In the News

Fish Talk in the News – Friday, September 12

Ghost trap becoming part of habitat. Photo Credit: NOAA/NCCOS/CCMA Biogeography Branch.

  • Saltwater recreational fishing and boating industries addressed a letter to Congress requesting the establishment of a national recreational fishing policy and greater recreational fisheries management under the reauthorized Magnuson-Stevens Act, where they believe the main current focus has been on commercial fishing. The letter directs Congress to A Vision for Managing America’s Saltwater Recreational Fisheries, a document produced by the Commission on Saltwater Recreational Fisheries Management that highlights the social, economic, and conservation benefits of recreational fishing. Representatives, on Tuesday, spoke to Congress, stressing the important economic influence saltwater recreational fishing and boating has in the United States. With 11 million saltwater recreational anglers in the United States, saltwater recreational fishing is a $36.7 billion industry, produces 338,526 jobs, and contributes $1.5 billion annually to fisheries conservation and habitat restoration through fees, taxes, and donations. The Commission also highlights the important community-building and citizen scientist components of recreational fishing as recreational anglers often help in tagging fish and monitoring water quality.
  • The Massachusetts Department of Public Health and the Division of Marine Fisheries announced a temporary closure of Martha’s Vineyard oyster beds following an outbreak of foodborne illness earlier this week. The illness was linked to bacteria called Vibrio parahaemolyticus, and is not the first occurrence of vibrio infection in Massachusetts waters; cases have been on the rise over the last three years. Cheryl A. Whistler, a microbiology and genetics researcher at the University of New Hampshire, explains that “warm water and warm air temperature causes the emergence of bacteria.” Oyster lovers can still enjoy their shellfish, though they are advised to cook them first.
  • The Maine Certified Sustainable Lobster Association, Inc. has applied for Marine Stewardship Council’s (MSC) sustainable certification assessment. Craig A. Rief, the President of the lobster fishery, states that, “MSC certification will enable us to certify to our customers that Maine lobster is harvested in a sustainable way to assure it will be available long into the future.” While this certification seemingly indicates economic benefits for the 4,000 Maine lobstermen and Maine lobster consumers some argue that it is simply a marketing ploy used by the MSC and that it does not enhance lobster fisheries management or sustainability.
  • The fall 2013 Maine-New Hampshire Inshore Trawl Survey yielded the second-lowest catch weight since 2000 and the lowest since 2006. The average catch weight decreased from 500 pounds in fall 2007 to 284 pounds with lobster, silver hake, and Atlantic herring making up greater than 70% of the total catch weight. State and federal regulators use the trawl survey to monitor commercial fish stock population trends. Jud Crawford, the science and policy manager for Pew Environment Group, said that “the survey results underscore fears about the Gulf of Maine’s declining cod stocks.”
  • The New Hampshire Seacoast community-supported fishery, or “CSF”, model is entering its second year, and participation in the cooperative has more than doubled. Similar to community-supported agriculture, local residents and restaurants can sign up to receive a season’s share of catch from local fishermen. According to New Hampshire Community Seafood, the Seacoast exports around 98% of its landed fish. The CSF model offers the opportunity to reintroduce a fishing culture to the local community. Sarah VanHorn, a founder and coordinator for NH Community Seafood says, “One of the greatest accomplishments of our cooperative is educating our members on the alternative species available in our local waters.”
  • Another disappointing summer is forcing a three-month closure of the Long Island Sound lobster fishery. As a fishery that usually generates around $45 million annually, Long Island Sound, historically, has been an abundant lobster fisheries in the United States, but, according to the state Department of Energy and Environmental Protection (DEEP), lobster catch dropped by 96% between 1998 and 2011. Some lobstermen believe that the fishery is following a natural cycle and claim that 2014 was in fact a “fairly good year,” but DEEP thinks the terribly low catch numbers are anything but good and are likely a result of greater environmental issues. Since 2012, DEEP has been conducting research on pesticides and parasites trying to determine a cause of the decreasing lobster landings, but there has not yet been a definitive result. Dumping of dredging materials into the Sound and climate change are also factors being considered.
  • A recent NOAA study conducted by NOAA’s Marine Debris Program addresses the environmental damage caused by abandoned fishing gear. This so-called “ghost gear” can lead to economic and ecological losses as harvestable fish can be killed by the lost gear and important habitat damaged. The report, the first of its kind, compares the fishing gear problem and regional management strategy at seven NOAA-funded sites and concluded that these gear losses are largely preventable through better fisheries management.
  • California blue whales have rebounded to 97% of historic levels, according to research at the University of Washington. Researchers used acoustic calls to distinguish separate whale populations, and determined that there are now 2,200 individual whales in the California population. This return to historic level helps explain the recent slowdown in population growth that was previously attributed to ship strikes. Now researchers believe that the whales are simply reaching their natural carrying capacity, what Cole Monnahan, a UW doctoral student, refers to as “a conservation success story.”
  • In more whale news, Whale Alert 2.0, launched this week, is a free iPhone and iPad app that Pacific Ocean boaters can use to help protect whales from ship strike. Whale Alert 2.0 uses GPS, Automatic Identification System, and NOAA nautical charts to provide the latest information about whale movements and locations.
  • Two new studies highlight negative impacts that ocean acidification may have on important marine species.  First, marine biologists at the University of Washington discovered that increased ocean acidity weakens the byssal threads of mussels, or the fibers they use to hold onto objects.  Mussels are important habitat builders and a food source for larger predators. It was observed in the lab that when exposed to a pH of 7.5, mussels’ byssal threads were weakened by 40%. Average ocean acidity today is 8.1, and is expected to be 7.8 to 7.7 by the end of the century. A second study published in the Global Change Biology journal observed that different levels of carbon dioxide (CO2) affect a shark’s sense of smell. The study focused on the smooth dogfish shark, a common New England species.  When exposed to projected CO2 levels of 50 years, the sharks responded less aggressively to odor-emitting objects, and when exposed to expected 2100 CO2 levels, the sharks stopped responding to the odor stimulant all together.
  • U.S. shrimp imports through July reached 657.2 million pounds this year, 12.8% higher than last year, and 6.5% high than the long term average. The data suggests that this record volume is a result of increased global shrimp production.

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