Iceland and Japan are using Canada as a shipment destination in the trade of meat from endangered fin whales. Canada has agreed to protect the finfish. Canada says it cannot stop the trade, even though it is a signatory of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora, which in 1981 listed the fin and other endangered whales for the highest level of protection against commercial trade.
Iceland and Japan are also signatories to the convention but did not agree to the 1981 listing, which means they are legally permitted to trade in the whale's meat and even to use Canada as a trans-shipment destination.
Canada has to allow shipments under customs control to transit provided they meet normal documentation and other requirements. Norway also refused to support the CITES listing by entering what is known as a reservation.
News of Canada's role in the commercial trade comes as a shock to politicians and environmentalists, including Greenpeace, which received a tip about Iceland shipping 12 containers of whale meat to Halifax.
Greenpeace believes that the containers were then sent across Canada by rail to Metro Vancouver to be shipped to Japan. Environment Canada inspected the shipment under the Wild Animal and Plant Protection and Regulation of International and Interprovincial Trade Act, and conducted DNA samples to confirm it was correctly labelled. Then it allowed it to continue because it lacked authority to do anything else.
Fin whales are globally rated as endangered by the International Union for Conservation of Nature. In Canada, they are officially a threatened species, listed under the federal Species At Risk Act.
Iceland suspended the killing of fin whales in 2011 after the Japan earthquake and nuclear accident; the hunt resumed in the 2013 with 134 animals taken.
When about 130 tons of Icelandic fin whale meat arrived in Germany last July, shipping companies declined to take the containers on to Japan, and they were sent back to Iceland.
The fin whale is the second largest creature on Earth after the blue whale.
Courtesy Vancouver Sun
Louisiana plans to use existing and planned sediment and freshwater diversions as part of a new plan for removing a small share of the fertilizers and other nutrients from the Mississippi and Atchafalaya rivers that are linked to spring low-oxygen dead zones along the state's coastline.
It also seeks farmlands, urban wastewater treatment plants, rural homes and industries to voluntarily reduce their release of nutrients.
The dead zone comes in spring when nutrient-rich freshwater from the Mississippi and Atchafalaya rivers triggers blooms of algae on the Gulf's surface. The algae dies and sinks to the bottom, where its decomposition uses up oxygen. The low oxygen levels kill organisms living in bottom sediments and cause shrimp and fish able to escape to move to more oxygen-rich waters.
In recent years, the low-oxygen areas have covered as much as 8,000 square miles of relatively shallow water along the coast, extending at times into Texas and Mississippi. In 2013, it covered 5,840 square miles. The state strategy contends that the diversions will eventually be able to remove nitrogen equaling more than 250 percent of the amount believed generated within the state's borders, and phosphorous equaling about 40 percent of that generated in the state. But that represents less than 5 percent of the total nitrogen and phosphorus carried by the river to the Gulf, mostly from farmland in midwestern states.
Backing the plan is the Coastal Protection and Restoration Authority. The plan calls for the state to continue participating in voluntary measures with upriver states to attempt to reduce their nutrient load.
But the Gulf Restoration Network, has called the state and EPA to adopt regulations that would force both point sources of nutrients such as industries and non-point sources of nutrient runoff, such as farms, to reduce their nutrient releases to levels that would dramatically reduce the size of the dead zone within a few years. The plan was developed by the state Coastal Protection and Restoration Authority and Departments of Agriculture and Forestry, Environmental Quality, and Natural Resources.
News courtesy The Times-Picayune
Florida made a court filing two weeks ago, blaming the Apalachicola River's freshwater problems on Georgia for excessive water consumption.
The state sued Georgia last fall, seeking the court to cap Georgia's water use at levels that existed in 1992. The complaint also asks for the appointment of a special master to divide the waters in the Apalachicola-Chattahoochee-Flint basin, which drains about 20,000 square miles in both states and Alabama.
Consecutive annual droughts in the region contributed to a historic reduction of freshwater flow and caused the oyster fishery in Apalachicola Bay to collapse. Oysters need brackish to live.
Georgia maintains that Florida's complaints should be aimed at the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, which is currently updating a decades-old water management plan for its five federal dams that control the flow of water in the basin.
Work on that plan resumed in 2012 after a 22-year legal battle between the three states over basin water rights that ended in favor of upstream interests. The so-called "Master Manual," is at least a year from completion.
By filing the lawsuit, Georgia said that Florida is attempting to dodge the Corps.
News by The Tallahassee Democrat
"Cold-stun" events to blame
There will be no more commercial and recreational fishing for speckled trout in North Carolina, for the state's Division of Marine Fisheries ordered the fishery closed at the beginning of February. The closure will continue through June 15.
"Cold-stun" events were confirmed over the weekend late in January along coastal waters.Cold-stun is when water temperatures drop very quickly and, sometimes, kill fish. Additionally, stunned fish become prey to birds and other wildlife. Some fish can be found still alive but float on the surface, making them easy targets.
The closure includes the Pamlico, Alligator, Pungo, Scuppernong, Trent, Neuse and Cape Fear rivers and nearby bays.
When coastal waters are closed, inland waters and adjacent waters along the beach also are closed for the same species, according to North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission rules.
Cold-stun events in the past have had significant impacts on the population of speckled trout, also known as spotted seatrout. Similar events have taken place recently on a smaller scale, in Virginia waters.
News from The Virginian-Pilot.
Alaska vessels fix seafood waste violations
It might not dawn on people, but some seafood vessels actually process their catch on board. Being a floating industry, they are also subject to treat their industrial wastewater.
That's why three companies that operate seafood processing vessels off the coast of Alaska have agreed to comply with Clean Water Act permits that limit the discharge of pollutants from seafood waste.
The vessels process Pacific cod, Pollock and flat fish and discharge millions of pounds of seafood waste each year into the Bering Sea, Gulf of Alaska and North Pacific Ocean. The National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System general permits for seafood processors in Alaska are intended to protect marine habitat and species.
Vessels that process seafood and discharge waste into the ocean are required to follow an NPDES permit. The permit requires that seafood waste be ground to a maximum size of ˝ inch in order to quickly spread seafood waste solids throughout the ocean. In addition, the permit requires floating processors to monitor pathways where wastes exit the vessel to ensure that the pathways are clear, monitor the sea surface for marine animals of concern and floating residues, and monitor metals in the incoming water and wastewater.
The companies, Golden Fleece, Inc., Blue North Fisheries, Inc. and The Fishing Company of Alaska, Inc.,have paid fines and brought their vessels into compliance.
The Fish Site
No shrimping off South Carolina
Effective Feb. 13, 2014, NOAA Fisheries federal waters off South Carolina have been closed to the harvest of brown, pink, and white shrimp through May 31, 2014. South Carolina has closed its territorial waters to all shrimping as well.
South Carolina fishery managers requested this closure of this particular crustacean due to a prolonged period of water temperatures at or below 48 degrees in the region. During the closure, no person may trawl for brown, pink, or white shrimp in federal waters off South Carolina.
Any vessel trawling in a part of a closed area that is within 25 nautical miles of South Carolina state waters must use trawl nets with a minimum mesh size of four inches or greater.
Possession of brown, pink, or white shrimp is prohibited on board a vessel in the closed area unless the vessel is in transit through the area and all nets with a mesh size of less than four inches, as measured between the centers of opposite knots when pulled taut, are stowed below deck.
The federal closure will be effective until the ending date of the closure in state waters, and may end earlier based on a request by South Carolina. In no case will the federal closure remain effective after May 31, 2014. NOAA Fisheries will issue a new Fishery Bulletin announcing the re-opening to shrimp harvest in federal waters off South Carolina.
News item courtesy The Fish Site
A new pilot program in Cape Cod will allow floating oyster cages in areas frequented by rare turtles and whales.
The towns of Truro and Provincetown have agreed to allow the aquaculture cages in a new 50-acre aquaculture tract off North Truro. Such proposals haven't been allowed because the cages and rope could entangle the rare animals.
The oyster growers want to use the floating OysterGro brand of equipment, used in shallow estuaries and salt ponds in Massachusetts. Its use in open waters in Cape Cod Bay, however, is new. The new "aquaculture development area" is a joint experiment of the two towns to encourage local shellfish harvesting by removing barriers for small-business owners, such as federal permits. Each town is in charge of 25 acres.
OysterGro, based in Canada, has equipment consisting of a wire mesh cage attached to a float, which is then roped together with another cage and float combination, and then another and another. The array of floating cages is anchored with rope to the seafloor. The tract - only 20-feet long - received U.S. Army Corps of Engineers approval on Jan. 25, 2013, but state marine fisheries officials objected to the risk of more lines in the water. Small businessmen be damned.
About half-dozen shellfish growers in Truro and a few in Provincetown want to use the OysterGro equipment. State and local officials agreed to the pilot program last fall. But the regulations outlined the state Division of Marine Fisheries still presented two problems for growers.
The first problem was the state's requirement that the equipment have lines that would break free if pulled by a force of 600 pounds. The growers wanted the limit increased to 1,100 pounds because of the threat of storms breaking the heavy array of cages loose. The second was the requirement that equipment be secured flat on the seafloor during the season for right whales, from January through May 15. The growers wanted at least some ability to retrieve and work with their equipment during that time. The compromise allows vertical lines from May 16 through Dec. 31 with a breakaway link of 1,100 pounds of force, rather than 600 pounds.
State law allows the state Division of Marine Fisheries to establish conditions on any town-issued aquaculture licenses and on the state permit.
According to the Portland Press Herald, a population explosion of green crabs is destroying Maine's shellfish industry. Ron Howse, president and CEO of the Tidalwater Seafood Co., from New Brunswick, has proposed to solve the problem by making the invasive species a marketable product.
Howse plans to process green crabs in Maine and market the meat and live crabs to customers in Japan, Korea, China, Spain and Portugal. Green crabs eat clams and mussels, steal bait from lobster traps, destroy eelgrass beds and damage salt marshes. Howse believes other markets will find the crab desirable as a food source.
The crabs have no commercial value because their bodies are too small, so their meat can't be removed efficiently. Recent attempts to create a market for them as bait or cat food have fallen flat.
Steve Follette, a clam digger who co-chairs the Frenchman Bay Regional Shellfish Conservation Committee in Down East Maine believes that if nothing is done, clam diggers will be out of business in two years.
Howse could open a processing plant in the Brunswick or Bangor area to pick the meat from green crabs, and may set up holding facilities along the Maine coast. He said there's also a significant market for live crabs, which could be shipped to Asia and Europe on flights from the Bangor International Airport.
Howse said there's enough money to finance the business plan if he gets some financial support from community development groups in the state. He said he has significant private funds available, but he wouldn't provide details about the amount of money he has or the amount he would need to raise.
A concept to rebuild the historic oyster reefs of Raritan Bay in New Jersey could funnel a share of $1 billion in federal money into creating living breakwaters that would reduce the wave force from future storms. But New Jersey may not share that opportunity. The state Department of Environmental Protection has been adamantly opposed to planting oysters in public waters of Raritan Bay, and that stance is unchanged, even with the evolving offer of money from post-Sandy storm reconstruction grants.
Oyster reefs won't stop the elevated flood heights pouring into the harbor during storms, but computer modeling shows they could cut down wave height, thus reducing the battering on bayside communities, according to Philip Orton, a scientist at the Stevens Institute of Technology in Hoboken.
Baykeeper and Rutgers University researchers have a small experiment with 250,000 oysters at the Naval Weapons Station Earle pier in Middletown. This spring, they plan to move out to a quarter-acre plot on the bay bottom within the Navy-controlled security zone, Comi said. It's a smaller project than Baykeeper's earlier restoration effort off Keyport, which was shut down in 2010 by order of the N.J. DEP.
The order came in reaction to a critical report by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration that warned New Jersey had been falling behind in patrolling shellfish waters to prevent illegal harvests from polluted waters. The plan to grow oyster reefs as breakwaters in Raritan Bay is part of a program to come up with ways to bolster the defenses of the coast.
At the end of December, the oyster reef team visited the public Urban Assembly New York Harbor School on Governor's Island. The public high school runs the Billion Oyster Project, a plan to restore oysters to New York Harbor over a 20-year period. So far, they have 7.5 million oysters on a 2.1-acre reef area in the harbor.
The competition can pick more than one winning project and there's a chance all 10 could be completed.
On Jan. 23, NOAA Fisheries announced the third annual report on the economic performance of the vessels active in the Northeast groundfish fishery. The report covers fishing year 2012.
As a consequence of quota reductions for a number of groundfish stocks, landings and revenues were lower in 2012 than in 2011. Landings fell by 5.4 percent and revenues by 7.7 percent. For groundfish these figures are at four-year lows with landings off by 24 percent and revenues by 22.9 percent. There were fewer active vessels, fewer and slightly longer trips, and a continued concentration of revenues onto the highest-earning vessels.
As was also the case in 2011, more than half of the available quota was not harvested. While some in the regulatory and environmental communities have blamed a lack of fish for the inability of fishermen to catch their quotas, industry members cite conflicting or badly-designed regulations and "choke stocks," also known as choke species, that cause fishing to cease on other species when the choke stock's quota is reached.
Most revealing of all, in Massachusetts, New York and Rhode Island, all indicators of crew employment were at four year lows in 2012, not to mention all the boats they drove out of business.