The Gloucester Daily Times says the October 1 target date for delivering $32,463 checks to hundreds of New England’s groundfish fishermen is “hardly workable.” The editorial asks why checks can’t be delivered within the next few weeks, saying NOAA’s explanation of the delays—that it must first determine if all eligible fishermen are being included, list them as state vendors, and work with the states to deliver the funds –is unacceptable. Meanwhile, the Cape Cod Times argues that the method for distributing the individual payments is not equitable. The checks will go to any permit holder who has caught more than 5,000 pounds of groundfish in any of the last four years, but fishermen say many of these fishermen hold more than one permit, so the payments could benefit as few as 100 of the approximately 800 permit holders in Massachusetts. In addition, the payments exclude crew members and fishermen who switched to other species due to the poor status of groundfish stocks.
  • Capitol Hill Ocean Week took place this week in Washington, DC. Events included presentations from federal officials and scientists on the state of the ocean, preparing for climate change, and the future of American fisheries. Next week, Secretary of State John Kerry will host an international oceans conference, which will focus on overfishing, ocean acidification, and marine pollution and include stakeholders from 80 countries countries.
  • The Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission Northern Shrimp Section is considering a plan to establish a limited entry program for the northern shrimp fishery to control fishing effort. The ASMFC cancelled the northern shrimp season last year in response to surveys showing very low population levels.
  • University of Maine scientist Rick Wahle says 2013 showed a widespread downturn in larval lobster populations in New England. He has been tracking lobster populations since 1989, and says larval lobster numbers are now only around half of their 2007 levels. Wahle thinks the decline could be linked to warmer temperatures, the spread of shell disease, or changes in the currents that carry lobster eggs. Lobster larvae reach harvestable size in six to eight years, so effects on the lobster fishery will take time to become apparent.
  • NOAA announced this week that New England and the Mid-Atlantic will receive almost $5.6 million in Saltonstall-Kennedy Grants. The grants are funded by tariffs on imported seafood. $2.3 million will support research and development projects to benefit the groundfish industry, and NOAA regional administrator John Bullard says many of the projects are partnerships between scientists and fishermen.
  • NOAA has also announced the recipients of the 2014-2015 Scallop Research Set-Aside Awards. These awards are funded by the revenues from allocations set aside to fund scallop research; the grants total just over $16.5 million this year. The recipients include nonprofits, universities, commercial vessels, a state agency, and a fish hatchery located in Massachusetts, Maine, Delaware, and Virginia. Projects include sea turtle and flatfish bycatch reduction and energy efficiency research.
  • Thirty-three Massachusetts fishermen recently participated in safety training offered through the UMass Dartmouth School for Marine Science and Technology in partnership with the Coast Guard. The fishermen received practical instruction on the use of flares, survival suits, fire extinguishers, life rafts, and bailout pumps.
  • Salem State University professors are working on a pilot project to develop deep water, long line mussel aquaculture several miles off the Massachusetts coast. The researchers have identified a potential site 8.5 miles from Good Harbor Beach, and plan to set up an experimental line as soon as they have authorization from the Army Corps of Engineers. Offshore mussel farms could ultimately consist of dozens of 300- to 500-foot lines holding 5 to 7 pounds of mussels per foot. The lines would be anchored in deep water, keeping the mussels out of reach of predators.


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