In the News

Fish Talk in the News – Friday, February 19

Atlantic cod. (Photo credit: Joachim Muller)

  • Researchers with the National Audubon Society tracked the winter migration of 19 Maine Atlantic puffins for the first time. Dr. Stephen Kress told the AP, “The data showed puffins winter over underwater canyons and sea mountains in the Atlantic.”
  • According to a new study published this week, highlighted by NPR, catch share programs reduce risk for fishermen as well as benefit marine ecosystems. The study focused on the West Coast sablefish fishery which transitioned from a derby system to a catch share program in 2001. As a result, fishermen are less pressured to put themselves in dangerous situations. Others have emphasized, however, that catch share programs may not reduce risk “where derby-style fishing didn’t previously exist” and the focus should be on finding markets for small fishermen.
  • The New York Times reports that as part of an effort to “address lawlessness at sea and to better protect offshore workers and the marine environment,” the United States will ban imports of fish that were caught using forced labor. This action follows President Obama’s approval of the Port State Measures Agreement last week, which allows port officials to turn away foreign vessels under suspect of illegal fishing as well as NOAA’s plan to improve seafood tracking in the supply chain. Public attention to these issues grew last summer after the New York Times published a story on sea slavery in Southeast Asia.
  • New England’s lobster processing capacity has grown in New England, and as a result U.S. lobstermen are sending less catch to Canadian processors. As reported by the Associated Press, U.S. lobster exports dropped 2 million pounds between 2014 and 2015, even though lobster catch was booming during that time. Other factors may contribute to the decrease in exports, but this shift is still important for the growth of New England’s lobster industry.
  • S. Senator Blumenthal hosted a group of Connecticut commercial fishermen to discuss current fishery regulations. The meeting was sponsored by Connecticut Seafood Council. Many fishermen expressed concern about current catch limits, gear restrictions, bycatch mortality rules, and seasonal closures.
  • Following comments from Massachusetts lobstermen, NOAA Fisheries recalculated observer coverage for New England lobster boats for the remainder of the 2015 season; coverage decreased for Massachusetts lobstermen from 18 sea days to 6, but increased for Maine lobstermen from 14 sea days 33. New Hampshire and Rhode Island lobstermen will each have one scheduled sea day.
  • Progress on the Maine lobster licensing bill designed to decrease time on a waiting list has stalled. A legislative committee deliberating the bill is concerned about overfishing what is already considered a “fully exploited” fishery and cannot agree on a proposal.
  • New studies from Cornell University show the increased threat of disease to marine species as ocean temperatures rise. One study focused on the Atlantic Ocean and the occurrence of lobster shell disease. A co-author of the study told reporters that “scientists will be on the alert for increases in shell disease levels off Maine this spring.” Shell disease is already widespread in southern New England, and Maine lobsters may soon be at increased risk.

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