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New Program to Remove Derelict Fishing Gear

NOAA announced an $8 million award to William & Mary’s Virginia Institute of Marine Science to house a new national program to remove derelict fishing gear. The “TRAP” program (Trap Removal, Assessment & Prevention) will launch a national competition to fund derelict fishing traps removal projects which synthesize the collected data to inform prevention and mitigation policies at the state and federal levels. The annual competition will award six-15 sub-grants per year, with total funding on the order of $1.5 million annually. The TRAP program will initially focus on the gear used to catch crabs (blue, Dungeness and stone) and lobsters (American and spiny).

Maine’s Commercial Seafood Harvest Drops 120 Million Pounds In Ten Years

2022 was the first time since 1975 that Maine’s reported annual seafood harvest has fallen short of 200 million pounds (197 million in total). In fact, the cumulative volume of Maine’s commercial fisheries dropped by more than 120 million pounds between 2012 and 2022, according to Department of Marine Resources (DMR) data. Even with the decline in overall volume, however, the overall value of Maine’s statewide seafood landings has increased by $43 million in the past decade.

While some fisheries, such as northern shrimp and sea urchins, have nearly disappeared, others continue but at diminished levels. Softshell clams had their lowest-ever documented total harvest by volume in 2022. Herring landings have plummeted due to quota restrictions. The quota set for herring by the New England Fishery Management Council has dropped sharply over the past decade, causing Maine herring landings to plummet nearly 96%, from more than 92 million pounds in 2012 to less than 4 million last year.

Elver Poaching Shuts Down Maritime Provinces’ Fishery

The Canadian Department of Fisheries and Oceans (DFO) shut down elver fishery in the Nova Scotia and New Brunswick on April 15 amid growing concerns of illegal poaching and violence. The fishery was closed for 45 days due to conservation and safety concerns. DFO said it stepped up monitoring of the fishery in recent weeks, including patrolling rivers, inspecting holding facilities and conducting surveillance and inspections at airports and border crossings. The monitoring led to multiple seizures and arrests and showed that unreported fishing accounted for a significant proportion of elver landings, it said. “Conflicts have escalated to violence and threats, risking the safety of harvesters and constituting a threat to the proper management and control of the fishery,” the federal department said in a statement. “Closing the elver fishery is a required response to address these combined risks.”

New Head at the Island Institute

Kimberly Hamilton was appointed to serve as the Island Institute’s new president in April. Hamilton served as interim chief programs officer since September 2022. Prior to that position, she oversaw the Institute’s Climate, Economic Resilience and Leadership programs and served as a member of the senior leadership team. Before coming to the Island Institute, Hamilton was president of FocusMaine, where she led efforts to accelerate job creation in the agriculture, aquaculture, and biopharmaceutical sectors. She has also served as the chief impact officer at Feeding America and director of strategy planning and management at the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. Hamilton lives on Chebeague Island. She received her Ph.D. in demography from Brown University and her master’s from John Hopkins University.

New Jersey Wind Project Likely to Adversely Affect Right Whales, Says NOAA

The planned Ocean Wind 1 energy project “is likely to adversely affect, but is not likely to jeopardize” threatened and endangered sea life when the 1,100-megawatt turbine array is built off New Jersey, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. NOAA’s National Marine Fisheries Service issued its final biological opinion under the federal Endangered Species Act, as part of the Bureau of Offshore Energy Management’s review of plans by wind developer Ørsted for up to 98 turbines on its lease about 15 miles off Atlantic City, N.J. The biological opinion states that highly endangered North Atlantic right whales could have their behavior disrupted, but not be injured by activities related to the wind project.

California Crab Season Shortened by Presence of Whales

The California Department of Fish and Wildlife ended this year’s Dungeness crab season earlier than expected, on April 15 at noon. The early end, combined with a delayed start on December 31, means that the 2023 season was much shorter than usual. In addition, fishermen in certain zones off California were required to reduce their total traps by 50% this season. The early end is due to Humpback whales, which are migrating to coastal waters to forage for food.

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