In the News

Fish Talk in the News – Friday, January 23

Gray seals on the beach in Chatham, MA. Photo credit: NOAA/NEFSC.

  • In response to the new Atlantic Large Whale Take Reduction Plan recently established by NMFS, the Massachusetts Division of Marine Fisheries has asked to allow single lobster pots within three miles of the Massachusetts shore. NOAA’s acting assistant regional administrator of protected resources says that whales are not generally seen that close to shore. The whale take reduction team met last week and is considering the proposal, and a decision will be made prior to June 1 (when restriction are scheduled to begin).
  • Fishermen once again challenged the science behind NOAA’s Gulf of Maine cod stock assessment at a public forum in Gloucester last Friday. The forum was held to address the state of the region’s commercial fishing industry and how to move forward.
  • The next New England Fishery Management Council meeting is next week, January 27-29, 2015 in Portsmouth, NH. The final agenda can be found on the Council’s website.
  • The Northeast Fisheries Science Center issued a new report on Northeast multispecies (groundfish) economic performance in from May 2013 to April 2014. The report includes data on vessel performance, employment, financial viability, and fleet diversity. Data shows that Massachusetts as a home port state has suffered the most over the last four years with a $22.2 million loss in gross groundfish revenues.
  • Researchers began their third year of a long-term study on gray seal pups off the Cape and Islands. The study focuses on health, behavior, and habitat of the local seals that are drawn to the area at this time of year to breed and give birth. Researchers would like to better understand the ecological impact of the expanding seal population.
  • Fishermen have expressed concern over the expanding seal populations in Chatham, claiming they are a “nuisance” and contribute to declining fish stocks. Town officials sent a letter to NOAA (the office is currently collecting comments on guidelines under the Marine Mammal Protection Act) in support of determining ways to control the population.
  • Casco Bay wild mussel populations are declining, but the reason is unclear. Some theories are warming sea waters, ocean acidification, disease, and predators; it is likely a combination of factors. Mussel growers, however, are having marked success.
  • A WGBH story spoke of the need to diversify seafood menus in New England. Given the declining status of iconic species such as cod, some restaurants are trying to offer other “trash fish,” or fish that has previously been thought of as discard.
  • A new set of web tools developed by CEI aims to better integrate Maine seafood into the local food system as well as stay up to date on consumer trends. The tools include lists of in-season seafood, local products, the seafood processors and handlers, and more.
  • The Gulf of Maine Research Institute sponsored a Marine Resource Education Program workshop for commercial and for-hire recreational fishermen last week. Under the instruction of NOAA and university-based scientists, participants learned about fish population development, what impacts them, and how to achieve sustainable yields.
  • A recent blog highlights the importance of protecting deep sea corals, which are essential habitat for marine life. We are just beginning to learn more of their importance. These habitats are under threat from commercial fishing and bottom-tending fishing gear. The Mid-Atlantic Fishery Management Council is one of the first to recognize coral value and vulnerability, and is working to “minimize” fishing impacts.
  • NMFS is opening a public comment period on the proposed Standardized Bycatch Reporting Methodology Omnibus Amendment. The proposal, developed by the Mid-Atlantic and New England Fishery Management Councils, is an attempt to improve fisheries observation in the two regions. The comment period will be open through February 20, 2015.
  • NMFS is proposing new rules for its Large Coastal & Small Coastal Atlantic Shark Management Measures to offer more flexibility in Atlantic shark fishing regulation. NMFS will have four public hearings on the proposal, and a public comment period is open until April 3, 2015.
  • A new satellite-based surveillance system has been developed to track illegal fishing boats by using a ship’s automatic identification system to determine its position. Illegal fishing is a major issue, and Pew Charitable Trusts estimates that one in five fish sold in restaurants is caught illegally. The success of the new system, however, will rely on government use and enforcement.

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