Sunday, March 23, 2014

Oceana: Millions of pounds of fish, turtles, sea mammals being trashed

Oceana released a new report this week exposing nine of the dirtiest fisheries in the United States. These nine fisheries combined throw away almost half of what they catch and are responsible for more than 50 percent of all reported bycatch in the U.S., injuring and killing thousands of protected and endangered species every year.

In the report titled Wasted Catch: Unsolved Bycatch Problems in U.S. Fisheries, Oceana explains that despite significant progress in the last decade, the catch of non-target fish and ocean wildlife, or “bycatch”, remains a significant problem in domestic fisheries. In fact, researchers have estimated that approximately 20 percent of the total U.S. catch is thrown away each year.

[Bloggers note: while the following figures are both sickening and staggering, the global problem is worse than these numbers appear: I attended the Seafood Expo in Boston last week, the largest such wholesale expo in North America. Fully half of the vendors were from China. Chinese fish harvesting now accounts for the largest in the world, at more then three times the American harvest...and with almost none of the protective regulations]

“Anything can be bycatch,” said Dominique Cano-Stocco, campaign director at Oceana. “Whether it’s the thousands of sea turtles that are caught to bring you shrimp or the millions of pounds of cod and halibut that are thrown overboard after fishermen have reached their quota, bycatch is a waste of our ocean’s resources. Bycatch also represents a real economic loss when one fisherman trashes another fisherman’s catch.”

Though some fishing methods are more harmful than others, researchers, fisheries managers and conservationists all agree that bycatch is generally highest in open ocean trawl, longline and gillnet fisheries. These three gear types alone are responsible for the majority of bycatch in the U.S. and are used by these nine dirty fisheries.

“Hundreds of thousands of dolphins, whales, sharks, sea birds, sea turtles and fish needlessly die each year as a result of indiscriminate fishing gear,” said Amanda Keledjian, report author and marine scientist at Oceana. “It’s no wonder that bycatch is such a significant problem, with trawls as wide as football fields, longlines extending up to 50 miles with thousands of baited hooks and gillnets up to two miles long. The good news is that there are solutions – bycatch is avoidable.”

Unfortunately, the bycatch problem in the U.S. is likely much worse than realized, because most fisheries do not have adequate monitoring in place to document exactly what and how much is caught and subsequently discarded. In some fisheries, as few as One in 100 fishing trips carry impartial observers to document catch, while many are not monitored at all, leading to large gaps in knowledge and poor quality data.

Nine Dirty Fisheries (based on data published by the National Marine Fisheries Service):

Southeast Snapper-Grouper Longline Fishery (66% discarded) –More than 400,000 sharks were captured and discarded in one year

California Set Gillnet Fishery
(65% of all animals discarded) – More than 30,000 sharks and rays as well as valuable fish were discarded as waste over three years

Southeast Shrimp Trawl Fishery
(64% discarded) – For every pound of shrimp landed, 1 pound of billfish is discarded; thousands of sea turtles are killed annually

California Drift Gillnet Fishery
(63% of all animals discarded) – Almost 550 marine mammals were entangled or killed over five years

Gulf of Alaska Flatfish Trawl Fishery
(35% discarded) – More than 34 million pounds of fish were thrown overboard in one year, including 2 million pounds of halibut and 5 million pounds of cod

Northeast Bottom Trawl (35% discarded) – More than 50 million pounds of fish are thrown overboard every year

Mid-Atlantic Bottom Trawl Fishery
(33% discarded) – Almost 200 marine mammals and 350 sea turtles were captured or killed in one year

Atlantic Highly Migratory Species Longline Fishery (23% discarded) – More than 75% of the wasted fish in this fishery are valuable tuna, swordfish and other billfish targeted by the fishery

New England and Mid-Atlantic Gillnet Fishery (16% discarded) – More than 2,000 dolphins, porpoises and seals were captured in one year

“Reducing bycatch is a win/win for fishermen and conservationists,” said Cano-Stocco. “By eliminating wasteful and harmful fishing practices we can restore and maintain fish populations that are essential to renewed abundance and healthy oceans, while also preventing the deaths of whales, dolphins, seals and sea turtles.”

“The solution can be as simple as banning the use of drift gillnets, transitioning to proven cleaner fishing gears, requiring Turtle Excluder Devices in trawls, or avoiding bycatch hotspots,” said Dr. Geoff Shester, California program director at Oceana. “Proven solutions and innovative management strategies can significantly reduce the unnecessary deaths of sharks, sea turtles, dolphins and other marine life, while maintaining vibrant fisheries.”

In order to reduce the amount of wasted catch and the number of marine animals killed in U.S. fisheries, Oceana is calling on the federal government to do three things: 1) COUNT everything that is caught in a fishery, including bycatch species; 2) CAP the amount of wasted catch in each fishery using scientifically based limits; and 3) CONTROL and avoid bycatch by making improvements such as using cleaner fishing gear and enhanced monitoring.

To access all of Oceana’s materials, including the full report, summary of the findings, fisheries fact sheets, map of the nine dirty fisheries, expert interviews, b-roll, photos, infographics and more, please visit Oceana.

March 20, 2014 Washington, D.C.
Contact: Dustin Cranor ( | 954-348-1314, 954-348-1314 (cell))
Amelia Vorpahl ( | 202-467-1968, 202-476-0632 (cell)


Monday, March 3, 2014

Lynn, Mass. Marina wins $267,000 grant for expanded facilities

Seaport Marina (Lynn, Massachusetts) has landed a $267,000 federal grant that will provide funding to create 12 slips for transient dockage. “It is perfect timing for all this to come to fruition,” Community Development Director James Marsh said of the so-called Boating Infrastructure Grant. “I foresee more and more reasons for people to come to Lynn by boat.” With Heritage State Park and the pedestrian walkway a stone’s throw away, giving access to North Shore Community College, The Blue Ox and even Veterans Memorial Auditorium, Marsh said there are all sorts of reasons why boaters might stop in Lynn. The continued development of the Washington Street project and the waterfront will only add to them, he added. Under the grant, the proposed project is for 12 slips, accessible to the disabled, that will fit vessels ranging from 26 feet to 60 feet in length that will be located in what is now called C Dock. C Dock runs along the front of Heritage State Park and was severely damaged as a result of several powerful storms in 2012. The estimated cost for the project is $367,000. Marsh said Community Development will pick up the remaining $100,000. The project opens a new door for the marina, which doesn’t have a designated area for transient boaters, although both Marsh and Harbormaster James Perry said there has been a need for it. “Currently we fit them in wherever we can,” Marsh said. Perry said if he knows a member is going to be gone for three or four days, he will let a visitor park in their spot. Like Marsh, Perry said he expects that with the changes happening on the waterfront and in the downtown area, the need for guest slips will only grow. He also noted that there are not a lot of public landings on the North Shore where transient boats are welcome. Revere and Marblehead have slips but they are privately owned by yacht clubs. “If you’re coming up from Cape Cod you would be seeking a municipal marina like Seaport,” he said. Perry also pointed out that Lynn is a nice day trip for boaters coming from as far south as the canal and from as far north as Beverly, Salem or Marblehead. “We’re really very centrally located,” he said. Perry also believes the grant will impact the entire waterfront, not just the marina. He said he already sees more and more people using the public launch ramp at the end of Blossom Street extension and boats cruising into Lynn harbor. In the spring when the gas docks reopen he expects even more traffic, he said. Lynn is one of 15 communities across the country that received a portion of the federal funding administered locally by the Division of Marine Fisheries. Other projects range from an offshore mooring installation in Hawaii to marina redevelopment plans in Arkansas, Florida and Maine to other transient dockage projects in Virginia, Connecticut and Tennessee. “These grants, funded by fishing and boating enthusiasts, have helped communities across the nation build and enhance recreational boating facilities that provide recreational opportunities while supporting jobs and economic growth,” said Fish and Wildlife Service Director Dan Ashe in a prepared statement. “This program is a win-win situation for recreational boaters, conservation initiatives and job creation.” .

Thursday, February 13, 2014

Why do People Love Seafood but Hate Commercial Fishing?

My name is Monique and I eat ethically because I eat a balanced, seasonal diet that includes a variety of foods. The most important part of the dinner plate in our house is seafood. My husband is a commercial fisherman and I am a consultant that works in the fishing, seafood, and local food industries. My husband goes lobster fishing out of Mackerel Cove, Bailey Island, Maine year round, and in the summer months he also goes Bluefin tuna fishing.

I am often discouraged in my work by the amount of misconceptions, misinformation, and misunderstandings that exist around the seafood and fishing industries. People seem to love seafood, but hate commercial fishing. They want to “save the ocean,” but they utilize generalized seafood guides that do not take into account the whole story to select their seafood. Why do consumers easily understand that produce comes from farmers, but have a more difficult time realizing that it’s fishermen that put the fish on our plates, and that fish does not, in fact, just jump out of the ocean? There’s a disconnect there that hurts the fishing industry tremendously.

In our home, we eat a variety of fish and shellfish that has been harvested by US commercial fishermen, in the New England area. Local means something entirely different in fisheries than it does in the agriculture world. It’s nearly impossible to demand only seafood that has been harvested just around your hometown. Even here in Maine for example, sometimes a pollock can be landed in Gloucester, but caught in the Gulf of Maine by a fisherman on a boat from Maine, and then end up being sold at a fish market back in Portland, Maine.

We also eat ethically by demanding higher standards of our fish than those that are asked of by generalized seafood guidelines put out by such organizations as Seafood Watch. Seafood Watch takes into account the ocean, and the ocean only, when creating their non-specific, damaging guides. They do not take into account carbon footprint, processing standards, humanitarian issues, or any other environmental factor other than the ocean. In 2012, after it was discovered that slavery was occurring in certain fisheries in Africa, I sent Seafood Watch an e-mail to ask them if they would be changing the rating of the fish that belonged to the industry using slaves, and they replied: "Thanks for writing. We also read the article you addressed and were very disturbed by what we read. However, as an organization whose mission is to inspire conservation of the oceans, we choose to limit ourselves to the environmental impacts of a given fishery. Human rights violations are a tragedy, unfortunately we do not have the expertise or capacity to address those types of issues."

First of all, I’m pretty sure that being human is expertise enough to weigh in on this type of issue, and second, common sense might tell you that this is perhaps a red flag and that other injustices and disregard for the law are occurring on these boats. It’s a shame that so many consumers are likely thinking that they are eating ethically by following guides such as this, but in fact, they are supporting industries that import fish into the United States and ignoring the hard-working, law-abiding, well-regulated fisheries that exist right here, right next door.

So, that’s how we eat ethically. We know our farmer and shop at farmers markets and ask questions in restaurants about our food and stay up to date with new recipes and abide by the seasons, but we also know a whole heck of a lot about seafood and fisheries. And we try to share that information with others as well.

You can check out more from me at :

[Blogger's Note:  This blogger always insists that markets clearly state the origin of the fish they are offering for sale...and only buys fish from North Atlantic sources]


Thursday, January 30, 2014

Warming Ocean Temps Threaten Lobstering in Southern New England

The future is uncertain for lobster fishing south of Cape Cod, a top state fisheries biologist told a gathering of lobster fishermen at a conference last weekend.

“It will likely be poor for the foreseeable future,” said Bob Glenn, a senior biologist with the state Division of Marine Fisheries.

He blamed rising water temperatures, not overfishing.

Mr. Glenn was one of several speakers at the Massachusetts Lobstermen’s Association’s held over the weekend at the SeaCrest Beach Hotel in Falmouth. Lobstermen from across the commonwealth attended, including a small handful from the Vineyard.

Mr. Glenn outlined a lengthy report on the health of lobsters from the Gulf of Maine to waters south of the Vineyard. The report was compiled using data collected from fishermen, from survey work and computer modeling Dividing the area into three sectors, Mr. Glenn said the Gulf of Maine lobster fishery is holding its own, and he said the fishery east of Cape Cod is also healthy. But his tone changed when describing the lobster fishery south of Cape Cod.
“There are fewer and fewer fishermen,” Mr. Glenn said. “There is very little fishing effort going on compared to what it was historically . . . [but] those that are still fishing are catching reasonable rates.”

Emerging data on spawning lobsters from Buzzard’s Bay shows a troubling decline in numbers since 2008. With summer water temperatures on the rise, many of the juvenile lobsters will not survive, Mr. Glenn said.

As for inshore lobsters, “The stock has declined to almost be nonexistent levels,” Mr. Glenn said. “There are some . . . south of Rhode Island.”

He said lobsters become stressed in water temperatures above 68 degrees.

Mr. Glenn said lobsters historically laid their eggs in Buzzards Bay in the summer months, and the juveniles would later on the rocky bottom inshore. But with water temperatures now above what lobsters can tolerate, instead of going into the bay, female lobsters are now laying their eggs farther south, off Noman’s Land. And those eggs have zero chance of making their way into Buzzards Bay, the biologist said.

Other conference sessions covered a variety of topics.

Bernie Feeney, president of the 51-year-old association, said the industry will need to adapt in order to remain financially viable. He led a brief forum on changes in the lobster industry. He operates a 40-foot lobster boat out of Boston Harbor (the Sandra Jean), and said he has fished since 1978 [photo above]

With prices flat and the cost of doing business on the rise, he said it’s tough to make a living from lobstering.

Dan McKiernan, deputy director of the state Division of Marine Fisheries, said fishermen who retire their fishing licenses are surrendering the number of pots they can put out. Attrition, the number of lobstermen fishing, and the decline in licenses are expected to continue.

[source: Mark Alan Lovewell, The Vineyard Gazette]

Saturday, January 11, 2014

Edgartown Light Transferred to Town

The Town of Edgartown has taken title to the picturesque light that has guarded its harbor on Martha’s Vineyard since 1939.

Over the last several few years, the U.  S. Coast Guard has been systematically decommissioning lights and lighthouses, and offering them for sale to the public, municipalities, and non-profit entities. As part of the National Historic Lighthouse Preservation Act, decommissioned lighthouses are offered at no cost to state or local governments, nonprofit organizations, and historic preservation groups. Among northeast area properties currently for sale are lights at Orient Point on the north fork of Long Island, NY;  Penfield Reef, New Haven Ledge, and Saybrook lights in Connecticut; and Graves Island Light Station in Outer Boston Harbor.  

On Thursday, 09 JAN,  The U.S. General Services Administration announced the transfer in ownership of the Edgartown Light to that Town. 

 “Lighthouses are an important part of our national and regional heritage,” Robert Zarnetske, GSA regional administrator for New England, said in a press release. “Capable and passionate stewards like the Town of Edgartown help us ensure that these maritime treasures are preserved by assuming local control for their maintenance.”

According the Vineyard Gazette, the process of acquiring the lighthouse was a long one: After announcement that the lighthouse was surplus property in May 2012, the town signed off in January 2013 on an application to take stewardship of the beacon, and the official transfer came this week.

The technical cost of the lighthouse transfer was $1. 

At town meeting last April, voters supported acquiring the lighthouse. The Martha’s Vineyard Museum serves as the keeper of the light, an arrangement the town plans to continue.

The first Edgartown lighthouse was built in 1828 and badly damaged in the Hurricane of ’38.  It was then replaced with the Essex Light from Ipswich, a cast iron light built in 1875, which was dismantled and shipped by barge to Edgartown.

According to the General Services Administration, the light is a 45 foot tall conical tower of cast-iron construction with a granite foundation.   


Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Speed Restrictions to Remain to Protect Right Whales

Protection efforts for the critically endangered North Atlantic right whales got a boost Monday when federal fisheries officials announced that speed limits for ships in designated areas along the eastern seaboard will become permanent.

The rules to limit ship speed were adopted by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration in 2008 and were due to expire on Dec. 9. But NOAA announced Monday that it had removed the so-called sunset clause. "These effective protections for North Atlantic right whales will continue aiding their recovery," NOAA said in a press release.

The regulations restrict vessel speed to no more than 10 knots for ships 65 feet and longer. Collisions with large vessels have been cited as one of the chief threats to the whales, whose population has dwindled to fewer than 500.

Right whales migrate seasonally from their breeding grounds off the coast of Florida, Georgia and South Carolina to plankton-rich ocean feeding grounds in New England and Canada.  There were a number of right whale sightings near Martha's Vineyard and Cape Cod this year, beginning in February when a large pod was spotted off South Beach in Edgartown. In July three right whales were seen in waters off Oak Bluffs, and a newborn calf and its mom wee spotted off of Provincetown.

The news from NOAA was hailed by protection groups. "This is a huge victory for these endangered whales," said The Humane Society of the United States in a release.