In the News

Fish Talk in the News – Friday, October 30

Ocean acidification is threatening Maine's clam flats. Photo credit: Caleb Slemmons

  • Gulf of Maine cod populations have collapsed to historic lows, and a new study from the Gulf of Maine Research Institute says ocean warming has limited its ability to recover. The warmer temperatures have resulted in fewer fish reaching adulthood. Fisheries management models, however, have not accounted for temperature trends and have thus overestimated population sizes. So, even when fishermen do not exceed their quotas, overfishing is still occurring. Science, AP, and The Boston Globe have all reported on the study.
  • NOAA Fisheries released Fisheries of the United States 2014, its annual report on seafood landings and value. 2014 commercial landings and value were slightly lower than 2013 numbers, but show stability overall. According to NOAA, 2014 landings and value are above the average for the last five years. New England saw a slight increase in 2014 landings and value compared to 2013. Over 80% of landings were in Maine and Massachusetts. New Bedford, MA had the most valuable catch for the fifteenth consecutive year.
  • Warmer waters in the Gulf of Maine have given invasive species such as green crabs the upper hand in the region according to Part 4 of Mayday: Gulf of Maine in Distress. Green crabs have destroyed eelgrass beds, which typically serve as important habitat for other fish and shellfish species. On the bright side, blue crabs have also begun to enter the region and started to prey on the green crabs, but it’s still unknown if they will impact eelgrass beds as well. Other species arriving from the Mid-Atlantic such as longfin squid and black sea bass may actually create economic opportunity.
  • Part 5 in the series addresses the impacts of climate change on Maine’s shellfish industry, specifically mussels impacted by increasingly acidic waters, the result of warmer water and increased precipitation. Woodard reports that monitoring buoys have recorded a 0.3 percent increase in carbon dioxide levels since 2007. These conditions impact both wild and farmed populations of shellfish since they cannot build their shells. The article reports on researchers around the country are working hard to better understand the impacts of ocean acidification on shellfish.
  • Woodard concludes his week-long series in Part 6 by stating that Maine legislators have not done enough to combat the effects of climate change and ocean acidification. GMRI fisheries ecologist Katherine Mills said, “We have to pay attention to the factors we can exert some control over and try to identify ones that would produce the best possible return, the best bang for your buck.” Woodard reports on environmental groups doing their best on the ground, but says their efforts are limited because “the state government isn’t doing more.”
  • New research indicates that a twenty year moratorium on Atlantic cod in northern waters may have been successful. According to a study published this week, within the last decade, cod biomass increased from tens of tons to over 200,000 tons. The Canadian fishing ban still remains in place.
  • Dr. Kathy Sullivan, NOAA Administrator, met with the New Bedford commercial fishing community during part of her trip to New England this week. The meeting was the first between the two since 1993 and served to open communications. Dr. Sullivan said, “It has improved my understanding from talking to people who work out on the water…There are a lot of factors that put people at odds.” She also emphasized the importance of bringing together data and fishermen observations to promote sustainable fisheries.
  • A free lecture series at the New Bedford Whaling Museum begins next week. The series, “Whales in the Heart of the Sea: Our Heritage, Culture, and Changing Values Over Time” will feature three lectures (November 3, 10, and 17) exploring “the connection between the whaling industry of the past and the modern-day understanding and conservation of whales.”


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