In the News

Fish Talk in the News – Friday, December 14

A map of sea temperatures during the “ocean heat wave” of 2012, when warm waters disrupted the food web and puffin chicks starved. Photo Credit: Andrew Pershing/Gulf of Maine Research Institute

  • The Gulf of Maine is having its third-warmest year on record. Based on 37 years of satellite data, the Gulf of Maine Research Institute (GMRI) reports that surface temperatures this year are 2.8 degrees Fahrenheit above normal. Andrew Pershing, chief scientific officer at GMRI, told the Portland Press Herald that “250 of 313 days so far have qualified as an ocean heat wave. Weird is the new normal.” Deeper waters in Jordan Basin have also reached the second-highest on record. As the Portland Press Herald reports, the warming waters are affecting the local ecosystem, including puffins, sea turtles, and kelp.
  • According to a new report from NOAA, New Bedford was the most valuable port in the United States in 2017 for the 18th consecutive year. Fishermen in New Bedford landed 111 million pounds valued at $389 million, an increase over 2016’s $327 million. Scallops accounted for 80 percent of the landings value. A separate report based on 2016 data estimates that New England fisheries produced 97,000 jobs and $8.7 billion in sales.
  • NOAA reports 76 confirmed whale entanglements nationwide in 2017, 70 percent of which were caused by fishing gear. In Massachusetts, there were 20 entanglements – mostly humpback whales – concentrated along Cape Cod and Stellwagen Bank. Humpbacks whales were the most frequently entangled followed by gray whales, minke whales, blue whales, and North Atlantic right whales. Regarding right whales, NOAA stated, “Although the U.S. confirmed entanglements were lower, the overall entanglement of this species remains high and of concern.”
  • Last week, the New England Fishery Management Council voted to maintain the small-mesh whiting fishery as an open fishery. As the Gloucester Daily Times reports, “The [13-0-1] vote defeated a proposal to establish requirements for limiting the access to the small-mesh multispecies fishery that has grown in popularity among local groundfishermen as other stocks have become less abundant or been subject to stricter management policies.” Those who supported limited access said the measures were needed to address bycatch issues.
  • The Rhode Island Fishermen’s Advisory Board has voted against the Vineyard Wind offshore wind farm planned for waters between Martha’s Vineyard and Block Island. The $2 billion project, which would supply electricity to Massachusetts, would be the nation’s first major offshore wind farm. The Advisory Board’s Chairman told the Boston Globe, “We’re not against wind farms – we just don’t want to be collateral damage and stomped out of existence.” Their remaining concern with the project is the array of the turbines, which fishermen have said would cause conflict between lobstermen and draggers. A spokesman for Vineyard Wind, which may provide financial compensation to the fishing industry, said, “We remain very hopeful and confident that we’re going to get a good deal done for everybody. There’s too much at stake to consider anything else.”
  • There are mixed opinions about a proposed land-based salmon aquaculture facility in Belfast, ME for which city councilors unanimously voted to change zoning regulations. Nordic Aquafarms hopes to break ground on the $500 million project next summer, which could produce 15,000 metric tons of salmon by 2021. Key concerns from opponents include water use and potential pollution. The Boston Globe reports, “Despite concerns, the company’s plans have been endorsed by several of the region’s major environmental and scientific groups…” Proponents of the project say that Maine provides the ideal location for aquaculture given its large coastline and access to freshwater. Also, majority of U.S. imported seafood is farmed and domestic aquaculture can help with the rising demand for seafood. Read more about the debate in the Boston Globe.

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