Category Archives: Marine Science

Parasitic sea lice plagues global farmed salmon industry

A surge of parasitic sea lice is disrupting salmon farms around the world. The tiny lice attach themselves to salmon and feed on them, killing or rendering them unsuitable for dinner tables. The lice are actually tiny crustaceans that have infested salmon farms in the U.S., Canada, Scotland, Norway and Chile, major suppliers of the high-protein, heart-healthy fish. Scientists and fish farmers are working on new ways to control the pests, which Fish Farmer Magazine stated last year costs the global aquaculture industry about $1 billion annually. click here to read the story 20:26

Orange, yellow, blue, and even ‘Halloween’: The rarest lobster colors, explained

It may feel like a new, brightly colored lobster has been pulled off the New England coast and onto your social media feeds every other week over the last few months. Maybe you’ve seen a rare, blue lobster before. But what about yellow? Or the ghostly, one-in-100-million white lobster caught last month in Maine? However, according to New England Aquarium spokesman Tony LaCasse, this has actually been a “slow summer.” Ever wonder why lobsters come in so many distinct colors? Here’s why.  click here to read the story 09:01

2017 Sweep Efficiency Study Targets Summer Flounder – Cooperative research program effort reveals a few surprises

Testing the efficiency of different sweep types on fishing nets was the focus of twin trawling operations August 18-28 aboard the F/V Karen Elizabeth from Point Judith, RI.  Chris Roebuck and his four-person crew aboard the 78-foot western-rigged stern trawler Karen Elizabeth conducted this year’s study with five staff members from the NEFSC’s Northeast Cooperative Research Program and the Fisheries Ecology and Oceans and Climate branches. The team targeted summer flounder in Southern New England from Montauk, Long Island to Nantucket and red hake in the western Gulf of Maine off Cape Ann, making a total of 103 good tows and collecting over 73,000 fish from species targeted by the study.   click here to read the story 11:41

Former NOAA Expert, High-Accuracy Hurricane Predictor Says “Natural Cycles” Major Driver

A former NOAA meteorologist and 40-year veteran of hurricane predictions believes Irma will continue to move move west toward Florida and reach near the southern tip of the Florida Peninsula around Sunday, September 11th, as a major category 4 hurricane. Both David Dilley of Global Weather Oscillations and the National Hurricane Center now believe Irma will make landfall near the southern tip of Florida, from near or just west of Miami to just west or near Jacksonville and then run up the coast into eastern Georgia. Dilley had predicted a harsh hurricane season already back in early February, long before most forecasters were ready to go public with their forecasts.So far his predictions for the current season have been impressively accurate.  click here to read the story 10:20

Scientists concerned over health of fish species as wastewater treatment plants fail to remove drugs

Human antidepressants are building up in the brains of bass, walleye and several other fish common to the Great Lakes region, scientists say. In a new study, researchers detected high concentrations of these drugs and their metabolized remnants in the brain tissue of 10 fish species found in the Niagara River. The discovery of antidepressants in aquatic life in the river raises serious environmental concerns, says lead scientist Diana Aga, PhD, the Henry M. Woodburn Professor of chemistry in the University at Buffalo College of Arts and Sciences. “These active ingredients from antidepressants, which are coming out from wastewater treatment plants, are accumulating in fish brains,” Aga says. “It is a threat to biodiversity, and we should be very concerned. click here to read the story 16:57

Study links fish farms to spread of antibiotic resistance

New research that finds a possible link between fish farms and the spread of antibiotic resistance doesn’t surprise marine biologist Inka Milewski. “Anytime you have animals grown in very concentrated conditions in these intensive livestock operations, whether it’s pigs or chickens, or in this case, fish, you’re going to have the potential for disease problems,” Milewski said in an interview Sunday from her home in the Miramichi in New Brunswick. “The solution to a lot of these problems is to put antibiotics into the feed. And so it should come as no surprise to anyone that they have found antibiotic resistance associated with fish farms.” The study released last week by Jing Wang of Dalian University of Technology in China concluded that genes for antibiotic resistance are getting into ocean sediments through fish food. click here to read the story 09:49

“It Just Consumed Me”

Normally, not something you want a shark scientist to say. But Eric Stroud is talking about his chemistry-lab quest for the ultimate shark repellent, which he appears to have found. The questions that remain: Does it work on the great white, the ocean’s most fearsome predator? And can a couple of rookie entrepreneurs get it to market? There’s a house in Mossel Bay, South Africa, high on a hill overlooking the Indian Ocean, five hours east of Cape Town, where shark nerds from around the world come to live each year. I arrived this past June, after a long day on a small boat watching great whites chasing roped tuna heads. click here to read the story 12:00

Cooperation between fishermen, regulators not just a fluke

Fisheries management is only as good as the science that it’s based upon. The better the science, the more effective the management. For the past three years, Point Judith fisherman Chris Roebuck has partnered with federal regulators to get a better handle on fish stocks, taking scientists with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration out to sea on his 78-foot Western-rig stern trawler the Karen Elizabeth to help figure out where groundfish are and in what numbers. This summer’s trip wrapped up this week when the team of five researchers led by John Manderson, a senior ecosystem field scientist with NOAA’s Northeast Fisheries Science Center, and a four-man crew headed by Roebuck returned to port in Galilee with new information on summer flounder, red hake and other species. click here to read the story 21:48

Fish Stocks And Our Balance Of Payments

Our balance of payments is overly burdened by our consumption of seafood: We import approximately 90% of the seafood that we eat. Given our natural resources, we should be net exporters of seafood. The total value of edible and non-edible fishery imports in the United States was $35.8 billion in 2016. The total value of edible and non-edible exports was $21.3 billion. The imbalance does not imply only a shipment of dollars abroad. It also implies a number of jobs exported, a number of jobs that could be created in this country, were we not to import that much more seafood than we export.,,, The reason for the imbalance in our accounts with other nations is not due to lack of fish in our waters. Not to put too fine a point on it, the imbalance is due to rules and regulations imposed by our National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) that prevent our fishermen from catching fish. click here to read the article by Carmine Gorga 09:21

What happens in the sea during a solar eclipse?

On July 20th, 1963, three scientists sat on a research ship 200 miles south of Woods Hole, MA, waiting for something remarkable. They were nearly 4000m above the seafloor, and using sonar, they could ‘see’ a line of creatures resting in the deep. By this time, biologists were beginning to unravel the mystery of this ‘false bottom’–a layer in the ocean that looks the the sea floor on sonar but isn’t–which covered much of the ocean. This false bottom rises in up at night and sinks down during the day. This rising and falling is in fact caused by the largest migration of animal on Earth–everything from fish, shrimp and jellyfish, moving hundreds of meters in unison up and down each day. But how and why these animals rose in fell in the ocean wasn’t clear. As the scientists watched their instruments, the light began to fade. Not from the setting sun, but from something else. click here to read the story 13:27

Gulf dead zone bigger than ever, affecting shrimping

The Gulf of Mexico’s dead zone – an area starved of oxygen that cannot support life – has reached the largest size documented since mapping began 35 years ago, researchers maintain in a new report. The dimensions – this year the size of New Jersey – are of particular concern because they appear related to concerns expressed by shrimpers about their catch, particularly in Terrebonne Parish waters. “They may be catching some close to shore,” said Dr. Nancy Rabalais, the oceanographer who pioneered Gulf dead zone research and who compiled the most recent report on its effects. “But they are not going to get anything between Terrebonne Bay and 25 or 35 miles offshore.” That’s bad news, with the 2017 white shrimp season fast approaching. click here to read the story 14:49

The surprising reason you might be seeing more jellyfish in the sea this summer

Scientists have discovered that offshore wind farms and oil and gas platforms provide an ideal habitat in which the creatures can thrive. Until now, the rapid increase in jellyfish numbers in oceans around the world has been largely blamed on overfishing, which wipes out their natural predators, global warming and nutrient run-off. The research suggests that man-made structures have played a role in the jellyfish boom by offering an enticing home for polyps — the tiny organisms which eventually grow into jellyfish. The results suggested a correlation between big jellyfish numbers and man-made structures such as energy platforms and wind farms. click here to read the story 13:41

Invasive seaweed threatens Gulf of Maine

A team of University of New Hampshire researchers working on Appledore Island at the Isles of Shoals and at off-shore sites in southern York County and Seacoast New Hampshire recently published a study that reaches some unsettling conclusions. Essentially, the ocean floor in the Seacoast is seeing a marked decline in the often tall, leafy native kelp populations and an inundation of short, shrub-like invasive seaweed. Key among those invasives is the short, red fiber-like seaweed Dasysiphnia japonica, a transplant from Japan that is taking over the ocean floor in this region – covering as much as 90 percent of some areas. We were very surprised by what we saw,” said Jennifer Dijkstra, research assistant professor in the Center for Coastal and Ocean Mapping at UNH and the lead author of the study. click here to read the story 09:20

Access to Surfclam Fishing Grounds Studied by SCeMFiS Scientists in Research Survey Cruise Southeast of Nantucket Island

August 11, 2017, Boston, MA. – The scientists of the Science Center for Marine Fisheries (SCeMFiS) recently completed a survey of the surfclam fishery area southeast of Nantucket Island to provide information regarding surfclam stock status and habitat to ensure continued resource access by local surfclam vessels. Surveys were successfully conducted in 4 days aboard the F/V Mariette sailing from New Bedford, MA… SCeMFiS scientific projects are unique in that they respond directly to the scientific needs of the fisheries managers in collaboration with the commercial fishing industry while upholding strict quality scientific standards and procedures. click here to read the press release 15:07

Dick Grachek: Maximum Sustainable Yield: Just More Management Delusion or a Bureaucratic Con?

Even if getting out from under the management fantasy of the “extinction delusion” could somehow become a reality, an essential overhaul of the basic goals of fishery management is necessary and must begin by asking the obvious—but totally neglected—question, what exactly is all this management supposed to accomplish, anyway? Maximum Sustainable Yield: Stable and Sustainable Stocks, Right? Well…actually, managing the fisheries to MSY is all wrong. MSY accomplishes nothing more than stock population instability. One of the major mechanisms of this MSY approach is engineering the taking of large fish out of a population in some formulaic proportion to the young recruited into that particular stock. This is a naive and simplistic notion of stock dynamics. It completely ignores a myriad of natural or “biological-environmental” factors that govern fish survival and growth and population. Click here to read the story with a side note from Dick Grachek 17:04

Crooks in a Crab Pot

Most people in the bays and estuaries of coastal South Jersey, including places such as Barnegat Bay, have concerns about someone stealing their crab pots or lifting the blue crabs in it. This applies to commercial fishermen as well as the recreational potters. What neither of these groups realizes is that there are probably thieves in their crab pots as well. And these thieves often go undetected even though they are stealing during the day and night and at all stages of the tide. These thieves are the ones that steal the bait from the crab pots. We learned about these thieves by placing a video camera in one of the mouths (tunnels) of a typical pot for blue crabs and  dropping it into Willitt Creek with a feed that was attached to a monitor in my office. This approach allowed real-time observations and recording and also prevented me from getting a lot done when there was interesting behavior in the crab pot. click here to read the story 08:51

Study Reviews Trawler Effects on Seabed

An international group has taken a close look at how different types of bottom trawling affect the seabed. It finds that all trawling is not created equal — the most benign type removes 6 percent of the animal and plant life on the seabed each time the net passes, while the most other methods remove closer to a third. A University of Washington professor is among the main authors on the study, led by Bangor University in the U.K. and published July 17 in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. The meta-analysis looks at 70 previous studies of bottom trawling, most in the Eastern U.S. and Western Europe. It looks across those studies to compare the effects on the seabed of four techniques: otter trawling, a common method that uses two “doors” towed vertically in the water or along the bottom to hold the net open; beam trawls, which hold the net open with a heavy metal beam; towed dredges, which drag a flat or toothed metal bar directly along the seafloor; and hydraulic dredges, which use water to loosen the seabed and collect animals that live in the sediment. click here to read the story 16:04

The Atlantic wolffish — a face only a mother could love

What is striped, grows to be five feet long and has big chomper teeth all over the roof of its mouth? The Atlantic wolffish.,, There are three types of wolffish: spotted, northern and striped. The first two types are threatened and the third, the one that most interests Novaczek, is of special concern. In partnership with the Department of Fisheries and Oceans (DFO), Novaczek has been studying striped or Atlantic wolffish in Conception Bay since 2014…“In 2014 and 2015 we mapped Atlantic wolffish habitat in Conception Bay, with detailed characterization of some dens near Bauline. The dens are really important for wolffish — they pair, spawn and guard their eggs in these dens. Feeding debris at the den openings indicates they are also foraging in this habitat.” click here to read the story 10:12

Science Center for Marine Fisheries Announces New Members: Intershell International Corporation and The Town Dock/Seafreeze Ltd.

July 11, 2017, Gloucester Pt., VA – Intershell International Corporation, and The Town Dock/Seafreeze Ltd. have become the newest industry partners at the Science Center for Marine Fisheries (SCeMFiS). SCeMFiS is a partnership between fishing industry members, government agencies, non-profits, trade organizations, the Virginia Institute of Marine Science (VIMS), the University of Southern Mississippi (USM), and is part of the National Science Foundation’s Industry/University Cooperative Research Center program. Other partners include Atlantic Capes Fisheries, Bumble Bee Seafoods Inc., Garden State Seafood Association, LaMonica Fine Foods, Lund’s Fisheries Inc., National Fisheries Institute Clam Committee, National Fisheries Institute Scientific Monitoring Committee, National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) Northeast Fisheries Science Center, Omega Protein, Sea Watch International and Surfside Seafood Products. click here to read the press release  Visit www.scemfis.org click here 17:14

American eel turns up in southwestern Minnesota lake

An American eel — far, far away from its natural home in the North Atlantic Ocean — was found in a southwestern Minnesota lake late last month. Minnesota Department of Natural Resources fisheries workers conducting a lake survey on Cottonwood Lake about 16 miles southwest of Granite Falls captured a female, 37.4-inch American eel in their trap net late last month. American eel spawn in the Sargasso Sea in the north Atlantic Ocean. However, the American eel spends the majority of its life in freshwater habitat before returning to the Sargasso Sea to complete the life cycle. Larvae of this fish ride the currents randomly for hundreds or even thousands of miles before finding freshwater habitat. That makes this particular eel’s journey all the more impressive, having likely ridden ocean currents into the Gulf of Mexico and swimming upstream thousands of miles via the Mississippi River and the nearby Minnesota River. click here to read the story 11:06

Dutch Fishermen catch rare two-headed porpoise

A fishing vessel in the North Sea between the UK, the Netherlands, and Scandinavia found quite the catch last month: the first-ever documented two-headed harbor porpoise. The dead conjoined porpoise twins were caught up in the GO9 Onderneming fishing vessel’s trawl net on May 30, according to the Natural History Museum of Rotterdam’s journal Deinsea. The Dutch museum said the ship’s workers were “astonished” to find that the animal had what appeared to be two heads. They took pictures and then threw it overboard. The crew thought it would be illegal to keep the dead porpoise, so the actual specimen is now lost to the ocean. click here to read the story 16:22

Gray seals are making a huge comeback on Cape Cod (where there are no longer any Cod!)

For nearly a hundred years, New England’s gray seals had a bounty on their heads. Maine and Massachusetts paid people to kill them, because they depleted fishing stocks. They were also hunted for their meat and pelts. By 1973—a year after the Marine Mammal Protection Act made it illegal to systematically kill the animals—a census estimated there were only 30 gray seals left along the entire coast of Maine. Since then, Canada’s gray seals have returned to recolonize the east coast of the U.S.,,, Now, in a study published in Bioscience, researchers have combined Google Earth images and data from tagged seals to make a more precise estimation of the population.,, “Our technology-aided aerial survey, which used Google Earth imagery in conjunction with telemetry data from tagged animals, suggests the number is much larger—between 30,000 and 50,000.” Not everyone is happy with the pinniped’s population explosion—particularly fisherman, who see them as competition for fish stocks.  In recent years, some groups have advocated for culling the number of gray seals. Johnston says that not only would that be illegal, but it would also be premature. “We know almost nothing about what gray seals eat, how and where they forage,,, click here to read the story 10:48

Ray Hilborn: World fish stocks stable

Speaking at the SeaWeb Seafood Summit on Wednesday, 7 June in Seattle, Washington, U.S.A., University of Washington fisheries researcher Ray Hilborn said the perception that the world’s fish stocks are declining is incorrect, and that fishing could sustainably be stepped up in areas with good management. “There is a very broad perception that fish stocks around the world are declining. Many news coverages in the media will always begin with ‘fish stocks in the world are declining.’ And this simply isn’t true. They are increasing in many places and in fact, globally, the best assessments are that fish stocks are actually stable and probably increasing on average now,” Hilborn said. click here to read the story 09:57

Oil spill spared fish

Almost 30 years after the oil tanker Exxon Valdez hit Bligh Reef and smeared Prince William Sound with more than 11 million gallons of Alaska crude oil, a team of state and federal scientists have concluded the spill – as bad as it looked and as much impact as it had on marine mammals and birds – appears to have done no real damage to fisheries. “We found no evidence supporting a negative EVOS  (Exxon Valdez Oil Spill) impact on herring, sockeye salmon, or pink salmon productivity, and weak evidence of a slightly positive EVOS signal on Copper River Chinook (king) salmon productivity,” the study says. “It is unclear how EVOS may have impacted Chinook salmon positively.” Somewhat surprisingly, however, the study found two non-oil spill events – one natural and one manmade – that appear to have caused significant changes in Sound fisheries. And one of them, a naturally occurring spill of fresh water, appears to be what crippled herring stocks there.  click here to read the story    link to the study   20:16

American Lobster Settlement Index | Update 2016

Just as US and Canadian lobster landings seem to be breaking all the records, settlement has been dipping to all-time lows. The disconnect is causing a lot of people to scratch their heads. Harvests on both sides of the border have sustained an almost uninterrupted surge in abundance for more than a decade. By 2015, US harvests had nearly doubled since 2003, and since 2000 for Canada, making for a combined volume of 157 thousand metric tons (346 million lbs) with a value of $US1.48 billion. Fishery independent state and federal surveys leave no doubt  that there have been real and dramatic increases in abundance.  While the 2016 landings are still being tallied, if Maine’s impressive performance is any indication (Maine harvests about 80% of the US share), 2016 is likely to go down as another banner year both in volume and value. By all indications, the reproductive output of the American lobster population should be greater than ever, but for some reason it does not seem to be translating into record breaking settlement.  click here to read the report 10:45

Mystery of world’s worst toxic algal blooms solved: Cold water upswells from the deeper ocean

The most deadly algal blooms have extremely high levels of the neurotoxin domoic acid, which causes paralytic food poisoning and in rare cases amnesia or death if people eat contaminated shellfish. Scientists now think they have discovered why such blooms happen. It was previously thought that a pocket of warm water, known as a ‘warm blob’, was to blame. A study in Geophysical Research Letters has now identified that in fact upwelling of cold water from the deep oceans was responsible. click here to read the story 09:31

Unexpected Nazi-era legacy: Fish tumors

German researchers have uncovered a 25 percent incidence of tumors among a type of flatfish inhabiting one area of the Baltic Sea, close to the northern German city of Kiel. They believe the cancerous growths found on the species known as the common dab could be linked to the estimated 1.6 million of tons of armaments that were dumped at the bottom of the Baltic and North Seas at the end of World War II. The high prevalence compares to a 5 percent tumor rate in three other areas of the Baltic, researchers said. Presenting their evidence to a conference in Rostock on Monday, scientists from the Thünen Institute of Fishing Ecology said the rate of tumors among dab fish in shallow coastal waters was much higher than previously thought. Empasizing that their findings are preliminary, researchers warned that as the munitions continue to rust and leak discharge, the environmental impact of the mass dumping of Nazi-era weapons is likely to be much greater than earlier estimates. click here to read the story 11:18

11th International Conference and Workshop on Lobster Biology and Management

The 11th International Conference and Workshop on Lobster Biology and Management is taking place June 4-9 in Portland, ME.  The agenda and related event listings are available click here The final full program and abstract booklet is posted here as a downloadable pdf file. This file has been updated since the program went to print, so it has the most up-to-date list of attendees and abstracts. 16:16

NL research shows LED lights draw crab to the pot

While they stopped short of trying a tiny disco ball, a local team of researchers has proven the addition of certain light emitting diode (LED) lights will draw snow crab to offshore traps.
“Fishing enterprises could theoretically reduce bait costs through LED light substitution, or enhance existing catch rates of baited traps by simply adding an LED light,” notes their research report, now available through the journal Aquaculture and Fisheries. A team from Memorial University of Newfoundland’s Fisheries and Marine Institute, and the Department of Fisheries and Oceans completed related work in May and June 2016, with the help of the DFO base in St. John’s and, later, the fishing vessel Atlantic Champion. Click here to read the story 09:33

Letter: Taking stock of cod stock assessments

In a Telegram letter published May 6, (“Perfectly good fisheries data being ignored,” click here ) Harvey Jarvis criticized the Department of Fisheries and Oceans’ assessments of northern cod and 3Ps (i.e. south coast) cod. Based on my 20-plus years of experience with stock assessments in Newfoundland and Labrador and other regions (Canada, the U.S., and Europe), I think Jarvis is absolutely correct about the 3Ps cod assessment, but he is incorrect about the new northern cod assessment framework that DFO adopted in 2016. Jarvis suggested that the only information used in the northern cod assessment model to estimate stock biomass is the DFO research vessel survey index. He indicated that the commercial catch, the commercial logbook data and the cod sentinel catch rate indices are not used. This is not true. The 2016 northern cod stock assessment used a state-of-the-art model,,, click here to read the letter 17:23