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In the News
Fish Talk in the News – Friday, May 23
A new NOAA report documents the importance of shallow water habitat like eelgrass beds. (Photo credit: Ben Kimball, courtesy of NH Division of Forests and Lands).
- The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations has released its State of World Fisheries and Aquaculture 2014 report. It says total fisheries and aquaculture production totaled 158 million metric tons in 2012, with growth in production driven by the rapid expansion of aquaculture. Fish accounts for 17 percent of global protein consumption, and fisheries or aquaculture support the livelihoods of up to 12 percent of the world’s population. 70% of global fisheries are fished within sustainable limits, with 60% at or very near those limits.
- River herring and shad runs are in full force across New England. In Lyme, CT, alewives are returning to Rogers Lake for the first time in hundreds of years, thanks to a new fish ladder. In Maine, volunteers are counting alewives as they pass a fish ladder at the Nequasset Brook Dam. The Mattapoisett River has seen a huge jump in river herring-53,000 have been counted so far, almost 32,000 more than last year. Essex, CT is preparing for its annual shad bake, which will include presentations on the history of shad fishing. Meanwhile, new research from North Carolina State University shows that dam removal improves shad survival through a number of mechanisms, including access to improved habitat and reduced time spend trying to pass dams. One of those enjoying the spring herring runs is Ollie the otter in Norwich, CT, who has been eating herring regularly at the fish ladder on the Occum dam.
- The Northeast Fisheries Science Center released a new Ecosystem Advisory this week. It reports that average sea surface temperatures in the northeast were still unusually high in 2013, but moderate compared to 2012. Bottom temperatures were also above average in the Gulf of Maine.
- The New England Fishery Management Council has released the Draft Environmental Impact Statement for its Omnibus Essential Fish Habitat Amendment 2. The document has been submitted to NOAA for review, and acceptance of the DEIS will be followed by a public comment period. The DEIS considers impacts of alternatives to alter, eliminate, and create areas closed to fishing in the Gulf of Maine and on Georges Bank, including a controversial alternative that would open three quarters of the Cashes Ledge closed area to trawling.
- A new NOAA report documents the importance of shallow-water bottom habitats in the Gulf of Maine. The report notes that these shallow habitats are particularly productive because of their warm water and abundant nutrients and provide important nursery and spawning habitat, but are vulnerable to human impacts. The report summarizes the value of eight habitat types, like eelgrass and shell beds, for sixteen fish and invertebrate species. It will be used to make recommendations related to essential fish habitat management.
- Volunteers are conducting an annual count of horseshoe crab populations along the east coast. The counts will help the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission set harvest quotas. Volunteers count and tag crabs in 11 foot square sample areas along beaches where the crabs spawn; this survey has been conducted every year since 2004. Horseshoe crabs are often caught for their blood, which contains a coagulant used to test drugs and medical implements for contamination. They are released after their blood is harvested, but a significant percentage do not survive the procedure, and many believe this harvesting has contributed to a decline in crab populations. Horseshoe crab eggs are an important food source for red knots, a type of migratory seabird.
- Maine has permanently closed seven square miles of the lower Penobscot to lobster fishing in response to mercury contamination of lobsters in the area. The contamination has been traced to the now-defunct HoltraChem plant in Orrington. The Department of Marine Resources initially closed the area in February through an emergency action for a 90 day period; this decision extends that closure indefinitely. State officials say the area is only fished by about a dozen lobstermen, mostly recreational.
- A Maine lobsterman has been charged with possession of 269 undersized lobsters and 123 breeding female lobsters. He was also in possession of 20 traps belonging to another fisherman and has been charged with molesting equipment. He faces jail time and a fine up to $100,000.
- Duxbury’s Skip Bennett has developed a thriving business in Island Creek Oysters since he first began farming shellfish in the early 1990s. About 30 oyster farms now operate in Duxbury Bay, despite difficult weather and last year’s closures due to bacterial contamination. The town held a successful Oyster Festival last week.
- Northeastern’s Jon Grabowski has been working to develop a framework to quantify impacts of fishing gear types on different types of fish and seafloor habitat. A portion of his research was published last month in Reviews in Fisheries Science & Aquaculture, and found that mobile gear causes more damage to groundfish habitat than stationary gear, and that rocky seafloor takes longer to recover from fishing impacts that sand and mud. Grabowski says his work focuses on interdisciplinary solutions that incorporate both ecology and management.
- Sand lance have returned in strong numbers to Stellwagen Bank after an unusual absence last year. Humpback whales, which feed on sand lance, have also been unusually abundant in the area, delighting whale watchers. Scientists say sand lance populations are highly cyclical and that the cause of the resurgence is unknown.