In the News

Fish Talk in the News – Friday, October 17

Atlantic bluefin tuna swimming through Stellwagen Bank National Marine Sanctuary. Photo credit: Greg Skomal, NOAA Sanctuaries.

  • A Boston Globe editorial calls for new thinking and stronger conservation efforts in the wake of the most recent Gulf of Maine cod crisis. The author stresses that we must rid ourselves of the idea that “if not for meddling outsiders, the industry can continue along as it always has.” Attitudes and behaviors must change. The opinion of the author is that we can no longer rely on disaster aid relief to dampen economic side effects, rather “find new solutions for sustainability,” such as more selective gear and increased marketing for species other than cod.
  • The Monterey Bay Aquarium’s Seafood Watch upgraded Atlantic winter skate harvested via bottom trawling from “avoid” to “good alternative.” Winter skate is the primary skate species harvested in the Gulf of Maine.
  • Both the western and eastern populations of Atlantic bluefin tuna are showing signs of growth, but as ICCAT’s November meeting approaches, it is most important that fisheries managers take “responsible, cautious steps.” The Pew Charitable Trusts has expressed that even though Atlantic bluefin tuna populations are increasing, a great uncertainty regarding the extent of recovery still remains. With five years left in the recovery plan, Amanda Nickson, director of global tuna conservation for The Pew Charitable trusts says, “Now is not the time for risky decisions. Instead of giving into pressure to raise the quota at the first hint of increased abundance….fishery managers should follow the scientific advice to maintain the quota in order to lock in recent growth and improve the chance of recovery for the western population.”
  • A new essay, “Coast Habitats of Narragansett Bay, Rhode Island,” written by Sue Tuxbury of NOAA’s Greater Atlantic Regional Fisheries Office stresses the importance of habitat protection for healthy oceans and fish populations. Due to climate change and sea level rise, the importance of protecting areas such as Narragansett Bay is ever-increasing, and the essay declares that “protecting habitats from rising tides will be an important area of focus for NOAA in the foreseeable future.”
  • Massachusetts Division of Marine Fisheries has set a cap on the amount of disaster aid relief that individuals with groundfishing permits can receive. Congress previously set aside $32.8 million for disaster relief, one third of which was to go to qualifying permit holders. An individual permit holder was to receive $32,500 per permit, but now the number of payments has been capped at 10.9. Carlos Rafael, who holds 18 permits, is threatening to sue the state, claiming that it owes him $617,500 in relief money. The Division of Marine Fisheries says that the money saved will be used to “roll over to a second bucket of relief funds, aimed at those in the industry not covered by the first bucket, including potentially deckhands, shoreside businesses, and permit holders who didn’t meet eligibility requirements.”
  • The Maine lobster industry is further shifting away from its reliance on Canadian processing facilities with the opening of a new custom seafood freezing and storage facility in Bucksport, ME. Up to now, 60-70% of the Maine’s market for freezing seafood is processed in Canada, but Central Maine Cold Storage “brings custom food freezing and storage capacity closer to Maine lobster harvesting operations.”
  • The Southeast New England Coastal Watershed Restoration Program was formally launched on Wednesday. Composed of state and local government and non-government organizations from across the region, “the new program will serve as a framework to promote a broad ecosystem approach to protecting and restoring the coastal watersheds of southeast New England.” The program will have a special focus on climate change impacts and how resiliency practices can be incorporated into all decision-making. The program is supported by the EPA, which has already allocated grant money to involved organizations. As stated by the EPA, “The goal is to collaborate to share best practices, maximize resources and opportunities, and build local program capacity to sustain this unique approach over the long term.”
  • The Herring River Restoration Project received at $612,000 state grant. This comes after receiving a more than $700,000 federal grant in September. The health of the Herring River and its estuary has been in decline since a dike was constructed in 1909. The money will be used in efforts “to return 1,100 acres of the Herring River backwaters to salt marshes by re-introducing a natural tidal flow.” It is hoped that fish spawning and passage will return upon completion of the project. The project began in 2007, and with the new grants, the design phase of the project will be completed, readying it for permitting.
  • The Massachusetts Office of Coastal Zone Management (CZM) is seeking input on the updated draft of the Massachusetts Ocean Management Plan. Bruce Carlisle, Director of MA CZM, outlined the changes to the updated plan, as well as the successes of the old one, at a public meeting on Tuesday. The updated ocean plan will allow Massachusetts to better manage its ocean space and resources, support infrastructure, and identify “special, sensitive, and unique” life and habitats. Public comments on the draft will be accepted until November 25. CZM hopes to finalize the plan by the end of the year.

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