In the News

Fish Talk in the News – Friday, February 23

A North Atlantic right whale entangled in fishing line. Image via NOAA.

  • At a seminar with lobstermen, scientists at Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution said that ropeless lobster gear can help protect endangered North Atlantic right whales. There are only about 450 individuals left in the population, and 82 percent of deaths between 2010 and 2014 resulted from entanglement in fishing gear. A biologist from Woods Hole research center Mark Baumgartner told the Boston Globe, “Our goal in developing ropeless fishing methods is to give those fishermen who are interested in solving this problem the tools to do so. I have yet to hear of any other solution from the industry, scientists, or conservationists that will solve this problem once and for all.” Many in the industry remain unconvinced, however, saying that ropeless gear is not possible and is not the solution.
  • Estimating fish populations is no easy task, but researchers at UMass School for Marine Science and Technology have developed a video-based groundfish sampling survey that they hope will improve fisheries data collection. The system uses five cameras that are mounted to the net: one that livestreams back to the wheelhouse and four that capture images of each passing fish. Additionally the cod end is left open so fish can swim out, eliminating the need to haul the net. Possible applications of the system include improving stock assessments and reducing bycatch.
  • It’s winter calving season for North Atlantic right whales. Nine adult whales were spotted in Georgia waters last weekend, but there still aren’t signs of calves. Surveys in the area have been conducted since the 1980s, and there has never been a season without calves. In the Northeast, about 39 right whales have been spotted in Cape Cod Bay and researchers say there is “an unusual number of reproductively mature females,” reports the Cape Cod Times.
  • NOAA’s Seafood Import Monitoring Program officially went into effect at the beginning of the year, however, since then, regulators have been operating under an “informed compliance” phase, allowing some vessels without the proper data to continue operations. That phase is coming to an end, though, on April 7th. NOAA Fisheries said in a statement that they have “observed an encouraging and steadily increasing rate of compliance with SIMP filings.” Questions do still remain around how shrimp fisheries will comply. Read more here.
  • In a recent interview with the Cape Cod Times, the new Regional Administrator Mike Pentony commented on the road ahead for fisheries in New England. He said that “the number one issue right now is the right whale crisis.” He also commented that it’s important to keep an eye on the Gulf of Maine lobster population so that they don’t decline like the southern New England population. Other topics discussed include aquaculture, groundfish and Carlos Rafael, and climate change.

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