New Reef Numbers, Record Breaking Tautog & Holdovers
Get another look at last week’s deployment at Little Egg Reef site off Beach Haven with a video exclusive from Jim Hutchinson, Jr. who pulls out the Navionics App to screen-grab new numbers for you to plug in for the future. Boats continue to sail along the Jersey Shore down the Delmarva Peninsula for tautog, and a new line class record was reported out of Central Jersey. White perch action out back is pretty solid right now, and with the relatively mild winter thus far it’s not much of a reach to think that there are plenty of stripers holding over in the brackish rivers throughout the region (striper bycatch becoming a more regular occurrence). As of January 21, we have just 39 days until striped bass season officially reopens along New Jersey’s back bays, rivers and creeks; are you up to speed and geared up for the new circle hook regulations in place for 2021? Get details on a live seminar from The Fisherman coming up to address the issue and help you prep for the spring run.
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The Winding Glass: Seafood, Consumers, Climate Change, the MSC and the Government in 2021
By John Sackton
January 14, 2021
[The Winding Glass is the opinion and commentary column by John Sackton, Founder of SeafoodNews]
Last month CFOOD, the website established by University of Washington scientists to explain the science of sustainable seafood, published an excellent summary of the problems facing the Maine lobster fishery due to right whale interactions.
There are six lobster fisheries interacting with right whales certified by the MSC in the U.S. and Canada but only the Maine fishery was suspended by the MSC. The Maine fishery lost its MSC certification due to a lawsuit against NMFS charging failure to implement stronger measures to reduce right whale mortality.
As Jack Cheney wrote the Maine fishery has the longest track record of sustainability of any of the North Atlantic Lobster Fisheries and is also one of the most decentralized, with the largest number of small license holders and a ban on selling licenses. Yet Maine frozen lobster will now be at a disadvantage at retail compared to Canadian lobster due to the suspension by MSC.
This illustrates a bigger problem. One of the silver linings of last year has been a huge increase in retail seafood. Recent data and anecdotes from suppliers suggest that a very large part of this increase has been driven by new households buying seafood. This was the message at the NFI Global Seafood Market Webinar on shrimp yesterday (a highly recommended series of webinars that will continue all year), as panelists indicated new retail seafood consumers were responsible for a major part of overall retail seafood growth.
One of the changes from the pandemic likely to last into the future is that retail seafood has increased its share of overall seafood purchases.
At the same time, retailers are strongly committed to seafood sustainability. All retailers have sustainability standards, which although flexible, primarily revolve around MSC certification.
The new seafood consumers may not be even aware of seafood sustainability issues yet. Nevertheless retailers will remain committed to their standards even if it causes them difficulties in the supply chain.
The current structure of the MSC standard could hurt the industry under a democratic administration in the US. We need to pay attention.
Cheney outlines some of the issues in his article. The MSC standard on endangered and threatened species is highly dependent on the laws of the particular country, so in the U.S., a lawsuit by the Center for Biological diversity can trigger a suspension, while in Canada, the lack of such a visible lawsuit leaves the fisheries with the same interactions with right whales not suspended.
With a democratic administration in Washington, expectations are for a more robust regulatory regime. Under the prior administration’s hostility to virtually all environmental regulation, fishing industry appeals to overturn rules often met with success. For example, the prohibition on fishing in the marine canyon protected areas off new England was overturned, even though this is largely a symbolic rather than an economic issue. Last month, a drift net ban on the Southern California sword fishing fleet was vetoed by President Trump.
This kind of industry pushback will likely fall on deaf ears for the next few years.
At the same time, the new administration will be swiftly ramping up climate protections and responses to global warming. Depending on how they are crafted, they could help or hurt the seafood industry.
One of the key issues is siting of wind farms. Other fights over spatial use in the oceans are likely to escalate as well. For example, if lobster trap fisheries are forced to go to ropeless trap technology, will lobster fishing areas have to be closed to bottom trawling? How will draggers avoid going through lobster trawls on the bottom if they are not marked with buoys?
In Alaska we are seeing spatial and seasonal usage issues play out differently as salmon and halibut by-catch caps force changes in harvesting practices including timing and fishing areas.
I predict that the Obama era plans to create regional seafood spatial use committees will likely be revived in some form. The original idea was widely panned because it did not include the regional fishery management councils. A new plan over spatial ocean usage will have to have the industry at its center.
With this change in adminstrations, there is also an opportunity for mitigation. Most democratic climate and regulatory proposals over coal and oil include assistance to the miners and oil workers. Not all of it is welcome, as some involves transitioning to a different job. But the principle of compensation is there.
The seafood industry can make a good case that changes in spatial use of oceans and changes in fishing regulations due to global warming, as will happen with right whale protection, deserve to be compensated under the climate and infrastructure plans the democrats will put forward.
A change in strategy may be warranted to search out more opportunities where a restructured industry could thrive if it gets the financial bridge that it needs. Only the seafood industry can determine what combination of incentives and financial help will work. If we don’t pay attention to that, it won’t happen.
The one area we need to be very careful of is the push to make 30% of U.S. coastal waters marine protected areas. This goal has been signed on to by former Senator John Kerry, who now will take over a climate role in the administration.
This is a solution in search of a problem. The push for MPAs started at a time when there was not robust data about the success of fishery management, so the goal was to take large areas of the ocean out of the management system. Since then the US fishery management system has proved it is very capable of habitat protection, and that stocks are rebuilding faster than expected. A large number of fisheries scientists have recently written to Congress over such a provision in the Ocean Based Climate Solution Act over exactly this ssue.
What an MPA does is set part of the ocean as off limits to fishing activities. But this is not flexible. And as climate changes, fisheries move and change as well. So the net impact of an MPA can be to worsen or increase fishing pressure in non-MPA areas, or to destabilize otherwise healthy fisheries that could move with changing conditions.
Where does the MSC come into this. The current rise in suspensions of many fisheries happens when these fisheries run into inflexible regulations, or changes in spatial area, or in new interactions with endangered or threatened species. The lawsuits in the U.S., which are the preferred method of adjudicating these disputes, leave the MSC open to pressure to suspend fisheries whenever they are challenged in a way that show a possible change in score in the MSC principles.
This leads to instability, as there is no comprehensive overview of the long term ecosystem, simply a series of smaller certification units that can easily find themselves singled out, as happened with Maine lobster.
With retailers doubling down on their reliance on certification, MSC instability due to regulatory changes in the U.S. is likely to be a permanent condition. Most retailers will have some of their species moving in and out of MSC suspensions. They can deal with this if they can point to a mitigation plan that is being put into effect. Most will continue to carry products under these circumstances.
So we are definitely in for a change, in my view for the better. But we will have to adjust our strategies in terms of how we address a more intensive regulatory regime and new rules coming out of climate change mitigation. One strategy is to take advantage of infrastructure and climate money so that we get the support we need to mitigate these changes that are economically painful for harvesters. Such mitigation plans will also help preserve retail sales channels even when MSC suspensions occur.
The quicker we can adjust the more successful we are likely to be.
Governor Mills Announces Action to Advance Offshore Wind in Gulf of Maine
January 26, 2021
On Monday Maine’s Governor Janet Mills proposed a series of actions to advance the nation’s first floating offshore wind research array in federal waters.
Offshore Wind has been a topic of concern for Maine’s fishing industry, something that Gov. Mills acknowledged in a letter addressed to Maine’s fishermen and fishing organizations. But with that said, Gov. Mills said that she feels strongly that Maine must be committed to the development of clean energy and to fight against climate change. “I wanted you to hear from me directly,” she wrote regarding the proposal.
Gov. Mills states in the letter that her focus is on the research array proposed for federal waters, not commercial-scale offshore wind projects in state waters. “To ensure state waters are appropriately considered in any future energy development, I will submit legislation to create a 10-year moratorium on any new state waters wind energy development,” she added. “I will also direct state agencies to review their authority to use of state waters for leasing and permitting of energy projects.”
These actions put forward are designed to protect fishing and recreational opportunities that are within the three miles of coastal waters managed by the state. It also allows for the fishing industry to give substantive input as the state continues to pursue the nation’s first floating offshore wind research array. And while fishermen are worried about a loss of catches and jobs, Maine Lobstermen’s Association executive director Patrice McCarron can at least agree with the need for the Governor’s Energy Office to work closely with the state’s commercial fishing industry.
“Prior to any plan for siting offshore wind development or lease solicitation in the Gulf of Maine, it is imperative that the state take action to ensure clear and transparent communications, a robust stakeholder process and a commitment to address the lack of data on what these projects will mean for marine ecosystems and the many fishing communities along our coast,” McCarron wrote in response to Gov. Mills’ announcement.
While no decision has been made on a site, the research array is proposed for an area 20-40 miles in the Gulf of Maine. The ideal location would allow the array to connect to the energy grid in southern Maine. Locations being considered include Wyman Station in Yarmouth or Maine Yankee in Wiscasset.
Major U.S. Offshore Wind Project Asks Biden Administration to Restart Permitting
Copyright © 2021 Thomson Reuters
January 26, 2021
Vineyard Wind, the developer of the first major U.S. offshore wind farm, said on Monday it has asked the Biden administration to restart its permitting process after former President Donald Trump's government abruptly canceled it last month.
The company said in a statement it had notified the U.S. Bureau of Ocean Energy Management that the project would not need to change its construction plan as a result of switching to a new turbine supplier, General Electric Co.
Last month, Vineyard Wind had requested a pause in the federal permitting process while it determined whether changes to its design were necessary, prompting the BOEM to terminate its entire review.
U.S. President Joe Biden has pledged to boost development of renewable energy as part of a sweeping plan to fight climate change and create jobs. Trump had also promised to support the nascent U.S. industry as part of his energy dominance agenda, but the permitting of Vineyard Wind was delayed repeatedly in part due to concerns its turbines would interfere with commercial fishing.
A BOEM official would not comment on Vineyard Wind's request.
Vineyard Wind is a joint venture between power company Avangrid Inc, a unit of Spain's Iberdrola, and Denmark's Copenhagen Infrastructure Partners. The project is located 15 miles (24.1 km) off the coast of Martha's Vineyard. Once constructed, it is expected to provide power to more than 400,000 Massachusetts homes.
Researchers Collaborate to Study Impact of Ocean Acidification on Northeast Fisheries
Copyright © 2021 University of Connecticut
By Anna Zarra Aldrich
January 26, 2021
A multidisciplinary, multi-institution effort is bringing together computer modeling, biological, and social science research to inform management policies for Northeast scallop fisheries facing the threat of ocean acidification.
The $1,034,822 project sponsored by the National Ocean and Atmospheric Administration’s Ocean Acidification Program includes researchers from the University of Connecticut, NOAA’s Northeast Fisheries Science Center (NEFSC), Commercial Fisheries Research Foundation (CFRF), and Rutgers University.
Scallops are an economically and culturally significant resource for coastal communities in New England. Worth more than $500 million per year, scallops are the second most valuable fishery in the Northeast. Unfortunately, scallops are particularly vulnerable to ocean acidification.
Ocean acidification is the process by which the ocean gradually increases in acidity as it absorbs excess carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, a direct result of humans burning fossil fuels. Acidification reduces the amount of available calcium carbonate in the water. Many ocean-dwelling organisms, including scallops, need calcium carbonate to build their shells. The energy an organism has for growth and other physiological processes can also be affected by ocean acidification.
Scientists currently lack a clear understanding of exactly how and what levels of ocean acidification will impact scallops.
Shannon Meseck, a research scientist at the NEFSC based in Milford, will focus on understanding the physiological effects of various levels of ocean acidification on scallops.
As Meseck and her team at NOAA Fisheries collect biological data, it will be combined with climate models and the social sciences to create a more comprehensive picture.
“I’m excited about this collaboration, which will bring together our new biological datasets collected from experiments with larval and juvenile sea scallops and new regional ocean acidification projection models,” Meseck says. “Incorporating new data specific to the effects of ocean acidification on sea scallops will help the industry anticipate those effects and respond.
“The more we can understand the effects of ocean acidification on each life stage, the better,” Meseck says.
Samantha Siedlecki, assistant professor of marine sciences at UConn, will use computer models to investigate how changing ocean conditions could impact Northeast scallop fisheries in the near future. The model incorporates information about carbon emissions, freshwater sources, and temperature patterns.
Due to temperature patterns in the Northeast, this area has not been acidifying as rapidly as other parts of the ocean. However, given current emission trends, the problem of ocean acidification is still an imminent threat.
“Ocean acidification is a huge issue globally,” Siedlecki says. “But in this area, it hasn’t been as prominent an issue historically, and people have become mollified because of it.”
The models will help the researchers, and by extension, fishers, understand how ocean acidification may impact factors such as scallops’ growth rates. If scallops cannot develop normally, it may take them longer to reach a harvestable size.
Currently, certain areas along the Northeast coast are closed for the protection of scallops as they grow to maturity. These models can help fisheries managers determine where these areas may move to match where the young scallops have a healthier environment.
Siedlecki’s models will consider various levels of global carbon emissions, outlining the pathways ocean acidification could take under different measures implemented to curb global warming.
“Presenting future ocean conditions as a choice and an option we face as a society is important for engaging with coastal communities and the impact of our work,” Siedlecki says.
The researchers will work directly with local fishing communities through their collaboration with the CFRF to develop tools that can be used to directly manage these vital resources.
“This project will improve the fishing community’s understanding of the impacts and implications of ocean acidification, and allow us to chart a path forward together,” says David Bethoney, executive director of the Commercial Fisheries Research Foundation.
This project is an industry-science-community collaboration in almost all aspects of the research. The Commercial Fisheries Research Foundation has created several research fleets in partnership with commercial fishermen to collect oceanographic and biological data. Oceanographic data collected from the (CFRF)/WHOI Shelf Oceanographic Research Fleet and CFRF Lobster and Jonah Crab Research Fleets will be used to evaluate the model simulations.
Lisa Colburn, an anthropologist from the NEFSC, will lead the effort to incorporate the concerns of coastal communities into the work. Her research includes understanding the historical social dynamics of the industry and the way it has adapted to changes in the environment and management.
“We will be holding workshops with the fishing industry, and we plan to have detailed discussions,” Colburn says. “We’ll take our approach and results to them and listen to their feedback to incorporate the industry perspective. We want to know how we can make our recommendations as meaningful as possible.
“The questions we hope to answer are: What do scallop fishermen and fishing communities need to know in order to adapt to, and be resilient to, changing ocean conditions? And how can this inform fisheries management?”
The three-year project is already underway. The team will begin their workshops this spring in order to bring community members into the fold as soon as possible.
“It’s a two-way process,” Siedlecki says. “We’re not engaging coastal communities solely to teach them things. We’re also looking to learn from them.