In the News

Fish Talk in the News – Friday, May 9

An oyster farm on the Damriscotta River in Maine. Photo: NOAA Aquaculture Program

  • The Obama Administration has released the 2014 National Climate Assessment, intended to evaluate current and future impacts from climate change. The report included sections on oceans and coasts, noting that “changing climate conditions are already affecting these valuable marine ecosystems and the array of resources and services we derive from the sea.” The report points to coastal flooding, the spread of disease and invasive species, habitat loss, and commercial fish species migration as potential impacts of climate change. It notes that diversifying will help fishermen adapt, but climate change “may push [them] beyond their ability to cope.” Members of the New England congressional delegation said the report was an important assessment of climate impacts and a call to action.
  • Last week, Massachusetts House leaders included an amendment in the state budget to block a single Mashpee oyster farm proposal. The amendment would create a tiny marine sanctuary off Popponesset Island, essentially eliminating a proposal by Richard Cook to develop an oyster farm in the area. The oyster farm has already been approved by town and state agencies and the Barnstable Superior Court, but local homeowners, including Patriots owner Robert Kraft, have publicly opposed the project. Several state legislators have said they were unaware of the amendment before it passed, and Senator Dan Wolf said it is “not an indication of good process.” Representative Michael Costello filed the amendment on the recommendation of ML Strategies, the lobbying wing of the law firm representing the abutting homeowners. The proposed farm would involve 5,000 completely submerged oyster bags tethered to the seafloor; Cook has already downsized the proposal and moved it farther offshore in response to homeowner opposition.
  • New Hampshire fishermen have responded to two reports released by NOAA last week that show positive economic signs for fisheries both nationally and in New England. While overall revenues, employment indicators, and sales impacts have all grown for New England, New Hampshire groundfish fishermen say these larger trends obscure the decline in revenues from groundfish. NEFMC member Ellen Goethel said high revenues from scallops are not sustainable in the long term. In contradiction with scientific consensus, she also said that groundfish industry losses are not “because there aren’t fish out there” and that “30 million or so pounds of fish have died of old age,” calling groundfish catch limits a “huge underutilization.”
  • River herring runs on Cape Cod have strengthened over the past three to four years, thanks to a state moratorium on catching river herring and efforts to remove dams and restore upstream spawning habitat. More fish are returning to local rivers, and average fish size has increased, indicating an older and healthier population. Volunteers are working at several of Massachusetts’ herring runs to count fish, while Division of Marine Fisheries scientists are conducting genetic and tagging studies to track fish movements. River herring are still at risk from at-sea bycatch by the Atlantic herring fleet.
  • Several organizations in Maine are also seeking volunteers to count alewives on local rivers. These include the Bristol Mills Alewife Restoration Project on the Pemaquid River, the Maine Department of Marine Resources on Flanders Stream, and the Kennebec Estuary Land Trust on the Nequasset River.
  • Maine Fair Trade Lobster, a partnership between East Coast Seafood and Garbo Lobster, is in the process of expanding and renovating its lobster processing plant in Gouldsboro. The plant anticipates employing 200 people at the plant this summer, up from 130 last year, and hopes to double last year’s output to 8 million pounds. The new plant succeeds a sardine cannery and a failed lobster processing company at the same location. Local lobster processing capacity is limited in Maine, with Maine’s lobster often exported to Canada for processing; residents say they are confident the plant has a strong future. Meanwhile, the growing popularity of the food truck industry has created an unexpected new market for Maine lobster, as trucks in cities as distant as Phoenix and Los Angeles sell lobster rolls, bisques, and other New England seafood products.
  • NOAA announced this week that it has selected two areas in the North Atlantic Region as Habitat Focus Areas under its Habitat Blueprint. The Penobscot River watershed in Maine, along with the Choptank River complex in Maryland and Delaware, has been selected as an area where the agency will “focus its resources to support habitat conservation and restoration.” NOAA notes that the Penobscot River provides habitat for numerous sea-run fish species, including endangered salmon and sturgeon, and that existing dam removal and monitoring efforts have already begun to benefit this important habitat.
  • The U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service is conducting a criminal investigation related to Maine’s elver fishery. Federal officials were present in Ellsworth, ME this week as part of that investigation. A spokesperson said the Agency is investigating the illegal trade of elvers, but more details have not been made public.

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