In the News

Fish Talk in the News – Friday, May 1

A juvenile black sea bass off the north shore of Massachusetts. Black sea bass populations are shifting north due to warming waters. Photo: Alex Shure

  • The 2015 fishing season begins today, May 1, and new groundfish management measures established in Framework 53 take effect. Gulf of Maine cod commercial catch limit is set at 386 metric tons, a 75% reduction from 2014, and recreational possession of cod is prohibited. Winter flounder catch limits were also reduced, but haddock allowable catch will nearly double. The new rules are implemented through Framework Adjustment 53, which NOAA Fisheries approved last week.
  • Yesterday, the House Natural Resources Committee advanced Rep. Yong’s legislation to reauthorize the Magnuson-Stevens Act. The approved bill is nearly identical to the one passed by the Committee last year. Rep. Young says the proposed amendments in the bill will provide more flexibility in rebuilding stocks, but environmental advocates worry that the changes will reverse years of stock recovery.
  • NEFMC voted to not close Stellwagen Bank to recreational anglers, charter boats, or for hire vessels. The Council voted down the proposal that would have designated popular fishing grounds as a research area.
  • A new report from the Icelandic Bank Research names New Bedford, MA the most valuable U.S. fishing port for the 15th consecutive year. In 2013, New Bedford landed $379 million worth of seafood. The city’s success is owed largely to scallops landings. The same report also found that Maine and Massachusetts account for about 60% of landing values on the east coast.
  • Maine is trying to better understand one if its newest visitors: the black sea bass. A Northeastern University graduate student is studying the abundance and distribution shifts of the fish, as well as its ecological and economic impacts. The Department of Marine Resources is considering new rules for a commercial fishery, and the fish is increasingly being offered at local fish markets and restaurants.
  • Maine’s Marine Resources Committee voted down a bill that would have blocked alewives from reaching the upper St. Croix River. The river was opened to alewife migration in 2013, but supporters of the bill claim that the fish never migrated that far upriver due to natural formations blocking their passage. Scientific data, howver, shows that alewives have historically been found well into the upper sections of the St. Croix.
  • The water chemistry in parts of Casco Bay is rapidly changing, reports Friends of Casco Bay. Looking at 20 years of data, the environmental group says that the bay is overall healthy, but five coastal sites have higher acidity and lower oxygen levels. Mike Doan, a research associate with Friends of Casco Bay, points to increased nitrogen levels as the cause of higher acidity.
  • New Hampshire, Rhode Island, and Maine will receive $2.3 million in fishery disaster funds. The money will be distributed to fishermen struggling with cod catch limits. A total of $32.8 million in disaster funds was allocated to the New England states last year.
  • State Representatives from Massachusetts and New Hampshire jointly filed a bill – the Fisheries Investment and Regulatory Relief Act – to release $100 million under the Saltonstall-Kennedy Act. The money is normally released in fisheries research grants, but previously, Congress and NOAA have not released the full available amount. MA Rep. Keating said the bill would ensure all funds went towards fishery research, monitoring, and management.
  • The comment period for Atlantic Herring Amendment 8 closed yesterday. The amendment will aim to set effective catch limits for herring and prevent overfishing. NEFMC says the changes could be approved next year.
  • A recent New York Times article featured the New England Aquarium’s Marine Conservation Action Fund, a program that awards micro-grants to marine conservation projects around the world. Over the last 15 years NEAQ has awarded $700,000 to 122 projects in 40 countries. The funded projects cover a range of topics inclduing fish market research, coral reef assessment, and scientific education/training.
  • Deepwater Wind began construction this week on the first offshore wind farm in the U.S. Expected to be functional in fall 2016, the wind farm located off the coast of Block Island will have five turbines producing a total of 30 megawatts, which is enough energy to power all homes and businesses on the island. Energy will also be sent to mainland Rhode Island.

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