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In the News
Fish Talk in the News – Friday, June 6
Summer flounder may be moving north, sparking a debate on quota allocations. (Photo credit: NOAA Northeast Fisheries Science Center).
- Fishing industry members have responded negatively to last week’s announcement of the distribution of nearly $33 million in federal disaster aid to the groundfish fishery. The aid will be split between state grants, a vessel buyback program, and direct payments to qualifying fishermen. 336 fishermen who have caught over 5,000 pounds of groundfish in any of the last four years will receive $32,463 each, and checks are expected to reach them in September or October. Some Massachusetts fishermen called the payments “an investment that is worthless” and “a drop in the bucket” and said they hoped for more aid. They also complained that the payments would take too long to reach them. Others noted that crew members and permit holders who caught less than 5,000 pounds of groundfish would not receive any assistance unless the states choose to direct some of their portion of the funds to them. Meanwhile, NOAA Regional Administrator John Bullard called the funding a band-aid, saying, “The long-term answer to healthy fishing communities is healthy fish stocks, not disaster aid.”
- After NOAA announced the closure of herring Area 1B due to large quota overages in the area, fishermen said that prior to the closure they had noticed eight large trawlers operating in pairs clearing out the herring in the area. The trawlers caught 160 percent of the quota in the area, and many fishermen said they appeared to be fishing illegally in state waters, within three miles of shore. Fishermen have exceeded the quota in Area 1B three times in the past six years. Meanwhile, the Gloucester Daily Times’ Sean Horgan apologized for making his story about the harmful effects of the closure on fishermen “a bit over-dramatic,” saying he did not know only 2.8 percent of the total herring quota is caught in Area 1B.
- The west coast groundfish fishery has gained Marine Stewardship Council certification. The certification covers 13 species, including red snapper and lingcod. The fishery was severely depleted as recently as 2000, when the federal government declared it an economic disaster. Habitat protection, the introduction of catch shares, and the placement of observers on every vessel have all been credited with contributing to the recovery.
- The Senate Appropriations Committee has passed the Commerce, Justice and Science 2015 funding bill, which contains several provisions related to fisheries introduced by Alaska Senator Lisa Murkowski. These include a measure that would prohibit federal agencies from using or promoting sustainable seafood certifications from third parties like the Marine Stewardship Council. The bill also allocates $4 million to implement electronic monitoring systems.
- Maine’s elver catch fell short of the statewide quota this year. The state implemented an overall quota for the elver fishery for the first time this year, in response to an Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission request to cut the harvest 25 to 40 percent. Fishermen had caught 10,100 pounds of their 11,749 pound quota when the season ended last Saturday at noon. The harvest was down 40 percent relative to last year. Department of Marine Resources officials said they were looking into reasons for the low harvest, including unusually cold spring water temperatures and slow fishing activity. The price of elvers has also dropped from nearly $2000 per pound last year to between $600 and $1000 per pound. Officials also reported that the new swipe card system to track catch had resulted in fewer violations and less poaching. Meanwhile, Connecticut Governor Dannel Malloy has vetoed a bill that would have allowed eel fishing in the state’s waters, saying the bill was premature due to the vulnerable status of American eels.
- The Daily Climate reports that summer flounder are shifting north due to climate change, and that this movement has sparked a battle between east coast states regarding the allocation of the summer flounder quota. New York fishermen say they have inadequate quota considering the number of summer flounder in the area, and Senator Charles Schumer has said he will introduce legislation to do away with state quotas. North Carolina Fisheries Association president Jerry Schill, however, says the northern states are using climate change as an excuse to try to secure more quota for their fishermen.
- Lobstermen from York, Maine say a NOAA survey vessel has been unintentionally cutting their lines, resulting in lost traps. The hydropgraphic survey vessel Ferdinand R. Hassler was not due to arrive until July and was supposed to notify the harbormaster that it would be surveying in the area, but it arrived early and without notification. Lobstermen say NOAA survey vessels have cut lines to up to 20 of their traps each since last summer and that they would have stopped laying traps in the area if they knew the vessel would be there. NOAA reimburses fishermen $80 for each lost trap, but fishermen say the payments are severely delayed and don’t cover lost income.
- Softshell clam beds along the North Shore have been closed due to the worst red tide bloom in at least three years. The Department of Marine Fisheries has closed coastal areas from the New Hampshire state line to Cape Ann, and the closure could extend further if the bloom spreads farther.