In the News

Fish Talk in the News – Friday, March 23

Offshore wind is expanding in New England. Image of Block Island Wind Farm via NOAA Sea Grant.

  • Senator Shaheen of New Hampshire negotiated for full funding of New England’s groundfish at-sea monitoring program in the omnibus government spending bill, which the Senate passed this week. The new funding will prevent the cost of the program from falling on the fishermen. The budget also includes “$2 million in new funding for New England groundfish research, including the impacts of changing climatic conditions and warming waters on the fishery,” according to a press statement from the Senator.
  • The southern Georges Bank and Mid-Atlantic stocks of red hake are overfished according to NOAA Fisheries. In 2001, fishermen caught more than 3.6 million pounds of red hake; in 2016, catch fell to about 1 million pounds. This whitefish species is most commonly landed in Rhode Island, Massachusetts, Connecticut, and New York. The New England Fishery Management Council must now create a rebuilding plan for the stock.
  • Scallop prices are expected to drop in 2018 due to increased landings, harvest opportunity, and imports. From 2014 to 2016 harvest increased from 33.8 million pounds to 40.5 million pounds, respectively, and in 2018 harvesters may be allowed to land more scallops than in previous years. Scallop imports have also increased to keep up with consumer demand. The price per pound that fishermen receive at the dock has decreased slightly in recent years, and consumers may now start to see that change reflected in prices.
  • In testimony before a House appropriations subcommittee, U.S. Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross said he wants NOAA Fisheries to work on reducing the seafood trade deficit, which last year was estimated at $14 billion. The U.S. imports more than 90 percent of its seafood. SeafoodSource.com reports that Ross suggested a two-prong strategy: “I think there’s some potential that some of the constraints we had on fresh catch [in the U.S.] may need to be relaxed a little bit…it’s easy to be a little bit overzealous and therefore hold down the production of fish. Second…we should be careful about importing seafood from places that do not adhere to the same standards we would have for aquaculture here in the U.S.”
  • The first offshore wind farm in the U.S. is up-and-running off Block Island and state officials are expected to announce the winners of bids for new wind farms south of Martha’s Vineyard; however, some New England fishermen are expressing opposition. They agree that the turbines have attracted fish, but say that cable line areas are now devoid of fish. They also claim that there is gear conflict with portions of cable that couldn’t be buried. Deepwater Wind, developer of the Block Island wind farm told the Boston Globe, “There’s zero scientific evidence [that underwater cables have harmed the fishery]. We’ve heard of no decline of fishing activity around the project.” Developers, as well as elected officials, want offshore wind and fishing to be able to coexist.

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