Connecticut General Assembly Passes the “Blue Plan” Bill

Jun 8, 2015 by  | Bio |  Leave a Comment

Sunset over Cashes Ledge

Hartford, Conn. – On the evening of May 28th, members of the Connecticut Senate unanimously passed Bill No. 6839, historic legislation that will usher in the creation and implementation of a “Blue Plan” for the Long Island Sound. The passage of Bill 6839 not only serves as a symbolic affirmation of Connecticut’s deep commitment to preserving and sustaining the Sound’s diverse ecosystems, fisheries, and water quality, but also the coastal communities that depend on the Sound as a source of income and identity, and the growing coastal economy that ultimately impacts every Connecticut resident. CLF applauds the Connecticut General Assembly for their regional leadership in estuary conservation.

Championed by Governor Dannel Malloy as part of his February legislative package, Bill 6839, An Act Concerning a Long Island Sound Blue Plan and Resource and Use Inventory, is en route to the governor’s desk for his final signature.

“Through smart legislation passed today, we’re making the future brighter tomorrow.  The Long Island Sound is a critical component to Connecticut’s economy and quality of life – millions of people rely on its resources.  By taking action now, we are planning for our long-term future, protecting our environmental resources while making economic smart decisions,” Governor Malloy said in a prepared statement.

The “Blue Plan Bill” will create a multi-disciplinary team of scientists, state and local officials, representatives from both commercial fisheries and marine industries, environmental advocacy organizations and other stakeholders, charged with drafting a resource and inventory plan no later than March, 2019. The planning process will be comprehensive and multifaceted: up to date analyses of the Long Island Sound’s ecosystem health, coastal economies, industries, tourism, commercial fisheries and aquaculture will be completed, and will be further bolstered by spatial analyses resulting from the completion of satellite and GIS mapping. Throughout the multi-year planning process, the advisory committee will be required to host several public meetings throughout Connecticut’s coastal region, where the public will be encouraged to offer commentary and input regarding the draft’s content and design.

Upon completion, the Blue Plan draft will be submitted for approval to the Connecticut General Assembly, and once formalized, will herald resounding and far-reaching benefits for both the Long Island Sound’s habitats, diverse wildlife, and the local communities that depend on the Sound’s improved vitality and sustained health. While today the Long Island Sound contributes billions of dollars to Connecticut’s economy, the Blue Plan represents the state’s investment in the future, ensuring that generations will be able to enjoy the Sound’s resources, iconic beauty, and productivity for years to come.

 

This Week on TalkingFish.org – June 1-5

Jun 5, 2015 by  | Bio |  Leave a Comment

June 1 – National Oceans Month, 2015 – President Obama has proclaimed June to be National Oceans Month. He points towards a “coordinated, science-based approach to managing our coasts and oceans.”

June 2 – Decision Time for Deep Corals in the Mid-Atlantic – On June 10, regional fisheries officials will have the chance to create the largest protected area in U.S. Atlantic waters when they vote on a proposal to help preserve deep-sea corals and the unique habitat these animals create.

June 3 – Special Edition – Fish Talk in the News – House Approves Controversial Fishing Bill – On Monday, the U.S. House of Representatives approved H.R. 1335, the “Strengthening Fishing Communities and Increasing Flexibility in Fisheries Management Act,” as a reauthorization of the Magnuson-Stevens Fisheries Conservation and Management Act.

June 4 – Georges Bank on the Habitat Chopping Block – The New England Fishery Management Council’s (NEFMC) Habitat Committee continues to show complete disregard for habitat protection. Up for consideration at the Committee’s Monday meeting was an industry-introduced proposal (Alternative 9) to open critical areas of Georges Bank as part of the Omnibus Habitat Amendment.

June 5 – Fish Talk in the News – Friday, June 5 – In this week’s Fish Talk in the News, the House passes MSA Reauthorization Act; an amendment included in H.R. 1335 directs funds to improve fisheries research and management; the House cuts NOAA’s budget by $270 million; NE delegates work to secure funding for daily monitoring of commercial fisheries; Maine delays vote on tribal fishing bill; CT passes Blue Plan; NFWF awards TNC $300K for electronic monitoring systems; the agenda for NEFMC’s June meeting is now available; an animated video explains the impacts of climate change on Maine lobster populations; Maine elver season sets a new record; Massachusetts lobstermen worry about increased onboard observers; NOAA recommends to upgrade humpback whale status; and US and Canadian lobstermen fight over disputed territory.

New England Canyons and Seamounts are the Atlantic’s Deep Sea Treasures

May 20, 2015 by  | Bio |  Leave a Comment

New England is a region full of remarkable marine landscapes. An area like Cashes Ledge speaks to the immense beauty and diversity found in our local ocean, but it is not the only one.

Approximately 150 miles off the coast of southern New England, where the continental shelf drops off into the ocean abyss, lays a chain of undersea canyons and nearby seamounts that are home to an incredible richness of marine life. The canyons plunge thousands of feet deep, some deeper than the Grand Canyon, and the seamounts rise as high as 7,000 feet above the seafloor, higher than any mountain east of the Rockies.

Much like Cashes Ledge, these habitats give rise to an elaborate underwater world of marine species. Communities of brilliant cold-water corals line the walls of the canyons and seamounts supporting a  diverse deep-sea ecosystem and providing refuge for abundant fish and invertebrate species. Nearly 1,000 species have been identified in the New England Canyon and Seamount region, and researchers are discovering more with every expedition.

The nutrient rich cold water brings an abundance of plankton, squid, and forage fish, such as mackerel, This in turn attracts schools of tuna, sharks, seabirds, and marine mammals, such as endangered sperm whales and North Atlantic right whales – both rare, iconic species of the region.

The depth and ruggedness of the region have naturally protected the New England Canyons and Seamounts from human disturbance thus far, but this may not always be the case. This region is particularly vulnerable to fishing and offshore development. One sweep of a bottom trawl would have devastating effects for the fragile deep-sea community, and future any development in the region, such as drilling or mining, would pose great risk to marine mammals and fish.

A colony of bamboo coral observed on Mytilus Seamount. Image courtesy of NOAA Okeanos Explorer.

A colony of bamboo coral observed on Mytilus Seamount. Image courtesy of NOAA Okeanos Explorer.

Scientists have also suggested that deep-sea coral communities are among the most vulnerable to ocean warming and ocean acidification. Maintaining the health of the canyons and seamounts will be imperative in the fight against climate change.

The New England Canyons and Seamounts region is another special place that deserves protection.

This Week on TalkingFish.org – May 11-15

May 15, 2015 by  | Bio |  Leave a Comment

May 15 – On National Endangered Species Day, Lingering Right Whales Are At Increased Risk – Today is National Endangered Species Day. Each year on the third Friday in May, National Endangered Species Day celebrates learning about our endangered and threatened species and how we can help protect them. New England is home to a number of endangered species such as the North Atlantic Right Whale, who’s estimated global population is only about 522 individuals.

May 15 – Fish Talk in the News – Friday, May 15 – In this week’s Fish Talk in the News, a committee will study the possibility of a New England buyback program; NEFMC released its latest Council report; managers and tribes discuss elver fishery management; the Puffin Project is on the radio; NOAA releases red tide predictions; NOAA awards ten scallop research projects; NYTimes opinion article says WWII was a turning point for fisheries; and the House CJS appropriations bill call for budget cuts to NOAA, NASA, and NIST.

This Week on TalkingFish.org – April 27-May 1

May 1, 2015 by  | Bio |  Leave a Comment

April 29 – Menhaden Meals – Atlantic menhaden are sometimes called “the most important fish in the sea” because so many animals depend on them for food. Here are just a few of those birds, fish, and marine mammals enjoying their favorite meal.

April 29 – Tracking Fish Oil Supplements to the Source – Are fish oil supplements really improving our health but hurting our oceans? That’s one question New York Times bestselling author Paul Greenberg is exploring for his next book, due out next year, The Omega Principle: The Health of Our Hearts, the Strength of Our Minds, and the Survival of our Oceans All in One Little Pill.

April 30 – Puffin Project Coming to the New England Aquarium – Director of National Audubon Society’s Project Puffin Steve Kress and award-winning journalist/photographer Derrick Jackson will join the New England Aquarium Lecture Series Tuesday, May 5 to discuss their new book, Project Puffin: The Improbable Quest to Bring a Beloved Seabird Back to Egg Rock.

April 30 – Making the Most of the Most Important Fish – It’s time to modernize management of Atlantic menhaden – Fisheries managers for the Atlantic Coast states face an important decision May 5 about what’s sometimes called the most important fish in the sea: Atlantic menhaden. Officials could increase the allowable catch to appease the East Coast’s largest fishing industry. Or they could begin to manage this forage species in a way that protects fish, seabirds, and whales, as well as the interests of the people who care about and depend on those animals from Florida to Maine.

May 1 – As 2015 Fishing Season Kicks Off, a Still Uncertain Future for Cod Remains – The 2015 fishing season begins today, May 1, and stricter – but necessary – quotas on Gulf of Maine cod will take effect.

May 1 – Fish Talk in the News – Friday, May 1 – In this week’s Fish Talk in the News, new rules take effect as 2015 fishing year begins; House Natural Resources Committee advances MSA reauthorization bill; NEFMC votes down proposal to close Stellwagen Bank; a new report looks at U.S. fishing trends; black sea bass are now frequent visitors in Maine; ME Marine Resources Panel allows alewife migration up St. Croix River; Casco Bay water chemistry is changing; NH, RI, and ME receive fishery disaster relief funds; State reps sponsor a bill that could bring $100 million to fisheries research; Atlantic Herring Amendment 8 comment period closes; a NYTimes story highlights NEAQ’s microgrant program; and construction begins on the first U.S. offshore wind farm.

Fishery Management Council Spares Cashes Ledge But Puts Other Ocean Habitat at Risk

Apr 24, 2015 by  | Bio |  2 Comment »

Cashes ledge, a spectacular underwater mountain range in the Gulf of Maine, has for now been spared by the New England Fishery Management Council, which met this week to vote on whether to open this biodiversity hotspot to the most destructive forms of commercial fishing. But, while the Cashes Ledge Closed Area survived the Council vote intact, that fate is not shared by other important ecological areas found within the Gulf of Maine.

Kelp Forest and Cod at Cashes Ledge; 70-miles off the coast of MaineIn addition to maintaining current protections for Cashes Ledge, the Council voted to add a new area of ocean habitat in the Eastern Gulf of Maine. That’s the good news. The bad news, however, adds up to laundry list of poor decision making that puts the health of our ocean, fisheries, and fishing economy at risk, as the Council also voted to:

  • allow damaging trawls to invade an area of the Western Gulf of Maine that has been closed to commercial fishing for more than 20 years,
  • significantly reduce the size and scope of a new protected area in the Downeast Maine area,
  • permit surf clam dredges, the most damaging fishing gear, in a newly created Great South Channel “protected area,”
  • allow gear modification techniques to serve as habitat “protection” measures, even though those techniques have been panned by the Council’s own technical experts.

The Council also entertained a new proposal put forward by the scallop industry for a protected area for Georges Bank that will – unsurprisingly – permit scallop and clam dredging in a protected area that has been closed for more than 20 years.

CLF has been at the forefront of fighting to keep Cashes Ledge and other protected ocean habitat closed to most commercial fishing practices in order to restore depleted groundfish stocks, including the Atlantic cod population, which is currently at historic lows. During a 60-day comment period, CLF and other environmental organizations collected close to 160,000 comments from the public calling on the Council to keep Cashes Ledge closed to commercial fishing and to increase protected areas across New England waters.

While the initial outcome for Cashes is positive, the Council continues to play a dangerous shell game with our precious ocean resources, ignoring its own scientists’ advice and elevating minimal short-term gains for industry over long-term benefits for the resource (and, ultimately, the fishing community). The current vote is yet another example of one step forward and two steps back for the Council, as it once again spurned the kind of long-term protection and sustainability for New England’s precious marine resources that could lead to economic prosperity for our fishing community.

Fishery management councils across the United States have successfully balanced the protection of ocean habitat with the economic interests of our fishing communities. New England’s fishery council should be the nation’s leader in that effort, but instead they have a long history of making bad management decisions that are depleting our fish stocks and bankrupting our fishing industry.

Our oceans belong to the people and we cannot allow an industry-driven Council to take hostage of vital marine resources decisions. Of the nearly 160,000 people who weighed in on this issue, an overwhelming 96% of them want an increase in protected areas, not a decrease.

If you were among those thousands who weighed in, thank you. Your voice has and can make a difference in this fight. The reality is, even though Cashes has received a reprieve for now, the final vote on the Council’s risky proposal isn’t until June. CLF will continue to ensure that your voice is heard and work to turn back the tide on a legacy of poor management by the New England Fishery Management Council.

This Week on TalkingFish.org – April 20-24

Apr 24, 2015 by  | Bio |  Leave a Comment

April 21 – NOAA Warns New England Fishery Council Not to Weaken Ocean Habitat Protection – You might think that habitat protection would be an obvious priority in New England, which has the country’s worst record on overfishing and depleted fish stocks. Unfortunately, this long-overdue plan to manage the region’s ocean habitat could end up slashing protected areas by roughly 70 percent.

April 21 – Incorporating Community into Regional Ocean Planning – It is well documented that the waters off of New England are changing. Between shifts in the ecosystem and changing use patterns, the future of coastal communities is uncertain. What is certain is that the future of our coastal communities is intertwined with decisions about how we use and manage these waters. A well-executed ocean plan will help these communities protect their future, improve ocean management, and result in healthier ecosystems. The Regional Planning Body will take significant steps towards addressing the underlying concerns raised by fishermen and fishing communities around New England.

April 21 – More than 150 Thousand People Urge Protection for Ocean Habitat – During the OHA public comment period an extraordinary number of individuals and organizations responded—159,502. That’s an overwhelming vote of public support for habitat protection.

April 22 – Protect New England’s Fish Habitat: The Talking Fish Top 10 – Unfortunately, the habitat proposal appears likely to sharply reduce the overall area set aside for habitat protection. As regular readers know, Talking Fish has covered this issue in depth. Here’s the Talking Fish “Top Ten” list of reasons to protect our ocean habitat.

April 24 – Fish Talk in the News – Friday, April 24 – In this week’s Fish Talk in the News, NEFMC takes action on habitat amendment; the scallop industry responds to the Regional Administrator’s letter; NEFSC partners to improve fishery surveys; U.S. relies on coldwater shrimp imports; NMFS approves new Atlantic sea scallop fishing rules; Maine’s baby eel season starts slowly; NOAA releases implementation plan for recreational fisheries policy; former CFN journalist receives award for excellence; Mass Lobstermen join national seafood group; and NOAA urges boats to slow down for right whales.

“Good Fishing” at Cashes Ledge

Jan 15, 2015 by  | Bio |  Leave a Comment

Maps offer us a unique window into history. We can see how landscapes and coastlines have changed and which locations had particularly noteworthy attributes. The Norman B. Leventhal Map Center has a collection of 200,000 maps and atlases from around the world, but on display in the lobby of the Boston Harbor Hotel (on loan from the Boston Pubic Library) is one map that caught our eye.

CL good fishing

The map is a detailed chart of the New England coast authored by Captain Nathaniel Holland in 1794, and in the center of the Gulf of Maine you can find Cashes Ledge. Not only did Holland include Cashes Ledge on the map, but he added a small, but largely telling annotation: “Good Fishing.”

Nathaniel Holland’s map is historical evidence that Cashes Ledge has been an important fish habitat since at least the 18th century, and given the time during which the map was created, the “good fishing” is more than likely referring to Atlantic cod.

As the tides have changed in New England fisheries, how can we not protect a place that has served as a fish refuge for hundreds of years? Gulf of Maine marine species, cod in particular, deserve to have their long-term home permanently protected.

Images via Norman B. Leventhal Map Center at the Boston Public Library. Nathaniel Holland’s 1794 map, “A New and Correct Chart of the Coast of New England and New York with the Adjacent Parts of Nova Scotia and New Brunswick…”

Protect Cashes Ledge and Other Essential Fish Habitat: CLF and Thousands of Supporters Weigh in with Fishery Council

Jan 15, 2015 by  | Bio |  2 Comment »

In comments submitted Friday in response to the long-awaited Omnibus Habitat Amendment 2 and its underlying analysis, CLF strongly criticized the draft Amendment proposed by the New England Fishery Management Council, stating that it does not comply with the law and puts the region’s goal of producing valuable, diverse, and sustainable fisheries even further from reach.

Thousands of CLF members and supporters joined us to urge John Bullard, the regional administrator for NOAA, to reject the Council’s risky, ill-conceived and scientifically unsound proposals. The Council’s proposed Amendment would reduce protected habitat, in some scenarios by as much as 70%, and allow destructive bottom trawling in areas that have served for nearly 20 years as refuges for commercial fish and other protected marine species.

A red cod swims in the healthy kelp forest on Cashes Ledge

A red cod swims in the healthy kelp forest on Cashes Ledge.

Our experts’ analysis of the Draft Environmental Impact Statement found the document to be deeply flawed, rife with inconsistencies and contradictions, and so lacking in the required analysis on a number of fronts as to be illegal, let alone viable as a decision-making tool.

Central among our concerns is the Council’s preferred alternative that would allow commercial groundfishing in large portions of Cashes Ledge, a highly sensitive ecosystem unique in the North Atlantic for its abundant variety of species and diverse array of habitats, including a massive kelp forest. Cashes Ledge is essential habitat for the threatened cod, as well as haddock, pollock, American plaice and other groundfish species, sea birds, and North Atlantic right whales and other marine mammals, among many other species. Removing the existing protections from Cashes Ledge would be irresponsible given the lack of compelling data to support such actions and inconsistent with the substance, goals, and objectives of the Amendment. Therefore, we have demanded that the Cashes Ledge and Jeffrey’s Bank closed areas remain closed.

Moreover, virtually nothing was proposed to protect spawning and juvenile cod despite an extensive scientific analysis of “hotspots,” and the habitat protections offered for Georges Bank in place of the existing protected areas were all fundamentally inadequate.

The draft Amendment and DEIS, which can be broadly summarized as favoring drastic reductions in habitat protection and limited restrictions on destructive fishing gear in New England, seek to perpetuate the Council’s history of risky management decisions driven by its fishing industry members’ self-interest rather than the best available data and science, or the broader public interest in our ocean.

It would be difficult to overstate the critical importance of successfully tackling Essential Fish Habitat protection in New England at this time. Numerous groundfish stocks, including severely depleted Georges Bank and Gulf of Maine cod and yellowtail flounder, are in a deepening crisis. Ocean acidification and the impacts of climate change on New England’s ocean have never been more evident, and the implications more uncertain. At no time in the management of our oceans has there been a greater need for precaution to mitigate this ecological uncertainty.

After months of hearing public input on proposals affecting the future of Essential Fish Habitat in New England’s ocean, the decision now facing NOAA and the New England Fishery Management Council is deeply complex, but broadly simple: at a time when the pressures on New England’s iconic fish species and the industry that depends on them are greater than ever, act in the interest of long-term sustainability of our fishery resources and the communities they support, or risk all by pursuing short-term profits.

You can continue to show your support for protecting Cashes Ledge and for strong habitat protection throughout New England’s ocean by contacting your senators and representatives. And, if you haven’t already, please sign our letter to NOAA Regional Administrator John Bullard asking him to permanently protect Cashes Ledge. (If you have already signed, please spread the word and ask your friends to sign, too!)

You can read a summary of CLF’s comments on the OHA2 here, or find the full document here for more information.