New England Fisheries

A Look Back at 2018

An octopus in the Northeast Canyons and Seamounts Marine National Monument. Image via NOAA.

As 2018 draws to a close, let’s take a look back at the topics and top stories highlighted on Talking Fish this year. Per usual, it was quite the busy year for New England fisheries and ocean issues.

Habitat Protection

Healthy fisheries rely on healthy habitats, and the New England Fishery Management Council kicked off 2018 with a habitat win. The Council passed the Omnibus Deep-Sea Coral Amendment, and though more could’ve been done, the action protected over 25,000 square miles of fragile seafloor habitat. Subsequent management actions, however, continued to fall short of needed habitat protection when NOAA Fisheries implemented the Omnibus Habitat Amendment 2 in April and the Council took final action on the Clam Dredge Framework in December.

The need for habitat protection extends beyond fisheries, though, and that’s why New Englanders are dedicated to defending the Northeast Canyons and Seamounts Marine National Monument – the only permanently protected area in the U.S. Atlantic Ocean. It was cause for celebration when, in October, a U.S. District Court judge dismissed the lawsuit against the Monument. Threats to the ocean, however, still lurk in the Trump Administration and Congress.

Threats from the Federal Level

The ocean was under attack from the Administration on multiple fronts in 2018. Early in the year, the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management released a Draft Proposed Program to open 90 percent of the U.S. ocean to offshore oil and gas. New England stakeholders, including fishermen, scientists, environmentalists, and elected officials strongly came out against the proposal.

Then in June, National Ocean Month nonetheless, Trump repealed the National Ocean Policy via a new executive order. As a true ocean leader, though, New England remains dedicated to sound ocean management and informed decision making; for example, the Northeast Ocean Data Portal continues to be an important tool utilized by stakeholders and managers.

On the legislative side, the Magnuson-Stevens Act, our federal fisheries law, was jeopardized by partisan attempts to weaken the Act and create loopholes around science-based catch limits. H.R. 200 passed the House in July, but a companion bill was never taken up in the Senate.

Preserving New England Species

Efforts to protect our most iconic species – including North Atlantic right whales, Atlantic cod, and Atlantic herring – continued throughout 2018 and will continue into 2019 and beyond. North Atlantic right whales remain critically endangered, but luckily our neighbors to the north took action to protect migrating populations this year, and it’s certain that discussions about how to adapt fishing gear to prevent entanglement will continue in the new year.

As for Atlantic cod, stocks in the New England remain overfished, yet fishery managers still raised catch limits for the 2018 fishing year. A key issue in 2019 will be improving at-sea monitoring in the groundfish fishery to ensure full catch accounting of cod and other species. Atlantic herring – a key forage species – is also in a dire state, but hopefully a new amendment passed by the Council this fall will bring some positive change to the fishery if approved by the agency.

From the impacts of climate change to the rippling effects of the Codfather’s criminal enterprise, here are our most-read 8 stories of 2018:

1) Ocean Acidification Threatens Our Shellfish by Allison Lorenc

2) Thank You, Canada, for Taking Bold Action to Protect North Atlantic Right Whales by Erica Fuller

3) The Magnuson-Stevens Act: A Safety Net for the Future by Jeffrey Pike and Jean Flemma

4) Atlantic Cod is still a World of Unknown, So Why Raise the Catch Limit by Allison Lorenc

5) Warming in Deep Waters May Impact the Gulf of Maine by Talking Fish

6) To Come Back from Carlos Rafael, New England Fisheries Need an Attitude Change by Peter Shelley

7) John Bullard Op-Ed on Carlos Rafael Case By Talking Fish

8) What is Localized Depletion and How Do We Address It? By Erica Fuller

Thanks for keeping up with Talking Fish in 2018. We look forward to continuing the conversation in the new year.


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