In the News

Fish Talk in the News – Friday, March 28

Research shows that many leatherback turtles spend much of the summer in coastal Cape Cod waters, where they are vulnerable to boat strikes and entanglements. Photo: Brian Skerry/New England Ocean Odyssey.

  • New York Times op-ed by fisheries scientist Daniel Pauly argues that while conservation measures are in place to try to restore fisheries in the North Atlantic, overfishing in the global South is worsening. The United States and Europe import 70 percent of their seafood, much of it from Africa and the Central Pacific. While laws like the Magnuson-Stevens Act are having success in rebuilding fisheries in developed countries, fisheries of African countries and the Pacific Island states suffer from competition between local and foreign fleets, poor catch estimates that fail to include small-scale fisheries, and a lack of effective regulation. Pauly concludes that with “with careful and determined steps, developing nations can ensure high, sustained catches.”
  • Despite rising landings, falling prices, and increased processing capacity, the lobster market will always be limited by supply, according to the Bangor Daily News. While landings reached a record high in 2012, they dipped slightly in 2013, and officials acknowledge that high catch rates are not likely to last indefinitely. Seafood, and particularly lobster, also forms a very small percentage of the country’s protein production—341 pounds of beef are produced for every one pound of lobster. This limited availability helps maintain its status as a premium product, according to representatives of the Maine Lobster Marketing Collaborative.
  • Over the past few months, healthcare advocates have signed up hundreds of Maine’s 5,000 lobstermen for health insurance, according to a spokesman for Fishing Partnership Support Services. According to a Gulf of Maine Research Institute survey, in 2005, a quarter of licensed Maine lobster fishermen did not have health insurance. Many younger fishermen are still choosing to forego coverage.
  • Cape Cod will host the 2015 International Oyster Symposium. The symposium, hosted by the World Oyster Society, will include participation from the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution and the Marine Biological Laboratory, and will bookend a Cape Cod Oyster Week beginning with the Wellfleet Oyster Festival. It will include scientific presentations and industry exhibitors. Massachusetts’ oyster industry brought in $11.6 million in 2012.
  • The Maine Department of Marine Resources announced this week that it has set individual elver fishing quotas for each of Maine’s 436 non-tribal fishermen. The quotas are calculated as the average of each fisherman’s highest two catches out of the last three seasons, reduced by 41.8% to cut the overall harvest. The minimum quota is set at four pounds to ensure licensed fishermen who have not been active in recent years will still be able to fish. The tribes will be responsible for allocating individual quotas to tribal fishermen from an overall allocation set by the state. The plan is a response to the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission’s request that the state reduce its overall elver harvest by 25 to 40 percent. The state will also begin requiring the use of  a swipe card system to monitor catch and reduce illegal harvesting.
  • A recent study by University of New Hampshire doctoral candidate Kara Dodge tracked 20 leatherback sea turtles off the coast of Cape Cod. The satellite tags indicated that many turtles stated in near coastal waters off the Cape for the entire summer—far longer than the scientists expected—and so are at high risk for boat strikes and entanglements. Two of the 20 tracked turtles died during the study period due to an entanglement and plastic ingestion. Dodge and her collaborators hope their study and similar tracking data will clarify turtle behavior to improve conservation and avoidance.
  • Massachusetts state legislators Jim Cantwell and Robert Hedlund wrote to the Enterprise this week to argue against the creation of a reference area on Stellwagen Bank that would be closed to both commercial and recreational fishing. The New England Fishery Management Council has voted in favor of the 55 square mile area, which would serve as a research reference area for marine scientists. Cantwell and Hedlund argue that the area would push fishermen further offshore, increasing risks and costs, that it will reduce recreational fishing revenues, and that the NOAA analysis indicating limited charter boat activity in the area is flawed.
  • On Tuesday, April 8, the Mid-Atlantic Fishery Management Council will hold a webinar to gather industry perspectives on spiny dogfish management. In particular, the Mid-Atlantic Council has recommended maintaining existing trip limits for spiny dogfish for fishing years 2014 and 2015, while the New England Council has proposed eliminating them; the webinar will collect industry opinions on the impacts of these trip limit alternatives.
  • The first river herring Technical Expert Working Group meeting took place on Thursday. Items on the agenda included development of the structure and process of the Working Group and an overview of current assessment and management timelines. The Working Group is the result of NOAA funding to the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission to develop a coordinated coastwise river herring conservation program.

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