In the News

Fish Talk in the News – Tuesday, December 13

Gray seals appeal to tourists, but many fishermen regard them as pests. Photo credit:Brian Skerry

  • Scientists and fishermen advocating for new population assessments for grey seals received some bad news this week. Kimberly Murray, coordinator of the seal research program at NOAA’s Northeast Fisheries Science Research Center in Woods Hole, MA, said that it could cost as much as a half million dollars to conduct the new seal population study. Those advocating for the study think it’s important that seal populations be accurately understood, given that the animals occupy an important position in the ocean’s complex food chain. However, with the federal budget for seal research stuck at $10,000 – and federal agencies mandated to adhere to the funds they are allocated – the study might not be happening anytime soon.
  • The IRS released new evidence in the case against fishing magnate Carlos Rafael on Thursday. Documents filed in U.S. District Court in Boston provide new insight into his illegal fishing practices, his alleged scheme to smuggle cash to the Azores, and his plans to turn catches of protected fish into large amounts of cash by selling them under the table. The evidence is contained in a partial transcript of a meeting Rafael had with two men he thought were Russian businessmen, but were actually IRS agents operating undercover to learn how Rafael did business.
  • Although Atlantic halibut has been labeled as “overfished” by federal regulators, fishermen have seen the most productive year of halibut fishing since 1972, reeling in more than 215,000 pounds of the fish. The New England Fishery Management Council decided last month to review the management of halibut, though exactly what form the regulation changes will take isn’t yet known. Many fishermen assume the stock has rebuilt in recent years, however better data is needed to fully assess the issue.
  • A group of New England ground fishermen are suing the U.S. Department of Commerce (of which NOAA is a part) in an effort to avoid paying the cost for government-trained monitors. David Goethel, one of the fishermen involved in the case, described monitoring costs as “the final financial blow” to his business. Currently, NOAA requires ground fishermen to carry onboard monitors on 14 percent of their trips. Goethel and others involved in the case are hoping for an outcome that dictates that government-mandated monitors be paid for by the government, not by fishermen.
  • The Obama administration took a huge step forward on fighting seafood fraud this week. The Seafood Import Monitoring Program, which will be overseen by NOAA, will require about 25 percent of imported seafood to be traced from its source all the way to the U.S. border. “Today’s announcement is a groundbreaking step towards more transparency and traceability in the seafood supply chain,” said Beth Lowell, a senior campaign director for the environmental group Oceana, in a statement.

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