AtlanticLobster

Warm waters indicate early season for Maine’s inshore fleet

By Caroline Losneck

Normally Maine lobster season peaks in early July, about the same as the tourist season. But this year, scientists and fishermen say it is likely to be two or three weeks earlier than usual, similar to 2012.

The Gulf of Maine Research Institute released its lobster forecast at the Maine Fishermen’s Forum in March. The prediction for an early season is the result of warming waters in the Gulf of Maine, which has temperatures 2-3 degrees higher than normal after a mild winter, according to GMRI. When waters warm, lobsters move inshore and shed their hard winter shells, exposing soft new shells that will harden over the coming months. Because most Maine lobster traps are set in shallower inland waters, the shedders’ shallow-water migration begins the season’s peak. Those soft shells mean the lobster won’t travel as well in and out of live tanks and will need to be processed quickly, rather than held in tanks.

It is unclear if this Maine lobster season will repeat 2015’s abundant catch, which topped more than 120 million pounds worth a record of nearly $500 million and with an average price often over $4 per pound. But many people still remember 2012’s early catch, when prices paid to lobstermen dipped below $2 per pound, as the industry was overwhelmed by....

Read the full article in our MAY issue.


Gulf/So. Atlantic | Blue Crabs

Stocks make a healthy comeback, but prices take a dip

By John DeSantis

Blue crabs — a mainstay of southern coastal seafood diets and a critical product for Gulf of Mexico’s inshore fishermen — have made a spectacular comeback over the past two years, and a supply of healthy crabs has continued into this year.

Dockside prices, however, are remaining somewhat flat, in part because of heavy competition from the Atlantic blue crab fishery. Shutdowns in Chesapeake Bay and other issues related to a dwindling crab population to the north and east allowed Louisiana and other gulf states a big market for out-of-region sales, but robust seasons that recently began in Virginia and the Carolinas have stunted the market for interstate imports and affected the price between regions.

In Dulac, La., fishermen are getting about $3 per pound at the dock for select crabs, and $2 per pound for smaller crabs — called No. 2s — and females. That’s a bit less than the price in past years when crabs were less abundant. Despite some of those challenges, fishermen and crab buyers say they are pleased with a crop that is...

Read the full article in our May issue.


Pacific | Sardines

Sardine season up in the air; not much relief from other fisheries

By Charlie Ess

As April rolled around, the West Coast sardine fleet braced for a canceled season for the second year in a row. What’s worse is that fishermen can expect little chance of monetary recompense from harvests of squid, anchovies and mackerel. The problem, as many in the industry see it, lies with sardines that failed to show up in stock assessments in 2014. Scientists conducted cruises, but missed fish that showed up later that year. 

“They overshot the biomass estimate a couple of years ago,” says Diane Pleschner-Steele, executive director of the California Wetfish Producers Association. “We’ve had a huge spawning event, and we’ve seen a lot of fish out there.”

The Pacific Fishery Management Council closed the 2015 fishery, which had been scheduled to open this past July 1. With the parking brake set on the wheels of management until new data comes in, the likelihood of a season in 2016 doesn’t look...

Read the full article in our May issue.


Alaska | Pacific Cod

Sardine season up in the air; not much relief from other fisheries

By Charlie Ess

Pacific cod fishermen began whittling away at a steady quota as the season got underway on Jan. 1. In the Gulf of Alaska, managers set this year’s total allowable catch at 75,202 metric tons, same as 2015. In the Bering Sea, the TAC is 238,680 metric tons, down from the 240,000 metric tons of 2015, and the Aleutian Island TAC increased from the 9,422 metric tons of last year to 12,839 metric tons. 

Worldwide, markets remain awash in whitefish product. Though science suggests that cod stocks in the Barents Sea have entered a period of slight decline, quotas for 2016 remain unchanged from last year at 894,000 metric tons. 

According to the most recent data (Nov. 2015) from NOAA’s Alaska Fisheries Science Center, ex-vessel prices over the past few years have fluctuated from a high of 36 cents per pound in 2012 to a low of 27 cents per pound in 2013 for fish caught in the Gulf of Alaska with prices in the Bering Sea running about 2 cents per pound less. 

The fish were running unusually small to start, says Glenn Carroll, a cod fisherman who sells to specialty markets out of Homer. “The fish are running a 5-1/2-pound average,” he says, whereas “the average weight is...

Read the full article in our MAY issue.


 

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