Unlike the SOS calls when a cruise ship sinks, when this cruise ship sank to the bottom of the Atlantic Ocean, state leaders and agencies that led the sinking task celebrated. Old ships serve as a nesting and gathering site for fish on the bottom of the sea in this region.

The 49-passenger luxury cruise ship was lying inoperative for two years and used to service inland and coastal routes along the U.S. East Coast. It has not transmitted any AIS signal since December 2017.

Delaware artificial reef sites may not be as legendary as the Great Barrier Reef, but the local government actively promotes reefing allowing sinking of defunct ships and other usable debris in the Delaware Bay as noticed in the news feed from Delaware online. 

Why reefing is beneficial

Artificial reefs provide recreational opportunities for divers and plenty of fish make it their habitat. They include species like striped bass, bluefish, and sea bass. 

Delaware's famous Redbird Reef has seen hundreds of defunct New York City subway cars going down into its depths as a resting place for marine inmates and enhancing the tourist attraction.

“By adding the structure out here, you’re creating habitat for fish that don’t have a lot of habitats out there,” said John Clark, fisheries administrator for the state Division of Fish and Wildlife. 

Adding to Delaware news, John noted that since the boat sits high off the bottom, fish will start swimming in and out from the former windows and make an interesting place to dive on.

The sunken cruise ship’s decks will also become an attraction to both marine creatures and underwater divers. The latter can explore passenger decks as they swim with the fish converging around the new reef element.

The Delaware water gap is also famous. Here the Delaware River cuts through a large ridge of the Appalachian Mountains on a gap between the border of New Jersey and Pennsylvania states.  

Victory Cruise releases 2020 itinerary

According to cruise news, Victory Cruise Lines has announced new deployment for the Victory I and II ships, meant for the 2020 cruise seasonfor cruises to Costa Rica, the Yucatán Peninsula, Panama, and the Southeast U.S.

The cruise line by American Queen Steamboat Company will offer 9-day and 15-day cruise deals to customers looking for American Southeast cruise ship trips. 


New Jersey Conservation Officers Association
On September 24th, 2019, CPOs Driscoll and Anderson patrolled the Round Valley Reservoir in response to complaints about illegal fishing. The officers encountered a boat of three fishermen that were found to be in possession of twenty rainbow trout over the daily limit, ten of which were
undersize. The fishermen were also in possession of one lake trout during closed season and had alcohol on a Wildlife Management Area. The appropriate summonses were issued to the individuals.


2019 Net Spread Study Targets Flatfish, Reveals Subtle Differences

November  2019

Fishermen and researchers continue collaboration to better understand research survey trawl gear performance

Twin trawls with the Bigelow nets and rockhopper sweeps on the stern of the F/V Karen Elizabeth. Photo: NOAA Fisheries

The 2019 twin-trawling experiment aboard the F/V Karen Elizabeth in late September tested scientific survey net performance at different "spreads"—or how widely the net is open.The differences in capturing fish at different water depths can be attributed to that spread. They found subtle differences between the two options.

In a twin-trawl study, one vessel tows two trawl nets as closely together as possible through the same body of fish at the same time. This makes the two samples comparable. In this study, one net had a constant opening while the other tested various openings. 

Both nets were otherwise the same, and are the survey nets and rockhopper sweeps used on the NOAA Ship Henry B. Bigelow twice-yearly bottom-trawl survey since 2009. "Sweeps" are the gears attached along the bottom of trawl net openings that help target different types of species on different types of bottoms. Rockhoppers are big rubber disks that help a trawl net more easily tow over rocky bottom.

The four fish targeted in the study were flatfish: 

  • Gulf of Maine witch flounder and American plaice found in deeper waters.

  • Southern New England winter flounder and windowpane flounder found in shallower waters.

Fishermen and researchers want to know more about Bigelow net underspread (being open less widely than desired) in shallower water. They are also interested in net overspread (or being open more widely than desired) in deeper water, and how different spread affected flatfish catch.

This net-spread study follows three earlier survey gear efficiency studies conducted on the F/V Karen Elizabeth, a 78-foot western-rigged stern trawler out of Point Judith, Rhode Island. The Northeast Trawl Advisory Panel recommended these studies. They are a joint advisory panel for the Mid-Atlantic and New England Fishery Management Councils that is composed of fishermen, scientists, and managers.  

Testing Net Underspread and Overspread

Twin trawl study of net spread on the F/V Karen Elizabeth, September 2019. Photo: NOAA Fisheries

Northeast Fisheries Science Center scientists and the fishing industry are both interested in better understanding the catch efficiency of standard bottom trawl survey fishing gear. This will help improve stock assessments. "Catch efficiency" is a measure of how completely the net captures all the fish in its path. This study arose to address questions raised by the Northeast Trawl Advisory Panel about Bigelow net underspread in shallower water, as well as a net overspread in deeper water.

The ideal geometry for the Bigelow net spread is 13 meters, so the control trawl for the twin-trawl experiment was set at 13 meters (roughly 42 feet). Tests were conducted for tows with different spreads:

  • Between 9 meters on the narrow side versus the control.

  • 16 meters on the wide side versus the control.  

The study team included captain Chris Roebuck and his four-person crew, staff from the Northeast Fisheries Science Center, and the Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management. The vessel made two trips, the first September 12-19 and the second September 23-28.

170 Paired Tows, 13,408 Pounds of Fish Collected

Dominique St. Amand from the NEFSC's Cooperative Research Branch sorts fish during the net-spread study on the F/V Karen Elizabeth. Photo: NOAA Fisheries

The team targeted flounders in Southern New England from Block Island to south of Nantucket, and American plaice and witch flounder in the western Gulf of Maine to north of Cape Ann. In all, the vessel completed 170 paired tows, catching 6,082 kilograms (13,408.5 pounds) of fish targeted by the study.  

As in previous sweep efficiency studies, the team followed many of the data collection protocols used during the federal spring and fall bottom-trawl surveys. Those include:

  • 20 minutes towing time.

  • Constant towing speed between 2.8 and 3.2 knots.

  • Constant gear contact with the sea bottom.

  • Monitoring net performance to ensure that the gear was operating within normal protocols.

The team conducted operations around the clock. They sorted, weighed, and measured target species and other flatfish. Then they returned the fish to the ocean as quickly as possible to improve chances that the fish would survive.

Preliminary Results Suggest Subtle Differences

During the 2017 sweep efficient study the difference in catches between a chain sweep and the Bigelow’s rockhopper sweep were visibly significant. This year’s net-spread study revealed more subtle differences

Yellowtail flounder are usually right-eyed, but these two unusual specimens caught on the net-spread study have eyes on their left side. Photo: NOAA Fisheries

“We did 170 tows in 14 days, and collected a lot of data,” said Chris Roebuck, captain and owner of the Karen Elizabeth. “We were looking for a very subtle difference. Based on the preliminary data, the good news is that the catch rates generally aligned with the net spreads. It was a good experiment, and we got to the bottom of the issue.”

Roebuck hopes researchers will use data from studies like this in stock assessments going forward. “The assessments are a complicated process, and hard for some in the industry to understand, especially since it moves far slower than the reality of fishing. In the end, we all want the same thing: catch advice that matches what we see in the water.”

Russell Brown, chief of the Population Dynamics Branch at the Northeast Fisheries Science Center, is in charge of the center's stock assessment effort. He agrees with Roebuck: “Cooperative research on bottom-trawl survey gear catchability provides important information that helps us to ground truth stock assessment models, and in some cases develop direct estimates of stock biomass," Brown said.

Sharing Knowledge

Windowpane flounder, also known as sand dab flounder, was one of the target species in the study. Photo: NOAA Fisheries

The net-spread study is just one example of how the Northeast Fisheries Science Center can use cooperative research to address research questions through collaborations with commercial fishermen like Chris Roebuck.

“The more we can engage with commercial fishermen and use their knowledge to develop and implement research experiments the better we can understand the ecosystem,” said Anna Mercer, chief of the Cooperative Research Branch. “The work we do across the center can benefit from sharing expertise to tackle questions of mutual interest. This experiment was a perfect example of center staff, commercial fishermen, and partner agencies coming together to make it happen. It’s an approach that we can use in many ways across the region.”

For more information, please contact Shelley Dawicki.


Export permit application form guidance for U.S. Shark Fishers and Dealers. Click here.

As a result of decisions made at the 18th meeting of the Conference of the Parties (CoP18) to the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES), which took place August 17 - 28, 2019, there are new requirements for international trade of short fin mako shark (Isurus oxyrinchus) and long fin mako shark (Isurus paucus). They are included with other CITES Appendix-II listed shark and ray species which include: devil rays, thresher sharks, silky sharks, the basking shark, whale shark, great white shark, oceanic whitetip shark, three species of hammerhead sharks (scalloped, great, and smooth), porbeagle shark, and manta rays.  

CITES helps to conserve species and ensure that international trade of species is legal and sustainable. International trade, including import, export, and introduction from the sea, of species listed in Appendix II of CITES is subject to regulation. Introduction from the sea refers to transport into a country of specimens taken on the high seas. Any person or entity that plans to engage in international trade in specimens of Appendix-II species must apply for and obtain appropriate CITES documents.  An Appendix- II listing is NOT a prohibition or ban on trade. Species listed in Appendix II can be traded with the proper permits. Permits are issued based on two analyses:

(1) A non-detriment finding – data or expert scientific opinion on the biological status of the species indicating that international trade is not detrimental to species survival.

(2) A legal acquisition finding – evidence that specimens to be traded were not obtained in violation of any state, federal, or other jurisdictional law.

If both of these analyses are positive (i.e., the proposed activity is legal and sustainable), a permit would be issued to conduct international trade.

To learn more about CITES, please visit our page on “How CITES works." To determine the specific CITES documentation requirements for these shark and ray species, please read the questions and answers below.

Do I need a CITES permit?
If you plan to engage in international trade (e.g., fishing on the high seas and landing in the United States or in a foreign country, importing, exporting, or re-exporting) of scalloped, great, or smooth hammerhead sharks; oceanic whitetip sharks; porbeagle sharks; basking sharks; great white sharks; whale sharks; thresher sharks; silky sharks; devil rays; or manta rays; including the parts and products of these species, you need to apply for and obtain appropriate CITES documents.

We have developed the following decision trees to assist U.S. fishers and U.S. dealers in determining what, if any, U.S. CITES documents will be required for their proposed activity. Please note that while these tools focus on U.S. fishers and dealers, permitting requirements and port procedures also apply to researchers and others engaged in the non-commercial movement of CITES sharks and rays, including their parts and products.

U.S. Fishers

*U.S. waters includes U.S. state waters, the U.S. territorial sea, and the U.S. Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ)

U.S. Dealers/Exporters

I have all of the appropriate permits. Now what do I do?

Import/Export License
An import/export license is generally required for all individuals or businesses that engage in business as an importer or exporter of wildlife. This permit, which is valid for one year, must be acquired from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Law Enforcement office within the Region where the applicant is located before any wildlife is imported or exported. Click here for the application form.

Designated Ports
Imports of specimens of CITES species must have proper documentation and be brought into ports designated by the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service (USFWS).  CITES species caught on the high seas must be landed in a USFWS designated port with proper documentation.  Click here for a list of designated ports. 

Exports of specimens of CITES species must have proper documentation and be shipped out of the United States at ports designated by the USFWS, except when specimens taken on the high seas are landed in a foreign country. Click here for a list of designated ports. 

In some instances, you may apply for a designated port exception permit to enter or exit through the port of your choice. For more information on this process, click here.

Please contact the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Office of Law Enforcement for information about clearance procedures at ports of entry and exit. Click here for additional Information on importing and exporting your commercial wildlife shipment, including information on how to obtain an import/export license, designated ports for wildlife, declaration requirements, and user fees. 


What's Next for Amazon: Taking AmazonFresh Beyond Online and into Brick-and-Mortar Stores

November 12, 2019

ROCKVILLE, Md. -- Market research firm Packaged Facts says dropping monthly fees associated with AmazonFresh and realigning it as a free benefit for Prime members, suggests that Amazon intends to grow the brand beyond the limitations imposed by Whole Foods-Prime Now relationship. The firm recently published Amazon Strategies and the Amazon Shopper, 2nd Edition.

Behind the scenes, Amazon has clearly been trying to figure out how to balance AmazonFresh and Prime Now, its 1-2 hour delivery service. 

Since acquiring Whole Foods in 2017, Amazon seems to have focused more on Prime Now, leveraging Whole Foods to build out its Prime Now footprint and put the service into high gear. Already, Amazon has moved to blend existing online grocery strengths with the potential of almost 500 Whole Foods locations and millions of loyal customers via Prime Now. 

While the service rollout has had some hiccups, Prime Now users are generally enthusiastic about the service. According to Packaged Facts' survey results published in Amazon Strategies and the Amazon Shopper, 2nd Edition, fully 58% of Prime Now users say they are "very satisfied" with the service, and another 32% say they are somewhat satisfied.

Compared to the average adult, Whole Foods users are far more likely to engage in online activities partial to Prime Now that underscore the online grocery delivery promise that Amazon has begun to offer. In 2019, some 14% of Whole Foods users tapped an online grocery delivery service—roughly three times the percentage of all U.S. adults who do so.

While Whole Foods presents an ideal starting point for Amazon's foray into omnichannel grocery, expanding via another brand is necessary to broaden the target audience beyond Whole Foods' affluent shopper base and to avoid risking the dilution of the Whole Foods brand. Packaged Facts believes Amazon will move to expand its physical grocery presence using something other than the Whole Foods brand.

Meanwhile, for the last two years, AmazonFresh hasn't gotten as much attention. Service availability did not grow appreciably, and grocery product assortment fell below the selection offered by Prime Now. And while online food/grocery ordering usage grew 211% during 2014-2019, Amazon Prime Pantry/AmazonFresh usage declined slightly in 2019.

The report calls the integration of AmazonFresh as a free benefit for Prime members “yet another masterstroke” from the online giant.  

The announcement increases the odds that the AmazonFresh brand will soon be displayed across physical storefronts, where Packaged Facts forecasts more click-and-collect and home delivery will be offered for free to Prime members.

The question is, when will the AmazonFresh stores begin to open?


Fishing for Alternative Leather

By Sohini Dey

You have heard of calfskin and crocodile leather. But did you know about fish leather? Closely resembling the texture of snakeskin leather, fish leather uses fish scales—a common by-product of the fishing industry—to create sleek, textured leather. In 2015, Mumbai-based Mayura Davda-Shah discovered this unique leather on a trip to Europe. “I fell in love with the concept," she says. “I was keen on doing something for the planet while also delivering products that generate economic value. I saw that as an opportunity."

Earlier this year, she founded Mayu, a sustainable luxury brand that uses salmon and wolffish leather to create bags and accessories. The striking designs and sleek silhouettes may be the first thing to catch your eye, but it’s the raw material that sets the brand apart.

Leather is an enduring fashion trend—a leather handbag never really drops off the wardrobe must-haves ranking. A report released by Grand View Research, Inc. in February states that the global leather goods market is expected to reach $629.65 billion (around ₹44.5 trillion) by 2025, expanding at a CAGR of 5.4%. There are, however, deterrents to its growth as new-age consumers question the ethics of sourcing leather. This segment of consumers is instead looking to sustainable alternatives and biomaterials.

Fish leather offers a new take: animal-derived but sustainably sourced and upcycled. Icelanders, who historically wore footwear crafted from wolffish skin, are fish leather pioneers. Atlantic Leather is a leading name, with its tannery based in Sauðárkróki. The company started the development process for fish leather in 1994, developing a wholly satisfactory product only in 2000. Now the brand has a shade card that goes from staple black and tan to vivid yellow and hot pink. The UN’s Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO) has highlighted the fish leather developed in Kenya from the waste skin of the indigenous Nile perch. According to a post on FAO’s official blog, the advantage of using this leather is the unique natural pattern of each piece, its ability to absorb colours and its light and durable texture.

“The look and the feel—the aesthetics—were the first thing that drew my attention to the material," says Davda-Shah who sources her fish leather from organic farms in Ireland. “As I did my research, (I found that) the strength and durability make it a material at par or even better than some of the conventional materials." Based on a slow-fashion philosophy, the brand makes designs limited to 25-200 pieces, selling mainly on their online store. “One of the challenges is that people don’t know about fish leather. And even if they know about it, what restricts them is the size of the leather. It makes sense for us, because we keep our batches small." The manufacturing is done in India.

Fish leather is, however, a long way away from going mainstream—the unconventional material has only just begun emerging in public consciousness. There are also other limitations. Vegan consumers are unlikely to use any products made from animal derivatives and a number of consumers eschew leather altogether.

Mayu’s new collection, La Movida, includes vegan materials like Piñatex (made from upcycled pineapple leaves) but fish leather will remain one of the foundational pillars for the bran

The World’s Largest Trade Deal Could be Signed in 2020 — And the US Isn’t in It

By Yen Nee Lee

After more than six years of negotiations, more than a dozen countries in Asia Pacific are now aiming to sign what would be the world’s largest trade agreement in 2020.

The deal, called Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership or RCEP, involves all 10 countries from the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) bloc and five of its major trading partners: Australia, China, Japan, New Zealand and South Korea.

Together, the 15 countries make up close to one-third of the world population and global gross domestic product, according to a Reuters report. That’s larger than other regional trading blocs such as the European Union and the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement, or USMCA.

The mega-deal started with 16 countries but India decided not to join the trade pact over concerns that it would hurt the South Asian country’s domestic producers.

Significance of RCEP

RCEP was launched in November 2012 in Phnom Penh, Cambodia as an initiative by ASEAN to encourage trade among its member states and six other countries.

Those six other countries — Australia, China, India, Japan, New Zealand and South Korea — already have standalone free trade agreements with ASEAN. Coming together under RCEP would boost commerce across the group by lowering tariffs, standardizing customs rules and procedures, and widening market access especially among countries that don’t have existing trade deals.

All 16 countries started negotiating RCEP in 2013, when talks for another major trade pact — the Trans-Pacific Partnership or TPP — were underway. Given China’s absence in the then U.S.-led TPP, which was slated to be the world’s largest trade deal, many observers considered RCEP a way for Beijing to counter American influence in the region.

In 2017, however, U.S. President Donald Trump pulled his country out of the TPP and slapped punitive tariffs on several U.S. trading partners for what he said were unfair trade practices.

In particular, the U.S.-China trade war has hurt many Asian exporters by reducing demand for their goods and slowing down growth. The urgency to conclude RCEP increased after all that.

“RCEP was hard fought, but a choice made easier by the calculation that Asia needed to push back against protectionism even as the United States chose that path,” academics from the Australian National University wrote in a report.

What Will RCEP Do?

The final text with details of the trade agreement will go through legal reviews before being signed and released.

Media and analyst reports have said RCEP is primarily beneficial for goods trade because it will progressively reduce tariffs on many products. In addition, the deal will allow businesses to sell the same goods within the bloc but do away with the need to fill out separate paperwork for each export destination, Reuters reported.

Deborah Elms, executive director at consultancy Asian Trade Centre, told Reuters that would help Asian producers to sell more of their products to the rest of the region.

Even for companies that export goods outside the bloc, there’ll be incentives to build their supply chains across RCEP member countries, according to Reuters.

But RCEP is said to lack the quality and scope seen in the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership or CPTPP. The latter is the agreement that replaced the Trans-Pacific Partnership or TPP after the U.S. withdrawal.

In particular, RCEP — unlike CPTPP — lacks the call for commitments from member countries to protect workers’ rights and the environment, according to Reuters.

RCEP also covers fewer service sectors — one reason which some reports said led to India walking away from the deal.

India’s Role

India, involved in RCEP negotiations from the start, declined to join the trade pact over concerns that the deal would hurt its domestic producers. India’s apprehension toward the deal had been one of the main hurdles in recent RCEP talks.

Some RCEP members, such as Japan, considered New Delhi’s participation crucial “both for economic reasons and as another counterweight to China,” according to analysts from risk consultancy Eurasia Group.

India is Asia’s third-largest economy and a large consumer market.

But the remaining 15 countries are still expected to bring RCEP into force, according to another consultancy, The Economist Intelligence Unit.

“Without India, RCEP will be less significant, but its path to implementation has become much smoother,” the EIU said in a report.


N.J.’s endangered piping plover population increased in 2019, but researchers are cautiously optimistic

Piping plover with chicks in Cape May, N.J. (Courtesy of Kevin Karlson)

N.J.’s piping plovers population increased in 2019, but researchers are cautiously optimistic about the threatened and endangered shorebird’s long term prospects.

Highlights from Conserve Wildlife Foundation of New Jersey’s 2019 piping plover report, which provides the number of nesting pairs, active nests, and nest productivity throughout New Jersey, include 27 sites where pairs nested, up significantly from just 19 sites in 2018.

114 pairs of piping plovers nested in New Jersey in 2019, a 19% increase from 2018, which logged 96 pairs — the third lowest since 1986, according to the report.

Researchers say the 2019 population is slightly below the long-term average of 117 pairs and significantly less than the peak of 144 pairs in 2003.

But productivity — the measurement of the amount of young birds that fly, or fledgling, per pair — dropped considerably from 1.51 in 2018 and 1.24 in 2019 and was the lowest level in the last six years, the researchers found. Still, productivity is well above the long-term average since 1986.

In line with previous years, researchers additionally discovered that nearly three-quarters of the state’s piping plover population was in federal parks (Gateway National Recreation Area’s Sandy Hook Unit and E.B. Forsythe National Wildlife Refuge’s Holgate and Little Beach Units) in 2019.

“The importance of these federal lands in New Jersey is paramount. They provide the state’s premier nesting and foraging habitats, and recreational use can be better managed than elsewhere in New Jersey,” the team noted, adding that habitat outside of federal areas is not suitable due to human disturbance, stabilization efforts, and beach grooming.

The researchers encourage managers of municipal and state beaches to mimic natural conditions as much as possible to encourage more piping plover nesting.

In 2019, state officials restricted beach buggy traffic in a portion of Island Beach State Park due to nesting piping plovers. Piping plovers have nested in Island Beach State Park over recent summers, beginning in 2016.

Before that, they were last spotted in the state park in 1989. Conserve Wildlife Foundation of New Jersey biologists speculate that Superstorm Sandy’s creation of more open habitat was probably responsible for the piping plover return to Island Beach State Park.