Tag Archives: Gulf of Maine

Federal regulators put an end to turbulent season in northern Gulf of Maine scallop fishery

Federal authorities are closing the scallop fishery in the northern Gulf of Maine at 12:01 a.m. Thursday after a contentious three-week season that pitted the interests of part-time, small-boat fishermen from Maine against large, full-time scallop operators. Fisheries regulators announced the closure Wednesday after small-boat fishermen – many of them Maine lobstermen operating 40- to 45-foot boats – met their annual quota of 70,000 pounds. The developments do not apply to the scallop fishery in state waters, which extend to 3 miles from shore. This year’s federal harvest has been contentious because the large, full-time boats are believed to have caught more than 1 million pounds of scallops in the northern Gulf of Maine scallop fishing area, but owing to a quirk in federal rules the fishery could not be closed until the small vessels caught 70,000 pounds. This month’s storms and unseasonable weather had kept the small boats in port, delaying their ability to meet their annual quota and close the area to the larger vessels, who were permitted to continue harvesting large quantities of scallops under federal rules. continue reading the story here 07:57

Small-boat scallop fishermen worry about being overwhelmed by larger boats in the Gulf of Maine

Since the start of the scallop season this month, Jim Wotton has dragged heavy dredges along the seabed off Gloucester, hauling in as much as 200 pounds a day of the valuable clams, the area’s federal limit for small-boat fishermen. Now, to his dismay, dozens of larger, industrial-sized boats have been steaming into the same gray waters, scooping up as many scallops as they can. Unlike their smaller counterparts, the large vessels have no quota on the amount they can catch; they’re only limited by the number of days they can fish.,, NOAA officials acknowledge the fishermen’s concerns, but have declined to take emergency action to close the fishery.,, Representatives of the larger boats say they have every right to fish in the area, and insist their catch won’t threaten the fishery.,, “The situation this year can’t continue and support a strong fishery year in and year out in the Gulf of Maine,” said Pete Christopher, a supervisory fishery policy analyst at NOAA Fisheries. “The council needs to change the way the fishery operates.” read the story here 18:52

Drop in herring a mystery in Maine as bait price booms

Scientists and fishermen are trying to figure out why Maine’s Atlantic herring catch — the largest in the nation — has fallen from 103.5 million pounds in 2014 to 77.2 million last year. The per-pound price of the fish at the dock has gone up 56 percent since 2014, and that price is eventually borne by people who buy lobsters. “The whole dynamic of the fishery has changed,” said Jeff Kaelin, who works in government relations for Lund’s Fisheries, which lands herring in Maine. Kaelin, and others who work in and study the fishery, thinks climate and the way the government manages herring may have played a role in the decline of catch. Atlantic herring are managed via a quota system, and regulators have slashed the quota by more than 40 percent since the early 2000s. Last year, herring were also difficult to catch far offshore, where they are typically caught in large amounts, but they were abundant closer to the New England coast. This led to a bait shortage, because fishermen are only allowed to catch a certain percentage of their quotas in inshore waters. Read the story here 10:15

Out-of-state scallop boats threaten survival of Maine fishermen

After years of waiting for the northern Gulf of Maine scallop population to flourish, small-boat fishermen from Maine say federal mismanagement of scallop stocks in the area could result in larger boats wiping them out. Hancock fisherman James West said that larger boats, most of which are based out of state, should not be allowed unlimited catches when he is capped at harvesting only 200 pounds of meat a day. And he said he’s angry that the New England Fishery Management Council has known about the regulatory disparity for years and has done nothing to address it. “That’s what makes me so mad about it,” West said Sunday. “I’m shocked the council couldn’t figure out a way to fix this. We’re really getting the shaft.” Council officials say protecting the lucrative resource is a high priority that they plan to address in the coming year. But Maine fishermen say a year could be too late to ensure that federal scallop grounds in the gulf stay productive. continue reading the story here 07:36

Northern Shrimp lovers lining up for local catch

Joe Jurek knew his catch would be popular. He just didn’t know how popular. Jurek, a Gloucester-based groundfisherman who specializes in yellow-tail flounder on most fishing days, now holds the rarified position as the only Massachusetts fisherman allowed to fish for northern shrimp in the Gulf of Maine. His tenure as shrimper-in-residence will last only two more weeks, much to the dismay of local northern shrimp lovers — including Mayor Sefatia Romeo Theken — who literally have trooped down to the dock with buckets to try to buy the cold-water delicacies. The local shrimp have disappeared from seafood retail shops in the last four years the shrimp fishery has been closed. “Once people found out about it, it was like a bunch of seagulls,” said Romeo Theken, who along with a couple other dozen friends put in an order for about 230 pounds of the small, sweet shrimp. “Now people know the process, that they have to sign in at the auction and buy it through a seafood dealer.” Jurek said he’s averaging 350 to 400 pounds of the shrimp per fishing day, which he lands at the Cape Ann Seafood Exchange at an average off-the-boat price of about $6.50 a pound. continue reading the story here 07:28

Scallops scuffle pitting small boats against big

A disagreement over the right to fish for scallops off New England is pitting small boats against big ones in one of the most lucrative fisheries in the U.S. The federal government maintains different rules for the small- and big-boat scallop fisheries, though they work some of the same areas. Small boat fishermen say the conflict has arisen in the northern Gulf of Maine, a critically important fishing area stretching roughly from Boston to the border of Maine and Canada. At issue is the fact that the northern Gulf of Maine is fertile ground for scallops right now, and rules allow the bigger boats to harvest more of them. The smaller boats have a possession limit of 200 pounds, while the largest boats have no such limit, because they are regulated instead by a limited number of days at sea. Continue reading the article here 11:48

New SMAST camera can help assess cod stocks in Gulf of Maine

Researchers from UMass Dartmouth say they have successfully tested an underwater video-survey system that they hope will provide an accurate method to assess Atlantic cod stocks. In collaboration with fishermen, the research team recently placed high-resolution cameras in an open-ended commercial trawl net on Stellwagen Bank in the Gulf of Maine, known as one of the world’s most active marine sanctuaries. The cameras captured images of cod and other groundfish as they passed through the net. Periodically, researchers from UMD’s School for Marine Science & Technology closed the net for short periods to collect length, weight, and take other biological samples from some of the fish. The fish are unharmed and are returned to the sea. The system is design to be portable, so scientists can set it up on different fishing vessels. Professor Kevin Stokesbury, head researcher on the project, said the video system is an important tool at a time of uncertainty about the groundfish stock in the Gulf of Maine. Read the story here 17:57  Read the press release and watch the video here

Fishermen and Scientists to collaberate on Trawl Surveys utilizing industry vessels in the Gulf of Maine

By next year, the Northeast Fisheries Science Center hopes to begin outfitting commercial boats with surveying equipment and paying fishermen to pull in catches that will supplement the regular trawl surveys conducted by government scientists, according to Russell Brown, who heads the center’s population dynamics branch. The gathered data will be fed into the complex process used to set catch quotas. It’s a collaboration that Brown hopes will give regulators a more detailed picture of the fish population and build trust among fishermen, who in turn see it as an opportunity to show the scientists what’s really going on. “It’s really perplexing that you’ve got a set of federal scientists who are sampling the ocean methodically and coming up with a very different picture than the fishermen about what’s going on out in the Gulf of Maine,” Jonathan Labaree of the Gulf of Maine Research Institute said. Read the story here 08:27

Gloucester fisherman chosen for Gulf of Maine northern shrimp research project

Joe Jurek is no stranger to the Gulf of Maine northern shrimp fishery, having incorporated shrimping into his annual fishing calendar even after moving to Gloucester about a decade ago to groundfish. “When sectors started in 2009, we would catch our groundfish quota as quickly as we could and then go fish the other fisheries, including the northern shrimp fishery,” Jurek said Tuesday. “I shrimped long before that, though. You could say it’s kind of my background.” Jurek, owner and skipper of the 42-foot F/V Mystique Lady, will be the lone Massachusetts representative in the upcoming Gulf of Maine winter shrimp sampling program that will produce the only legal shrimping in 2017 in the Gulf of Maine. The Mystique Lady is one of 10 trawlers participating in the sampling program, along with eight from Maine and one from New Hampshire captained by Mike Anderson of Rye. Read the story here 09:56

Warming trend continues in waters off Atlantic Canada

Warmer ocean temperatures off Atlantic Canada continued in 2016, maintaining a trend that started earlier this decade, according to survey results from Canada’s Department of Fisheries and Oceans. On the Scotian Shelf off Nova Scotia, temperatures last year were as high as three degrees above the 30-year average used to establish climatic norms. “It’s not quite the same [record] level of 2012, but it’s getting close to it,” said Dave Hebert, a research scientist with DFO. He added that 2016 was probably the second warmest year on record.  Scientists have struggled to explain what is causing the most intriguing aspect of the recent trend: the warming of ocean bottom water, which is not influenced by surface weather events. Hebert said the latest theory is based on model results that see the Gulf Stream moving northward and intersecting with the tail of the Grand Banks. “That is stopping the cold Labrador Sea water from coming around the tail of the Grand Banks,” he said. “That’s where we normally get the cold water that refreshes the [Scotian] Shelf. That hasn’t been happening. Read the story here 16:48

Participants in cooperative winter sampling program for Gulf of Maine northern shrimp announced

The program, coordinated by the Maine Department of Marine Resources, New Hampshire Fish and Game Department, and Massachusetts Division of Marine Fisheries, is designed to provide biological data on the shrimp fishery which is closed for the fourth year in a row. These Maine fishermen were chosen from over 60 applicants based on a random drawing of those fully qualified in each region. Preference was given to trawlers willing to participate in a test of a compound grate for harvesting. The sampling program will include the participation of 10 trawlers (eight Maine trawlers, one Massachusetts trawler and one New Hampshire trawler) and five Maine trappers fishing for eight weeks from mid-January to mid-March.  Read the story here 08:15

There are more fish in the sea – A high-tech battle for the future of the New England fishing industry

The high-tech battle for the future of the Massachusetts fishing industry is being waged aboard a western-rigged stern trawler named the Miss Emily. Onboard the commercial groundfish vessel, in addition to the satellite positioning system and other sophisticated tools that have become standard in the industry, are at least five computer monitors and a $14,000 fish-measuring board that has halved the time it takes to gauge the catch. State officials say it’s money well spent. Federal catch limits — caps on how many fish each boat can catch — have devastated the state’s most iconic commercial sector, fishermen say. In response to an outcry from the struggling local groundfishing industry, environmental officials are now using the Miss Emily to try to come up with a new — and, they say, more accurate — estimate of codfish in the Gulf of Maine. Under a survey launched last April, local fishermen hope new technology and an aggressive timetable will yield what they have concluded based on their own anecdotal evidence: There are more fish in the sea. Read the story here 09:59

Coral plan threatens fishing grounds

 The NEFMC is working with the Mid-Atlantic Fishery Management Council and the South Atlantic Fishery Management Council to preserve deep-sea corals from the Canadian border to Virginia. Area lobstermen could lose valuable fishing grounds if a federal proposal to close four areas of Gulf of Maine waters comes to fruition. The New England Fishery Management Council (NEFMC) has drafted a plan that would close a span of 161 square miles offshore to commercial fishing in an effort to conserve deep-sea coral there. Two of those areas, Mount Desert Rock in Lobster Management Zone B and Outer Schoodic Ridge in Lobster Management Zone A, are preferred fishing grounds for local fishermen when lobster head further offshore in the winter. The other proposed offshore closure areas lie in Jordan Basin and Lindenkohl Knoll to the south.  Read the story here 09:34

Warming waters have fish on the move. Regulators need to act now! Captain Sam Novello, Gulf of Maine Fisherman

T0 NOAA & NEFMC – Because of our warming ocean temperatures fish & squid stocks are moving into north for cooler waters to survive. In the near future , these stocks will be moving into the  waters and these stocks will be more abundant there than in the southern  waters. Most Gulf of Maine fishermen have very little quota of these stocks and most have no quota at all!  Our  regulators and the NEFMC should be addressing the issue now. Today in the Gulf of Maine, most of fishermen and boats are now out of commercial  fishing. At one time there was 2500 fishing  permits in the fishing  industry. Today I believe there about 200 active permits left. Most  of these permits are  small family day boats who are struggling to stay in business fishing. It would  be  a devastating disaster to our natural fishing resources and having Gulf of Maine fishermen dump these fish because of  lack of quota. Regulators and Management should consider using incidental catch limits on new stocks. Example- 2000 lbs, per trip. All Gulf of Maine communities and  fishermen would  benefit by using  incidental  catch limits in Gulf of Maine waters!  Captain Sam Novello, Gulf of Maine Fisherman 15:01

New net opens a way to help fishermen and protect cod

Catching the wrong fish, or catching too much of a low-quota fish like cod, can end a season for a commercial fisherman. In recent years, the interstate New England Fishery Management Council has slashed the number of cod that can be landed from the Gulf of Maine from about 1,550 metric tons in 2014 to 280 metric tons now. Fishermen who catch too many, even by accident, can be shut down for the season. A team of scientists and fishermen led by the Gulf of Maine Research Institute has created a new kind of fishing net that can catch popular flatfish like yellowtail flounder without busting strict quotas set to protect the Atlantic cod from overfishing. The net redesign team was led by Eayrs, himself a former commercial fisherman in Australia, and Massachusetts state fisheries biologist Michael Pol. The team included four commercial fishermen from Massachusetts and New Hampshire, two other scientists and a Rhode Island netmaker. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Saltonstall-Kennedy program funded the $265,000 project in 2015, when it awarded $22 million in fisheries grants. Read the story here 07:57

Effort to protect deep-sea coral has lobster industry on alert

10042762_h13584979-600x450Over 400 Maine lobstermen could lose their traditional fishing territory under a proposal to protect deep-sea corals in the Gulf of Maine. The New England Fishery Management Council is considering a plan that would ban fishing in four designated coral zones spanning about 161 miles of federal waters in the Gulf of Maine – Mount Desert Rock, Outer Schoodic Ridge, Jordan Basin and Lindenkohl Knoll. Here, often on steep rock walls deep under water where sunlight cannot penetrate, scientists have found dense, delicate and slow-growing coral gardens of sea whips, fans and pens. During the cold-weather months, when 52-year-old Jim Dow usually fishes for hard-shell lobsters in deep federal waters, his buoys will encircle Mount Desert Rock, where the lobster is so plentiful that boats will sail for hours to drop traps there. As a result, fishermen call it the Meeting Grounds. He said word is just starting to spread about the coral protection plan, but he said the fishermen he has talked with say they didn’t even know there was coral in the deep canyons below. Read the rest here 10:16

Atlantic States Marine Fishery Commission votes to extend closing the Gulf of Maine to shrimping

58250e4494d96-imageThe ASMFC’s shrimp section, the panel responsible for setting the northern shrimp regulations, voted to extend the closure throughout 2017 and to establish a 53-ton research set-aside that effectively will produce the only shrimp harvested in the next year from the Gulf of Maine. The 53-ton research set-aside more than doubles the 2016 RSA of 22 metric tons. The panel unanimously approved the motion by Terry Stockwell of Maine that calls for eight trawlers fishing from Maine and one trawler each from Massachusetts and New Hampshire to fish for eight weeks from mid-January to mid-March. The vessels will be limited to one trip per week and a catch of 1,200 pounds of northern shrimp per trip. The RSA also will allow trap fishing, with five trappers allowed to fish for eight weeks, with a limited catch of 500 pounds per week. Vessels will be limited to 40 traps and “preference will be given to individuals in the lottery with double grates and having history prior to the June 7, 2011 control date.” Read the story here 09:32

Atlantic Cod: The Good, The Bad, and the Rebuilding – Part 1

Atlantic cod have been emblematic of fisheries problems, with the 1992 collapse of the Northern cod stock in Canada setting the stage for the last 25 years of concern surrounding status of cod stocks. Mark Kurlansky’s book “Cod” sold over a million copies, increasing awareness and concern over cod fisheries. Further, the two U.S. cod stocks continue to be at very low abundance; an article in the Houston Press released September of 2011 stated “Atlantic cod has been fished nearly to extinction.” However, over the entire Atlantic Ocean, the abundance of cod is high and increasing (Figure 1). There are over two dozen cod stocks that are defined as management units, 6 of which are addressed in this feature: 2 on the western side and 4 on the eastern side of the Atlantic basin (see Figure 2). The two U.S. stocks are Georges Bank and Gulf of Maine, and the four European stocks occupy the shelves of Iceland, the Barents Sea, the North Sea, the Celtic Sea, and the Baltic Sea. Read the article here 15:18

Atlantic States Marine Fishery Commission will decide status Gulf of Maine shrimp fishery

maineshrimp_courtesyofC_SchmidtThe commission is scheduled to meet Nov. 10 in Portsmouth, New Hampshire, first to review the most recent stock status report for northern shrimp and technical recommendations from the shrimp advisory panel. It will then set the specifications for the upcoming season. The stock status reports dating back to 2012 reveal a species in free fall, with record low levels of abundance and biomass and poor recruitment since 2012. Those assessments showed problems with overfishing, warming water temperatures and a dwindling number of spawning females. Maine harvesters dominated the fishery the last time it was open in 2013. Of the 207 vessels permitted to shrimp in the Gulf of Maine, 180 had hailing ports in Maine, while Massachusetts and New Hampshire each had 13. Read the story here 07:45

A New England story goes Australian – Fishing industries under pressure

Atlantic-Cod-Dieter-CraasmannThe cod isn’t just a fish to David Goethel. It’s his identity, his ticket to middle class life, his link to a historic industry. “I paid for my education, my wife’s education, my house, my kids’ education; my slice of America was paid for on cod,” said Goethel, a 30-year veteran of waters that once teemed with New England’s signature fish. But on a chilly, windy Saturday in April, after 12 hours out in the Gulf of Maine, he has caught exactly two cod, and he feels far removed from the 1990s, when he could catch 2,000 pounds in a day. The US fishing fleet has dwindled from more than 120,000 vessels in 1996 to about 75,000 today, the Coast Guard says. For the fishermen of the northeastern US – not all of whom accept the scientific consensus on climate change, and many of whom bristle at government regulations stemming from it – whether to stick with fishing, adapt to the changing ocean or leave the business is a constant worry. Robert Bradfield was one of the East Coast’s most endangered species, a Rhode Island lobsterman, until he pulled his traps out of the water for the last time about a decade ago. Read the rest here 09:30

The Wild Blue Mussel is disappearing from the Gulf of Maine

BlueMussel_MtDesertIs_SorteGCB-1080x717New England is running out of mussels. The Gulf of Maine’s once strong population of wild blue mussels is disappearing, scientists say. A study led by marine ecologists at the University of California at Irvine found the numbers along the gulf coastline have declined by more than 60 percent over the last 40 years. Once covering as much as two-thirds of the gulf’s intertidal zone, mussels now cover less than 15 percent. The Sorte study focused on 20 sites along the gulf, using historical data to compare today’s mussel populations to those of the past. She said the decline of mussels isn’t due to just one factor — warming ocean water, increases in human harvesting and the introduction of new predatory invasive species all appear to play a role. Read the story here 15:40

Bait Relief! Maine Pogy fishery reopens with strict new rules

1016188_285199-Feature_01Maine made bait fishermen and lobstermen happy Monday when it reopened its pogy fishery after concluding there is still enough menhaden left in the Gulf of Maine to keep the population healthy. Those who hunt for nearshore schools of the flat, oily-fleshed silver fish – the second most popular lobster bait in Maine after herring – must follow strict new rules to prevent unusual damage or imminent depletion of the Atlantic menhaden. If they limit their fishing days to three and their catch to no more than 120,000 pounds a week, Maine fishermen can use up the remaining 2.3 million-pound quota allotted to Maine, Rhode Island and New York during a so-called “episodic” fishing event, when pogies are deemed unusually plentiful in New England waters. Read the rest here 08:08

Why Green Crabs Are Invading the East Coast

green-crabsIn the Gulf of Maine, as elsewhere in the world, many species are feeling the pressure brought on by climate change. A changing environment makes them more susceptible to one existential threat: invasive species. This, in turn, is having a huge impact on the local fishing industry that employs tens of thousands of people in the area, and provides seafood to the local restaurants that Maine is famous for. In short, the health of the Maine economy largely depends on the health of the Gulf of Maine, and the marine species that have made it their home. But invasive species like green crabs are coming in and wreaking havoc. Foreign species are defined as invasive when they cause the displacement of an endemic one. In the Gulf of Maine, that includes eelgrass, blue mussels, oysters, and many other types of shellfish. Invaders disrupt the trophic hierarchy,, Read the story here 15:35

Maine fishermen testing a ‘game-changer’ for protected cod in the Gulf of Maine

985021_891307-20160713_Ground-Fi4Like many Maine fishermen, Bryan Kelley faces a dilemma as he looks to diversify beyond the lobster that account for the bulk of his catch. To target pollock, which are relatively common in the Gulf of Maine, he has to fish in the same areas frequented by cod, a type of groundfish protected through strict federal catch limits. “We literally have to stay away from the codfish,” Kelley said while standing on his 40-foot boat moored in the Five Islands harbor of Georgetown. “I could fill this with codfish if I wanted to, but that wouldn’t help anybody in this sector and that is not why we are out here.” To help him catch the groundfish he wants and avoid the species he doesn’t, Kelley has begun experimenting with a contraption akin to a conventional fishing reel on steroids and with an electronic brain. The “automatic jigging machines” loaned to Kelley and a handful of other fishermen by The Nature Conservancy allow them to more accurately target the water column where pollock hang out and stay off the bottom where cod lurk. Read the rest here 07:49

A comprehensive article about Massachusetts DMF Industry-Based Survey underway in Gulf of Maine

EP-160719486.jpg&MaxW=650&MaxH=650Massachusetts received more than $21 million in federal fisheries disaster aid, most of which was distributed to fishermen. But the state kept some for research projects, including $400,000 for an eight month Industry-Based Survey of random tows throughout the Gulf of Maine, from Cape Cod Bay up to Portland, Maine, focusing on cod, but counting and cataloging the fish and other species they catch. The state survey is part of Gov. Charlie Baker’s promise to help fishermen answer some of the key questions plaguing fishery management, Beaton said. Fishermen contend they are seeing a lot of cod in the Gulf of Maine, but their observations don’t match NOAA stock assessments that show historically low populations. The disconnect, fishermen say, results from the federal government using a vessel and net that have had trouble catching cod and performing surveys in the wrong places at the wrong time of year. The state survey will be more intensive than the federal effort, with approximately 400 tows in the Gulf of Maine over eight months compared with NOAA’s two-month research cruise with approximately 800 trawl locations from North Carolina up over the Canadian maritime border. Read the article here 09:50

Gloucester – Fishermen, scientists to assess stock

The most incendiary divide between groundfishermen and fishing regulators in the past two years has been the discrepancy between what NOAA Fisheries says its stock assessments show and what fishermen are seeing on the water. The groundfish assessments by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration — particularly for the iconic Gulf of Maine cod stock and certain flounders — have been uniformly dire, leading to the virtual shuttering of cod fishing in the Gulf of Maine and scant quotas for other species. Fishermen — including commercial groundfishermen, charter captains and even lobstermen — paint a very different portrait of what they are seeing on a daily basis: cod, cod everywhere, and not a one they can catch. On June 20, the city’s Economic Development and Industrial Corporation and fishing stakeholders will host a presentation by a team of University of Massachusetts scientists on their current findings and methodology for fish population counting in the Gulf of Maine. Read the rest here 10:09

Scallop fishermen poised for fight over shellfish, fishermen and regulators to meet Wednesday

Scallop fishing has increased dramatically off some parts of New England recently, and War Cry Scallop dredge will soon meet to discuss how to avoid overexploiting the valuable shellfish. The concern over scallop fishing centers on the northern Gulf of Maine, a management area that stretches roughly from the waters off of Boston to the Canadian border. Scallop grounds off of northern Massachusetts have been especially fertile, prompting increased fishing in that area. The New England Fishery Management Council, a regulatory arm of the federal government, will hold a public meeting about the issue Wednesday (links here)and decide how to proceed. Alex Todd, a Maine-based fisherman who fishes off of Gloucester, Massachusetts, said he and others feel the rules are not equal. Read the rest here 11:46

The Gulf of Maine Research Institute’s forecast could be affected by next week’s anticipated cold snap.

kitty lob forcastAn early June start to this year’s lobster season appears less likely in the latest forecast by researchers, but water temperatures in the Gulf of Maine still favor a “very early” start by June 19 or so. Scientists at the Gulf of Maine Research Institute in Portland put the odds of a very early start to the season – meaning two to three weeks before the traditional early July start – at 62 percent in the latest update of the forecast, issued Thursday. Read the rest, Click here 11:28

Opinion: Cashes Ledge decision a victory for open government

cashes ledge closedThe decision by the Obama administration to pass on a proposal to make a large swath of the Gulf of Maine a national monument is not only a victory for fishermen. It’s also a win for those who favor open government. News came late last week that the administration would not, in fact, use the federal Antiquities Act to make the area around Cashes Ledge a permanent “maritime national monument” by executive decree. The environmental lobby is not abandoning its efforts. Read the rest here 07:49

Gulf of Maine Research Institute says lobster season will likely start around June 19.

kitty lob forcastAn updated forecast points to an even stronger likelihood that Maine’s lobster season is going to get off to a very early start. The forecast from the Gulf of Maine Research Institute, updated Thursday, said there’s a 47 percent chance of an “extremely early start,” defined as beginning as early as June 12. The lobstering season typically kicks into high gear after July 4. A “very early start,” defined as beginning around June 19, has a likelihood of 50 percent, the institute said, and an “early start” of around June 26 has a likelihood of 3 percent. The institute said there’s virtually no chance of a normal or late start to the season for Maine’s most valuable fishery. Read the rest here 17:38

Species groups follow patterns reacting to climate change on US northeast shelf

cod-fishResearchers studying marine fishery species grouped by similar depth and temperature distribution have found that those groups have similar responses to the effects of climate change. Interactions between individual species in those groups, however, may be affected by the amount of available habitat, predator-prey relationships, and competition for food resulting from shifts in range and distribution, the study says.  Gets interesting.  The study was conducted through a joint partnership between NOAA’s Northeast Fisheries Science Center and The Nature Conservancy, and was funded by a grant from the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation! Read it here 17:12

Maine shrimp – get ’em while they’re hot!

Thanks to a study being conducted by the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission (ASMFC) and the states of Maine, New Hampshire and Massachusetts, four trawlers and two trappers have been selected to collect samples of northern shrimp from the Gulf of Maine. Each participating trawler is required to conduct five research trips in one region, and is being compensated $500 per trip. Each would be allowed to sell up to 1,800 pounds of shrimp per trip. Good article! Read the article here 17:30

Maine lobster industry wary as warm waters suggest repeat of disastrous 2012 season

For those in the lobster industry, any sign of a return to the conditions of 2012 is cause for high anxiety. Researchers say the industry needs to be prepared for that possibility because warming trends are laying the groundwork for a potential repeat of the disastrous season of four years ago. “We learned a hard lesson in 2012,” said Patrice McCarron, executive director of the Maine Lobstermen’s Association. Because of warm waters in the Gulf of Maine, peak harvesting started in May that year, weeks ahead of schedule. The catch jumped more than 20 percent, from 104 million pounds in 2011 to 127 million pounds in 2012. The shedding season,,, Read the article here 10:29

Environmentalists, Fishermen At Odds Over Turning Cashes Ledge Into National Monument

tommy testaverde midnight sunAs some New England fishermen struggle under intense quota cuts, the industry is fearing another political move that could prove to have devastating consequences. There is an effort to designate Cashes Ledge — a historically important fishing area — as a national marine monument. This would require a presidential order and would effectively close the area to all commercial activity. About 80 miles off the coast of Cape Ann, a cold-water kelp forest grows from the tip of a ridge that rises from the ocean floor known as Cashes Ledge. Audio, Read the rest here 17:12

Maine Shrimp Hitting Market Thanks to Spawning Study

Despite a moratorium on the northern Maine shrimp fishing season for the third consecutive year, a few wholesale buyers, restaurants, and markets could have some Maine shrimp on their hands — and plates — this winter, due to a scientific study currently underway throughout the state.,, As part of the program, four shrimp trawlers and two trappers are collecting northern shrimp samples for biologists until mid-April, in order to study the timing of the egg hatch and the size, gender and developmental stage of the shrimp. Those shrimp not used for the sample are allowed to be sold. The sampling program allows participating fishermen to land a total of just over 48,500 pounds of shrimp from the Gulf of Maine. Read the post here 09:04

White House, Greens target Atlantic fishing grounds

Fishermen and seafood-dependent communities in New England are battening down the hatches, fearing that an Obama administration move to create a giant Atlantic Marine Monument will spell the end to their way of life. Led by Earthjustice, the Conservation Law Center, Natural Resources Defense Council, National Geographic Society, and the Pew Charitable Trust, environmentalists are urging the White House to use the 1906 Antiquities Act to designate a 6,000-square-mile area in the  and off the coast of Massachusetts as a National Monument. Read the rest here 09:25

Gulf of Maine lobster stock at an all-time high

lobsterDM0811_468x521A recent lobster stock assessment shows the population of the state’s famous bottom-dwelling crustacean at record highs in the Gulf of Maine. Through data collected by fishery-dependent and fishery-independent sources, the stock assessment gives fishermen and scientists a picture of the condition of the economically important stock. According to the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission, the 2015 benchmark stock assessment for lobsters shows the stock of crustaceans in the Gulf of Maine and Georges Bank is not depleted and overfishing is not occurring. However, the situation for the stock in southern New England is far less clear,,, Read the article here 12:52

New England States prepare to review new rules for herring fishery

atlantic herringThe new year will soon be here, and with it comes a new round of significant changes to the rules governing the herring fishery. Next week, the Department of Marine Resources will hold a public hearing on what is known as “Draft Amendment 3 to the Interstate Management Plan for Atlantic Herring.” Hearings are also scheduled in New Hampshire, Massachusetts and Rhode Island. According to the ASMFC, the new rules would affect the inshore Gulf of Maine — called Area 1A — herring fishery to reflect changes in both the herring resource and the fishery itself. Read the article here 08:30

New Study: Scientists unravel whale entanglement damage

Scientists from the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution have released a new study documenting how much damage entanglements in fishing gear does to North Atlantic right whales — one of the most endangered of all the large whale species. Their migratory routes take them through some of the busiest commercial fishing areas along the East Coast of the United States — including the Gulf of Maine — and into . According to the institution scientists, entanglements with fishing gear represent the leading cause of death for endangered whales. Read the article here, 18:32

HELLO!!!! Canada approves offshore oil exploration near Maine

635851111775155143-oildrillingmap00000000Oil drilling near Maine’s coastline is causing some concern for fishermen and environmentalists. The government of Canada has given the go-ahead to a Norweigan oil company to look for oil near where water enters the Gulf of Maine. That’s just 225 miles from Bar Harbor and right next to the important fishing ground of George’s Bank. Oil drilling off Nova Scotia has happened for decades. What makes this exploration different is its proximity to one of New England’s most important fishing grounds. Read the article here 20:18

Warmer Gulf of Maine clobbering the cod

AR-151209869.jpg&MaxW=650Desperate measures have been taken, cod quotas have been slashed again and again, and yet fish numbers continue to slide. Now, a new study by the Gulf of Maine Research Institute suggest the Gulf’s warming waters have led to the collapse of the fishery and recovery depends “as much on temperature as it does on fishing.”,, But if is the prime culprit, not over zealous fishermen, what more can be done on a local level? Andrew Pershing,  “Our work suggests that had temperature been factored in,,,” Read the article here 09:18

Oh No Canada. Nova Scotia approves oil exploration lease next to Georges Bank, entrance to Gulf of Maine

In a move opposed by fishermen, Canadian authorities have granted the company an exploratory lease for the area 225 miles southeast of Bar Harbor and bordering on the eastern flank of Georges Bank. Environmentalists fear drilling could leave the ecologically sensitive Gulf of Maine susceptible to a catastrophic oil spill. It would be the closest that exploratory drilling has come to Maine since the early 1980s. Five wells were drilled on the U.S. side of Georges Bank in 1981 and 1982, before U.S. and Canadian moratoriums were put in place to protect the fishing grounds. Read the article here 06:27

Lobsterman discovers sea squirts on his traps

Tunicates-Lobstering-SMR-23-1200x795It’s no secret that the waters of the Gulf of Maine are getting warmer. Although many fishermen say that this summer the water around Downeast Maine has been colder than in recent years, according to data compiled by the Gulf of Maine Research Institute, from 2004 to 2013, water surface temperatures rose faster in the Gulf of Maine than in 99.9 percent of the global ocean. Cold or warm, this year strange critters have made themselves at home in local waters, some of them apparently settling in Downeast Maine for the first time. Read the article here 19:02

WEEKEND FOCUS: Warming waters and the Gulf of Maine’s fate

gulf of maine warmHeadlines around that great body of water, cradled inside of Cape Sable Island to the north and Cape Cod in the south, screamed alarm this fall about a pending ecosystem collapse brought on by climate change. Most of those headlines linked back to a study by Andrew Pershing, chief scientific officer at the Gulf of Maine Research Institute, published in October in the journal Science. In it, Pershing attributes the non-recovery of cod stocks to the Gulf of Maine having warmed faster between 2004 and 2014 than 99 per cent of all other saltwater bodies on Earth. Read the rest here 09:38

A fisherman’s doubt, and his love of the sea

scituatefish7He is up before the dawn, and, a creature of steady habits, he heads for the seashore. It’s dark when Frank Mirarchi jumps into his black pickup truck, and dark still when he reaches Scituate Harbor. He parks on the town pier and stares at the ocean. But his 55-foot stern dragger is no longer moored there. Actually, the boat is there. But it’s no longer his. It was renamed last June after he sold it — a poignant punctuation point to Mirarchi’s half-century career as a commercial fisherman. Read the rest here 15:01

Not so fast on Atlantic marine monument – By Jon Williams

An ongoing campaign led by large, well-funded environmental organizations is urging President Obama to use the 1906 Antiquities Act to designate parts of the Atlantic Ocean—such as Cashes Ledge in the Gulf of Maine and the New England Canyons and Seamounts—as marine National Monuments. In September, I had the privilege of testifying before House Natural Resources Committee Subcommittee on Water, Power and Oceans about the aspect of this proposal that seeks to exclude historic fisheries from the designated area. Read the rest here 18:47

Gulf warming study based on bad science, stakeholders say

cod-fishThe study, performed by the Gulf of Maine Research Institute and appearing in the journal Science, concluded the Gulf of Maine’s surface water is warming more rapidly than 99.9 percent of the rest of the world’s oceans and that climate change is a contributing factor to the demise of the cod stock.  “My first question was whether any part of the study started out to understand the true status of Gulf of Maine cod or if they just assumed that the data from the assessment — which we contend is consistently wrong — is fact,” said Vito Giacalone, policy director for the Gloucester-based Northeast Seafood Coalition. “I was told it was the latter.” Read the rest here 08:39

Scientists: Warming ocean factor in collapse of Gulf of Maine cod fishery

cod-fish-852The scientists behind the Science report say the warming of the Gulf of Maine, which accelerated from 2004 to 2013, reduced cod’s capacity to rebound from fishing pressure. The report gives credence to the idea — supported by advocacy groups, fishing managers and even some fishermen — that climate change has played a role in cod’s collapse. The lead author of the study, Andrew Pershing of the Gulf of Maine Research Institute in Portland, said the gulf is warming at a rate 99 percent faster than anywhere else in the world, and as a result, too many of the fish aren’t living past age 4. Cod can live to be older than 20. Read the rest here 07:58

Warming waters a major factor in the collapse of New England cod, study finds

newstudywarmPershing and colleagues from GMRI, the University of Maine, Stony Brook University, the Bigelow Laboratory for Ocean Sciences, and NOAA’s Earth System Research Laboratory, including the Cooperative Institute for Research in Environmental Sciences at the University of Colorado Boulder, found that increasing water temperatures reduce the number of new cod produced by spawning females. Their study also suggests that warming waters led to fewer young fish surviving to adulthood. Read the rest here 18:04

UNE professor receives $493,000 in NOAA grants to study fisheries

A University of New England marine sciences professor was recently awarded two federal grants totaling more than $493,000 to fund studies aimed at improving the commercial fishing industry and the environment. The two grants from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration will research ways to reduce the deaths of Atlantic cod accidentally caught in lobster traps in the Gulf of Maine and Dusky sharks unintentionally caught during commercial pelagic longline fishing. Read the rest here 18:19

It’s time for 1906 Antiquities Act to be drastically reformed or scrapped altogether.

Clearly, the intent of creating these monuments has nothing to do with historical or cultural preservation. As Maine Gov. Paul LePage rightly noted, the designations would “serve only one purpose — excluding commercial fishing activity from certain segments of the ocean.” While the areas in question already enjoy a great deal of protection from destructive practices like trawling and dredging, environmental advocates are hopeful that a national monument would end all fishing activity by means of executive fiat. Read the rest here 11:24

Many young fish moving north with adults as climate changes

many young fish moving northwardResearchers found that larval stages of 43 percent of the species studied changed distribution, while adult stages of 50 percent of the species shifted distribution over the same time period. Shifts were predominantly northwards or along the shelf for both life stages, which is expected given the warming ocean in the region. In addition to distribution changes, the study also found changes in spawning times and locations for some species, implying a link between changes in distribution and changes in the environment. Larvae of winter and spring species like yellowtail flounder generally shifted earlier in the season. Summer and fall species like monkfish shifted later in the season. Read the rest here 14:42

Fight the threat to Maine workers – Governor Paul R. LePage

“A National Marine Monument putting Cashes Ledge and undersea canyons and seamounts in the Gulf of Maine off-limits to commercial fishing activity will affect Maine’s offshore lobstermen, tuna fishermen, herring fishermen and groundfish fishermen. Moreover, this comes on the heels of a roughly 10-year habitat amendment process at the New England Fishery Management Council. It looks like environmental interest groups that are unhappy with that process are now going to a higher authority to upend the result achieved by the council. Procedurally, this type of end-run is a terrible precedent. Read the rest here 11:26

An Unnatural History of The McLobster

From Robert Steneck’s home in South Bristol, Maine, his view reaches past the pale granite headlands at the mouth of the Damariscotta River to be swallowed by the open Atlantic. The word “pristine” tends to pop into the heads of visitors, he said, but he prefers a more objective description. “The Gulf of Maine is a highly simplified and arguably domesticated ecosystem,” Steneck, a marine ecologist with the University of Maine, explained. “If you put it that way, are you surprised that we have McLobsters?” Read the rest here 17:48

Pew Enviro Groups eye Marine National Monuments protections for Cashes Ledge, canyons, seamounts off Cape Cod

Enviro groups this week plan to call for sprawling areas in the Gulf of Maine and off Cape Cod and Rhode Island to be declared the first “marine national monument” on the eastern seaboard. A January 2009 presidential proclamation established three Pacific Marine National Monuments. Now the Conservation Law Foundation (CLF) and partners like the National Geographic Society, Pew Charitable Trusts and the Natural Resources Defense Council are seeking protections for the Closed Area in the Gulf of Maine and the New England Canyons and Seamounts off the Cape – areas CLF describes as “deep sea treasures.” Read the rest here 16:17

Maine Department of Marine Resources gets $256 Thousand for trawl survey from NOAA

cod-fish-852The survey gathers important data on the groundfish and lobster populations in near shore waters in the Gulf of Maine from the Massachusetts coast to the Canadian border. The Maine-New Hampshire Inshore Trawl Survey is a collaborative research project among DMR, the New Hampshire Fish and Game Department and commercial fishermen. Surveys are conducted twice a year, in the spring and fall, using a commercial fishing vessel. Read the rest here 13:28

Lobstermen play waiting game while early prices spike, And wait they must!

lobsterDM0811_468x521Maine’s lobster industry is gearing up for another big year as the state’s 4,500 commercial fishermen wait for lobsters to migrate to the coast and shed the hard shells they’ve been carrying all winter.  “The old saying is: ‘The weather gets better before the lobster catch does,’” he said. “It takes awhile for the water temperatures to warm up and for the lobsters to do their thing.” It all comes down to weather – not this weekend’s mostly sunny summer skies but the bitter cold of last winter that chilled the Gulf of Maine. Then a wave of storms in February mixed up the water column and drove those low temperatures at the surface down to lobster habitat at the bottom. Read the rest here

Study unveils why Atlantic bluefin tuna suffer despite prey abundance

In a paper in the journal Marine Ecology Progress Series titled “The paradox of the pelagics: why bluefin tuna can go hungry in a sea of plenty,” the seven authors outlined how the overall condition (fat content) of Atlantic bluefin tuna in the Gulf of Maine declined despite an abundance of Atlantic herring  — their preferred prey. The population of Atlantic herring has increased over the past two decades suggesting that foraging conditions should have been favorable for bluefin tuna. A decline in bluefin tuna condition despite,,, Read the rest here 10:26

‘Now I’m at half what I’d normally be at.’ Cod restriction’s rip the charter fleet

charter, cod restrictions, yankee freedomIt isn’t just the Northeast commercial groundfishing fleet that is struggling under the weight of the more restrictive federal fishing regulations that have completely taken cod off the table in the Gulf of Maine. The tendrils of those new regulations have reached the charter and for-hire fishing operators, who now try to combat both the reality — no cod — and the perception — no other groundfish species is worth the time and expense of a charter trip that have been generated by increasingly restrictive regulations instituted for the 2015 fishing season. Read the rest here 08:50

NEFMC Approve Some Habitat Changes – blocks no-fishing zone for scientific research on Stellwagen Bank

Federal fishery regulators say they will keep much-debated protections for Cashes Ledge in the 100_1407in place as part of a broad effort to alter the scope of New England’s fishing grounds. Peter Baker, director of northeast U.S. Oceans for Pew Charitable Trusts, said that with the recent approvals, the council remains “on a course to eliminate thousands of square miles of important fish habitat areas” in favor of commercial fishing concerns. He said the council has ignored conservationists’ (shrugs shoulders),,, Read the rest here 20:48