In the News

Fish Talk in the News –Friday, January 2

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

  • Two recent NOAA reports highlight climate change impacts on Northeast fisheries. The first discusses the rise in the Gulf of Maine water temperatures that has shifted ocean seasons. Summer is starting three to four weeks earlier and lasts that much longer, ultimately shortening the spring phytoplankton season—a major food source for fish. The second report declared that climate change and fishing pressure are changing fish distribution, but it is difficult to distinguish between the impacts of the two.
  • Fisheries researches are using acoustic underwater torpedoes to collect data on cod spawning areas in the Gulf of Maine.  The study is the continuation of a project originally led by Van Parijs and Hatch, MA Division of Marine Fisheries, UMass Dartmouth, and now also involves The Nature Conservancy, and WHOI. Cod are known to densely congregate when spawning and males grunt to attract females. These sounds, however, will only travel short distances through the water so these small areas can be difficult to locate—a problem only exacerbated by low population numbers. Researchers hope the collected data can be used to inform fisheries managers about important spawning behavior and specify areas that should be protected from fishing.
  • NOAA Fisheries is allowing gillnet vessels a one-time opportunity to change their fishing year 2014 designation as a day or tip gillnet vessel. The statement also clarified that the 200-lb trip limit applies to the entire Gulf of Maine Broad Stock Area and not the Regulated Mesh Area off Cape Cod.
  • The heaviest Maine lobster landings occur between July and October, but the holiday seasons keep lobster sales high through December. A large portion of this sale is from lobster exports as European demand grows. According to the article, 1/5 of 2013 lobster imports in Italy were delivered during December. Exporting lobsters is seen as an important revenue source as landings have increased in recent years and lobstermen must find buyers to keep prices high.
  • The New England Fishery Management Council is seeking shrimp trawling vessels to conduct northern shrimp test tows and traps in the Gulf of Maine in early 2015. The collected shrimp samples will be analyzed for data on egg hatch timing, and the size, gender and developmental stage of shrimp during the winter period. The northern shrimp winter season was cancelled earlier this fall due to low population numbers.
  • Maine closed two scallop fishing areas in Washington County. Regulators say the areas were in danger of becoming depleted which could harm future fishing seasons.
  • NOAA Fisheries’ new podcast features the recent sea turtle strandings along Northeast coasts. The annual sea turtle strandings due to cold-stunning have reached a record high this year.
  • A new study says mussel shells are becoming more brittle due to increasing ocean acidity. As a result of weaker shells, mussels will likely be more vulnerable to predators and the forces of ocean currents.
  • NOAA Fisheries established two voluntary vessel speed restriction zones meant to protect an aggregation of right whales spotted in the area on December 22. The zone south of Nantucket expired on December 28, but the Cape Cod Bay zone is in effect through January 6, 2015.
  • Buzzards Bay Coalition received a $365,000 grant to remove a dam on the Weweantic River. The dam was built in 1920. The Coalition hopes to restore herring and smelt migration to Horseshoe Mill Pond and help boost populations.
  • NOAA’s Greater Atlantic Regional Fisheries Office (GARFO) is releasing for public comment a draft of its 5-year strategy plan. The plan outlines the office’s priorities under seven goals: sustainable fisheries, protected resources, habitat conservation, community resiliency, aquaculture, organizational excellence, and customer service.
  • NMFS is seeking public comment on its “Draft Programmatic Environmental Assessment for Fisheries Research Conducted and Funded by the Northeast Fisheries Science Center.” The proposed assessment is available for comment until January 28, 2015.
  • Massachusetts’ Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs approved Gloucester’s 2014 Harbor Plan, allowing developers more flexibility along the waterfront. The city is still required to maintain its Designated Port Area and provide support to its commercial fishing industry.
  • A number of fisheries provisions were included in the newly passed federal spending bill. The bill includes $72 million for expanding stock assessments, $24 million for surveying and monitoring, $30 million for combating seafood fraud, and $28 million for supporting the national buoy network.
  • Alaska U.S. Representative Don Young will take the lead on the Magnuson-Stevens Act reauthorization in the 114th Congress. The Magnuson-Stevens Act was first passed in 1976 and must be reauthorized every seven years.


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