NOAA to pay for at-sea monitors through November

October 1, 2015 — NOAA Fisheries will continue bearing the cost for at-sea monitoring of Northeast multispecies groundfish vessels at least through the end of November, three months past the target date the agency initially set for the expense to shift to permit holders.

This extension — the second in as many months — is based on the same rationale as the first: with fishermen producing fewer fishing days because of slashed quotas and area closures, the money the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration budgeted for at-sea monitoring for at least 24 percent of total fishing days is lasting longer than the agency expected.

NOAA initially said the money for at-sea monitoring — which runs to about $710 per vessel per day — would run out around Aug. 31 and then the responsibility for paying for the legally mandated at-sea monitoring would have to be borne by the fishermen.

In early August, NOAA said decreased effort by the fleet had reduced monitoring expenditures enough for the money to last through Oct. 31. Now that same reduction in fishing effort has given the fleet another month-long reprieve, but it has not solved the long-term dilemma of how to pay for the at-sea monitoring.

The issue certainly is not going away.

NOAA is adamant that it expects permit holders to ultimately assume the cost of monitoring, while fishermen flatly state that the additional expense — heaped upon already miniscule, if non-existent, profit margins — simply will sink the fleet.

In late July, NOAA flatly rejected the request of the New England Fishery Management Council to use its emergency powers to remove all at-sea monitors from groundfish boats for the remainder of the 2015 fishing season.

Instead, NOAA, as well as the Massachusetts Division of Marine Fisheries, advanced the idea that the cost of monitoring be covered by some portion of the $6.9 million remaining in the Bay State’s third phase, or Bin 3, of the federal fishing disaster assistance.

Read the full story at Gloucester Daily Times



Greens’ hopes for quick win on New England monument fade

September 30, 2015 — One month ago, environmental groups were strategizing over their latest bid: Get the Obama administration to create its first marine monument off New England.

They had talks with fishing groups, lawmakers and think tanks. At the end of August, they exchanged emails over their progress — and in one, the president of the Conservation Law Foundation warned everyone to keep quiet about the possibility of a breakthrough at the upcoming Our Ocean Conference in Chile.

“I hope no one is talking about Chile to the outside world,” CLF Interim President Peter Shelley wrote. “It’s one of the few advantages we may have to know that it could happen sooner rather than later.”

The email showed up in response to a public records request that Saving Seafood filed with the office of Maine Gov. Paul LePage’s. The advocacy group — which represents fishermen opposed to the monument — sent the emails to Greenwire yesterday, asserting that they confirm “rumors” of an impending monument announcement from the White House.

Such an announcement would certainly make waves. The proposed monument is small and sees little activity today, but it is near prime fishing grounds. House Republicans have also added the proposal to their arsenal of criticism over the White House’s use of the Antiquities Act (E&E Daily, Sept. 30).

Read the full story from the E&E Reporter

Georges Bank cod stock in grim shape

September 30, 2015 — PORTLAND, Maine (AP) — One of the two critical areas where New England fishermen search for cod may be in even worse shape than suspected.

Fishing managers already knew cod stocks in Georges Bank were thin, but new data from the Northeast Fisheries Science Center say research boats caught less of the fish this past spring than in all but one spring season dating back to 1968.

A report from the center, given to The Associated Press on Tuesday, states that the boats caught about 3.3 pounds of cod each time the net went in and out of the water last spring, compared with more than three times that amount two years earlier. Those numbers were routinely more than 20 pounds per trip in the late 1980s.

The status of cod in Georges Bank, a broad swath of elevated sea floor off the Massachusetts coast, could motivate regulators to again lower catch quotas for the area. Quotas have plummeted from more than 4,800 metric tons in 2012 to less than 2,000 metric tons this year.

It’s more bad news for the faltering fishery, which generations of New England fishermen have relied upon to make a living. Regulators and marine scientists have said overfishing hit the stock hard and warming oceans could be making it worse.

“Is that coming as a surprise from anybody who knows what the water temperature is out there? No, it shouldn’t be,” said David Goethel, a New Hampshire-based fisherman. “These fish are declining because of climate change.”

Regulators say the Gulf of Maine, home of the other key cod fishing ground off New England, is also in dire shape — National Marine Fisheries Service scientists said last year the amount of cod spawning in the Gulf was estimated to be 3 percent to 4 percent of its target level.

Read the full story from the Associated Press at the Providence Journal


New Bedford crab fisherman opposes ‘National Marine Monument’ for Atlantic

September 29, 2015 — WASHINGTON — Jon Williams is hoping President Obama will think twice before establishing a National Marine Monument off the New England coast in waters where his five boats fish for Atlantic red crab.

“It’s very scary,” said Williams, owner of New Bedford’s Atlantic Red Crab Co. that employs nearly 150 people.

Should the New England Coral Canyons and Seamounts Area be named a national monument, Williams said he would be cut off from fishing grounds that account for between 20 and 40 percent of his red crab haul – an annual loss of around $5 million.

“We have to fish these areas. That’s where the red crab live – at these depths,” he said.

Williams testified Tuesday before a House Natural Resources subcommittee that was examining the issue. Some House Republicans oppose the process of designating national monuments, which essentially leaves the decision solely in the hands of the president. Rep. Don Young, R-Alaska, has proposed giving Congress and affected governors a say.

A number of petitions are pending with the Obama Administration to designate areas off of Alaska and Cape Cod, which would permanently protect them from commercial fishing or oil exploration. And, the entire Connecticut delegation wrote President Obama earlier this month asking that he establish the Atlantic monument to safeguard “the abundance of fish, whales, dolphins and other marine creatures found in this spectacular undersea landscape.”

Read the full story at the Taunton Daily Gazette

Read Jon Williams’ testimony here


Fisheries observer program spawns more questions

September 29, 2015 — PLYMOUTH, Mass. — The fisheries observer program that looms over the industry in the Northeast won’t go out for public comment until at least December, the New England Fisheries Management Council decided Tuesday.

Years in the making, the preliminary draft of the measure numbers about 500 pages, testimony to the complexity of the effort.

Then there is the cost, which the council staff researched and broke down. It detailed the costs of what the industry will have to pay, and what it will cost the government.

Monitoring estimates by at-sea monitors, who will record bycatch, or fish that are thrown back, stands at $710 per day from the boat and $530 in costs to the government.

But a distinction has crept into the discussion, the difference between the observer program and the monitoring program. Observers are better educated, do more, and will cost boats $818 a day and the government $479.

Read the full story at New Bedford Standard -Times

Officials: Key fishing area for Atlantic cod in dire shape

PORTLAND, Maine (AP) — September 29, 2015 — One of the two critical areas where New England fishermen search for cod may be in even worse shape than suspected.

Fishing managers already knew Georges Bank’s cod were thin. New data from the Northeast Fisheries Science Center says research boats caught less of the fish per trip this past spring than all but one spring season dating back to 1968.

Georges Bank is a broad swath of elevated sea floor off of Massachusetts. The Gulf of Maine cod fishery is the other key cod ground and regulators say it is also in dire shape.

Read the full story from the Associated Press at My Fox Boston

Access options tabled for native shrimp fishery

September 28, 2015 — The three states involved in the Gulf of Maine northern shrimp fishery are no closer to agreeing on future management options for the beleaguered fishery and have postponed until next summer the discussion on limiting access to the fishery when it reopens.

The northern shrimp section of the Atlantic States Marine Fishery Commission, the multi-state regulator for shrimp and other near-shore species, announced it has halted further development of the draft amendment addressing access to the collapsed fishery.

Now it appears it largely will be left to Maine to come up with a plan amenable to Massachusetts, New Hampshire and the rest of the ASMFC.

“The states were having trouble finding something that would work for them all,” said ASMFC spokeswoman Tina Berger. “So, for now, Maine will tackle it on their own because they have by far the largest number of fishermen in the fishery.”

Read the full story at the Gloucester Daily Times



Environmentalists ask court to stop Hawaii tuna quota shift

September 25, 2015 — HONOLULU (AP) – Environmentalists on Friday asked a federal judge to stop the National Marine Fisheries Service from allowing Hawaii-based fishermen to attribute some of the bigeye tuna they catch to U.S. territories.

They argue the agency is enabling the fishermen to circumvent international agreements aimed at controlling the overfishing of a popular tuna species known as ahi.

Earthjustice attorney David Henkin told U.S. District Court Judge Leslie Kobayashi the fisheries service acted illegally when it created a framework allowing Hawaii longline fishermen to record some of their catch as having been caught by fishermen in Guam, the Northern Mariana Islands and American Samoa.

“This is allowing them to fish without limits,” Henkin said of Hawaii fishermen during a hearing in federal court for a motion Earthjustice filed on behalf of the Conservation Council for Hawaii and other environmental groups.

Bradley Oliphant, a U.S. Justice Department attorney who argued on behalf of the fisheries service, said the agency carefully studied the environmental effects of the quota transfer. He said the arrangement meets the requirements of U.S. fisheries and environmental laws.

The 26-member nation Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission, which regulates fishing from east and southeast Asia to waters around Hawaii, set a limit of about 3,500 metric tons for Hawaii longline fishermen this year. That’s about 7 percent less than last year.

Read the full story from the Associated Press at New Jersey Herald 


MAINE: Fishing managers to decide about cutting scallop days

September 28, 2015 — Maine fishery regulators are collecting the final public comments about a plan to cut back the number of scallop fishing days.

The proposal would cut back the number of scallop fishing days in the southern scalloping zone from 70 to 60 days. The state held a series of public hearings on the proposal and is accepting comments until Sunday.

The proposal says the upcoming scallop fishing season would begin in early December and end in mid-April.

Read the full story from the Associated Press here


NOAA Fisheries Announces Draft Ecosystem-based Fishery Management Policy

September 24, 2105 — The following was released by NOAA Fisheries:

Deadline for comments is December 16, 2015

NOAA Fisheries is developing an Agency-wide Ecosystem-based Fishery Management policy, which outlines a set of principles to guide our actions and decisions over the long-term.  The draft policy goals and framework are informed by NOAA Fisheries’ own practices and experience from that of our partners.  These ideas are intended to limit neither discussion nor consideration of other potential policy goals. 

To read the draft policy and learn more about how to comment please visit: