In the News

Fish Talk in the News – Friday, March 21

The Seafood Expo North America took place in Boston this week.

  • The Seafood Expo North America took place in Boston early this week. The largest seafood trade show in North America, the show included over 1,000 exhibitors representing dozens of countries, from Vietnam to Estonia to Peru. Numerous local companies participated, with 17 from Maine in attendance, focusing particularly on marketing Maine lobster. The show also included conferences on topics ranging from seafood fraud to sustainable aquaculture. The Center for Sustainable Fisheries, led by former Congressman Barney Frank, former New Bedford Mayor Scott Lang, and former UMass Dartmouth SMAST Dean Brian Rothschild, also held a session before the show opened on Monday morning to discuss their goals for the reauthorization of the Magnuson-Stevens Act, particularly greater flexibility in rebuilding timelines for overfished species.
  • The New Bedford scallop industry also hosted its annual buyers’ visit to coincide with the Boston seafood show. Prices for highest-quality U-10 scallops surpassed $17 per pound at a local auction during the event. Scallop captain Christopher Audette told the buyers in attendance that the fishery is extremely lucrative, with each of his deckhands taking home over $200,000 last year. Kevin Stokesbury, a scientist at Umass Dartmouth’s SMAST, also delivered a presentation on new equipment under development to survey flatfish populations with open-ended nets and cameras.
  • Oceana released a new report this week identifying nine US fisheries with particularly high discard and bycatch rates. These fisheries—which include the northeast bottom trawl fishery and the New England and Mid-Atlantic gillnet fishery—discard almost half of their catch and are responsible for over 50 percent of reported bycatch of other fish species, sharks, marine mammals, and sea turtles. The report says total bycatch in the US could amount to 2 billion pounds every year, with 17-22 percent of total catch discarded. It calls for federal regulations to count and report all catch and bycatch, cap the total discard amount in each fishery using science-based limits, and reduce bycatch through improved technology and monitoring.
  • NOAA released proposed regulations for the 2014 fishing year on Monday. These included a rule authorizing operation plans for the 19 sectors in the northeast multispecies fishery, including access to closed areas; Framework 51, a suite of regulations including new catch limits and rebuilding timelines for several groundfish stocks; and a proposal requiring daily VMS catch reporting for vessels fishing in the Eastern US/Canada Area and creating new provisions for carrying over unused quota from one year to the next. Public comment periods are now open on these proposals. NOAA also released a final rule adjusting 2014 catch limits for the Atlantic herring fishery.
  • NOAA’s Greater Atlantic Regional Fisheries Office is working with several regional groups to explore the use of electronic monitoring for fisheries in the northeast. Regional Administrator John Bullard says he sees potential in the technique, which uses electronic recordkeeping and onboard cameras to monitor bycatch, discards, and compliance with regulations in lieu of at-sea observers. Stakeholders recently met in Seattle to discuss electronic monitoring pilot programs and implementation. To follow up on that meeting, GARFO and The Nature Conservancy will host a workshop May 7-8 in Portsmouth, NH to set objectives for implementation.
  • The start of Maine’s elver season will be postponed by two weeks to allow for the implementation of new regulations passed by the state legislature on Tuesday. A previous agreement between the state and tribal authorities on elver rules had fallen through due to constitutionality concerns. The rule passed this week allows the Department of Marine Resources to set an annual catch limit and allocate quota to individual fishermen. DMR will also allocate quota to each of four tribes, who will in turn be responsible for dividing that quota between individual tribal fishermen. The season will now begin April 5 instead of March 22, but state officials and fishermen say they expect runs of the juvenile eels to be delayed by unusually cold temperatures and do not expect the delayed start to have a major effect on the fishery.
  • The Mid-Atlantic Fishery Management Council hosted the East Coast Climate Change and Fisheries Governance Workshop this week in Washington, D.C. Objectives of the workshop included exploring current and future impacts of climate change on fisheries management, determining the flexibility of current management frameworks to accommodate new governance challenges, and discussing next steps for responding to climate change. 

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