In Mixed Catch, NF Senior Editor Linc Bedrosian spotlights a wide range of commercial fishing-related news items from coast to coast.
Thursday, 23 May 2013
Greetings from a surprisingly spiffy McDonald's on Route 1 in Walpole, Mass. I'm on my way back to Portland, Maine, from this morning's jaunt to Point Judith, R.I., to join Wanchese, N.C., skipper Jimmy Ruhle, the crew of the Darana R and Virginia Institute of Marine Science researchers on a NEAMAP survey trip.
Today they sampled the last two of the 150 stations covered in the NEAMAP spring survey. That survey began April 24 in Hatteras, N.C., and is finishing up in the waters off Point Judith. Their travel basically mirrors the spring migration of the fish, says Ruhle. Come September, the boat will cover another 150 stations, starting in Point Judith and heading south toward Hatteras.
The Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission developed NEAMAP — the Northeast East Area Monitoring and Assessment Program — to coordinate fisheries independent monitoring activities in the northeast. Its goal is to coordinate and standardize procedures, and improve data quality and accessibility.
What began as a pilot project in 2006 has grown into a program boasting more than six years of data for fish in nearshore waters that federal and state survey programs don't cover. Given the diversity and quantity of fish involved, fishery managers need the NEAMAP data to fill that gap, "otherwise there would be a massive hole in the data," says VIMS' Jim Gartland, the NEAMAP program's general manager. That's Gartland and his VIMS cohorts, Evan McOmber, Dustin Greeg, Kevin Spanik and Jeff Eckert, examining the results of one of the day's two tows in the video below.
For his part, Ruhle, who has been involved with the program since 2008, says he can't say enough good things about the VIMS researchers, who have been more than willing to recognize and utilize fishermen's expertise in collecting program data. "Their work ethic is unbelievable," Ruhle says.
"Now that I see the acceptance of this project being used in a beneficial way for the industry, and the industry has confidence in it," Ruhle adds, "I'd like to see the program expanded."
I can't help him there; after all, I'm just a lowly scribe. But I can and will expand on today's NEAMAP trip in an upcoming issue of NF. It's a story well-worth telling.
Tuesday, 14 May 2013
In NOAA's recently released Annual Report on the Status of U.S. Fisheries for 2012, it notes that six stocks managed under rebuilding plans were declared rebuilt to target levels in 2012, bringing the grand total of stocks rebuilt since 2000 to 32.
That news might be better received in New England if Atlantic cod, yellowtail flounder and other key groundfish species were among those 32 stocks. Unfortunately, Atlantic cod and yellowtail flounder found themselves on both the overfishing and overfished lists.
Given the severe fishing restrictions they've been operating under for the better part of two decades, groundfish harvesters might wonder how cod is deemed subject to overfishing. But according to the report, the designation doesn't necessarily mean that current fishing effort is the problem.
"These negative outcomes are associated with high levels of overfishing over a period of many years," the report states.
If the news regarding New England's groundfish stocks isn't so encouraging, the report says overall, progress is being made overall towards ending overfishing and rebuilding stocks in U.S. fisheries. This NOAA video offers the highlights.
In his opening message in the report, NMFS Acting Director Sam Rauch notes that the agency views "sustainability as a process rather than an end point," and that NMFS has plenty of work still ahead.
"To build on our successes and fully achieve both biological and economic benefits of sustainable fisheries through science-based management," Rauch says, "we will need to ensure the timely collection of data, develop more robust and frequent stock assessments, better assess the economic consequences of management actions, and improve our understanding of environmental factors — including climate change — affecting fishery resources."
It'll be interesting to see if next year's annual report will be able to demonstrate progress on those fronts. If it can, then maybe New England's groundfish industry might be able to share in the good news, too.
Tuesday, 07 May 2013
The Groundfish Industry Rally at the Boston Fish Pier on April 29 did a good job of reminding the troops that the fight for the industry's future isn't over yet. The rally let fishermen know that the region's federal, state and local officials will continue to fight on their behalf. But industry leaders know that rallies alone won't bring about change.
To that end, Rep. William Keating (D-Mass.), and New Bedford, Mass. Mayor Jon Mitchell are inviting industry members to attend a joint meeting of the Federal Fishery Advisory Board and the Mayor's Ocean and Fisheries Council on Monday, May 13 at the New Bedford Whaling Museum from 1 to 3 p.m. Meeting topics will include potential improvements to the Magnuson-Stevens Act, which is due to expire in September.
"The reality before us, as we discussed in detail at the most recent meeting of the Federal Fishing Advisory Board and as we again highlighted at Monday's rally, is that a 'perfect storm' of external factors has put the livelihoods of this historic industry at risk of extinction," states a letter from Keating and Mitchell announcing the meeting. "What the industry needs now are creative solutions to a complex crisis."
It has devised such solutions before. The region's scallop fishery is thriving today in no small part as a result of the industry's work with the University of Massachusetts School of Marine Science and Technology to devise a way to film scallop abundance. Now it's happening again. The university is helping the groundfish industry by developing a prototype for counting fish in the ocean using a net outfitted with a video camera.
The May 13 joint meeting could foster equally creative solutions. And Keating and Mitchell want the fishing community's input to make it happen.
To RSVP to attend the meeting, email Brian Rothschild, co-director of the Massachusetts Marine Fisheries Institute, at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Tuesday, 30 April 2013
On one hand, Monday's Groundfish Industry Rally at the Boston Fish Pier was a cry for help. NMFS announced today it is filing in the Federal Register its catch limits for 2013-14 Northeast groundfish stocks, which include major harvest limit cuts to key stocks in the Gulf of Maine and Georges Bank that will begin on May 1. Those cuts are expected to have devastating economic impacts on all industry-related businesses, communities and economies.
Thursday, 25 April 2013
My contribution to our June issue's cover story on groundfish is a look at how the West Coast trawl fleet is adapting to fishing under its catch share program, which began in 2011. The story offers some industry observations about what's working as well as challenges the trawl vessels face.
But the fishery's fixed gear vessels face challenges, too, and the hook and line and pot boats are still waiting for the Pacific Fishery Management Council to address their concerns, says Larry Collins, president of the San Francisco Community Fishing Association and president of the San Francisco Crab Boat Owners Association.
The crab boat association was among the plaintiffs who filed a 2010 lawsuit that sought to stop implementation of the catch shares program; last year a federal appeals court upheld a previous court ruling upholding the program.
"We were told as communities we'd be taken care of," Collins says, "but we're just a trailing action."
Collins says that 90 percent of the groundfish has been allocated to the trawl boats. "Our boats are 50 feet and under, and fish salmon, crab, herring, halibut, albacore, whatever is most plentiful. We used to be able to fish rockcod when salmon or crab weren't biting," he says.
"It's been suggested to me that we should try and buy some quota with some of our profits. But the way program is set up, if you don't have a trawl permit on your boat, you can't access 90 percent of rockcod biomass," Collins says. "We could buy all the quota we want, but we can't access it."
However, some non-trawl boats have leased trawl permits from the Nature Conservancy, according to Steve Bodnar, executive director of the Coos Bay Trawlers Association in Coos Bay, Ore. Leasing permits from the conservation group has allowed fixed gear boats to catch blackcod, which fetches a strong ex-vessel price.
Trawl-caught blackcod earns $1 to $1.50 per pound, Bodnar says, whereas pot- or line-caught blackcod can bring up to $7 per pound. Consequently, some trawlers are catching a fair portion of their blackcod quota with pot or line gear, he says.
The hook boats lost their access when rockfish conservation areas were set up 15 years ago, Collins says. "Now the fish are back and it's time to let the family boats in, but the council can't seem to figure out a way to do it," he says. "We're trying to help 'em."
The Pacific council has granted the San Francisco Community Fishing Association an experimental fishing permit to see if yellowtail rockfish can be caught using vertical hook and line gear while avoiding species of concern. Once the two-year program is done, Collins says, "we think we'll be able to prove we can catch the targeted fish and not catch the species of concern."
Thursday, 18 April 2013
By Roderick Haig-Brown
Harbour Publishing, 1948
Softcover, 240 pp., $14.95
You will forgive me if I'm mildly puzzled as to why "Saltwater Summer" is classified as "juvenile fiction." What we have here is a story about fishing, plain and simple. Nowhere in this book appear any vampires, werewolves, zombies, dragons or sorcerers of any kind, which would seem an immediate disqualification for being labeled as teen fiction, or at least what passes for it these days.
Then again, Harbour Publishing is resurrecting through its Canadian Classic series this tale of a young man's first summer as a commercial salmon fisherman on the British Columbia coast, which the late Roderick Haig-Brown first penned in 1948.
Does that name sound familiar to you? It should, oh loyal National Fisherman reader. His son, Alan Haig-Brown, is a marine photographer and writer who has contributed plenty of stories and photos to the magazine through the years, and he's published several books of his own.
But his dad paved the way, earning a reputation as a popular outdoor writer. Born in England, he settled in Campbell River, B.C. in 1931. A dedicated conservationist, he wrote a number of articles and penned 25 books, including books about sport fishing, novels, and stories for young readers. "Saltwater Summer" won the Governor General's Literary Award.
Don Morgan, the main character in "Saltwater Summer," has earned enough money trapping on northern Vancouver Island to buy himself a 32-foot West Coast salmon troller, the Mallard. But young Morgan has borrowed money against the boat to help pay for a friend's operation. That means he has to make enough money this summer fishing to repay the loan by the end of September or he'll lose the boat.
His friend, fellow fisherman Tubby Miller, volunteers to help Morgan, and the duo set off to catch enough salmon to pay off the loan. Of course, little goes as planned, and Morgan has much to learn about fishing and a lot of growing up to do.
The novel also offers an interesting glimpse into what salmon trolling was like in the mid- to late-1940s in British Columbia. Juvenile fiction or not, the novel is well-written, and I enjoyed reading it over the course of an afternoon. What it lacks in vampires, werewolves and the lot, it more than makes up for with a fast-paced and enjoyable tale of a young fisherman trying to learn the ropes and figure out whether he's got what it takes to make it.
Thursday, 11 April 2013
New England beer lovers can taste a new brew that pays homage to the region's iconic lobster industry. Meet Black Lobstah Lager, brought to you by the folks at Redhook Ale.
Seattle-based Redhook has breweries in Woodinville, Wash., and Portsmouth, N.H. Black Lobstah Lager is offered as part of Redhook's Backyard Series of limited run beers. Backyard Series beers highlight local businesses and resources and are sold in Redhook's New England markets.
According to a Seacoast Online story, the beer is based on an oyster stout, which adds oysters to barley and hops during the brewing process. New Hampshire Fresh and Local Seafood, a direct marketing collaboration between New Hampshire Sea Grant, UNH Cooperative Extension and the local fishing community promoting Granite State seafood, is sourcing the local lobster Redhook uses in the lager recipe.
New Hampshire Fresh and Local Seafood's website, NHSeafood.com, says Black Lobster Lager "has an understated saltiness to it and it will pair well with almost any seafood!"
Since I just learned about the beer Wednesday night, I can't weigh in on the flavor (though I suspect I'll be ordering one in the near future). But you have to like the idea of a product that opens lobster up to a new market, supports local fishermen and maybe even encourages consumers to buy and cook up some seafood to accompany that beer. That should qualify Black Lobster Lager as a real value-added seafood product.
Thursday, 04 April 2013
Of all the writing that Charlie Ess, our North Pacific bureau chief, does for NF, I love his at-sea stories the most. Charlie really knows how to make a fishing trip come alive. And happily, we get to share another one of them with you in our May issue.
Tuesday, 02 April 2013
I hope everybody had a good chuckle over the April Fools edition of yesterday's newsletter. Certainly the folks in the historic but troubled Northeast groundfish fishery could use a laugh. But with massive cuts to Gulf of Maine and Georges Bank cod harvest quotas taking hold next month, I'm guessing that right now, nothing really seems funny to them.
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Callifornia crabbing: Here's a fun video shot on the decks of the Majestik while catching Dungeness crab off the coast of northern California.
Over 500 lots of seafood processing equipment formerly owned by Adak Seafood will be sold at auction on Tuesday, June 18, starting at 10 a.m. Hawaiian-Aleutian Daylight Time at the Hilton Garden Inn in Anchorage Alaska.
The equipment is located in a recently updated 250,000 square foot state-of-the-art processing facility in Adak, Alaska. Farmington Hills, Mich.-based Hilco Industrial, which conducts 75 machinery and equipment auctions in a wide range of industries annually, will conduct the auction.
Adak Seafood opened originally as Ada Fisheries in Anchorage in 1986. The facility, updated in 2005, is located on the island of Adak, the southernmost city in Alaska near the western end of the Aleutian Islands. The facility processed cod primarily, as well as halibut, blackcod, crab and pollock, Hilco says.
Alaska fisherman and commercial fisheries activist Kevin Adams was elected chairman at the Alaska Seafood Marketing Institute board of directors meeting on May 9 in Anchorage.
The governor-appointed board consists of seven members: five seafood processors and two industry representatives actively engaged in commercial fishing. Adams was appointed to fill a harvester seat by Gov. Frank Murkowski in 2004.
With 38 years of fishing experience in Bristol Bay, Adams has long been an active member in the Alaska fishing industry, ASMI says. He has worked for both the Alaska Fisheries Development Foundation and the Bering Sea Fisherman's Association, and represents Alaska fishermen on numerous boards.