In the News

Fish Talk in the News – Friday, October 24

Science clearly supports a need for better ecosystem-based management. Image via NOAA FishWatch.

  • Fishing interests of Atlantic herring and bluefin tuna fisheries collided off Gloucester, MA last weekend. Throughout October, bluefin tuna fishermen have been enjoying an extraordinarily high tuna harvest, and with the herring fishery summer closure, the waters have remained relatively quiet. The closure, however, ended as of 12:01am on Sunday, and herring fishermen did not waste a minute. Although targeting different fish, the fishermen were competing for the same fishing grounds, what local fishermen are saying is the effect of “flawed management.” Herring fishermen, however, have already hit their quota, so the waters should once again be open to tuna fishermen (the more profitable market), as long as there is some herring left for tuna to eat.
  • Governor Paul LePage announced the formation of the New England Ocean Cluster, or business incubator, on the Portland waterfront last Thursday. The concept follows the business model of an Icelandic entrepreneur who created the Iceland Ocean Cluster three years ago. It is hoped that the New England Cluster will attract Maine’s ocean-related businesses and local entrepreneurs and serve as a place where they can share ideas and build their businesses. Currently, eight Maine businesses have signed on. Now, the immediate goal is to find a suitable site to place the cluster.
  • NRDC, supported by four other interest groups, submitted a 60-day notice of intent to file suit against NMFS and NOAA for not protecting blueback herring under the Endangered Species Act (ESA). Blueback herring are a historic Atlantic coast forage fish, but the river herring fishery (blueback herring and alewife, collectively) has declined by 99% in the last 50 years as a result of overfishing, destruction of habitat and spawning areas, pollution, and climate change. The intent to file suit is the logical next step in NRDC’s effort to protect blueback herring, after NMFS turned down its request to list river herring as “threatened” under ESA in 2013.
  • The Maine Lobstering Union also filed a notice of intent to sue NMFS, claiming that rules intended to prevent whale entanglement introduce a safety hazard to lobstermen. The rule says that lobstermen must use sinking line and have up to 15 traps on two vertical lines in offshore waters. The Maine Lobstermen’s Association is worried, however, that legal action could lead to far greater restrictions for the lobster fishery.
  • In an opinion piece Northeast Regional Director for the U.S. Oceans Program at the Environmental Defense Fund, Matt Mullin, called for better monitoring of Gulf of Maine cod, both commercially and recreationally. The cod stock has collapsed, there are fewer young cod, and to top it off, climate change is altering marine ecosystems. Mullin says that we must reexamine cod catch limits, improve our underlying science and fisheries management, and most importantly, we need a cost-effective monitoring system. Also, “we need to get creative for fishermen and fishing communities” by tapping into underutilized markets.
  • Researchers around Maine are trying to better understand the abundance and distribution of microplastics in the state’s ocean waters. Microplastics are a concern because of their effect on organisms at the bottom of the food chain. According to a University of Exeter PhD candidate, “a diet containing microplastics causes marine worms to lose energy stores, which are essential for survival, growth, and reproduction.” It is of further concern because we eat animals that eat microplastics, and while specific negative consequences of this remain unclear, the issue still warrants attention. Common sources of microplastics are face wash, fleece clothing, fishing lines, and other marine litter.
  • ASMFC recommended cutting the Maine elver quota by nearly 2,000 pounds. Fishermen would be allowed to catch 9,688 pounds of elvers under the new quota in each of the next three seasons. There will be a final vote on the recommendation next week.
  • NMFS has proposed its sea turtle protection 2015 annual rule under ESA and is now seeking comments. Fisheries that meet the criteria of the rule will be required to allow NMFS observers for five years.
  • The Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission released the supplemental materials for its 73rd Annual Meeting. The meeting is scheduled for October 27th-30th and will be available via webinar.
  • Cuban fisheries managers gathered at the Center for Coastal Studies in Provincetown, MA to learn about the successes and failures of the New England fisheries and their management. Elisa Garcia, Cuba’s director of fishing regulations and science notes that, “We are talking about different places and species, but the problems are similar.” Of particular importance to Cuba is learning how to enforce fishing bans within its marine protected areas.
  • The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers issued to a Chatham commercial fisherman the first ever offshore shellfish aquaculture permit on the east coast. The permit will be used to build a 30-acre mussel farm in Nantucket Sound that consists of three 480-foot-long lines with 10-foot-long mussel-filled socks every three feet. While it has been expressed that the farm will benefit the local economy, some concerns about the farm have been raised, such as its size, possible conflicts with other fisheries, and the eventual addition of more lines.
  • About 25,000 hungry people gathered for the two-day 14th annual Wellfleet OysterFest last weekend. The festival provides the opportunity for the public to learn about its local shellfish industry and allows shellfish farmers to receive feedback from customers and friends.
  • Manchester Essex Regional School District and Gloucester High School are now both serving locally caught fish for Friday cafeteria lunches, a program organized by Cape Ann Fresh Catch. Sheila Parisien, Manchester Essex School Nutrition Director, says “The program stands as an example of the regional school district’s commitment to sustainability.”
  • $18 million in federal funds will be available for Saltonstall-Kennedy grants for the 2014-15 fiscal year, a 63% increase from last year. The Saltonstall-Kennedy Grant Program provides grants for “research and development projects to benefit the U.S. fishing industry.” However, relative to the amount of money that the grants bring in, fishing industry advocates are feeling shortchanged.
  • On November 6th – 7th, the Coast Guard and Massachusetts Fishermen’s Partnership is offering  free basic safety-at-sea and drill conductor training courses to commercial fishermen. The course, taught in Gloucester, MA, will include man-overboard procedures, basic CPR/First-Aid, and life raft equipment training.
  • Maine lobsterman Theodore Gray will pay a $50,000 fine, spend two days in jail, and lose his lobstering license for three years for possession of undersized lobsters and V-notched lobsters and for molesting lobster equipment. Mr. Gray pleaded guilty to these charges on October 17th. Department of Marine Resources Commissioner Patrick Keliher said, “This case sends a strong message that the state of Maine will use all the tools at its disposal to find and remove law breakers from the water and to support the work of law abiding fishermen who work to sustain our vital marine resources.”

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