In the News

Fish Talk in the News – Friday, January 19

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

  • Atlantic cod populations in New England are at historic lows, but there is some optimism that stocks are “heading in the right direction.” Recent analysis shows that abundance is increasing in both Gulf of Maine and Georges Bank stocks, and the New England Fishery Management Council has increased quotas for the coming fishing year, pending NOAA approval. Council staff, however, are being cautious, one saying, “we’re not sure how long [the increase is] going to last.”
  • The Center for Biological Diversity, Defenders of Wildlife, and the Humane Society of the United States filed a lawsuit against NOAA Fisheries and the Department of Commerce in an effort to protect endangered North Atlantic right whales. “The plaintiffs allege that the federal government has failed to manage the fishing industry by not enforcing the Endangered Species Act and the Marine Mammal Protection Act,” reports the Portland Press Herald. In 2017, 17 North Atlantic right whales died and scientists worry they are heading for extinction. The federal government has 60 days to respond to the lawsuit.
  • NOAA Fisheries issued preliminary civil penalties against Carlos Rafael, including over $900K in fines. The agency alleges 35 violation against Rafael, his business, and his partners, now including violations in the scallop fishery in addition to the groundfish fishery. Rafael’s lawyers have 30 days to respond.
  • Earlier this month, NOAA Fisheries approved the Omnibus Essential Fish Habitat Amendment, largely weakening habitat protection in New England waters. Reactions to the amendment are mixed. One area of particular debate was Georges Bank, where the agency actually decided to keep an important cod habitat area closed to scallop fishing. Gib Brogan from Oceana told the Boston Globe that opening Georges Bank would have “weakened the chances of recovery for the historic groundfish fishery, wreaking more havoc on Atlantic cod populations that have been heavily overfished in recent years.”
  • Michael Pentony was appointed the new Regional Administrator for NOAA Fisheries Greater Atlantic Regional Fisheries Office, succeeding John Bullard who retired. Pentony has served as Assistant Regional Administrator for the Sustainable Fisheries Division since 2014 and has been with the agency since 2002. His first day as regional administrator is Monday, January 22.
  • New England senators and representatives introduced the New England Coastline Protection Act to prohibit offshore oil and gas drilling in New England waters in response to the Trump Administration’s proposal to open many U.S. waters to drilling. The delegation says “the plan threatens coastal communities, fisheries and the economy,” reports the Portland Press Herald.

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