In the News

Fish Talk in the News – Friday, September 26

As of November, Maine lobster exports to China were valued at $27.5 million. Photo credit: Josh Cummings.

  • In last week’s Great Atlantic Region Bulletin, the National Marine Fisheries Service(NMFS) announced the closure of the management Area 3 (Georges Bank) directed fishery for Atlantic herring. Effective September 23, 2014 through December 21, 2014, there is a 2,000lb per trip or day catch limit on Atlantic herring for those in possession of permits. Also, permitted dealers may not receive greater than 2,000lbs of herring per Area 3 vessel.
  • The New England Fishery Management Council (NEFMC) invested $800,000 in collaborative research projects, and is now seeking proposals. These projects will collect and analyze data related to the New England groundfish stocks and fishery, information that will be essential to successful fisheries management. The Northeast Consortium (NEC)—an organization known for working cooperatively with fishermen, scientists, and stakeholders—will manage the fund as well as provide monthly updates to NEFMC.
  • NOAA Fisheries awarded a UMass Dartmouth professor $205,000 in grant money to be used to develop a low-impact trawling technology.  The technology (already used in the North Pacific and Norway) uses trawl doors and floating synthetic ground cables to minimize contact with the seafloor, and could help Georges Bank fishermen reduced yellowtail flounder bycatch.  UMass Dartmouth’s School for Marine Science & Technology has a Yellowtail Bycatch Avoidance Program that helps scallopers harvest their allowable scallop catch while minimizing bycatch.
  • As part of its new campaign to protect endangered North Atlantic Right Whales, the Northeast Fisheries Science Center (NEFSC) is asking recreational and commercial boaters to report all sightings of right whales and to maintain a safe distance from the whales. NEFSC will be posting new signs at boat ramps and marinas around the northeast that provide right whale key facts and images as well as a hotline number to report sightings.  The campaign was made possible by a $1,000 mini-grant from NOAA Fisheries and collaboration with IFAW, Center for Coastal Studies, NEAQ, U.S. Coast Guard, MA Division of Marine Fisheries, Whale and Dolphin Conservation, and See a Spout, Watch Out!
  • The Gloucester Fishermen’s Wives Association and the Gloucester Harbor Community Development Corp. (GHCDC) expressed their disapproval of the new Gloucester Harbor Plan at Monday night’s public meeting. Angela Sanfilippo, President of the Gloucester Fishermen’s Wives Association, criticized the plan for supporting commercial non-fishery uses of waterfront areas and stated that the proposed changes to the plan “would be incompatible to the survival and potential rebirth of the city’s commercial fishing industry.” GHDCD requested a six month extension to the public hearing period to allow for further examination of the plan.
  • Although actual landing statistics are not available until January, reports are showing that Maine lobster landings, after experiencing a surge over the past two years, are returning to normal catch patterns. This change in supply is keeping inventories down and increasing live lobster and tail prices, which are up 8.5% and 17%, respectively, from last August. Colder waters this year are said to have prevented an early molt that allowed for the past surges to occur.
  • Maine lobster processors will receive $7 million in state government loans as part of a $50 million package up for vote in November. Historically, Maine’s processing capacity has been too low to handle the lobster supply, and the state has relied on the Canadian lobster industry.  According to a June AP report, of the 126 million pounds of lobster landed last year, 60 million pounds were exported to Canada. As Maine builds up its lobster processing, competition with the Canadian industry will likely increase.
  • An article in Sunday’s Boston Globe looked at signs of climate change in Maine—lobsters being one pressing concern. Lobsters are still plentiful in Maine waters, but more and more are being seen with diseased shells.  From 2010 to 2012, landed lobsters with lesioned shells increased fivefold, according to state biologists. Two climate change factors are responsible for this issue: one, warmer waters support more bacteria, and two, increased carbon dioxide absorption creates water conditions that make lobster shells more vulnerable. The lobster industry, however, still brought in $364 million worth of lobster last year and makes up ¾ of Maine’s fishery value. Yet, fishermen and scientists still worry about an increasing trend of warmer waters as well as new predators that have shifted north from southern regions.
  • The Gulf of Maine Lobster Fishery is entering the “information gather” stage of the Marine Stewardship Council Sustainable Fishing Certification process. During this time, fishery representatives and any interested stakeholders may provide information that they believe should be considered in the assessment.
  • A seasonal decline in scallop landings is beginning.  As of September 11, scallop fishermen have used about 67% of the allowable quota, consistent with 2013 landing rates.  Overall pricing, however, is stable.
  • Ocean conservation and advocacy organization Oceana is pushing for reform of gillnet practices in the Northeast, specifically in the multispecies groundfish fishery. In a letter to NEFMC and NOAA Regional Administrator John Bullard, Gib Brogran, Oceana’s fisheries campaign manager, argued that gillnets have been under-regulated because fishery managers see them as a “low-impact alternative” to trawling. Oceana wants to institute stricter soak time regulations and limits on length, height, and quantity of gillnets. The issue itself is not on the agenda for next week’s council meeting, but can be proposed as a 2015 council priority and then further discussed at the November full council meeting.
  • In a short opinion piece, Scott Turner describes the beauty of menhaden as they move into Providence waters.  He says the river is now filled with the little fish, calling it a “September Spectacle.”
  • Researchers at the Government Accountability Office (GAO) found a geographic disparity in how frequently fish stock assessments are conducted: out of the 1,001 assessments that occurred between 2005 and 2013 467 were in Alaska, 167 were in the Northeast, 158 were in the Southeast, and 139 were in the Northwest. According to the GAO report, “The need for frequent fish stock assessments may vary depending on biological characteristics of the fish stock or the level of fishing pressure.” The Obama administration already issued a draft proposal to standardize stock assessments and to create a national reporting system earlier this year, which some say is only the first step. The GAO conducted the study at the request of a bipartisan group of senators, and is now entering its second phase to examine “collection of fisheries data.” In 2013 NMFS spent $64 million on fish stock assessments.
  • Lee Crocket of The Pew Charitable Trusts expressed the importance of ecosystem-based fisheries management in a blog post earlier this week. He said that “this holistic approach could help dwindling species recover and boost healthy populations” since it accounts for not only the fish, but the environment around them and how the two fit together. Some management councils already used the ecosystem-based approach, but Crocket calls for a national requirement under the reauthorized Magnuson-Stevens Act.
  • NOAA Fisheries NEFSC released the final phase report on the testing of an electronic monitoring system. The Fisheries Sampling Branch of NEFSC, partnered with Archipelago Marine Research Ltd. was testing the use of electronic monitoring technology in commercial fishery data collection. Data was collected between 2010 and 2013, and the study ended in spring 2014. NEFSC stated that “the study is part of our effort to find more ways to meet increasing demand for timely, efficient, and cost-effective catch monitoring data.”

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