Tag Archives: NOAA

Despite sector shuffle, New Bedford fishermen will still be…

Whispers filled the convention room at the Hilton Wednesday as the dozens in attendance attempted to count the raised hands, which signified votes of the New England Fishery Management Council. The three attempts to accurately tally the votes only added to the drama of a discussion that involved a groundfishing ban that’s affected New Bedford since November. In the end, the vote didn’t provide a resolution for those fishermen out of work and the shoreside business affected by the ban. <click to read<18:27

New England Fishery Management Council to hear Sector IX’s post-Rafael plans

The New England Fishery Management Council will be updated on the groundfish crisis involving several New Bedford-based fishing sectors when it convenes for three days of meetings next week in Mystic, Connecticut. The groundfish presentation by staff from the Gloucester-based Greater Atlantic Regional Fisheries Office will be the centerpiece of the groundfish report on Wednesday and is designed to provide “an overview of (Northeast Fishing) Sector IX’s steps to address its shortcomings, as well as a summary of Sector IX’s operations plan,” according to the agenda for the meetings. >click to read<19:26

New Bedford: Industry on the Brink

Two computer screens lit Richie Canastra’s windowless office.  The co-owner of BASE (Buyers and Sellers Seafood Exchange) seafood auction scrolled through scores of financial data associated with commercial fishing landings at 62 Hassey St. The numbers that starred back since NOAA implemented a groundfishing ban last November tell a dark story in an industry already struggling to survive. “With the ban, if we’re not up and fishing by May 1, you might as well just call (groundfishing in New Bedford) over,” Canastra said. >click to read<22:52

CoA Institute Lawsuit Prompts Archivist to Examine Potential Record Destruction at NOAA

Cause of Action Institute (“CoA Institute”) filed a lawsuit last summer against the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (“NOAA”) seeking copies of electronic records created through the agency’s Google-based email platform. These types of records are commonly known as “instant messages.” The Freedom of Information Act (“FOIA”) requests at issue (available here and here) also sought formal agency guidance on the retention of “Google Chat” or “Google Hangouts” messages. We had already learned, through earlier investigation, that at least one internal NOAA handbook, dating from March 2012, instructed agency employees to treat all chat messages as “off the record,” raising concerns about potential unlawful record destruction at NOAA. >click to read< 15:22

Sector IX vessels make a move to lease quota

Fifty-five vessels have left Sector IX, but they still can’t fish.  However, they can lease their groundfish quota. The 55, including four Carlos Rafael vessels subject to forfeiture, were submitted to be included in Sector VII for the 2018-19 fishing season, according to NOAA Sector VII. The move comes after six months of negotiations with NOAA in trying to get an operational plan approved, which would have lifted the groundfishing ban. >click to read<09:17

As the Pacific sardine population keeps dropping, the feds come under scrutiny

On April 8, the Pacific Fishery Management Council – a body of appointed officials that regulates fisheries off the West Coast – will be presented with the draft assessment of the sardine population from roughly southern California to Canada. The news it brings is neither good for fishermen nor the local marine ecosystem: The estimated number of sardines in July 2018 – which dictates policy for the 2018-19 fishing year – is 52,065 metric tons, an approximately 97-percent drop from 2006, the most recent peak. What is in dispute: the accuracy of the population assessment, and how we got here.>click to read<15:30

NOAA/NMFS to foot at-sea monitoring costs – Thank You Senator Shaheen!

Timing may not be everything but it sure counts for a lot. Just ask New Hampshire groundfisherman David Goethel. Goethel, who had persevered through cascading years of escalating regulation, slashed fishing quotas, a failed lawsuit and, more recently, the prospect of paying the full cost of at-sea monitoring, was ready to get out of commercial groundfishing. “I had planned to sell my boat this summer,” Goethel said Wednesday, referring to his 44-foot, Hampton, New Hampshire-ported Ellen Diane. “I was done.”  Last week, following a full year of working behind the scenes with U.S. Sen. Jeanne Shaheen of New Hampshire, Goethel got the news he and other groundfishermen wanted to hear: >click to read<08:24

NOAA, NGOs debate effects of ocean farms on wildlife, Litigation may be deterring investors

Federal waters in the Gulf of Mexico have been open to fish farming for two years, but no farms yet exist. In January 2016, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s National Marine Fisheries Service issued a rule that would let companies apply for 10-year permits to farm fish in federal waters of the Gulf, with five-year renewals thereafter.,, Paul W. Zajicek, executive director of the National Aquaculture Association, suspects companies interested in starting offshore farms are waiting for results of a federal lawsuit against the fisheries service.,, Those behind the lawsuit say NOAA’s fisheries service is trying to regulate aquaculture as fishing but lacks authority to expand into aquaculture. >click to read<21:43

Fisherman who sued feds thrilled about funding for at-sea monitoring

A commercial fisherman who sued the federal government over at-sea monitoring costs was thrilled Thursday when it was announced the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration would fully fund the program under the omnibus government spending bill. David Goethel, of Hampton, said he learned about the funding Wednesday. “I’ve been sitting on this for 18 hours. I was like a cat that swallowed a canary. I didn’t want to spit out any feathers,” Goethel said Thursday afternoon. >click to read<09:01

Shaheen Negotiates Full Federal Funding for At-Sea Monitoring Fees in Government Spending Bill

U.S. Senator Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH), the lead Democrat on the Commerce, Justice, Science and Related Agencies Senate Appropriations Subcommittee, released the following statement after obtaining funding in the omnibus government spending bill that will prevent a burdensome and costly at-sea monitoring fee from being imposed on New Hampshire fishermen this year. The fee was previously paid for by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), but in recent years, the agency has shifted this significant financial burden on to fishermen. >click to read<11:00

Fixed Gear Closures – NOAA closes areas to protect whales

As NOAA Fisheries continues to address the rising peril to whales in coastal waters stretching from New England to Florida, it is reminding local fishermen of current or impending gear closures off Massachusetts. The closures, primarily around Cape Cod and in Cape Cod Bay, are part of NOAA Fisheries’ Atlantic large whale take reduction plan developed to provide increased protection to several species of whales — particularly the endangered North Atlantic right whales whose population continues to plummet. Some of the gear closures impact trap and pot fishermen, while other impact gillnetters. >click to read<19:15

Halibut quotas for 2018 come in slightly lower than expected

The total allowable catch for the 2018 Pacific halibut season in the Gulf of Alaska and Southeast will be set slightly lower than what U.S. commissioners on the International Pacific Halibut Commission had asked for. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration will publish a final rule in the Federal Register Tuesday setting combined charter and commercial quotas in Southeast, area 2C, at 4.4 million pounds. That’s about a 17-percent drop from the total allowable catch in 2017. >click to read<17:39

Whales and fishermen caught in turf war over California’s coast

As rising ocean temperatures move their food supplies closer to shore, a staggering number of migrating whales have been forced into the path of California’s crab fishing fleet — and the confrontations have increased dramatically over the last five years. State agencies have tried and failed to keep whales out of crab gear, prompting one nonprofit to take matters into its own hands.,, Some fishermen see this lawsuit as another nail in the coffin for California’s Dungeness crab fishery. >click to read< 09:20

Reidar’s, like others, part of Sector IX collateral damage

It was just before thanksgiving that NOAA shut down Sector IX after Carlos Rafael had been found guilty and sent to jail and, three months later, none of the boats or crews from the sector are any closer to going back to work. “There has been a lot of talking, but, not much action,” Tor Bendiksen told me. A number of suggestions have been out forward about how to resolve the issue, but there is a notable absence of leadership, throwing local business owners under the bus because one of their customers gamed the system is rough justice, to say the least. >click to read<09:12

EDF tells NOAA Get multiple buyers for Carlos Rafaels assets, more monitoring

Jim Kendall chuckled as he attempted to grasp the words to describe a letter crafted by Environmental Defense Fund, which it sent to NOAA.,,, The letter pitches two strategies to NOAA in handling the permits and punishment linked to Rafael,,, EDF suggests that NOAA should require multiple buyers of Rafael’s assets and require monitoring of his vessels while also establishing funding for the monitoring. >click to read< 18:41

NOAA’s New Marine Forecast Product Improves Weather Forecasts and Safety at Sea

NOAA’s Ocean Prediction Center (OPC) rolled out a new forecast product suite this week to provide mariners with comprehensive weather forecasts every 24 hours out to day four. Our goal is to deliver the very best impact-based decision support services and products possible to our users. These 72 hour surface weather and wind/wave forecast charts, and model generated 500 mb charts, will allow mariners to better prepare for severe weather at sea. >click to read<08:38

Keys fishermen talk about traps to stop the lionfish invasion

Lionfish are the scourge of the Florida Keys seas. Since the early 2000s, they’ve been invading local waters, devouring everything in sight.,,, It’s legal to net them, even spear them where it’s allowed.,,  But the simplest, most effective method for removing lionfish is to catch them in existing lobster and stone crab traps.,, The Florida Keys Commercial Fishermen’s Association is tackling the lionfish invasion from another angle — an exempted fishing permit issued by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration for a pilot project. >click to read< 18:53

Gear is in wrong place for right whales, scientists say

Speaking at the Maine Fishermen’s Forum on Friday,,, The NOAA Fisheries Large Whale Take Reduction Team recently established separate working groups to study two proposals to reduce the risk of entanglement: splicing several 1,700-pound breaking strength “weak link” sleeves into vertical lines such as those that connect lobster buoys to traps; and removing those ropes altogether by requiring the use “ropeless” fishing gear. Those working groups will focus on whether either solution is technologically feasible, whether it will actually work for fishermen, and whether it can be cost effective for fishermen.,, >click to read<10:32

“We live and die by stock assessments,” – Fishermen seek more responsive regulations

“We live and die by stock assessments,” said Jimmy Hull, a commercial fisherman from Ormond Beach, Fla. His statement during an informal question-and-answer period held by the South Atlantic Fishery Management Council is part of an overall grievance a significant number of fishermen have with the fishery management process — that it’s not responsive to current conditions in fish stocks, and instead responding to conditions months or years earlier. >click to read< 08:46

NOAA FOIA Response Suggests Refusal to Search Council Member Email Accounts for Records on At-Sea Monitoring Amendment

Earlier this month, Cause of Action Institute (“CoA Institute”) filed an administrative appeal of a final response by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (“NOAA”) to CoA Institute’s Freedom of Information Act (“FOIA”) request concerning NOAA’s efforts to expand industry funded at-sea monitoring—specifically, to the herring and mackerel fisheries—and to lay the foundation for industry funding across all of New England and the Mid-Atlantic. NOAA’s processing of the request suggests that the agency failed to search email accounts belonging to members of the fishery management councils even though they are subject to public disclosure. Based on the limited records that were disclosed, NOAA’s search appears improperly limited to its own employees. >click to read< 15:00

To protect right whales, scientists propose major changes for lobstermen

Without prompt action to reduce entanglements in fishing lines, North Atlantic right whales could disappear from the planet over the next two decades, scientists say. In response, scientists here on Cape Cod are proposing a novel way to save the species — one that many New England lobstermen fear could destroy their livelihoods.,,, In one method, the signal would inflate a spool filled with rope that ascends to the surface, allowing the lobstermen to haul their traps similarly to how they do now. In the other, the signal would activate inflatable bags attached to each trap or at the end of the trawls. >click to read< 08:45

Seismic Surveys Planned Off U.S. Coast Pose Risk To Marine Life

Animals that live in the ocean communicate with sound — humpback whales, for example. But these voices could soon be drowned out by powerful sonic booms from vessels searching for oil and gas. President Trump is opening up the Atlantic Coast to companies to explore for fresh reserves. And to explore, they will be making some of the loudest sounds ever heard in the ocean — sounds that, according to recent research, could harm marine animals from whales to plankton.  Five companies are currently applying for permits to use seismic air guns,,, >click to read< 14:18

Opinion: Time for NOAA and Sector IX to strike a deal

Eighty New Bedford groundfishermen. They’ve had no work now for almost three months. In the end, those are the guys and it is their families who are paying the biggest price for Carlos Rafael’s longtime conspiracy to falsify fishing records and smuggle the cash overseas. But since Rafael was the big guy on the New Bedford waterfront, the guy who owns the majority of the boats in Sector IX, the fishermen have been out of work since Nov 20 when regional NOAA administrator John Bullard ordered the sector to stop fishing. >click to read< 10:57

How towns are affected by reduced fishing fleets

Over the years I have seen our fleet in Gloucester, Mass decline. As a former fisherman in the sixties we had about two hundred draggers, and times were good . Then the foreigners came with bigger boats using small mesh nets catching everything, and it was not until 1974 that we enacted the 200 mile limit. This was overdue. Now comes the good, the bad and the ugly. The good news was, we were rid of the foreigners! The bad news was NOAA took over. The ugly news is our fleet has dwindled to around fifty fishing vessels, thanks to the bad news part. NOAA, the unreliable science people, determines our livelihoods. >click to read<16:39

2017-2018 Minke Whale Unusual Mortality Event along the Atlantic Coast

Since January 2017, elevated minke whale (Balaenoptera acutorostrata) mortalities have occurred along the Atlantic coast from Maine through South Carolina. A table of stranding numbers by state is below. While minke whales are protected under the Marine Mammal Protection Act, the species is not listed as endangered or threatened under the Endangered Species Act. This event has been declared an Unusual Mortality Event (UME). >click here to read< 13:22

Necropsy planned for Right Whale found off Virginia

Researchers planned to conduct a necropsy Sunday on the carcass of a North Atlantic right whale that was discovered on Friday about 100 miles off the coast of Virginia, according to a statement from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. The report  of the dead whale first came in Jan 22, and NOAA officials confirmed that it was a right whale through a photo two days later.  The photo suggested the whale was alive and swimming before it became entangled in a fishing line. >click here to read<10:32 

A day at sea – Cod, skate, discards and an observer

It’s cold, dark and slippery at 2 a.m. at the Gloucester pier, and as most people are in bed or just going home from a late night out, Capt. Al Cottone is trying to start his engine and prepare his fishing vessel, the Sabrina Maria, for a day out at sea. The Sabrina Maria is a member of Gloucester’s day fishing fleet, now hovering around 12 boats of what used to be a much larger contingent. This morning Cottone is taking the 42-foot trawler out around Stellwagen Bank, about 15 miles southeast of Gloucester, to trawl for cod, haddock and other groundfish as he skims the coast. >click here to read< 21:18

2017 Gulf Shrimp Landings: Louisiana At Historic Lows, Alabama At Historic Highs

NOAA’s Gulf of Mexico Data Management division released information regarding December shrimp landings in the Gulf of Mexico. In December, the commercial fishing industry landed 6.6 million pounds of shrimp in the Gulf of Mexico, up from 5.8 million pounds in December of 2016. Despite the significant increase from 2016, landings last month were 23.4 percent below the prior seventeen-year historic average for December of 8.7 million pounds. >click here to read< 10:32

State disputes study that predicts sharp decline in Gulf of Maine lobster population

The state agency that oversees Maine’s marine fisheries is questioning the reliability of a new study that predicts a sharp decline in Gulf of Maine lobsters over the next 30 years. The Gulf of Maine Research Institute, the University of Maine and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration built a computer model that predicts the population will fall 40 to 62 percent by 2030. But Patrick Keliher, commissioner of the Department of Marine Resources, won’t be using the model to help him decide how to manage the state’s most valuable fishery,,, >click here to read< 01:06 

Federal waters off Georgia, South Carolina closed to fishing for brown, pink, white shrimp

The Georgia Department of Natural Resources announced on Jan. 24 that NOAA Fisheries have closed federal waters off Georgia to all fishing for brown, pink, and white shrimp. During the closure, no person may trawl for brown, pink, or white shrimp in federal waters off Georgia effective at 8:45 a.m. on Jan. 24Georgia, South Carolina NOAA Fisheries will issue a new Fishery Bulletin announcing the re-opening to shrimp harvest in federal waters off Georgia once the date is determined.. >click here to read< and in South Carolina >click here to read<17:55