In the News

Fish Talk in the News – Friday, April 17

In New England, Atlantic cod has been overfished and subject to overfishing for decades. Image via NOAA.

  • Yesterday, Northeast Regional Administrator John Bullard sent a very strong letter to the New England Fishery Management Council regarding the shortcomings of the Habitat Committee’s recommendations for the Omnibus Habitat Amendment.
  • NOAA released the 2014 Status of U.S. Fisheries report to Congress, as required by the Magnuson-Stevens Act. According to the report, overfishing (26) and overfished (37) stocks are at an all-time low. Two species were removed from the overfished list, and six were removed from the overfishing list (but four were added). Peter Baker, director of U.S. Oceans, Northeast for the Pew Charitable Trusts, says, “This report just underscores that the future of the fishery has to be how to catch these stocks that are coming back and not catch cod to the point where biomass goes to zero.”
  • New England fish stocks are far behind those of other regions, according to the NOAA status report. 12 stocks are either on the overfishing or overfished list. 7 of the stocks are on both.
  • NOAA removed Atlantic bluefin tuna from the overfishing list. The adult bluefin population is about 30,000 metric tons, a level not seen since the early 1980s. Fishery managers plan to recommend a catch quota increase to the International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tunas (ICCAT). Maine and Massachusetts are the top two in number of commercial bluefin tuna fishermen in the U.S.
  • The NEFMC Council meeting is next week, April 21-23, in Mystic, CT. April 22 and 23 will be dedicated to discussions on Omnibus Essential Fish Habitat Amendment 2, and the Council plans to take a final vote on the amendment.
  • NEFMC will also be holding the final scoping hearing on Herring Amendment 8 next week, April 20, 2015. The public will be able to provide comments from 6-8pm.
  • The 2014-15 Maine scallop season is over and regulators say it appears to be one of the best in years. Final numbers will not be available under early 2016, but December 2014 hauls (215,920 pounds) were up 16% from December 2013.
  • Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Rhode Island, and Connecticut reduced the striped bass daily bag limit for recreational fishermen to one fish at 28 inches. Changes in the management plan required the states to reduce harvest by 25%.
  • Unhappy with recent regulation changes, Connecticut shellfish companies want to create a 10-person shellfish “coordinating council” outside of the governor’s authority. State officials say they are improving an outdated leasing system to protect public health, but the shellfish industry says the new system is unfair and is trying to take away shellfish beds. The shellfish industry’s bill passed the General Assembly last month.
  • The Center for Sustainable Fisheries proposed the development of a Northeast Cooperative Trawl Program (NECTP) to help improve fisheries management and sustainable stocks in New England. Participants in the program would include representatives from the Northeast Fisheries Science Center, NEFMC, the fishing industry, New England states, and academics. The program would be responsible for improving confidence in survey data and stock assessments.
  • NOAA awarded $800,000 to Maine Sea Grant. The grant money will be used to fund the program’s research, education, and outreach efforts along Maine’s coast.
  • When it comes to organic seafood, the U.S. is playing catch up, but the U.S. Department of Agriculture announced that it will propose standards for farm-raised organic fish this year. If the USDA moves quickly, organic farmed seafood – such as salmon, tilapia, mussels, and clams – could be on the market in two years. Some environmental groups, however, are concerned the rules will not be strict enough and have criticized the recommendations. For example, they argue that a fish cannot be certified organic unless it eats 100% organic feed.

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