In the News

Fish Talk in the News – Friday, February 5

In the midst of a lobster bait shortage, synthetic bait presents an alternative for lobstermen. Photo credit: Brian Skerry/NEOO.

  • The Boston Globe and the Associated Press highlighted a major climate study from NOAA evaluating how climate change affects 82 marine fish and invertebrate species in the northeast. The study found that half of the species studied are “highly” or “very highly” vulnerable to climate change and that “80 percent of those species are likely to move beyond their normal habitats.” Peter Baker of The Pew Charitable Trusts told the Boston Globe that “the study reflected the need for a ‘big picture’ approach to managing fish stocks that ‘sets rules with the ecosystem’s changes in mind.”
  • Fishermen are concerned about the most recent quota cuts in the Northeast groundfish fishery set for 2016.These include a 55 percent cut for gray sole/witch flounder, a 66 percent cut for Georges Bank cod, a 33 percent cut for windowpane flounder, and a 26 percent cut for Gulf of Maine yellowtail flounder. The issue remains that NOAA scientists and fishermen disagree about the status of groundfish stocks.
  • Maine’s Department of Marine Resources will study the impacts of warming ocean temperatures on Gulf of Maine lobster biology, population abundance, and immune response. The state will also study the economic impact of warming waters on the lobster industry. In 2014, lobster landings in Maine were valued at $465.9 million. DMR is providing $700,000 in funding so that it can better understand how to maintain lobster health.
  • According to the Gulf of Maine Research Institute, lobstermen may see a 2016 season very similar to 2012 – high volume early in the season and low prices – due to warmer waters. Temperatures are expected to be above average for winter and early spring, but the industry, including processors and dealers, is better prepared for it this time, says executive director of the Maine’s Lobstermen’s Association Patrice McCarron.
  • The Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission voted to postpone a new management plan for the declining southern New England lobster stock. The stock’s population has fallen to record lows. ASMFC postponed to provide a technical committee more time and will revisit the issue in May or August.
  • Representatives Poliquin and Pingree testified in favor of a bill that would exempt sea urchins and sea cucumbers harvested in Maine from federal inspection before they are imported or exported. The species have short shelf-lives and the representatives say delays can lead to spoilage and loss of economic value.
  • NOAA Fisheries recently expanded the critical habitat for endangered North Atlantic right whales to encompass its entire feeding ground in the Gulf of Maine and Georges Bank. The expansion does not include any new management measures, but fishermen and lobstermen are still expressing concern. The expansion was based on 35 years of aerial and ship-based surveys, but DMR and lobster groups say that “the area proposed for designation is not based on the best available science.”
  • The Maine Department of Marine Resources is closing scalloping ground in Cobscook Bay and the Owls Head area of Lower Penobscot Bay. The department is also limiting harvest to one day each for draggers and divers in the St. Croix River. Fishermen in the areas have reached their targets for the year.
  • Connecticut Representative Courtney and other members of CT’s delegation have come out opposed to a plan that would “transfer control of 155 square miles of federally controlled ocean to Rhode Island and New York jurisdiction.” Rep. Courtney says that Connecticut stakeholders were not consulted about the proposal, which would block fishermen and lobstermen from waters they have been fishing for decades.
  • New research from NOAA suggests that “Atlantic coastal areas may be particularly vulnerable to near-future sea-level rise from present-day high greenhouse gas emission rates.” The U.S. east coast is a particular sea level rise “hotspot” as sea level rise rates are three to four times more than the global average. Since average sea level rise in the Atlantic is greater than in the Pacific, “global average measures of sea level rise become less representative of the regional scale changes.”

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