New regs for trawls in Zone B start in October
A new rule limiting the number of traps on a single trawl line to five in a specific Zone B area from the six-mile line to the Loran-C 25675 line will go into effect on October 1. The new rule has been controversial with lobstermen who fish across the zone line from Zones C and A, and amongst some Zone B lobstermen. In a letter to Maine lobstermen, DMR Commissioner Patrick Keliher explained that the rule will sunset on December 31, 2019 to encourage fishermen to come together in good faith to find potential compromise. Depending on the outcome of the discussions, DMR will either propose an amended rule, the same rule, or let the rule sunset.
New England Aquarium gets grant to test ropeless lobster fishing
The New England Aquarium has been awarded a $227,000 grant to test a rope-less fishing prototype to eliminate large whale entanglements in pot fishing gear, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Fisheries announced. The federal agency awarded more than $2.3 million to 14 groups to support bycatch reduction research projects. Ropeless fishing involves securing ropes to the seafloor where traps are being fished, and when the trap is ready to be hauled to check for catch, ropes are released to the surface by an acoustically triggered device.
Canadian lobster sales to China pick up
A Chinese freight forwarder is now offering twice-weekly flights from the capital of Nova Scotia, Canada, to the central Chinese city of Changsha in order to export more lobsters there. The seafood freight forwarder First Catch is sponsoring two cargo flights from Nova Scotia’s Halifax Stanfield International Airport to Changsha, which is the capital of China’s Hunan province. The flights, operated by SkyLease Cargo, use a Boeing 747-400 freighter aircraft and can carry 120 metric tons of seafood.
Lobster company proposes seafood center on Portland waterfront
Shucks Maine Lobster asked the Portland Fish Pier Authority board of directors for a 30-year lease on a quarter-acre city-owned lot in August. The company plans to put up a two-story, 16,000-square-foot building that will be a combination lobster processing plant, raw bar, marine heritage display and test kitchen called the Maine Sustainable Seafood Center. In a written statement, Shucks Maine Lobster owner John Hathaway said that the center would be “a seafood processing and industry business designed to service Maine’s seafood economy and help the fishing community to connect with the visitors who come to Maine to eat seafood, but have no point of access to learn about the men and women who provide the catch.” The center would have space for chefs to try out new recipes, teach classes and hold events, and an education center to demonstrate the history and legacy of Portland’s working waterfront.
Heat wave in the Gulf of Maine
This year the Gulf of Maine has been especially warm, and scientists at the gulf of Maine Research Institute in Portland reported that the Gulf of Maine officially experienced its second warmest-ever day on August 8. On that day, the average sea surface temperature in the Gulf of Maine reached 20.52°C (68.93°F), as measured by satellites operated by NOAA and NASA. This is only 0.03°C (0.05°F) shy of the record set in 2012. Moreover, this year parts of the Gulf officially crossed the threshold for what scientists call a marine heat wave. This phrase describes an area of the ocean that experiences temperatures above the 90th percentile for more than five consecutive days.
Seals in New England Test Positive for Avian Flu and Distemper
Some of the first batch of sampled seals that stranded in Maine, New Hampshire, and Massachusetts during the last several weeks have tested preliminarily positive for either avian influenza or phocine distemper virus. In addition, four seals so far have tested positive for both viruses. These are preliminary results based on the first set of samples analyzed by the Tufts University and University of California, Davis laboratories.
There are many more samples to process and analyze, so it is still too soon to determine if either or both of these viruses are the primary cause of the mortality event. Past seal mortality events in northeastern U.S. coast have been linked to avian flu and phocine distemper virus. However, avian flu and phocine distemper virus have also been detected at low levels in seals along the northeastern U.S. coast in non-outbreak years.
If you see a new sick or injured seal, please call the NOAA hotline: 866-755-NOAA (6622). Please be patient, as the stranding response teams are very busy. For your safety and theirs, don’t touch a stranded seal, don’t allow pets to approach the seal, and observe the animal from a safe distance of 100 yards.
Preliminary stranding numbers for July 1-August 22:
Maine: July: 43 live, 65 dead; August: 42 live, 190 dead
New Hampshire/Massachusetts: July: 17 live, 30 dead; August: 31 live, 96 dead
Total: 467 (live 116, dead 351)