Could be worse next year
Cleanup projects across Alaska are ending for the year due to the winter weather. The cleanup program is run by the Alaska Marine Stewardship Foundation, which reported 160,000 to 200,000 pounds were removed this year alone. Cleaning the debris is one matter but disposing and /or recycling it is quite another. It's a tremendous amount and many rural landfills cannot handle the additional material.
AMSF had been working with a recycler in Washington State for many years, but they are not currently accepting shipments due to poor markets for the materials. AMSF is conducting a pilot project with another recycling non-profit this fall.
Reports of debris arriving from the March 2011 Japanese tsunami decreased this year but at one site at Cape Suckling the contractor reported a large influx of debris following storms the week of Oct. 21. Large amounts of household items with Japanese writing on them appeared on the beach that just been cleared of approximately 55,000 pounds of garbage. Debris from the tsunami will continue to arrive on Alaska's shores for years to come, and experts predict 2014 will be when deep water, current driven debris really starts hitting US shores.Report from TheFishSite News Desk
Tilapia, Number 4, is raised on number 2
According to a U.S. Fisheries report, shrimp, canned tuna and salmon topped the list of the 10 most popular seafoods. That's according to the National Fisheries Institute which compiles the list each year based on data from the government's US Fisheries Report.
Following the top three are , Pangasius, crab, cod, catfish and clams. A closer look shows that for the first time in five years, crab consumption began to increase again after a steady decline since 2007. The biggest trend revealed in the top 10 list is that "whitefish" surpassed shrimp as the largest single seafood category. Whitefish consists of cod, pollock, tilapia, Pangasius and domestic catfish. Combined consumption of those fish increased 6.2 per cent, while shrimp fell a very significant 9.5 per cent.
As a result, whitefish as a category now is higher than shrimp in terms of per capita consumption. The growth in whitefish is driven by farmed tilapia and Pangasius. Cod saw a small increase, while pollock and domestic catfish declined. Also declining - Americans ate slightly less seafood overall last year at 14.6 pounds per person, compared to 15 pounds in 2011. One bright note: Each person ate just over two pounds of salmon, a 3.5 per cent increase.
Americans eat close to 500 million pounds of farmed tilapia a year, according to the USDA, more than four times the amount they ate a decade ago. More than 80 percent of the bland tasting fish comes from China, with Thailand also exporting significant tonnage to the US. What most Americans don't know is that farmed tilapia from those countries are given large amounts of antibiotics to ward off infections from manure, which is used as a cheap alternative to fish feed.
According to the Center for Food Safety, it is a common practice to use untreated chicken manure as the primary nutrition. In some farms, coops are placed over the water and the chickens poop directly into the fish ponds. Similarly, an October article in Bloomberg's titled "Asian seafood raised on pig feces approved for U.S. consumers," 27 per cent of seafood consumed in the US comes from China, yet the FDA only inspects 2.7 per cent of the imports. Pangasius is a type of Asian catfish, and is usually seen on supermarket shelves as basa. Roughly 90 per cent of the fish is farmed in Viet Nam, and is the most monitored of all farmed fish, according to SeafoodSource.
Second only to lobster
According to a recent statement, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration has said that Maine's salmon-heavy aquaculture industry is second only to lobster in terms of the fishery's total value.
Almost 10 years after Maine's salmon-farming industry tanked, the aquaculture industry is continuing to rebound and has become more diverse than it was when it consisted solely of Atlantic salmon.
According to NOAA Fisheries, Maine's aquaculture had a value last year of $81 million. That's more than double the $38 million value of the ever-popular elvers. Last year, Maine's lobster catch was valued at a record $341 million. The Maine Aquaculture Association said the industry is in better shape now than before the crash because of new salmon aquaculture practices and a greater variety of aquaculture offerings, with shellfish now accounting for roughly 20 percent of the value of the catch and freshwater trout now being raised in Maine.
There's also been an influx of younger people into the industry- most of them displaced commercial fishermen. Ten years ago the salmon industry had about 1,200 workers, but crashed because of fish disease, the pullout of companies using Norwegian strains of salmon following an endangered species listing for wild salmon, and a federal judge's ruling that several salmon operations violated the Clean Water Act.
New Brunswick-based Cooke Aquaculture came into the state and reopened salmon pens with new practices to control pests and disease. Meanwhile, shellfish aquaculture - mostly oysters and mussels - has been growing 10 percent each year for the past decade. The annual value ranges from about $80 million to $120 million a year. Across the Northeast, aquaculture production generates about $161 million in annual revenue, according to NOAA Fisheries.
But Not Here - eating pellets is not natural
Buying organic is a lifestyle for many and the market grows bigger annually. This year, Americans are expected to buy more than $30 billion worth of organic food, from produce to meat. Now, some fish farmers want in on the market, and with it, almost unbelievably, retailers will charge consumers top dollar for "organically farmed fish."
Thankfully an organic label for aquaculture is not coming easy. For over a decade the issue has been on the agenda of the U.S. Department of Agriculture's National Organic Program, but the last meeting on it was canceled by the federal government shutdown. Now federal officials are saying a final determination is at least six months away.
Environmentalists are against it because they believe fish farms shouldn't quality for an organic label if they rely heavily on feed that can't be verified as organic. But more realistically, acquacultural pollution and disease makes them less "organic" in my opinion.
Federal regulators are rewriting the rules to address the question. The NOP, National Organic Standards Board, and its own Aquaculture Working Group are developing a set of guidelines that specifically address aquaculture. They would allow up to 25 percent conventionally grown fishmeal in the diets of farmed fish certified as organic. The plan would be to slowly scale this amount down over the years. Critics say they doubt this process would occur.
To many, organic aquaculture is ridiculous. Farmed salmon are typically fed fishmeal, a ground-up paste of anchovies, menhaden and other wild-caught species, some of which come from stocks that are rapidly declining. Under existing laws there is no way to certify these wild fish as organic. To run around this the federal government is proposing to allow fish farms to use meal only from "sustainable" fish species.
The fishmeal question is likely to continue to be contentious for open-ocean fish farms. But inland fish farms could potentially be in a better position if their fish were raised in completely closed, recirculating systems that don't touch the ocean.
Meanwhile the European Union is already certifying some farmed salmon from countries like Ireland as organic.
Story concept courtesy NPR.
A debate is brewing in the Chesapeake over what is causing a small crab population.
Fishermen say they are being eaten by striped bass, also called rockfish. It is their experience that when caught, the fish are full of crab. The belief is that striped bass will eat just about anything, and since bay grasses are at a low this year due to Superstorm Sandy, the crabs have nowhere to hide.
They say it is also causing an imbalance; quota limits are too low, which leads to an overabundance of the fish. The combination is causing the fish to dine almost exclusively of crab, they say.
But according to Brenda Davis, director the Maryland Department of Natural Resources - no way.
"There are no scientific data to support a supposition that Striped Bass predation is causing a significant depletion of the Chesapeake Bay blue crab population. In fact, studies performed in Maryland and Virginia to assess the diets of striped bass indicated that blue crabs make up a small percentage of the average striped bass diet.According to an intensive study in 2000, fish, particularly Menhaden, account for 94 percent by weight of the striped bass diet. In fact, other studies have shown that cannibalism by large crabs was a major cause of juvenile crab mortality, accounting for 75 percent to 97 percent of the loss of juvenile crabs in certain locations.
"There was a combination of environmental factors contributing to the high mortality of juvenile crabs in 2012 including Tropical Storm Sandy, abnormally warm and salty water, decreases in submerged aquatic vegetation coverage, a large influx of Red Drum into the Maryland portion of the bay, density-dependant mortality, and a large 2011 year class of striped bass.
We don't have a lot of data on impact of most of the factors on that list. However, we do have solid data that the Bay-wide harvest of spawning age female blue crabs has been at or below the 25.5 percent harvest target for five consecutive years. The ability to keep harvest in the safe range puts us in a much better position than we've been in the past (specifically 1992 and 1997) with similar abundance declines."
Report from WBOC 16.
The National Marine Fisheries Service is proposing a complicated - go figure - new plan to reduce the number of bluefin tuna that long-liners inadvertently snare. The fish has been intensively managed for more than two decades but the regulations need updating to reduce bycatch.
The NMFS plans to sharply cut back the number of bluefin tuna that individual fishing vessels are allowed to capture accidentally, setting a quota for each boat and requiring fishermen to include the bluefin they discard at sea under that cap. The NMFS also would change the long-standing formula by which it calculates the number of pounds of bluefin tuna that a long-liner may legally bring to shore for sale.
According to the International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tunas, the bycatch problem is slowing efforts to rebuild the bluefin population in the western Atlantic. Add to that the appetite for sushi, and the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill at the height of its spawning season, in its only known Western spawning grounds, and you've got problems.
But bluefin are often caught by long-line fishermen trying to hook bigger, healthier schools of yellowfin tuna, swordfish and big-eye tuna. Under government regulations, fishermen are allowed to bring a small number of the carefully regulated and valuable fish to shore for sale, but most of them die on hooks hanging from 20-mile fishing lines and are discarded at sea. By one estimate, 111 metric tons of bluefin were killed this way in one year.
Any vessel that exceeds its cap for accidentally caught bluefin wouldn't be able to leave the dock to fish for other species, according to the proposal. Cameras and human observers on board the fishing boats would monitor compliance. NMFS believes this would be an economic disincentive to hook bluefin tuna. Their analysis shows that three-quarters of the fleet will get an allocation that will enable them to continue fishing.
The proposed rules are open for public comment until Dec. 10. Since bluefin swim with yellowfin, catching them is sometimes unavoidable.
Some radiation from Japan's damaged Fukushima nuclear plant has arrived in northern Alaska and along the west coast. That's raised concern over contamination of fish and wildlife. More may be heading toward coastal communities like Haines and Skagway.
Scientists at the University of Alaska are concerned about radiation leaking and the lack of a monitoring plan. According to a researcher at the University of Alaska Fairbanks, radiation levels in Alaskan waters could reach Cold War levels last seen in the 1960s. A professor emeritus at the University of Alaska Fairbanks says he's not sure contamination will reach dangerous levels for humans but says without better data, who will know?
The data they will need is not only past data but current data. Scientists wonder if the food supply will be safe. Much of the monitoring is being done pro bono by universities, NGOs and state organizations.
As reported by CBCNews
The Chesapeake Bay is home to blue crabs, oysters and rockfish, as well many eels. While there seem to be a lot in Maryland waters, scientists elsewhere have concluded that the Atlantic coast's eel population has been depleted.
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service will possibly declare the American eel an endangered species, with a final determination in 2015. Meanwhile, fisheries managers have been mulling action to curb the eel catch, which rebounded recently after a long decline.
The Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission, which oversees near-shore fishing along the coast, put off a decision on catch limits until May 2014. Meanwhile, Maine is working to cut its commercial harvest of young eels. Their catch has increased recently to cash in on a booming export market, with nearly $39 million worth of eels being shipped abroad, mostly to Asia.
Maine will scale back its harvest on "glass" eels, but in Maryland regulations dictate harvesting more mature "yellow" eels, which must be at least 9 inches long. The prices that buyers pay for larger eels have fell as the harvest of glass eels from Maine soared. The baby eels can be shipped abroad more cheaply and raised there, undercutting demand for the larger yellow eels.
Experts acknowledge they don't know about the American eel, but they believe its numbers are at or near historically low levels. The decline stems from a combination of factors, including overfishing, damming of rivers and changing climate and ocean conditions.
Eels have largely disappeared from American tables. They remain popular delicacies in Europe and Asia, where they're eaten stewed, fried, grilled, smoked and even jellied. About 40 percent of the Maryland catch goes overseas for human consumption.
The larger yellow eels fetch $2.50 to $3 a pound, while glass eels go for $2,000 a pound. Glass eels are so small, there can be two thousand or more in a pound, and Maine reported harvesting 20,000 pounds of them last year. Maryland, by comparison, reported landing 556,000 pounds of the more mature yellow eels last year, the second largest haul since the state began tracking the commercial harvest in 1983.
Source: The Baltimore Sun
It is no surprise at all. The BP oil spill will DEFINITELY be felt for decades. Louisiana's oyster season opened last week, but because of the 2010 Deepwater Horizon disaster and oil spill, there aren't many oysters around.
According to Brad Robin, a commercial fisherman and Louisiana Oyster Task Force member, the cupboard is bare. There is no life out there and many of Louisiana's oyster harvest areas are dead or mostly dead.
In Mississippi, fishing boats that used to catch 30 sacks of oysters a day are returning to docks in the evenings with fewer than half a dozen sacks aboard.
It's not just oysters. The entire fishing industry is being hit, with catches down and shrimp and shellfish being discovered with disgusting deformities. One seafood business owner told Al Jazeera that his revenue was down 85 percent compared with the period before the spill.
Ecosystem recovery is a slow process. Ed Cake, an oceanographer and marine biologist, points out that oysters still have not returned to some of the areas affected by a 1979 oil well blowout in the Gulf. He thinks recovery from the BP disaster will take decades.
Initial story: John Upton, The Grist, based on reports from Al Jazeera.
If you are one to depend on the research set-asides, or would like to start, the 2014/2015 Scallop Research Set-Aside (RSA) federal funding opportunity is available. The due date for research proposals is Dec. 2 at 5 p.m.
The National Marine Fishery Service, in coordination with the New England Fishery Management Council is soliciting Atlantic Sea Scallop research proposals to utilize scallop Total Allowable Catch that has been set-aside by the council to fund scallop research endeavors through the 2014/2015 Atlantic Sea Scallop Research Set-Aside (RSA) program. No federal funds are provided for research under this notification. Rather, proceeds generated from the sale of RSA quota will be used to fund research activities and compensate vessels that participate in research activities and/or harvest set-aside quota.
Projects funded under the scallop RSA program must enhance the knowledge of the scallop fishery resource or contribute to the body of information on which scallop management decisions are made. Priority will be given to scallop research proposals that investigate research priorities identified by the council.