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In the News | August 2021

Speeding Toward Extinction

In late July the environmental organization Oceana released a report, Speeding Toward Extinction: Vessel Strikes Threaten North Atlantic Right Whales, that showed most large vessels are exceeding speed limits in areas designed to protect North Atlantic right whales. Oceana analyzed vessel speeds in speed zones established by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) along the Atlantic coast from 2017 to 2020. The data showed that non-compliance was almost 90% in mandatory speed zones, and non-cooperation was almost 85% in voluntary areas. Cargo vessels were the least compliant vessel type. Studies have found that slowing vessel speeds to 10 knots reduces a North Atlantic right whale’s risk of death from vessel strikes by between 80% to 90%. The analysis focused on vessels 65 feet or larger that are required to use AIS (automatic identification system) which transmits a ship’s position. The report is available at

New Glider to Listen for Right Whales

A new marine robot, part of a fleet of underwater gliders operated by the Ocean Tracking Network and Dalhousie University in Halifax, Nova Scotia, will help monitor North Atlantic right whales to keep them from colliding with ships. The newest glider, launched this summer, will carry a hydrophone to identify the calls of right whales and report their locations. The University of New Brunswick and Transport Canada are partners in the $3.6-million project that will span the next five years.

Second Science Symposium to Focus on Floating Wind Turbines and Fishing

Photo Courtesy: BOEM

The Responsible Offshore Development Alliance (RODA) received a grant from NOAA to bring experts together to discuss the impact of offshore wind energy development on U.S. fisheries. The latest $155,000 award will fund a second “Synthesis of the Science” symposium, to understand how floating offshore wind turbines may interact with fisheries. It follows on a $150,000 grant the agency awarded to RODA – a coalition of commercial fishing groups and communities – in 2020 to conduct a first-of-its-kind symposium on the current science regarding fisheries and offshore wind interactions. RODA, BOEM and NOAA’s National Marine Fisheries Service entered a formal agreement in 2019 to collaborate on science, research, monitoring, and the planning process for U.S. offshore wind energy development.

Jonesport Aquaculture Project Gets Final Permit

Kingfish Maine, owned by the Netherlands-based Kingfish Company, secured its final critical state permit required for its planned recirculating aquaculture facility in Jonesport. The Department of Environmental Protection approved the Maine Pollutant Discharge Elimination System permit in July for the company to build a state-of-the-art land-based recirculating aquaculture system (RAS) facility aquaculture facility. The company plans to develop on up to 20 acres of a 94-acre waterfront parcel of land about 1 mile east of town on Chandler Bay. When completed, the estimated $110 million facility would produce some 6,000-8,000 metric tons (about 13.2-17.6 million pounds) annually of high-value yellowtail, also known as Hamachi. The company claims it will create 70 permanent jobs in Jonesport. The Kingfish Company currently operates a land-based recirculating aquaculture system in the Netherlands.

NMFS Releases FEIS for Whale Rule

Photo Courtesy: NOAA

On July 2, NMFS released its Final Environmental Impact Statement, Regulatory Impact Review, and Final Regulatory Flexibility Analysis for Amending the Atlantic Large Whale Take Reduction Plan: Risk Reduction Rule, referred to as the FEIS. Volume I outlines the agency’s “preferred alternative” for the Final Whale Rule. It includes the final economic impact analysis and modelling results of the risk reduction achieved under different management alternatives. The Final Whale Rule is expected to be published by September and must achieve at least 60% risk reduction in the Northeast lobster fishery. The FEIS is at

Nova Scotia Introduces Provincial Seafood Certification Program

Nova Scotia is launching its own seafood quality certification program. Participating Nova Scotian companies must meet a range of traceability, handling, processing and food safety standards including an annual product quality assessment prior to export. Other certification programs are in place throughout the world, however Nova Scotia officials argue the provincial program is more comprehensive because it includes an emphasis on quality as well as food safety. Certification will allow a seafood company to use the Nova Scotia Seafood trademark logo and receive technical assistance and training from Perennia, the province’s agrifood development agency. Certified companies will also be featured prominently in promotional materials for the Nova Scotia Seafood brand, marketing campaigns and all trade-related events.

Lobsters May Hear through their Hair

A new study by Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute (WHOI) indicates that lobsters may hear through their hair. Scientists placed electrodes near the brain of the lobster to detect neuron responses to sound. Researchers determined that hairfans, the external cuticular hairs that cover much of a lobster’s body, are likely responsible for sound detection. “Lobsters are clearly capable of communicating with these buzzing sounds while engaged in important behavior such as during aggressive encounters between males, which are crucial confrontations during reproduction,” Youenn Jézéquel, a postdoctoral researcher at WHOI and the lead author of the paper, said in a statement. At a time when officials are considering building offshore wind turbines in New England, Jézéquel said this finding raises concerns about the potential of noise on the lobsters. “We need marine renewable energy, but we don’t want to impact marine life. It’s very important to assess the impact of pile driving noise on lobster populations to be able to tell fishermen, politicians and others about these impacts and to try to reduce sounds produced by offshore wind farms as much as we can.”

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