National Fisherman


The Rudderpost 

jesJes Hathaway is the editor in chief of National Fisherman magazine and NationalFisherman.com.

 

Herring was a hot topic in New England yesterday.

First, the New England Fishery Management Council approved a draft of Amendment 5 to the herring fishery management plan that includes an alternative requiring at-sea observers for every boat on every trip in the midwater trawl fleet.

Ostensibly, the goal is to reduce the midwater fleet's bycatch of groundfish and river herring. From my perspective, the mere speculation that one fleet is damaging other fisheries is not enough to put the smack down on that fleet and ask them to pay for it, to boot.

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One of my favorite parts of this job is going to trade shows, fishing towns and even council meetings to see the faces of fishermen and their families.

It's the same reason our annual Crew Shots spread is one I look forward to all year. And judging by the feedback and submissions we get every year, it's a favorite among our readers, as well.

In fact, participation has been so high in recent years that we started putting our bonus shots on the NF website.

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A study led by researcher Elena Finkbeiner, completed during her doctoral studies at Duke University and published in the November issue of the journal Biological Conservation, reveals confusing results on sea turtle interactions and bycatch rates in U.S. fisheries.

According to an Associated Press story, "This is one of the key messages — there's a lot of inconsistency in how the different fisheries are managed," said Elizabeth Wilson, senior manager for marine wildlife for the nonprofit Oceana, which was not involved in the study.

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I read a National Geographic piece by Lee Crockett this week (Overfishing 101: It Ain't Over Till It's Over) in which he warns against our inclination to proclaim an end to overfishing in the United States, as the latest NMFS data does not remove every species it studied from its "overfished" and "experiencing overfishing" lists.

I will try not to get too sidetracked in the semantics of the NMFS listings, which allow species to be called overfished — even when they've never been targeted by fishermen (in short, glossing over other factors that influence marine species) — for the sake of brevity.

We certainly don't have a perfect fishery management system or a miraculous turnaround in every species NMFS monitors annually. I find it hard to accept that perfection is the goal, as I can't imagine it's the goal of any other government agency or industry.

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Coverage of the Cohen Commission is expected to come to a boil today in Vancouver, British Columbia, when long-silenced scientist Kristi Miller will take the stand to answer questions about her research on viral disease in wild salmon.

The Canadian government put the Cohen Commission in motion to seek out an answer to the collapse of 2009's sockeye returns to British Columbia's Fraser River.

Miller is a molecular genetics researcher for the Department of Fisheries and Oceans. Her research on a possible link between a virus and the decline of the sockeye population was published in the journal Science in March. Since then, Miller has not spoken publicly about her work.

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I spent a good part of yesterday walking around in the sad-music Charlie Brown pose after reading about Walmart's contribution toward privatizing our oceans.

The company's press release praised projects like catch shares, which have seriously consolidated fleets on the east and west coasts. I understand that Walmart feels the need to greenwash its reputation for profiting from poor labor practices, but must they do it by encouraging the loss of fishing jobs and infrastructure?

Meanwhile, the company has created a partnership with a South African wholesaler to import hake to their U.S. stores — from halfway across the world.

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Two federal decisions yesterday sent a wave of relief throughout the Gulf Coast.

First, NOAA dismissed three petitions attempting to punish shrimpers for turtle deaths that have not been proven to be caused by shrimping — and in fact occurred in the early days of the Deepwater Horizon oil spill, when the fishery was not active.

Second, the federal agency increased the TAC for red snapper by nearly 350,000 pounds.

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This week four Mainers graduated from the Cod Academy, officially known as the Maine Aquaculture Association's Cod Farming for Maine's Commercial Fishermen program.

Reportedly, all four grads are now equipped to start their own small-scale cod farms on the coast of Maine.

While I admire the sentiment behind a program that specifically aims to train commercial fishermen at no charge, I'd rather see that money pay for cooperative research to improve the data upon which fishing livelihoods are made and broken.

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As I flew out of Petersburg, Alaska, Thursday morning, I watched the seascape below me until the clouds obscured my view of the Sockeye Islands in Frederick Sound.

I'm on my way home from a week in Alaska's Little Norway. Those kinds of titles are often just marketing ploys, but the moniker holds true in Petersburg.

This town of 2,800 (not including seasonal cannery workers) is fiercely proud of its Scandinavian heritage — which can be seen in its tidy homes and gardens — and the people are as closely connected to the sea as were their Viking cousins.

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This week fishermen in and around Alaska's Kenai Peninsula are scrambling to catch what the Alaska Dispatch referred to as a mushroom cloud of sockeye salmon.

Southeast seiners are hauling in pinks, as projected.

Last year's record return of 34 million sockeye to the once-beleaguered Fraser River had everyone scratching their heads and then whipping out their nets.

That return is expected to be about 3 million this year, but its collapse has long been theorized to be related to nearby salmon farms.

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Page 25 of 39

Inside the Industry

The American Fisheries Society is honoring recently retired Florida Institute of Oceanography director Bill Hogarth with the Carl R. Sullivan Fishery Conservation Award — one of the nation's premier awards in fisheries science - in recognition of his long career and leadership in preserving some of the world's most threatened species, advocating for environmental protections and leading Florida's scientific response to the Deepwater Horizon oil spill.

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The Marine Stewardship Council has appointed Eric Critchlow as the new U.S. Program Director. Critchlow will be based in the MSC US headquarters in Seattle. He is a former vice president of Lusamerica Foods and has over 35 years in the seafood industry.

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