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In the News | May 2024

Canadian Lobstermen Weigh Gauge Increase

Lobstermen in southwestern Nova Scotia and others throughout Atlantic Canada will vote soon on whether to increase the minimum legal size of lobster they catch to match an increase in the U.S. The U.S. gauge increase is part of the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission’s (ASMFC) Addendum 27 measures; it is due to go into effect in January 2025. At stake is maintaining access to the market in the United States. “It will be an individual vote. That’s a big decision that every single enterprise and owner has to look at from their own business,” said Heather Mulock, executive director of the Coldwater Lobster Association, which represents fishermen in lobster fishing area 34 (LFA 34).

New Tool Monitors Ship Speed in Whale Waters

University of California Santa Barbara scientists have created a vessel tracking tool, Whale Safe North America, that reveals in near real-time the speeds at which cargo ships move up and down the East Coast. A component of Whale Safe, a program developed by the University’s Benioff Ocean Science Laboratory, the publicly available vessel analytics tool allows resource managers, conservationists, shipping companies, and the public to see whose cargo ships are speeding through waters through which whales may be traveling. The new computer tool tracks ships in all slow-speed zones within North American waters. The map and its data provide a score card for shipping companies, assessing their speed limit compliance on a ship-by-ship basis. Collisions with ships are one of the greatest dangers to North Atlantic right whales. Four right whales have been found dead so far this year, and three of the deaths have been attributed to a vessel strike.

Hurricane Season Looks Busy

The 2024 Atlantic hurricane season could bring 23 named storms and 11 hurricanes, fueled by record-warm Atlantic sea surface temperatures and shifting conditions in the equatorial Pacific, according to researchers at the Department of Atmospheric Science at Colorado State. This year’s prediction is higher than the 1991-2020 average of 14 named storms and seven hurricanes annually. Key factors include an anticipated shift away from El Niño warm-water conditions to La Niña cooling in the Pacific in late summer, which can bring winds across North America favorable for hurricane development. Atlantic temperatures have been far above average already this year. This is the highest April forecast produced since Colorado State’s annual Atlantic basin forecasts started in 1995. 

Offshore Wind Projects Abruptly Halted in New York

The New York State Research and Development Authority halted three major offshore wind-energy projects in mid-April after General Electric Vernova changed its turbine design, which the state said “materially altered” the company’s plans. New York provisionally approved the projects in October 2023. But since then, General Electric Vernova decided to move from a 18 megawatt turbine platform to smaller turbines. Smaller turbines will cover more submerged lands than a single turbine. This caused “technical and commercial complexities” for the developers, the Development Authority said in a statement that announced it would not sign final contracts.

Red Lobster May Head Into Bankruptcy

The restaurant chain Red Lobster is considering filing bankruptcy in hopes of restructuring its debts. The company has reportedly received advice from the law firm King & Spalding and is hoping to get out of long-term contracts and renegotiate leases in the process.

While Red Lobster’s largest investor, Thai Union Group, has yet to sell its majority stakes, the company is seeking an exit route due to “ongoing financial requirements [that] no longer align” with its “allocation priorities,” the company stated. Last year, Red Lobster reported $11 million in operating losses following its “Ultimate Endless Shrimp” menu item. The promotion, which began as a limited-time option, became a permanent menu item last June. The restaurant chain later reported $12.5 million in losses in the fourth quarter of 2023.

2023 Was Another Warm Year for the Gulf of Maine

Last year was the fifth hottest year on record in the Gulf of Maine, according to the latest annual report from the Gulf of Maine Research Institute (GMRI), continuing a trend that makes it one of the fastest-warming bodies of ocean on Earth, Record-high sea surface temperatures took place in late winter and spring. February, March and April set records for the highest monthly average temperature. The second half of the year was relatively cool. The Gulf's average temperature was 52.6o F., or 1.9 degrees above the long-term norm. Eight of the last 10 years have been among the Gulf’s top 10 warmest.


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