Tag Archives: National Marine Fisheries Service

For fisheries regulations, a Trump edict signals uncertainty

New England fishermen and conservationists fear one of President Trump’s executive orders will have disruptive effects on fisheries management, although it will not affect routine seasonal fisheries regulation, as some had initially feared. The order prompted a fiery letter three days later from two prominent Democratic congressmen pointing out it could have “devastating impacts on commercial and recreational fisheries and the businesses and communities they support.” “Effectively what it means is that nobody can do anything because agencies will have to stop doing major regulatory actions because you can’t comply with this order, which may be the point,” says a former top federal fisheries management official, Andrew Rosenberg, who is now director of the Center for Science and Democracy at the Union of Concerned Scientists. Drew Minkiewicz, a Washington, D.C., lawyer representing larger Eastern Seaboard scallop fishermen, says fishermen need not be concerned about most regulations. “This executive order has zero impact on 99.9 percent of the fishing regulations going out, so people who are wondering if the fishing season will be delayed don’t need to,” he says. “It’s much ado about nothing.” Read the article here 08:39

North Pacific council director a possibility for Assistant Administrator position at NMFS replacing Eileen Sobeck

Chris Oliver, the executive director of the North Pacific Fishery Management Council for the past 16 years, didn’t ask for a consideration as the new assistant administrator for the National Marine Fisheries Service; rather, the most powerful fishing industry voices in the nation’s most profitable region asked. He doesn’t know if the new administration will offer it or if he’d want it if it did. Still, looking at his history, knowledge and reputation, he seems in many ways a natural fit. Oliver said when it became known that the current administrator, Eileen Sobeck, won’t be staying with the new administration, parts of the fishing universe aligned. In the North Pacific and elsewhere, catch share systems are a contentious issue; Oliver said in an interview he’s already had fisheries stakeholders from other regions probing for what his intent would be with their respective fisheries. Oliver’s answer sums up both his attitude and in part that of the new administration. “It’s not my call,” he said. “What makes sense in the North Pacific…may not make sense in New England, or in the Gulf of Mexico. Read the story here 10:47

Fish Industry Says Tighter Monitoring Will Hurt Business

Several seafood and restaurant industry groups sued the National Marine Fisheries Service over its plan to more closely monitor where market-bound fish are coming from to thwart those who profit from illegal catches. In a lawsuit filed in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia, (Click here to read the complaint) the plaintiff associations claim the new policy would increase the costs incurred by their members and that those costs would further hurt their businesses when they were, of necessity, passed on to consumers. The fisheries service believes a large amount of the fish and other sea life consumed by Americans is being caught by illegal means or in ways that flout conservation and sustainable fishery management practices. For instance, plaintiff Alfa Seafood, a family-owned seafood importer and distributor located in Miami, Florida, claims they would need to hire three additional employees in order to comply with the Rule, which they say would cost them $195,000 per year, including benefits. If the cost of production were to go up, the cost of fish and other seafood to the consumer would also rise, Alfa says. Read the story here 10:53

Feds Facing Order to Redirect Klamath River Water for Salmon

Two Native American tribes sued the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation last year, claiming its bungled management of Klamath River waterways allowed a deadly parasite to infect 91 percent of endangered juvenile Coho and Chinook salmon.  The Yurok and Hoopa Valley Tribes say they depend on the salmon for subsistence, income and for traditional ceremonies that define their people. Lawyers for the federal government and an industry group of farmers and ranchers argue that diverting water to help salmon will harm businesses that support local jobs and communities and threaten another set of endangered fish, the shortnose sucker and Lost River sucker. In separate complaints against the federal government, the tribes say infection rates caused by the deadly parasite C. shasta, should have required the bureau to review its Klamath Irrigation Project’s impact on threatened salmon two years ago, but the bureau failed to take action in violation of the Endangered Species Act.During a hearing Friday, U.S. District Judge William Orrick III agreed the bureau should have reviewed the project when infection rates climbed to 81 percent in 2014 and 91 percent in 2015, well beyond the maximum 49 percent estimated in a 2013 biological opinion issued by co-defendant National Marine Fisheries Service. Read the story here 16:47

These California and Oregon farmers lost water in 2001. Now they want to be paid.

Northern California and Oregon farmers who lost irrigation water in 2001 for the sake of fish are plunging into a climactic courtroom battle for tens of millions of dollars in compensation. Years in the making, the trial set to start Monday in the U.S. Court of Federal Claims near the White House involves a lot of money, but that’s not all. For other Westerners, too, it can have broader implications, clarifying what the government may owe for water steered away from crops toward environmental protection. “It’s a civil rights case, at bottom,” farmers’ attorney Nancie Marzulla said in an interview. “It involves the protection of private property. We all expect the government to respect private property rights.” The same court ruled in 2001, for instance, that the federal government had taken water without paying compensation to California’s Tulare Lake Basin Water Storage District and others that had been deprived of water for the sake of the delta smelt and the winter-run chinook salmon. The judge later concluded the water districts were owed $13.9 million plus interest, and the case is still cited. Read the rest of the story here 15:10

Connecticut’s fishing fleet facing potentially ‘disastrous’ quota cuts for fluke

“It’s going to put us out of business,” Stonington fisherman Robert Guzzo, vice president of the Southern New England Fishermen and Lobstermen’s Association, said Wednesday. “I’ve never seen so many fish in the ocean. The fish are out there, but the science and the regulators haven’t caught up with what’s actually out there.” On Wednesday, U.S. Sen. Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., pressed commerce secretary nominee Wilbur Ross to use his authority to change how quotas for fish species including fluke — also called summer flounder — are allocated among states from the mid-Atlantic to New England. In response, Ross said he is interested in helping the fisheries and ensuring quotas are allocated properly. The Department of Commerce includes the National Marine Fisheries Service. Blumenthal’s statements during the hearing came a day after he and U.S. Sen. Chris Murphy, D-Conn., and U.S. Rep. Joe Courtney, D-2nd District, sent a letter to the current commerce secretary urging that the new quotas be withdrawn. Read the story here 10:30

NFI sues NOAA over new IUU rule

The National Fisheries Institute (NFI) has sued the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and the Department of Commerce over a recently enacted rule that could cost the commercial fishing industry as much as USD 1 billion (EUR 946 million) annually. NOAA’s National Marine Fisheries Service issued a final rule on 9 December that requires U.S. seafood importers to trace the origin of the fish they import to either the specific boat that caught the fish or to its collection point, as well as the location and date the fish was caught. The regulation was designed to combat illegal, unregulated and unreported (IUU) fishing regulation, but it will cost the industry at least USD 100 million (EUR 95 million) per year, NFI said in a press release. Read the story here 14:11

South Shore Lobstermen brace for third year of fishing ban

It’s a classic New England scene, colorful lobster traps stacked up along a dock. But for fishermen in South Shore lobster ports, those grounded traps are a symbol of hard times ahead. Aban that keeps most of their gear out of the water for the winter is entering its third year, despite arguments that it causes them unfair economic hardship. “If it made sense, that would be one thing,” Irvine Nash, a lobsterman for 48 years, said as he stood on a dock in Green Harbor. “But it don’t,” he said. Behind him, fishermen were pulling traps out of the water and loading them on trucks. They will sit empty in yards and garages until May, when the government lifts the ban. Under a recent rule from the National Marine Fisheries Service, all traps from outer Cape Cod to Cape Cod Bay and parts of Massachusetts Bay must be out of the water by Feb. 1. That’s an area just under 3,000 square nautical miles. The federal agency first imposed the ban in 2015, to decrease the likelihood of endangered North Atlantic right whales, which come to Cape Cod Bay every winter, from entangling themselves in lobster lines. Read the story here 08:36

Obama Administration Issuing New Rules to Curb Illegal Fishing, Seafood Fraud

The Obama administration is issuing new rules it says will crack down on illegal fishing and seafood fraud by preventing unverifiable fish products from entering the U.S. market. The new protections are called the Seafood Import Monitoring Program, and they are designed to stop illegally fished and intentionally misidentified seafood from getting into stores and restaurants by way of imported fish. The rules will require seafood importers to report information and maintain records about the harvest and chain of custody of fish, officials with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration said. The program will start by focusing on “priority species” that are especially vulnerable to illegal fishing, such as popular food fish like tuna, swordfish, Atlantic cod and grouper. The government hopes eventually to broaden the program to include all fish species, NOAA officials said. Read the rest here 17:50

MDMR officials oppose proposed changes to NOAA shark regulations

The Mississippi Department of Marine Resources oppose proposals by NOAA Fisheries that would increase shark regulations for recreational and commercial fishermen. NOAA proposes recreational and commercial fishermen required to complete an online shark identification and fishing regulation training course and use circle hooks when fishing for or landing sharks. DMR Executive Director Jamie Miller recently sent a letter to the National Marine Fisheries Service. Miller believes the NOAA’s plan would “place punitive regulations on shark species that assessments have indicated healthy stocks which impact both recreational and commercial sectors.” Read the rest here 10:35

South Shore charter fishermen oppose new federal Dusky shark regulations

The National Marine Fisheries Service, a federal agency that regulates fishing in U.S. waters, is proposing new rules to protect a vulnerable shark species off the East Coast. Some charter boat captains who fish off the South Shore, however, see a problem with that. They argue that the shark in question – the dusky shark – does not even exist in much of their New England fishing grounds. “There are no duskies north of Cape Cod. None, zero,” Capt. Mike Pierdinock, who sits on the board of the Marshfield-based Stellwagen Bank Charter Boat Association, said last week. His charter boat, “Perseverance,” fishes out of New Bedford. “It’s ridiculous,” he said. “It smells of someone sitting at a desk and not looking at the realities of how things really are.” The National Marine Fishery Service’s proposed regulations are a response to a lawsuit by the environmental advocacy group Oceana. Read the rest of the story here 07:56

Plan for Dusky shark doesn’t please Oceana cons

The federal government isn’t going far enough with a plan to protect a threatened shark that lives off the East Coast and has been decimated by the fin trade, some conservationists argue. The National Marine Fisheries Service is proposing changes to federal fishing rules with the goal of protecting dusky sharks, a large species that is down to about 20 percent of its 1970s population off the East Coast and in the Gulf of Mexico because of commercial fishing for the species that’s now illegal off the U.S. Dusky sharks were long hunted for their meat and oil, as well as their fins, which are used to make soup in traditional Chinese cooking. The fisheries service is proposing a suite of new rules for recreational and commercial fishermen designed to protect the shark, which is sometimes still killed via accidental bycatch by fishermen seeking other species. But conservation group Oceana said the rules aren’t strict enough and leave the sharks vulnerable. Read the story here 11:29

NMFS Seeks Public Comment-Proposed Rule to Require Turtle Excluder Device Use for Skimmer Trawls, Pusher-Head Trawls, and Wing Nets (Butterfly Trawls)

More shrimp fishermen would have to use nets equipped with turtle escape hatches, to prevent sea turtle deaths, under proposed new federal rules. The National Marine Fisheries Service wants to require more shrimp fishermen to use “turtle excluder devices.” The devices are metal grates that allow turtles to escape the boats’ nets. The fisheries service announced the proposed rules Thursday. They will be subject to a public comment process through mid-February. Thursday was the deadline for the federal government to propose regulations to protect turtles under a settlement with the conservation nonprofit Oceana. Oceana sued the government in April 2015, arguing that government estimates indicate that more than 500,000 sea turtles get caught in shrimp nets each year, and more than 53,000 of them die. Link  NMFS Seeks Public Comment for Proposed Rule Click here  11:39

Federal judge tosses another fisheries management rule

alaska-halibut__frontFederal judges keep smacking down the North Pacific Fishery Management Council’s decisions. For the second time in the last three months, a federal court has overturned a management decision made by the North Pacific council and enacted by the National Marine Fisheries Service, or NMFS. The United States District Court of Washington overturned a 2011 decision relating to halibut quota shares harvested by hired skippers on Nov. 16. Federal courts have overturned several council decisions in recent years. In September, a the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals overturned the council’s 2011 decision to remove Cook Inlet, Prince William Sound and Alaska Peninsula salmon fisheries from federal oversight.  In this case, the North Pacific council made a decision in 2011 regarding which halibut quota holders can use a hired skipper instead of being required to be on board the vessel. Read the story here 14:09

LI fisherman indicted in connection with illegal fluke harvest

An East Northport commercial fisherman who was once an outspoken critic of federal regulators was indicted Tuesday on charges of conspiracy, mail fraud and falsification of federal records in connection with illegally harvest more than $400,000 worth of fluke, authorities said. A federal grand jury returned the indictment against Thomas Kokell, a North Shore clammer who once operated a commercial trawler at Point Lookout. Prosecutors with the U.S. Department of Justice’s Environmental Crimes section charged Kokell was involved in a scheme to cover up the illegal harvest of 196,000 pounds of fluke by falsifying dozens of fishing trip and dealer reports, which are required as part of commercial fishing regulations. The case against Kokell was investigated by agents of the National Marine Fisheries Service. Read the rest here 09:39

Navy to Expand Sonar, Other Training off Northwest Coast

navy-sonar-sonobuoy-2953763The U.S. Navy has finalized a plan to expand sonar testing and other warfare training off the coasts of Washington, Oregon and northern California. The Navy decided to implement its preferred plan after a lengthy review that included a determination from the National Marine Fisheries Service that the exercises would not have major impacts on endangered orcas and other marine mammals. It announced its decision on Nov. 4. The fisheries service last year renewed the Navy’s five-year permit, through 2020, to conduct the activities in areas from the inland waters of Puget Sound in Washington state to the northern coast of California. The plan includes expanding the use of “sonobuoys,” devices that send out underwater sonar signals used by air crews training to detect submarines. Read the rest here 16:54

U.S. to Auction 79,000 Acres Offshore New York for Wind Energy

wind farmThe United States Department of the Interior and the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) announced that 79,350 acres offshore New York will be offered in a December 15 commercial wind lease sale. The New York Wind Energy Area starts approximately 11.5 nautical miles from Jones Beach, New York, on Long Island. From its western edge, the area extends approximately 24 miles southeast at its longest portion. The lease area consists of five full Outer Continental Shelf blocks and 143 sub-blocks. After reviewing comments received on the environmental assessment, BOEM removed about 1,780 acres from the lease area due to environmental concerns regarding a seafloor feature known as the Cholera Bank. In a comment letter, the National Marine Fisheries Service identified the Cholera Bank feature as a sensitive habitat to be avoided for the placement of structures. As a result of this removal, the revised lease area will be approximately two percent smaller than the lease area considered in the proposed sale notice. In response to concerns raised by commercial fishing interests, BOEM also has included a lease requirement for the lessee to develop a publicly available fisheries communications plan and work with a fisheries liaison to facilitate communication with the fishing industry. Read the rest here 16:09

Editorial: Fishing essential in monetary and cultural ways

map1For fishing communities, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s annual publication about commercial landings makes great reading. As we’ve observed in the past, “Fisheries of the United States” is interesting here in much the same way crop reports are a topic of fascination for farmers. Make no bones about it: Irrespective of decades of impressive economic diversification, the Lower Columbia and nearby places like Garibaldi, Newport, Willapa Bay and Westport, Washington, are fishing communities in essential cultural and monetary ways. Fishing dollars bounce around coastal towns and bolster the business climate in much the way fish fertilizer makes plants prosper. Analysis of multiyear trends points out some disturbing news about the strength of commercial fisheries on the Lower Columbia. The 2015 edition of the annual fisheries compendium from the National Marine Fisheries Service finds Astoria-area landings at something of a low ebb. Read the editorial here 09:10

Department of the Interior to auction over 79,000 acres offshore New York for wind development

U.S. Department of the Interior (DOI) Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell and the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) Director Abigail Ross Hopper announced that 79,350 acres offshore New York will be offered in a December 15 commercial wind-lease sale. The New York Wind Energy Area starts approximately 11.5 nautical miles (nm) from Jones Beach, NY. From its western edge, the area extends approximately 24 nm southeast at its longest portion. The lease area consists of five full Outer Continental Shelf blocks and 143 sub-blocks. After reviewing comments received on the Environmental Assessment, BOEM removed about 1,780 acres from the lease area due to environmental concerns regarding a seafloor feature known as the Cholera Bank. In a comment letter, the National Marine Fisheries Service identified the Cholera Bank feature as a sensitive habitat to be avoided for the placement of structures. As a result of this removal, the revised lease area will be approximately two percent smaller than the lease area considered in the Proposed Sale Notice. Read the rest here 13:55

National Marine Fisheries Service issues annual report on Fisheries of the United States, 2015

noaa nmfs logoThis publication is the annual National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) yearbook of fishery statistics for the United States for 2015. The report provides data on U.S. recreational catch and commercial fisheries landings and value as well as other aspects of U.S. commercial fishing. In addition, data are reported on the U.S. fishery processing industry, imports and exports of fishery-related products, and domestic supply and per capita consumption of fishery products. Information in this report came from many sources. Field offices of NMFS, with the generous cooperation of the coastal states and Regional Fishery Information Networks, collected and compiled data on U.S. commercial landings and processed fishery products. The NMFS Fisheries Statistics Division in Silver Spring, MD, managed the collection and compilation of recreational statistics, in cooperation with various States and Interstate Fisheries Commissions, and tabulated and prepared all data for publication. Sources of other data appearing in this publication are: U.S. Census Bureau, U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of the Interior, U.S. Department of Agriculture, and the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the United Nations. Read the press release here, Read the full report here 09:34

Oceana bites back at proposed rule for US dusky shark conservation

angry enviroU.S. President Barack Obama and his administration have released a proposal addressing the chronic overfishing of dusky sharks in U.S. waters. But suggested rule comes up short on its objective, according to marine conservation group Oceana. Oceana, which sued the federal government in 2015 in a challenge to its policies on dusky sharks,  has deemed the proposed rule as “grossly inadequate,” and charged that that the National Marine Fisheries Service fails to offer measurable means to stop dusky shark decline and facilitate the species’ recovery. Over the past two decades, dusky shark populations across the Atlantic and Gulf coasts have dropped by 65 percent as a result of bycatch and overfishing, said Oceana. Because the species is slow to grow and reproduces at low rates, recent studies suggest that the population would need between 70 and 180 years to recover. Read the story here 12:06

Pacific Bluefin Tuna Heads Toward Protection

pacific bluefin tunaThirteen conservation groups and a former National Fisheries biologist petitioned for federal protection for Pacific bluefin tuna, and the marine agency agreed listing may be warranted. The National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) announced Tuesday that it will begin a 12-month status review of the iconic fish as the first step in the long process to secure Endangered Species Act protection for the overfished species.  The Center for Biological Diversity, a frequent petitioner and litigator on behalf of imperiled species, was joined by Earthjustice, Defenders of Wildlife, WildEarth Guardians, Sierra Club, Turtle Island Restoration Network, the Ocean Foundation, Center for Food Safety, Greenpeace, Mission Blue, Recirculating Farms Coalition, The Safina Center, SandyHook SeaLife Foundation, and Jim Chambers, a retired NMFS biologist, owner of Prime Seafood sustainable seafood restaurant supply company and member of the Seafood Choices Alliance. Read the rest here 08:42

Fishermen, state, in flux after circuit court overturns state control of Cook Inlet salmon

09282016_erik-huebsch_mcchesney-300x200In Cook Inlet, managing the salmon runs for commercial, sport and subsistence interests is so controversial, it’s often called a fish war. A group of commercial fishermen who think the state is mismanaging the fisheries, have won the latest battle. A three-judge panel at the U.S. Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled last week that the area needs federal oversight. But no one knows exactly what that will mean. The United Cook Inlet Drift Association and the Cook Inlet Fishermen’s Fund say that instead of addressing habitat problems or fighting invasive species that eat salmon in Cook Inlet – the state simply restricted commercial fishing. So the fishing groups sued the National Marine Fisheries Service. They argued against a 2011 decision to remove several Alaska salmon fisheries — including Cook Inlet — from federal management and transfer the responsibility of managing salmon to the state.  A three-judge panel of the U.S. Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals agreed. For commercial fishermen like Brian Harrison, in Homer, the court’s decision is a victory. But, he’s not sure what to expect going forward. Read the story here 18:53

Ushering industrial aquaculture into the Pacific Islands Region EEZ is anything but sustainable

NOAA ScientistRight now, anyone can throw a cage into the open ocean within the Economic Enterprise Zone and begin an aquaculture operation, said Joshua DeMello, of the Western Pacific Regional Fishery Management Council. The beginning of that aquaculture management program for the Pacific Islands Region is in the works, under the eye of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration National Marine Fisheries Service and in conjunction with Western Pacific Regional Fishery Management Council. The entities are preparing a programmatic environmental impact statement (PEIS) analyzing the possible environmental impacts of the proposed management program and alternatives. “The purpose of it is to develop a management program to support sustainable, economically sound aquaculture in the Pacific Island Region,” DeMello said. The PEIS process looks at options for permit duration, whether cages should be metal or net pens, and allowable species. But ushering industrial aquaculture into the EEZ is anything but sustainable, poses a threat to the environment and could impact commercial fishing, according to a biologist. Read the story here 20:13

The government wants more offshore fish farms, but no one is biting

Off the coast of San Diego, America’s eighth largest city, commercial fishermen harvest about 1,100 metric tons of seafood from the Pacific every year. That sounds like a lot. But it isn’t much to Don Kent, who says he can do better with just one fish farm. If Kent gets his way, he would raise 5,000 metric tons of yellowtail jack and white sea bass in a grid of net pens measuring about a square mile, anchored four miles off San Diego in federal waters. The species are prized in Southern California sushi restaurants, which now serve their customers imported fish almost exclusively, most of it from China, Japan, Greece or Chile. The US imports about 91% of its seafood. Whether consumers know it or not, about half of that is farmed in aquaculture facilities much like the one Kent wants to build. While the federal government has permitted shellfish farming for years, it didn’t allow farming of finfish such as bass and salmon until earlier this year. Read the story here 10:41

New York State Extends Commercial Black Sea Bass Season to October 13th

dec-logoGovernor Andrew M. Cuomo announced that the state has extended the commercial black sea bass fishing season to October 13. Originally scheduled to close on September 17, the recent tropical storm contributed to a lower rate of black sea bass landings, making New York’s waters prime for an extended harvest season. After review of the most recent landings data, Department of Environmental Conservation and Division of Marine Resources staff determined that the commercial season could be extended. The current trip limit of 50 lbs. per day remains in effect. For certain commercially harvested species like black sea bass, annual commercial quota allocations are provided by the National Marine Fisheries Service and the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission. Fishery management tools such as fishing trip limits and quota management plans have been implemented for quota managed species. The Department of Environmental Conservation continues to work closely with commercial fishermen to expand black sea bass harvest opportunities, and also has called for a revised, more equitable federal management strategy to improve the fishery experience. Link 19:06

Ninth Circuit Sides With Cook Inlet Fishermen

A pair of setnetters push their boat to shore in Cook Inlet in 2013.The Ninth Circuit ruled Wednesday that the federal government must manage fisheries in federal waters that require conservation, unless a fishery-management plan cedes control to a state. Reversing a decision from the Alaska Federal Court, the Ninth Circuit panel held that the National Marine Fisheries Service is required by the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act to include the Cook Inlet in its fishery-management plan. It may not hand over control of the inlet to the state of Alaska without first drawing up a plan, according to the 20-page ruling. The North Pacific Fishery Management Council has jurisdiction over Cook Inlet. In 2011, the Council voted and passed Amendment 12 to remove the net-fishing areas from its plan, arguing that the plan was vague on management goals and that the state was the most appropriate management authority. However, the amendment was opposed by the United Cook Inlet Drift Association and the Cook Inlet Fishermen’s Fund, two groups of commercial fishermen.  However, the amendment was opposed by the United Cook Inlet Drift Association and the Cook Inlet Fishermen’s Fund, two groups of commercial fishermen. They argued that the state’s failure to deal with carnivorous northern pike and its improper escapement management have contributed to a 51 percent reduction in the sockeye salmon catch since 1981. Read the story here 08:14

National Marine Fisheries Service Announces Industry-Funded Monitoring Amendment Public Hearings and Comment Period

NMFSThe Mid-Atlantic and New England Fishery Management Councils have been working on an omnibus amendment to allow for industry-funded monitoring over the past several years. The amendment being developed includes alternatives that would modify all the fishery management plans managed by the Mid-Atlantic and New England Fishery Management Councils to allow for future industry-funded monitoring programs. Through the notice published today in the Federal Register, we are announcing public hearings and the opportunity to comment on the various amendment alternatives for future industry-funded monitoring programs, including cost responsibilities, processes, administrative requirements, priorities, and set-aside programs. If this is an issue you are interested in, this is an important opportunity to provide your input. Read the notice here 18:01

Charlie Melancon’s Department Of Wrongdoing And Falsehood

charlie-melanconHave you been paying attention to the chaos at hand with the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries? It appears that there is a full three-ring circus going on with DWF and its secretary, the former Democrat congressman Charlie Melancon. And after eight months on the job it’s pretty clear that perception among the in-the-know crowd was largely correct. The department is awash in controversy, if not criminality, and those affected by it are furious. To full explain this, we should go back several years to a program set up at the federal level. The Gulf of Mexico Fishery Management Council, which is a federal commission set up to govern offshore fishing in the five Gulf states (Florida, Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana and Texas), and the National Marine Fisheries Service set up something called the Individual Fishing Quota system, or IFQ, to govern commercial fishing for red snapper. Meaning, the federal government resorted to crony capitalism as a means to govern Gulf red snapper fisheries. If you were a big player in the red snapper harvest before the program got started, you were one of the cronies and your incumbency would be protected.  Read the story here. 19:20

New Rules Ban Seafood Imports That Don’t Meet Strict U.S. Standards for Marine Mammal Protection

MarineMammalsThe National Marine Fisheries Service issued regulations Thursday prohibiting seafood imports from nations whose fisheries kill more whales and dolphins than U.S. standards allow. Each year around 650,000 whales, dolphins and other marine mammals are unintentionally caught and killed in fishing gear worldwide. Under the new rule, foreign fishermen must meet the same marine mammal protection standards applied to U.S. fishermen or their fish will be banned from the lucrative American seafood market. The rule is the result of a settlement in a lawsuit brought by conservation groups two years ago. The new rules will be put in place gradually with full implementation by 2022. Exporting nations will now need to track and monitor fisheries and whale, dolphin and other marine mammal populations, modify fishing gear, and may even have to close fishing in some areas to limit entanglement risk. Read the rest here 10:51  Today, NMFS published a final rule implementing import provisions of the.

WPFMC asks for transparent analysis of proposed marine monument expansion

The Western Pacific Regional Fishery Management Council on Wednesday agreed to a resolution that asks the U.S. government to address a suite of concerns before acting on the proposed expansion on the Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument or MNM in the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands. Council members Suzanne Case, Hawaii Department of Land and Natural Resources chair, and Julie Leialoha, Conservation Council for Hawaii president, voted against the proposal. National Marine Fisheries Service or NMFS Pacific Islands Regional Administrator Michael Tosatto abstained. The resolution requests a “public, transparent, deliberative, documented and science-based process” to address the proposed expansion, which could prohibit fishing in two-thirds of the U.S. exclusive economic zone, i.e., waters out to 200 miles from shore, around Hawaii. The resolution is being sent to President Obama, the White House Council on Environmental Quality and the secretaries of Commerce, the Interior and State. Read the rest here 16:47

Enviro Defense Fund Applauds 9th Circuit’s Pacific whiting fishery ruling

The Ninth Circuit on Wednesday upheld a federal program that limits the number of Pacific whiting, or hake, fishermen can catch off the Northwest Coast. Two fishing companies, Pacific Dawn and Jessie’s Ilwaco Fish Co., sued the Secretary of Commerce and the National Marine Fisheries Service in 2013, claiming the Fisheries Service unreasonably refused to consider fishing activity after 2003 and 2004 when it set new quotas in 2011 and 2013. The three-judge panel Wednesday refused to overturn U.S. District Judge Thelton Henderson’s 2013 grant of summary judgment. Writing for the panel, Judge Sandra Ikuta agreed that the Fisheries Service considered more recent fishing activity when it set quotas but that it “gave greater weight to historic participation” in setting the new limits. Pacific Dawn said it was “disappointed’ with the ruling. “The decision upholds an individual fishing quota program that resulted from no meaningful consideration of current harvests or present participation in the fishery, as Congress requires,” Pacific Dawn said in a statement. Read the rest here 11:59

Author Alan Stein Says US Commerce FOIA Lawsuit Yielded Results

commerceA federal lawsuit moved the U.S. Department of Commerce to hand over thousands of pages of withheld documents needed to write a book, the lawyer of an environmental activist and author said Thursday. Writer, fisherman and environmental activist Alan Stein sued the Commerce Department under the Freedom of Information and Administrative Procedures Acts in July 2015. He claimed the department and two of its agencies — the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and the Office of the Inspector General — had stonewalled his requests for documents he needed for a book he was writing. Last year, Stein told Courthouse News (click here)  the planned book required materials from an investigation of Arne Fuglvog, a former fishing vessel operator and fisheries official who spent time in prison for making false statements in fishing quota reports. Read the rest here 08:12 Read  The NOAA Oversight Project – Fisherman’s FOIA’s Squeeze NOAA, to see the that James Balsiger, the acting head of the National Marine Fisheries Service, was going to be replaced by fisherman/ Senate staffer Arne Fuglvog who favored catch shares or scientist Brian Rothschild who did not. Click here

National Marine Fisheries Service Announces Final Rule to Adjust the 2016 North and South Atlantic Swordfish Quotas

noaa nmfs logoThis final rule adjusts the 2016 annual North and South Atlantic swordfish quotas based on 2015 underharvests and international quota transfers, and modifies the annual quota adjustment public notice in certain circumstances. The final adjusted quota for North Atlantic swordfish is 3,359.4 metric tons (mt) dressed weight (dw).  This quota is allocated as follows: the directed category quota = 3,009.4 mt dw; the incidental category = 300 mt dw; and the reserve category = 50 mt dw.  The final adjusted quota for South Atlantic swordfish is 75.1 mt dw. Read the rest here  National Marine Fisheries Service Announces Proposed Rule To Remove Vessel Upgrade Restrictions For Swordfish Directed And Atlantic Tuna Longline Category Limited Access Permits Read the rest here 16:41

Federal Agencies start work on Columbia River fishing deal

57827b9669a4a.imageFederal authorities are working on a plan aimed at deciding how much sport, commercial and tribal fishing for salmon and steelhead will be allowed in the Columbia River and its tributaries as part of a long-term agreement starting in 2018. The other main component considered in the environmental review being prepared by the National Marine Fisheries Service and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is hatchery production levels. The agencies will use the document as they work to craft an agreement with Idaho, Oregon and Washington, as well as tribes in those states with harvest treaty rights. The length of the agreement has yet to be determined, but a 10-year timeframe is generally supported. Read the story here 16:20

Summer flounder’s new status from “viable” to “concern”reduces allowable catch

Fluke Summer FlounderThe stock status of most coastal fish did not change in the 2016 N.C. Division of Marine Fisheries Stock Status Report, but one species was reclassified from the 2015 report. Summer flounder moved from “viable” to “concern” based on a 2015 National Marine Fisheries Service Northeast Fisheries Science Center benchmark stock assessment for U.S. waters north of Cape Hatteras. The assessment indicated the stock of summer flounder was not overfished but overfishing was occurring, according to a NCDMF news release. As a result of the stock assessment, federal fisheries authorities lowered the allowable biological catch by 29 percent, which lowered the state-by-state commercial quotas proportionately. North Carolina receives the highest commercial quota share at 27.4 percent. Read the rest here – Read NCDMR Stock Assessment here 14:51

Yurok Tribe Files Intent to Sue National Marine Fisheries Service and the Bureau of Reclamation

272106c4c2f6f8b444d177f854f5ab8aIn response to massive fish disease outbreaks in back-to-back years on the Klamath River, the Yurok Tribe submitted a 60-day notice of intent to sue the National Marine Fisheries Service and the Bureau of Reclamation. “We cannot stand by and do nothing while our salmon hover over the brink of extinction,” said Thomas P. O’Rourke Sr., Chairman of the Yurok Tribe. “We will not continue to watch water managers jeopardize the fate of our fish and our river.” 91 percent of the juvenile, Klamath salmon were infected with a deadly parasite in 2015, as were a nearly identical number of fish in 2014. Given the nearly 100 percent mortality rate associated with the disease, approximately 90 percent of the Chinook salmon and likely an equal quantity of coho died in the main-stem Klamath River during those years, according to the notice. This year’s predicted adult salmon run is one of the lowest on record, which forced the Yurok Tribe to make a difficult decision to completely forgo all commercial fishing in 2016. Read the rest here 15:22

NMFS looks at catch reduction of Atlantic herring

atlantic herringThe National Marine Fisheries Service might reduce the herring catch limit by about 3 percent to slightly less than 105,000 metric tons. The limit was a little less than 108,000 metric tons for the 2013 to 2015 period; any new limit would apply to the years 2016 to 2018. The proposal is up for public comment until July 21. The herring fishery takes place off of New England and the mid-Atlantic, but is principally based in Maine and Massachusetts, with a substantial amount of herring also coming ashore in Rhode Island and New Jersey. It was worth a little less than $30 million in 2014, when fishermen caught about 92,000 metric tons. Read the rest here 09:16

Chris Elkins, Ph.D., President of the CCA of NC calls NC marine fisheries advisory committee a sham!

fishing ncAll coastal states in our nation, except North Carolina, have a Joint Enforcement Agreement with the National Marine Fisheries Service because a JEA makes sense: It saves money and aids law enforcement. A special legislatively mandated group called the JEA Advisory Committee has been studying whether North Carolina should enter into a JEA with the National Marine Fisheries Service. A JEA would allow enforcement of federal fisheries rules by N.C. Marine Patrol officers and bring hundreds of thousands of dollars to the patrol. On June 1, the committee, charged with advising the legislature on the JEA, met in New Bern. It has become clear that the committee is indisputably a sham. Read the rest here 19:18

South Atlantic Fishery Management Council propose changes to Yellowtail Snapper fishery

yellowtail-snapper-side_mediumThe change comes following requests from a group of Florida Keys fishermen, as yellowtail snapper are primarily harvested in the Keys.  The commercial yellowtail fishery was closed in October in 2014, after National Marine Fisheries Service projected the fishery would meet its annual catch limit of 1.6 million pounds. The fishermen want the season to end in July when there is less fishing pressure and the fish are spawning, said Bill Kelly, executive for the Florida Keys Commercial Fishermen’s Association.  “The closure should occur when prices are at their lowest and demand is at its lowest,” Kelly said. “Also, the season should be closed when the fish is spawning.” In addition, commercial fishermen have lobbied to reallocate some of the recreational catch to the commercial side, as the recreational side has only caught a little more than half of its 1.4 million pound annual limit, according to federal fishery managers. Read the rest here 08:40

Northeast Regional Planning Body (RPB) releases draft Northeast Regional Ocean Plan

map regional planning areas nopThe Northeast Regional Planning Body (RPB) is proud to release the draft Northeast Regional Ocean Plan for public review and comment. Several years of public engagement, scientific study and data analysis, and collaboration has led to this draft, and the RPB looks forward to hearing the feedback of everyone who is interested in the future of New England’s ocean and its resources. The RPB wants your feedback on this draft Plan. The public comment deadline is July 25, 2016, and you can comment on each chapter electronically at each chapter landing page, in-person at any of our upcoming public comment meetings, through the comment form below, or by submitting written comments to: Betsy Nicholson, NE RPB Federal Co-lead National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration  National Marine Fisheries Service, Northeast Regional Office 55 Great Republic Drive  Gloucester, MA 01930-2276. You may also provide comments by sending an e-mail to: [email protected].  Here it is, all 198 pages of it click here 17:36

Will North Carolina give up even more sovereignty to the National Marine Fisheries Service?

81932EnWP2037163.lgNext week (June 1) will be a significant day if you are concerned about Federal control of our lives. There will be a meeting of an “advisory group” in New Bern to consider whether or not the state should sign a “Joint Law Enforcement Agreement” to impose greater Federal control over the regulation of fishing within the state’s waters. Note the last part…within the state’s waters. Click here to read the announcement. Most people, even including fishermen, will not be in New Bern on June 1. The decision of whether to recommend to give this power to the National Marine Fisheries Service will be made by a small group of people who serve on this panel representing various special interest groups who have a stake in fishing regulations. As always, the dominant special interests are recreational fishing interests vs. commercial fishing interests. Read the rest here 10:03

Texas shrimp industry battles hostile trends as season closes for two months

573bc9bc4db0a.imageThe Texas Parks and Wildlife Department’s Coastal Fisheries Division decided May 15 was a good time to close the state’s shrimp season because, according to its sampling, the average size and number of brown shrimp in Texas coastal waters is higher than the 20-year average. Texas closes its waters to shrimping from the coast to nine nautical miles out for roughly two months each year to give little shrimp time to grow before being harvested. The National Marine Fisheries Service typically imposes a closure out to 200 nautical miles at the same time. More, bigger shrimp is potentially good news for the state’s struggling shrimp industry, since big shrimp fetch higher prices, according to Andrea Hance, shrimp fleet owner and executive director of the Texas Shrimp Association. Read the rest here 19:27

Small Boat Fishermen Worry New Rules Won’t Come in Time to Save N. Atlantic Scallops

HT_Scallop_02_jrl_160422_4x3_992A quandary over scallop rules has two groups of fishermen in Maine at odds over the increasingly lucrative shellfish. Kristan Porter, is an independent fisherman who catches lobsters for most of the year with his boat “Brandon Jay.” But for additional income, for five months each year, he and the two other men on his boat have begun collecting scallops. Eric Hansen, of New Bedford, Massachusetts, is one of the permit holders that aren’t bound by the same quota that Porter and others follow. Hansen, who typically fishes south of Maine, returned to the Gulf of Maine this year for the first time in decades. His family business obtained one of the permits back in 1994 for free that now could be sold for millions of dollars. Read the rest here 08:41

What the fish in Alaska’s oceans are eating — and what that can tell us

Inspecting_Cod_for_prey_23mbEver wonder what eats the salmon that don’t make it back to Bristol Bay? Or what fish are cannibals? A new database released online in late March by the National Marine Fisheries Service offers a glimpse into fish diets, based on decades of study of their stomach contents. It ranges from commonly known species like halibut, Pacific cod and pollock, to lesser-known fish, like sculpins, snailfish and even alligatorfish. Herring and salmon also make an appearance, although they aren’t the focus. Kerim Aydin, a supervisory fisheries biologist at the in Seattle, said the database includes collections that have been in the works since the 1980s, and is largely focused on commercial groundfish species. Read the rest here 10:55

Independent scientists need not apply – NMFS denies SMAST Industry paid RSA Funding

scallopFor almost 20 years now, SMAST has worked diligently alongside our fishermen to improve fishery science. Kevin’s research has earned him their respect, earned them a ton of money and earned New Bedford its position as the nation’s top fishing port. The drop camera survey he pioneered to count sea scallops on Georges Bank in 1999 was a game changer that helped to rescue an ailing industry. Anyone on the waterfront can attest to that. He did it by providing independent evidence that what fishermen had been saying was correct. There were plenty of scallops out there waiting to be harvested in spite of what the government survey would have everyone believe. Barney Frank took those survey pictures to Bill Daley, who was Secretary of Commerce at the time. Daley listened and New Bedford’s ship came in. It may now be departing. Read the op-ed here 07:27

THIS IS OUTRAGEOUS! SMAST scallop researcher rejected for NOAA funding for first time since 1999

For the first time since 1999, internationally known SMAST scientist Kevin Stokesbury has been denied federally administered funding for annual scallop surveys, as government officials questioned the cost and design of his latest proposal. Many local fishermen credit Stokesbury’s work with reviving the scallop industry over more than a decade, and a prominent scalloper said Tuesday that it was hard to make sense of the funding denial this year.  “We as an industry are very upset about this — it’s very disturbing,” said Dan Eilertsen, who owns six scallopers based on Fish Island. “Our fishery has been managed based on the published work that (Stokesbury) does.” The National Marine Fisheries Service, under the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), told Stokesbury on March 29 that his proposal for a $2.65 million scallop survey project had been denied for the 2016-17 grant cycle. Read the rest here 20:14

Federal fishery disaster money eased Alaska salmon fishery failures, but only for some

cashThe federal government’s help easing the impact of recent Alaska salmon fishery failures wasn’t enough to provide relief to all the players involved. Alaska initially received nearly $8 million in federal money after declaring a disaster in 2012 due to low king salmon runs on the Yukon and Kuskokwim rivers and in the Cook Inlet region. That’s according to a new study from the National Marine Fisheries Service, “Many commercial fishery stakeholders may have gotten little benefit from the relief payments because they were made to permit holders and may not have made their way to other key fishery participants,” it said. Those others include the nonpermit holding crew, vessel owners, suppliers of fishing inputs and owners, employees and suppliers of fish processing companies. Read the rest here 18:21

Green Sea turtles put under new protections by Obama administration

The National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) announced Tuesday they are updating the status of green sea turtles. Green sea turtles will be divided into 11 distinct populations, the agencies said. Turtles in three of those regions will be listed as endangered species, while those in the other eight regions will be listed as threatened species . The agencies first began protecting sea turtles in 1978, but are now revising their status. As part of the changes, two distinct populations that had been considered endangered — the Florida and Mexican Pacific Coast breeding populations — will now be listed as threatened. Read the rest here, Read the Final Rule here  15:07

NMFS bans development of new commercial forage fisheries on West Coast

sandlanceFederal officials finalized rules Monday for a on catching forage fish, the small fish that larger species, seabirds and marine mammals depend on for food. The ban on new commercial fisheries will protect little schooling fish that play a critical role in the marine food web but that are not actively fished or managed, the National Marine Fisheries Service said. It marks the first action under a new approach to fisheries management that considers how one species affects others in the ecosystem. The ban does not affect existing fisheries for forage fish, such as sardines and anchovies. It covers species including Pacific sand lance, silversides and certain varieties of herring, smelt and squid. Read the article, click here 19:39

Victors in suit against NMFS want hired skipper rule scrapped

09halibut-hired-skipper-suitThe victorious plaintiffs in a case challenging a federal rule over hired skippers in the sablefish and halibut fisheries filed a motion Feb. 24 to vacate the National Marine Fisheries Service action. Fairweather Fish Inc. and Ray Welsh filed suit against the National Marine Fisheries Service, or NMFS, in 2014, following the finalization of a regulation that prohibited the use of hired skippers to harvest halibut and sablefish quota acquired after Feb. 12, 2010. A U.S. District Court judge in the Western Washington District ruled in their favor on Jan. 13, finding that the regulation didn’t meet legal muster. The court ruled that NMFS violated the Administrative Procedures Act, and failed to ensure the new rule complied with National Standards 9 and 10 of the Magnuson-Stevens Act. Read the rest here  14:40

Potential Western Atlantic spawning area found for Atlantic bluefin tuna

Scientists from NOAA’s National Marine Fisheries Service (NOAA Fisheries) and the University of Massachusetts Boston have found evidence of Atlantic bluefin tuna spawning activity off the northeastern United States in an area of open ocean south of New England and east of the Mid-Atlantic states called the Slope Sea. The findings, to be published March 7 in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, suggest that the current life-history model for western Atlantic bluefin, which assumes spawning occurs only in the Gulf of Mexico, overestimates age-at-maturity. For that reason, the authors conclude that western Atlantic bluefin may be less vulnerable to fishing and other stressors than previously thought. Read the rest here 20:18

Almost 20 years ago, a big bust! – Cape Cod brothers, scallopers face possible $5.8 million fines

clip_image002_001In what officials say are the largest fisheries sanctions ever sought in the Northeast two Cape Cod brothers and their fleet of scallopers out of Fall River face proposed civil penalties of more than $5.8 million. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration has cited James G. Spalt of Barnstable and Peter Spalt of Marston Mills their fish processing corporation Cape Spray Fisheries five fishing boats and 12 fishing captains for some 300 fisheries violations under the Magunson Fisheries Conservation and Management Act. “It certainly is the biggest (fine) in this region within anyone’s memory” said Terry Frady a public affairs spokesman for the National Marine Fisheries Service. Read the rest here – This is how it ended up, Brothers to pay $2 million to settle fishery fraud – Read the rest here 16:42

Catch Shares: West coast groundfish management is disaster, say participants

The Pacific Groundfish Quota Program Workshop Workshop brought together nearly 200 people who had been involved in creating, implementing, or making a living under the program, to look at successes and failures in the past five years. Most found the program had both, but criticism was harsh at the two-day workshop, held in Portland a few months before the Pacific Council begins the program’s first five-year review. The workshop was also known as Santa Rosa III, the third workshop of stakeholders looking at performance. The first in the series was held in Santa Rosa near the start of the IFQ program. The National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS), who implemented the program in 2011, offered a scorecard of three successes and five “causes for concern” since the program began. Others were more blunt. Read the article here 13:52

Why is the NMFS calling the New Hampshire obligatory NEFMC seat vacated?

NEFMC SidebarThe state of New Hampshire has been notified by the National Marine Fisheries Service of vacancies for New Hampshire’s obligatory seat and two at-large seats for the New England Fishery Management Council. New Hampshire’s obligatory seat is held by Ellen Goethel, who is completing her first term as a council member. Read the article/notice here. The process of filling council seats requires the governor of each New England state to submit the names of at least three candidates to the U.S. Secretary of Commerce for consideration. The state of New Hampshire uses a public process to recommend individuals for the governor to consider for submission. 22:30

Work under way on Endangered Species Act hatchery plans

The National Marine Fisheries Service says it has completed work on plans for 26 Columbia River hatcheries and is actively working on Endangered Species Act review of 32 more, including 16 on lower Columbia tributaries in Washington. The numbers from the federal fishery agency were provided in response to a 60-day notice of intent to sue announced Jan. 13 by the Wild Fish Conservancy, which claims the government is funding Columbia River hatcheries prior to meeting mandated review of plans under the Endangered Species Act. Read the rest here 11:09

Only 3 percent of juvenile salmon survived California drought in 2015

Only 3 percent of the juveniles of an endangered salmon species survived the drought along the Sacramento River in 2015 despite extraordinary efforts by federal and state officials to save them, federal officials said Monday. It marked the second straight year that the vast majority of juvenile winter-run Chinook salmon were cooked to death on the Sacramento, according to data released by the National Marine Fisheries Service. In 2014, only 5 percent of the juveniles survived. Read the rest here 14:42

Western Pacific – NMFS allows longliners to fish within 12 miles from shore

3249961In a decision issued today, the US National Marine Fisheries Service has allowed locally based longliners to fish within 12 miles from shore.  The federal agency approved a recommendation by the Western Pacific Fishery Management Council to amend the Large vessel Prohibited Area, (LVPA) which currently restircts longliners to fish 50 miles out.  Read the rest here  – American Samoa wants to be part of fish negotiations Read the rest here Pago Pago feels the effects of idle fishing boats Read the rest here 12:04

Wild fish advocates threaten to sue over Columbia hatcheries

Funding of chinook, coho and steelhead fish hatchery programs throughout the Columbia River Basin is being challenged by wild fish advocates who contend that hatchery fish adversely affect struggling native fish stocks. On Wednesday, the Wild Fish Conservancy based in Duvall, Washington, issued a 60-day notice of intent to sue the National Marine Fisheries Service and the U.S. Department of Commerce for funding. Columbia Basin hatchery programs under the Mitchell Act without complying with provisions of the Endangered Species Act. Read the article here 10:22

RECREATIONAL DATA TAKEN HOSTAGE BY GULF SNAPPER ANGLERS

redsnapperIf you pay any attention to fishery management issues (and if you’re reading this blog, it’s pretty clear that you do), you know that one of the most contentious issues, which comes up year after year, is the estimate of recreational landings. Commercial landings are pretty easy to measure, because commercial fishermen, as well as the processors and packing houses that purchase their products, are generally required to report such landings on a timely basis. To be sure, there are holes in the process.  But when it comes to recreational landings, it’s not that easy.  There are thousands of commercial fishermen on the coast; there are millions of anglers. Read the post here 14:10