In the News

Fish Talk in the News – Tuesday, November 17

The thorny skate is one of at least three skate species in the Gulf of Maine. Image via NOAA/NMFS.

  • NOAA Fisheries will continue to pay for at-sea monitoring of New England fisheries through the end of the year. Funds for monitoring have lasted longer than expected; officials originally predicted that funds would run out in August.
  • Earlier this month, a Barnstable Superior Court Judge ordered the F/V Tom Slaughter, a hydraulic clamming vessel, to stop dredging in town waters and tying to the town pier. The town has been fighting to stop the vessel from dredging for almost a year because of the damage dredging causes to the surrounding environment. A further hearing is scheduled for November 20.
  • Animal Welfare Institute and Defenders of Wildlife have petitioned to protect the thorny skate, one of at least three skate species in the Gulf of Maine, under the Endangered Species Act. Thorny skate species have been in decline for over 50 years, according to federal surveys. Earlier this decade, the population was only 3 percent of its target level. There is no commercial fishery for the skate, but it can still be caught as bycatch. Some lobstermen are concerned because they use the skate as bait. NOAA has one year to review and decide.
  • Maine’s scallop season begins on December 1. The state is expected to see an influx of fishing vessels, but the Department of Marine Resources is worried about limited space in harbors. Cobscook Bay is Maine’s most productive fishing area, but a pier collapse in Eastport last year greatly reduced the number of marina spots available. The marina is now completely closed for repairs. Additionally, other towns have now adopted mooring-limits. One fisherman said he will just have to “play it by ear.”
  • An Ellsworth American opinion piece covers the controversy around rockweed harvesting along Maine’s coast. According to the author, there is an on-going debate between harvesters and conservationists in regards to the importance of rockweed to the intertidal ecosystem. Also, even though the state issues harvesting license, Maine’s state law is fuzzy as to whether or not rockweed is a harvestable public good.
  • ASMFC members will meet on December 7 to decide if there will be a Gulf of Maine shrimp fishing season next year. The winter fishery, which was popular among summer lobstermen, has been closed for two consecutive years due to declining populations of spawning females.
  • ASMFC approved increases to the 2016 black sea bass commercial quota and recreational harvest limit, which are now 2.71 million pounds and 2.88 million pounds, respectively. Fishermen, who have said that black sea bass populations have been increasing due to warming temperatures, are happy with the changes.
  • An ASMFC science committee is examining the collapsing Southern New England lobster stock; a report is expected in February. An earlier report said that the stock continues to decline due to fishing pressure and poor environmental conditions. A Massachusetts lobstermen and member of the ASMFC lobster board told AP “that a moratorium is not likely on the table but that something needs to be done to conserve the region’s lobsters, which are beloved by restaurant diners.”
  • The New England Fishery Management Council released the final agenda for its December full council meeting. NEFMC will meet in Portland, ME December 1-3. One item on the agenda is to review Science and Statistical Committee recommendations for overfishing limits and acceptable biological catches for Northeast groundfish stocks and others.

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