In the News

Fish Talk in the News – Friday, January 30

Sea scallop with 100 eyes at Stellwagen Bank National Marine Sanctuary. Photo Credit: Dann Blackwood, USGS

  • Northeast Regional Administrator John Bullard announced that NMFS will not alter the Gulf of Maine cod emergency interim measures. The New England groundfish industry, as well as congressional delegates, have repeatedly requested for NMFS to loosen the restrictions, but in a statement after this week’s NEFMC meeting Bullard stated, “The main reason we took the interim action is to save cod… increasing the 200-lb limit increases the mortality of cod and only provides a marginal economic benefit.” NMFS also rejected the bargain deal proposed by Gloucester Fishermen and will not raise haddock quotas.
  • River herring and shad will not be included as part of the Atlantic herring fishery. Supporters of the idea thought placing the species under a management plan would provide greater protection for the populations, but NEFMC decided that the data was insufficient to support doing so. The Council will revisit the issue within three years.
  • An editorial in the Bangor Daily News recommends fishery regulators use Maine’s lobster industry as a model for ecosystem-based management. Currently in New England, each species is managed individually, rules apply to far too large an area, and fishermen have lost faith in the system. The author states that “the lobster [industry’s] success can, in part, be owed to responsible, shared management through a system in which lobstermen have a buy-in.”
  • Only about six weeks in, Maine’s Department of Marine Resources is likely to cut the 70-day scallop season short. Two areas, Cobscook Bay (only a 50-day season) and Zone 2, could close in just two weeks forcing scallopers to find new areas, which are likely already crowded. Scallopers were warned of the early closures when the season was set last year.
  • Maine’s scallop industry has been on the decline in recent years, and now scallop divers feel that they should not be held to the same restrictions as draggers—70 day season over four months and 15 gallons of scallops per day. Scallop divers are outnumbered by draggers and their efforts cause less environmental damage. Divers believe being held to the same state limits as draggers is unfair.
  • The Maine Department of Marine Resources may require elver (American eel) exporters to hold a $5,000 license and use an electronic swipe card system to ensure proper management of the industry and limit illegal activity. The proposed system would allow regulators to better track the product. Maine (one of only two elver export states) is the number one U.S. exporter of elvers, and just one pound of the eels can sell for hundreds to thousands of dollars. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is currently considering American eel for protection under the Endangered Species Act.
  • After nearly four years of legal battles, Richard Cooke, a Mashpee shellfisherman, received an aquaculture license to establish an oyster farm in Popponesset Bay. Cooke says he will begin planting oyster seed on the 1-acre farm in early spring.
  • Since the start of 2015 coldwater shrimp prices are up 7.5%, $0.5 per pound. Traders are concerned about a short supply after Maine’s 2015 shrimp season was cancelled and Newfoundland and Greenland reduced their quotas.
  • Portland Mayor Michael Brennan hopes to boost Maine’s commercial fishing industry by encouraging cafeterias to serve more locally caught fish. For the initiative to be effective, cafeterias would need to buy in high enough volume and food buyers would need to offer the local fish at an affordable price.
  • Menhaden stocks are still at historic lows. A recent blog reminds us, “This latest evaluation of the menhaden stock addresses only its ability to sustain and harvest and avoid depletion, not its capacity to provide adequate forage for other species in the ecosystem.” Menhaden play a crucial role in the ecosystem as a prey fish for other species. Not until menhaden can fulfill this role should the stock be considered healthy.
  • A NBC News story highlights the concern of increased fish consumption dangerously decreasing fish populations. Fish is high in omega-3 and is a good source of protein, minerals, and vitamins. Doctors suggest everyone should eat 8 oz. of fish per week, but fish populations may not be able to withstand this. Experts say we need to encourage people to eat lower on the food chain and be aware of sustainable seafood choices.
  • A new study from Aarhus University in Denmark reports that climate change in promoting population interchange of Pacific and Atlantic fishes. Arctic warming is removing the natural barrier – ice – that has previously separated fishes in the two oceans. Researchers are concerned about the ecological consequences of this such as increased competition and invading species.
  • Now through March 31, NMFS is taking public comments on its draft Climate Science Strategy. Climate change and ocean acidification are greatly impacting U.S. fisheries, and the draft recommends a variety of actions to address these problems.

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