In the News

Fish Talk in the News – Friday, August 7

The highest peak of Cashes Ledge, Ammen Rock, rises to within 40 feet of the ocean surface and harbors the deepest and largest cold-water kelp forest on the Atlantic seaboard. Photo credit: Brian Skerry / New England Ocean Odyssey

  • According to a Boston Globe story this week, 59% of fishermen will “operate at a loss” if they pay for the federally required observer program. The estimated 221 vessels remaining in the New England groundfish fleet will face a great financial burden, having to pay between $700-800 each time an observer is on board, but the article also focuses on the bitter relationship between fishermen and observers in the fishery. 377 observers have filed complaints in the last five years, and 32 of 109 observers have quit in the last year alone. Environmental groups empathize with the fishermen, but stand firm with NOAA that the observers are necessary. Peter Shelley of Conservation Law Foundation told Boston Globe, “It would be as if there were an announcement that there would no longer be any state trooper doing random radar checks on the Mass. Pike. Everyone would likely speed.”
  • NOAA Fisheries will continue to fund at-sea monitoring of the Northeast groundfish industry through Oct 31. The agency originally predicted that the funds would run out in August, but “due to reduced effort (by fishermen), the money is lasting longer,” said a NOAA spokeswoman.
  • In honor of her 80th birthday, renowned oceanographer Sylvia Earle will dive at Cashes Ledge for her first time. The dive is scheduled for Aug 8-12, 2015, but is dependent upon the weather – fingers crossed!
  • As part of its crackdown on illegal fishing, NOAA has plans to track certain seafood boat-to-plate. Some species on its list include abalone, Atlantic cod, blue crab, grouper, swordfish, tuna, and salmon. The program aims to tell people where and how the fish were caught. NOAA is accepting public comment on the program through August.
  • Research shows that the Gulf of Maine is one of the fastest-warming oceans in the world, and coastal economies dependent upon the ocean and its resources are likely to take a hit. Coastal Enterprises Inc., a nonprofit community development financial institution, is working in Maine to help people in these communities adapt to the impacts of climate change. The group has helped fund a lobster processing plant, sea-vegetable farmers, and aquaculture producers. A CEI representative told Huffington Post, “We can’t stop the change. We can only encourage economic resiliency in the face of change.”
  • The Maine Department of Marine Resources Advisory Council approved the new swipe card system for its sea urchin industry, similar to the system used in the state elver fishery. The state can use the system to collect real time data on volume and price of sea urchin sales. Maine sea urchins are harvested for their roe. In 2014, the fishery was valued at $5.4 million.
  • New research from Rutgers University shows that faster-breeding fish are more vulnerable to population collapses and experience dramatic population falls more often than slow-growing fish. The study authors suggest that overfishing and climate change may explain the variations.
  • A new study suggests that faster-swimming fish with higher metabolic rates can better avoid capture in trawler nets. Researchers believe that “selective harvest” can then lead to physiological changes in fish over time. In other words, fish are evolving to avoid nets.
  • ASMFC’s 2015 American Lobster Benchmark Stock Assessment and Peer Review Report shows mixed results and dramatic changes from previous years. The Gulf of Maine and Georges Bank saw record abundances of lobster, but the stock is depleted in Southern New England. The report attributes this to rising ocean temperatures. Population declines are greatest in the inshore waters.
  • ASMFC approved the Interstate Fishery Management Plan for Jonah Crab, the first management plan for the species. The plan was established due to increased fishing pressure for Jonah crab, which was most often caught as bycatch in the lobster fishery. The plan will be implemented by June 1, 2016. Read more here.
  • As requested by the state of Maine, NOAA Fisheries announced a proposed rule that will allow scallop vessels with dual state and federal commercial licenses to harvest scallops in Maine state waters once the federal total allowable catch is reached. This exemption applies only to Northern Gulf of Maine scallop permit holders.
  • NOAA Fisheries announced a new stock assessment prioritization system. The new system, outlined in the report “Prioritizing Fish Stock Assessments” will help the agency and regional managers decide which stocks to assess each year and how to best use available data and resources.

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