Fed fishery council calls for better terms for tuna catches

June 23, 2015 — The Western Pacific Regional Fishery Management Council is calling for improved terms in the South Pacific Tuna Treaty (SPTT) for the Pago-based purse seiner fleet. Winding up its 163rd meeting on Thursday in Honolulu, the Council made several recommendations to address increasingly restricted catch limits on US purse seine and longline vessels in the Western and Pacific Ocean (WCPO).

In a press statement made over the weekend, the Council recognized that the combination of the US high seas purse-seine effort limits by the international Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission (WCPFC) and the removal of historic levels of fishing days in Kiribati waters available under the South Pacific Tuna Treaty (SPTT) may be resulting in reduced supply of tuna offloaded directly to the Pago Pago canneries by US purse-seine vessels.

The Council recommended that NMFS and the State Department improve the current terms of the SPTT with regards to Pago Pago-based US purse seiners. The Council also recommended that NMFS consider developing regulations that would allow fishing effort or catch from Pago Pago-based US purse vessels to be attributed to American Samoa but without an increase in bigeye landed by these vessels.

Read the full story at Samoa News


Georges Bank vote sparks more debate between fishermen, environmentalists

June 21, 2015 — NEW BEDFORD, Mass. — The world of Northeast American fisheries may have felt a seismic shift in the wake of the three-day meeting last week of the New England Fisheries Management Council. But it is much too soon for either side in the endless fishery management debate to claim a victory.

Major non-profit environmental organizations are lamenting the decision by the council to recommend reopening 5,000 square miles of Georges Bank, an area known as the Northern Edge, to fishing after a closure of two decades.

Peter Shelley, senior attorney for the Conservation Law Foundation, charged that the council ignored years of scientific data and analysis and “caved to industry pressures” regarding Georges Bank. (The council did approve four other areas of habitat protection.)

“The council hammered the final nail into the coffin of what could have been a landmark victory for ocean habitats protection in New England,” Shelley wrote on his organization’s web site.

Dr. Sarah Smith, a member of the Fisheries Solutions Center at the Environmental Defense Fund, wrote The Standard-Times in an e-mail, “We are disappointed that the council chose short-term economic gains for a few over the long-term health of the fishery, particularly struggling stocks such as Georges Bank cod and yellowtail flounder.

“The Council’s preferred alternative overlooks our best scientific information, and perhaps most troubling, would virtually eliminate protection for sensitive areas that serve as critical habitats for juvenile cod and other groundfish.”

Read the full story at the New Bedford Standard-Times



ASMFC: June 29 Atlantic Herring Conference Call Cancelled

June 22, 2015 — The following was released by the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission

Arlington, VA – The Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission’s Atlantic Herring Section will not meet via conference call on June 29 at 10 AM to discuss Area 1A landings and days out measures. As of June 19th, preliminary landings for Area 1A are estimated to be 1,200 mt, 1,100 mt less than was projected to have been harvested at this time. The next Section Days Out meeting is scheduled for July 30th.  Information on that meeting will be released in mid-July.

Jonah crabs booming in value as managers seek fishery plan

June 22, 2015 — PORTLAND, Maine (AP) — New England lobstermen are catching and selling more of a long-overlooked crab species in their traps, leading regulators to try to craft a management plan for the fishery before it becomes overexploited.

The Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission is working on regulations for Jonah crabs, a species common along the Eastern Seaboard that is rapidly growing in market share as an economic alternative to more expensive Dungeness and stone crabs. The crabs are popular with diners and cooks alike for their meaty claws and as a low-cost source of processed crab meat.

Jonah crab catch increased sixfold from 2000 to 2013, with fishermen catching nearly 7,000 metric tons two years ago, federal data show. The crabs also increased more than 700 percent in value in that time, with the fishery worth nearly $13 million in 2013.

Read the full story from the Associated Press at The Washington Times

Fishing council would re-open Georges Bank

June 19, 2015 — In what many of its members called a compromise, but environmentalists branded as a betrayal, the New England Fishery Management Council on Tuesday voted to reopen vast portions of Georges Bank to fishing.

The close vote — 7-6, with two abstentions and one recusal — opens up about 5,000 square miles of ocean bottom to groundfishing for the first time in more than two decades, leaving about 2,000 square miles of protected areas on Georges Bank. The action still must be approved by the NOAA Fisheries.

Read the full story at the Gloucester Times


ASMFC Atlantic Herring Section Withdraws Draft Amendment 3 from Public Comment to Refine Proposed Spawning Protection Measures

June 16, 2015 — ARLINGTON, Va. — The following was released by the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission:

The Commission’s Atlantic Herring Section has withdrawn Draft Amendment 3 to the Atlantic Herring Fishery Management Plan from public consideration and review in order to further develop the proposed spawning protection measures. Draft Amendment 3 addresses three major issues: spawning protection measures, fixed gear set-aside provisions, and requirements to empty fish holds.

During yesterday’s conference call, Section members expressed concern about the highly technical nature of the proposed measures and the potential impacts of these measures to the fishing industry. Section Chair Terry Stockwell committed to providing detailed guidance to Commission staff and the Plan Development Team on needed changes to the proposed spawning protection measures at the Section’s meeting in August. The intent of these changes would be to clearly define the goal of spawning protections, describe proposed methodologies and measures in a way that is understandable to the fishing industry and stakeholders, and detail the benefits and impacts of spawning closures to the resource.

Based on the guidance they receive in August, the Plan Development Team and the Technical Committee will work to refine the proposed spawning protection measures for Section consideration at the Commission’s Annual Meeting in November.  Once approved, the Draft Amendment will be released for public comment, with final plan approval scheduled for February 2016.

ASMFC Atlantic Herring Section Schedules Conference Call for June 15 (3 PM) to Consider Changes to the Draft Amendment 3 Prior to Seeking Additional Public Comment

ARLINGTON, Va. — June 15, 2015 — The following was released by the Atlantic States marine Fisheries Commission:

The Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission’s Atlantic Herring Section will meet via conference call on Monday, June 15, 2015 at 3 PM to consider withdrawing Draft Amendment 3 to the Atlantic Herring Fishery Management Plan from public consideration and review in order to further develop the proposed spawning protection measures. Draft Amendment 3, which is currently out for public comment, addresses three major issues: spawning protection measures, fixed gear set-aside provisions, and requirements to empty fish holds. After additional review of the Draft Amendment, some Section members expressed concern the document does not adequately address spawning protection in the Eastern Gulf of Maine. If the document is withdrawn, the Section would meet in August to provide further direction to the Plan Development Team and the Technical Committee on refining the proposed spawning protection measures.  Upon Section approval of the revised Draft Amendment, the document will be released for another round of public input.

The public is welcome to listen to the discussion by phone (888.394.8197; passcode 815277). The meeting agenda is posted to the Commission website at http://www.asmfc.org/files/Meetings/AtlHerringSectionAgenda_June2015.pdf. Time permitting, there will be a limited opportunity to provide comments at the end of the agenda. The Section Chair will provide additional information on the procedures for accepting public comment at the beginning of the conference call. We ask the public and other nonparticipating attendees to please mute their phones in order to minimize distractions to the Section’s deliberations.

For more information, please contact Toni Kerns, ISFMP Director, at tkerns@asmfc.org or 703.842.0740.


Regulators grapple with shrimp fishery management

June 10, 2015 — Interstate regulators on Friday will explore potential management elements for the beleaguered Gulf of Maine northern shrimp fishery, including limiting entry to fishermen when and if the shrimp stock recovers.

The shrimp advisory panel of the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission is scheduled to meet Friday in Portland, Maine, to review public comments, as well as consider various other tools to help manage the fishery in the future.

One thing is for sure: The commission’s two-year moratorium on fishing for northern shrimp, enacted in December 2013, will continue for the remainder of the 2015 season and could extend into the 2016 season if the stock continues to struggle.

“We can’t speculate on what’s going to happen in 2016,” said Max Appelman, the commission’s fishery management plan coordinator. “But the moratorium likely will be brought up.”

Read the full story from The Gloucester Daily Times

We Already Have a Magic Wand to Protect Fish — Let’s Use It

June 11, 2015 — What if there were one thing that we could do to rebuild struggling fish populations, while helping coastal communities, fishermen, and ecosystems, all in one fell swoop? And what if, to make this magic happen, we didn’t even need to do anything new — we just have to maintain some safeguards that have been in place since 1996?

The Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act (MSA), currently under attack by a handful of short-sighted interests, is just that: the magic wand, so to speak, that governs how we conserve and use our nation’s fisheries.

The MSA requires the rebuilding of depleted fish populations as quickly as possible, generally within 10 years, with certain limited exceptions. The law also requires science-based annual catch limits for all fisheries, so that they don’t become overfished in the first place.

The success of the MSA has helped us nurse many overfished stocks back to health and abundance since the 1990s and early 2000s, when they were at their lowest points. A 2013 study showed that nearly two-thirds of fish stocks put in rebuilding plans since 1996 had either been rebuilt to healthy population levels, or had made significant rebuilding progress, resulting in increased gross commercial revenues of $585 million — 92% higher (54% when adjusted for inflation) than before the rebuilding plans.

Read the full story from The Huffington Post