Tag Archives: National Marine Fisheries Service

CLF OVERRULED! New Fishing Rights in Gulf of Maine Upheld by Judge

A federal judge upheld a rule Monday that opens up a portion of the western Gulf of Maine to commercial and recreational fishing for the first time. The Conservation Law Foundation had challenged the rule last year, claiming the National Marine Fisheries Service wrongly prioritized economic considerations over its conservation duty when it reduced the protected area in that portion of the Gulf by about 25%. While the rule offered habitat protection in the eastern Gulf of Maine for the first time, the conservation group said the agency and the New England Regional Council should have closed more of the Gulf to fishing. >click to read<17:28

DC Circuit Sinks Challenge to Fishing Bycatch Rule

The D.C. Circuit on Friday upheld the government’s method of counting fish and other sea life that are unintentionally swept up in commercial fishing nets. The NMFS changed its method for counting bycatch in 2015,,, The 2015 change puts trained reporters, typically biologists, on a sample of fishing boats to count bycatch. Their numbers are then extrapolated across entire fleets, giving the government an estimate to work with. Conservation group Oceana challenged the new rule,,, >click to read<19:25

UNACCEPTABLE – Strict right whale protection goal raises concerns among lobstermen

Patrick Keliher, head of the Maine Department of Marine Resources, announced the proposed target at a conference of U.S. and Canadian lobstermen in Portland Friday while defending a decision to cancel three meetings with Maine fishermen to talk about looming right whale protections.,,, The National Marine Fisheries Service estimates that fishing rope entanglement kills or seriously injures five to nine right whales a year,… A few minutes later, Keliher got an email from the fisheries service that spelled out its risk reduction target. Frustrated, he stood up and delivered apparent bad news – he told an already exasperated audience that the service now wanted a 60 percent to 80 percent reduction in the size of the lobster fishery. The room erupted with anger. >click to read<22:49

Environmental groups sue to restrict salmon fishing for Northwest orcas

The Center for Biological Diversity, which filed a lawsuit nearly two decades ago to force the U.S. government to list the orcas as endangered, and the Wild Fish Conservancy asked the U.S. District Court in Seattle on Wednesday to order officials to reconsider a 2009 finding that commercial and recreational fisheries did not jeopardize the orcas’ survival. >Video, click to read<10:09

Con Groups File Intent to Sue to Protect Atlantic Sharks, Giant Rays From Lethal Longlines, Gillnets

On behalf of the Center for Biological Diversity and Defenders of Wildlife, Earthjustice today filed a notice of intent to sue the Trump administration for failing to protect oceanic whitetip sharks and giant manta rays from being killed by longlines and huge nets used by U.S. fishermen in Atlantic fisheries. >click to read<13:59

Sardine fishery likely will be closed this season

Sardine fishermen in Monterey Bay are facing a fifth straight year of restrictions on the amount they will be permitted to catch, creating financial hardships for the commercial industry.,,, Diane Pleschner-Steele, executive director of the California Wetfish Producers Association, was not available to comment Wednesday, but she told the Monterey Herald following the 2018 assessment that “fishermen are seeing more sardines, not less, especially in nearshore waters.” She believes the methods in which the Marine Fisheries collect data is flawed. Not only does Pleschner-Steele reject the notion that overfishing played a role in the decline of the sardine stock, she calls the stock’s collapse “fake news.” >click to read<20:16

Whales are facing a deadly threat along West Coast: container ships

One day last May, a container ship entered the San Francisco Bay with extra cargo. A 45-foot-long dead female fin whale was draped across the ship’s bow. The impact with the ship had broken her back, ruptured her organs and caused severe internal bleeding. Ten whale deaths were attributed to ship strikes in 2018 – the highest number on record in California since NOAA Fisheries began tracking in 1982. The mortality rate represents an enormous increase from the average 3.4 ship strike victims recorded annually in the five previous years. Five of the 10 whales that died with boat collision injuries in 2018 were endangered or threatened fin, blue and humpback whales. >click to read<15:29

Impending whale protections worry fishermen

With the majority of American lobsters caught in Maine, the state’s lobster fishermen could bear the brunt of changes in federal fishery regulations to save the endangered right whale. At the March 1 Fisherman’s Forum update on the threat of extinction for the North Atlantic right whale, it became clear regulators believe changes to fishing gear will be announced sometime this year. Right whale presentation – National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration official Mike Asaro explained that most of the remaining 450 North Atlantic right whales are male, with a population of about 100 females,,,. >click to read<16:17

Feds release Puget Sound steelhead recovery plan

The National Marine Fisheries Service has drafted a recovery plan for Puget Sound steelhead, including those from the Skagit River. The fisheries service, which is a division of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, is taking public comment on the plan through March 28. A recovery plan is required for any species protected under the U.S. Endangered Species Act. >click to read<10:53

Complaints about ‘chalky’ halibut draw attention from international commission

After years of hearing concerns from fishermen about the prevalence of “chalky” Pacific halibut, the International Pacific Halibut Commission is planning to gather information for an investigation into it. Chalky halibut are fish that, when cut open, have a stiff, chalk-textured flesh as opposed to the normal pale and tender flesh. Chalky meat is not dangerous to humans but is not desirable and thus costs the fishermen at the dock. Dr. Josep Planas, who heads up biological research for the IPHC, noted plans to gather information about chalky halibut from stakeholders,, >click to read<16:07

Southeast purse seiners to hold another permit buyback vote

Southeast Alaska purse seine fishermen are preparing to vote on another permit buyback, with an eye toward making the fishery more viable in an era of more efficient vessels and smaller salmon runs. The National Marine Fisheries Service is scheduled to send out ballots to fishermen starting Jan. 15 asking whether the fleet should take on $10.1 million in federal loans to buy out 36 permits, removing them from the fishery forever. If successful, the move would reduce the number of permits in the fishery to 279, down about 100 permits since 2012. >click to read<14:35

Whale rule changes coming on two tracks

Maine lobstermen and their representatives, along with state fisheries regulators, continue in the trenches of debates about how much the Maine lobster fishery is implicated in the decline of the North Atlantic right whale. Ongoing efforts to protect the whales from entanglement with fishing gear may result in two different new sets of regulations, Sarah Cotnoir, resource coordinator for the Maine Department of Marine Resources, and Patrice McCarron, executive director of the Maine Lobstermen’s Association, told the Zone B Council last week. >click to read<11:03

North Atlantic Right Whale: Fishing closure looms over South Shore lobstermen

The annual fishing closure that forces a halt of the lobstering industry each winter is still a month away, but lobstermen are already pulling their traps out of the water and preparing for a long three months of trying to make ends meet. For the last four years, federal regulations have forced lobstermen out of the water from Feb. 1 to April 30, an attempt to lessen the number of North Atlantic right whales that die due to fishing gear entanglements. Not only can the fishermen not be in the water, but they also have to pull all of their traps from the ocean floor before Feb. 1 — as many as 800 per commercial license. >click to read<19:15

Government shutdown, if it continues, could cost Alaska’s lucrative Bering Sea fisheries

Even if the shutdown does persist, the federal government will allow the Bering Sea fisheries to start as scheduled, with an initial opening for cod Jan. 1, and a second opening for pollock and other species Jan. 20. But the fisheries are heavily regulated, and before boats can start fishing, the federal government requires inspections of things like scales — for weighing fish — and monitoring equipment that tracks the number and types of fish being caught. And the National Marine Fisheries Service, which regulates the Bering Sea fisheries, isn’t doing those inspections during the shutdown. >click to read<20:16

Work continues on federal plan for Cook Inlet salmon

More than two years after a court ruling ordered the North Pacific Fishery Management Council to develop a management plan for the Cook Inlet salmon fishery, a stakeholder group has made a first set of recommendations. The council convened a Cook Inlet Salmon Committee last year composed of five stakeholders to meet and offer recommendations before the council officially amends the Fishery Management Plan, or FMP, for the drift gillnet salmon fishery in Upper Cook Inlet, which occurs partially in federal waters. >click to read<15:13

Alaska Fishermen Hauling A Bigger Catch With Gear They Get To Use For The First Time

Longtime Alaska fisherman Bill Harrington has a few choices words about killer whales.  “As far as I’m concerned, they’re only thieves in tuxedos,” Harrington says. He’s retired now, but a video from a decade ago shows him pulling in his line as he curses out a pod of killer whales swarming his boat. His catch is exposed; he is not happy. A sperm whale bursts out of the water and Harrington tells them what he really thinks. He knows even just a couple of killer whales could pick his line clean. But now fishermen are taking advantage of new regulations that let them fish with a previously banned piece of gear. Longline pots >click to read<10:20

Offshore oil exploration: Can the average citizen make a difference?

To the average American it often seems that our elected leaders, once they get to Washington, D.C., can become somewhat hard-of-hearing to the wants and desires of the voters who sent them there. Such is the case with the recent approval of a permitting process by the National Marine Fisheries Service, which will allow seismic airgun exploration in the Atlantic Ocean off the East Coast of the United States – an activity, experts say, that is extremely hazardous for whales, dolphins, turtles, and other sea creatures. Hundreds of municipalities have already expressed formal opposition to both airgun exploration and offshore drilling, as have hundreds of state and local legislators. >click to read<13:43

Whale entanglements exceeded average in 2017, report says

The number of large whales entangled in U.S. waters was a little worse than usual in 2017, but entanglements of right whales and in the Northeast were down. In a report released Thursday, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration confirmed 76 large whales were found entangled in fishing gear or marine debris in U.S. waters in 2017. Six of the 76 entangled whales were found dead, 45 were presumed to be alive but still entangled, four had freed themselves and 21 were freed by good samaritans or members of the national Large Whale Entanglement Response Network. >click to read<14:35

Oceana’s Challenge to Bycatch Rule Looks Likely to Sink

The D.C. Circuit appeared primed Monday to uphold how the government counts bycatch — a term for various sea life unintentionally swept up in commercial fishing. Led by the nonprofit Oceana, the challengers take issue specifically with procedures by which the National Marine Fisheries Service monitors for bycatch with less intensity than Congress allowed it. The agency came up with a new procedure to cover the Greater Atlantic region three years ago after a plan from 2008 was found to have improperly given the agency “complete discretion” to depart from procedure. >click to read<09:05

Ropes are latest flashpoint in tug of war over right whales

The lobster industry is willing to consider switching to weaker rope to protect the endangered right whale from deadly entanglements, but whale defenders say that doesn’t go far enough to help a species that can’t bear even one more death. A team of scientists, regulators, animal rights groups and fishermen met this week in Providence to review proposals,,, The team is advising the National Marine Fisheries Service on how to prevent whales from getting entangled in fishing gear as they migrate, feed and mate as they travel back and forth along the East Coast of the United States and Canada. >click to read<11:54

In Battle Over Whale, Judge Tears Up Agency Stonewalling

A federal judge opened the door Thursday for environmentalists to bolster claims over a lobster fishery they blame for the declining population of an endangered whale. Ordering the National Marine Fisheries Service to produce discovery, U.S. District Judge James Boasberg said the Endangered Species Act allows the agency’s challengers to use evidence outside the administrative record. “In order to accurately assess the alleged crisis of these cetaceans, the court will benefit from a record that reflects the actual, ongoing effects of the lobster fishery on the species,” the 16-page ruling says. The cetaceans at issue are called the North Atlantic right whale. There were roughly 455 right whales left as of 2016, and the Conservation Law Foundation says at least 18 of these have been killed since 2017. >click to read<16:28

NEFMC Approves Atlantic Herring Amendment 8; Asks NMFS to Set 2019 Catch Limits

On September 25 during its meeting in Plymouth, MA, the New England Fishery Management Council approved Amendment 8 to the Atlantic Herring Fishery Management Plan. The Council also asked the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS, NOAA Fisheries) to develop an in-season action to set 2019 specifications for the herring fishery.   ABC Control Rule: The acceptable biological catch (ABC) control rule is a formula that will be used to set annual catch limits. The Council considered close to a dozen alternatives that would allow different levels of fishing mortality depending on the estimated level of herring biomass in the ecosystem.,,  Potential Localized Depletion and User Conflicts –Buffer Zone, Stock Status and 2019 Catch Limits,,, >click to read<21:34

After year in DC, NMFS Chris Oliver reflects on fisheries progress

Chris Oliver has had a busy year since he made the leap from Anchorage to Washington, D.C. to take the lead job at the National Marine Fisheries Service. As soon as he arrived, there was an annual priorities document to review,,, The document is both internally-facing and public to help guide NMFS’ decisions. There were three goals listed in that document, the first of which was to ensure the sustainability of fisheries and fishing communities. He changed it to read “maximize fishing opportunities while ensuring the sustainability of fisheries and fishing communities.” “There are a number of fisheries around the country where we’re not fully utilizing the available harvest whether it’s choke species or bycatch constraints or outdated regulations,” >click to read<09:00

NOAA/NMFS – Reducing the Sub-Annual Catch Limits for Atlantic Herring Management Areas 1A, 1B, 2, and 3

These reductions go into effect today (August 22, 2018), and are based on the most recent stock assessment, which shows that the herring stock is in decline due to historic lows in recruitment over the past five years. To prevent overfishing in 2018, the new Management Area sub-ACLs are as follows: >click to read<16:33

Center for Biological Diversity sues Trump administration to expand protected Southern Resident orca habitat along West Coast

The Tucson, Arizona-based Center for Biological Diversity said as it filed the lawsuit in U.S. District Court in Seattle.,,The lawsuit says the National Marine Fisheries Service has failed to act on the center’s 2014 petition to expand habitat protections to the orcas’ foraging and migration areas off the coasts of Washington, Oregon and California — even though the agency agreed in 2015 that such a move was necessary. The center says the protections would help reduce water pollution and restrict vessel traffic that can interfere with the animals.“ click to read<16:36

NEFMC Seeks Input From Fishermen and Research Partners on RSA Programs; Take the Online Survey!

The New England Fishery Management Council is asking fishermen and their cooperative research partners who participate in the Atlantic Sea Scallop, Atlantic Herring, and/or Monkfish Research Set-Aside (RSA) Programs to take an online survey and provide feedback on the strengths and weaknesses of these programs and pass along any suggestions for improvement. Other stakeholders who have an interest or role in RSA programs also are encouraged to take the survey.,,, The survey, which contains roughly 40 questions, will be available online until mid-September 2018. >click to read<17:02

A profound threat to our fisheries, the ocean habitat, and our way of life. Please read and sign this important petition

Dear Secretary Zinke: We participate, either directly or indirectly, in a wide range of commercial fisheries in the New York-New Jersey Bight. The Bight is the geographic indentation along the Atlantic Coast extending northeasterly from Southern New Jersey to the eastern tip of Long Island. We write to express our concern and opposition to the proposed wind energy lease areas the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) has put out for “Call” in the New York-New Jersey Bight. We have appreciated your outreach to our industry over the past year, and hope we can continue a constructive dialogue. At the same time, we want to make sure you understand that the risks to our industry from poorly-planned offshore wind energy development are immense. If you were to draw a bulls-eye where our historic Mid-Atlantic fishing grounds are on a map, the bulls-eye would include the Hudson North and Hudson South Areas identified by the State of New York, and the Fairways North and Fairways South areas that BOEM unilaterally and subsequently added to the Call. This is a profound threat to our fisheries, the ocean habitat more generally, and our way of life. >click here to read and sign the petition<12:33

Stop efforts to kill salmon and fishing jobs

Today, many Northern California commercial fishermen sit in harbors along our coast worrying about their bills and waiting for another disastrously shortened salmon season to begin. Many businesses that serve the normally robust sport salmon fishery also have suffered because of the delay. River fishing guides have lost half their season as well. Salmon numbers are predicted to be down from the lingering effects of the last drought and the damaging water allocation decisions that put salmon fishing families last. Meanwhile, San Joaquin Valley congressmen are hard at work tilting the balance of water in California toward valley agricultural barons. >click to read<10:48

Seals were once nearly wiped out from the Gulf of Maine.

At any given time, approximately 600 seals splash, bathe and feed around a modest mass of rocks six miles off the coast of Maine, the northernmost of the Isles of Shoals. These seals, both gray and harbor species, have made a resurgence in local waters over the last two decades following the imperative enaction of federal protections. Prior to the 1970s, the species had essentially been extirpated in Maine and Massachusetts, after being hunted for their pelts, and killed as competition for fish, said Jennifer Seavey, executive director of Shoals Marine Laboratory on Appledore Island, a joint program between the University of New Hampshire and Cornell University. >click to read<09:38