In the News

Fish Talk in the News – Friday, May 2

New research shows pteropods dissolving due to ocean acidification. Photo credit: NOAA

  • On Tuesday, NOAA released two fisheries reports, Fisheries Economics of the United States 2012 and Status of U.S. Fisheries 2013. NOAA noted that the reports show economic gains for national fisheries, with revenues, sales, jobs, and other indicators showing positive trends. Massachusetts was second in commercial fishing job generation in 2012. The Status of Stocks report also showed improvement in the biological condition of fish stocks, with two stocks considered rebuilt in 2013. New England remains the worst region in the country in terms of overfished stocks and stocks experiencing overfishing. Local papers said the reports showed a “grim picture,” since groundfish landings and revenues are decreasing even as New England’s overall revenues continue to increase; they say the good news is limited to the lobster and scallop fisheries. The Portland Press Herald also noted that lobster is the only one of ten key seafood species that dropped in price between 2003 and 2012.
  • NOAA has released rules for sector and common pool groundfish vessels for the 2014 fishing year. The sector rule approves the operating plans of the 17 sectors in the groundfish fishery and grants them certain exemptions from fishing regulations. These exemptions include allowing access into portions of the Nantucket Lightship Closed Area; sectors were also allowed to fish in these areas for much of the 2013 Fishing Year. The common pool regulations—for groundfish vessels that choose to fish outside of a sector—include trip and possession limits and gear restriction areas.
  • A NOAA research team has found evidence that ocean acidification has begun dissolving the shells of the pelagic marine snails called pteropods off the west coast. The research suggests the number of pteropods with dissolving shells has doubled since the pre-industrial era and will triple by 2050—a far faster rate than had been assumed. The scientists say this pattern could have larger implications for nearshore marine ecosystems, food webs, and resources.
  • A Boston Globe editorial responds to a recent study indicating up to a third of seafood imported into the United States could be illegally caught. The editorial calls for building traceability into the international seafood supply chain and strengthening federal inspections and documentation requirements for imported fish. It argues that strengthened US scrutiny could have a global impact on reducing unsustainable fishing practices.
  • River herring are returning to Connecticut’s rivers, thanks to new culverts, fish ladders, and dam removals that have restored access to upstream spawning habitat. Still, river herring are depleted and at risk from at-sea bycatch by Atlantic herring trawlers. New rules recommended by the New England Fishery Management Council last week, however, would require more accurate catch measurements for herring trawlers and that these vessels relocate or end their trips after discarding bycatch without counting it.
  • According to a piece in the New Bedford Standard-Times, local fluke fishermen say that increased cooperation between the New England states could help reduce discards. In particular, fishermen need permits to land fluke in a certain state, but they can only fish on one of these permits at a time. If a fisherman catches more than he is allowed to land in one state, he cannot land the remainder of the catch in a port in another state; instead, any catch over a single state’s landing limit is discarded. Fishermen have asked Rhode Island and Massachusetts to allow them to combine their permits from the two states, but officials in both states say they do not have capacity for those changes and that new rules would make enforcement difficult.
  • The Gulf of Maine Research Institute’s sustainable seafood program brings together fishermen, processors, and restaurants to label “Gulf of Maine Responsibly Harvested” seafood. To date, the program partners with thirteen restaurants, and responsibly harvested seafood labeled by the program has generated more than $52 million in sales.
  • A blog on Wild Ocean considers whether NOAA should create its own seafood certification program. NOAA is currently accepting public comment on a recommendation by the Marine Fisheries Advisory Committee that it develop its own business-to-business sustainability certification. The blog suggests such a certification might have the unintended effect of suggesting further fisheries regulations would be unnecessary for certified species. The blog argues the bar for certification would need to be set higher than the baseline standards of the Magnuson-Stevens Act, including a consideration of bycatch and ecosystem impacts. It also says that now, during the reauthorization of the Magnuson-Stevens Act, might be an inopportune time to implement a certification, and that the idea of NOAA essentially judging and certifying its own performance is counterintuitive.
  • A Cape Cod Times opinion piece argues that recreational fishermen on the Cape should voluntarily self-regulate to ensure the health of the striped bass fishery. A hotspot of striped bass off Chatham means fishermen can catch these fish quickly and easily. While commercial fishing days and bag limits have been reduced, the recreational fishery has not followed suit, despite the fact that the recreational fishery is responsible for a large majority of striped bass catch. In lieu of stricter formal regulations, some recreational fishermen have signed an online pledge to keep just one fish per day at a minimum length of 32 inches. The opinion piece encourages use of social media to promote grassroots striped bass conservation among recreational anglers.


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