Home  »  Event  »  On Our Way to All 232 Commercially Valuable American Fish Stocks

On Our Way to All 232 Commercially Valuable American Fish Stocks

Date: Saturday, August 16, 2014

Time: 3:00 to 5:00 p.m.

the 3rd International Marine Conservation Congress, Making Marine Science Matter in Glasgow, Scotland

Room: Carron B, 2014-08-16; 15:00 – 17:00

Rob Moir, Ph.D., will speak about American fisheries becoming sustainable for all 232 commercially valuable fish stocks at the 3rd International Marine Conservation Congress, Making Marine Science Matter in Glasgow, Scotland.

The Ocean River Institute is working to bring about healthier ocean waters by among other efforts saving all of the 446 fish and fish stock complexes in American waters.  Dr. Moir spoke about how American fisheries can become 100% sustainable with no overfishing.  Since 2000, the number of fish stocks overfished has decreased from 72 to 28 fish stocks.  Saving the remaining overfished fish is simply a matter of increasing government funding of research when the Magnuson Stevens Fisheries Management Act is reauthorized as it is every ten years.

Federal funding from the Act was provided to research haddock.  Haddock were observed swimming with cod and flounder.  When the fishing net approached the fish, cod and flounder avoidance was to swim downwards.  Haddock swam to one side or the other.  With the knowledge gained of different behaviors, fishing practices were adjusted so that today haddock is fished sustainably with less mistaken catch of cod and flounder in the haddock net.

The keynote address at the Glasgow marine conservation conference was about the need for more Marine Protected Areas (MPA).  Dr. Moir proposed that given the extent of degradation in ocean waters and the many downward trending conditions including ocean acidification that much more than MPAs must be done.  He proposed that Ocean Stewardship Places also be recognized, if only as intermediate steps in the right direction.  There are many ocean areas where responsible stewardship is being practiced to various extents but fall short of meeting the stringent requirements to qualify as an MPA.

Ocean Stewardship Places have the advantage of being defined by responsible practices instead of delineated areas on maps.  These places would not suffer the access and boundary problems affecting MPAs.  The Ocean Foundation has awarded the Ocean River Institute funds to prepare a report on the needs for and benefits of recognizing Ocean Stewardship Places.  Most deserving of public recognition are the peopled seascapes striving for healthier ocean ecosystems.

While in Glasgow, Dr. Moir visited the Mitchell Library to research his great, great grandfather who left Glasgow for Boston to build ships for Donald McKay.  Prominent in the library is Moir Hall named for Bailey James Moir, a merchant fondly remembered for leaving to the Mitchell his books and a fund to purchase books.

Moir is also remembered for the first public parks.  At the time of building parks, the city elite insisted that only they could walk on the grass.  They were sure that if everyone did the grass would suffer.  True to the Moir family motto, “not for self, but for all,” the Bailey boldly strode across the grass.  His deliberate act gave access for everyone regardless of class to walk on the grass.  Today, a century and a half later, with over 90 public parks and formal gardens within Glasgow city boundaries, the grass still flourishes due to responsible stewardship of the very green resource.

Rob’s talk was informed by UNH Professor Jeff Bolster and his marvelous book: “The Mortal Sea: Fishing the Atlantic in the Age of Sail.”   Full disclosure, long ago as assistant scientist Rob sailed the Atlantic Ocean with Jeff Bolster, first mate, for 12 weeks aboard the Research Vessel Westward. 

See the video of Jeff talking about the ecology of cod through the ages.  Or, listen to Molly and Jeff Bolster talk with Rob on Moir’s Environmental Dialogues Episode 45 “Fog Warning: NH’s Gundalow and Homer’s Dory Man with Halibut”

Fact: 2014 fishermen landed 795 tons of Gulf of Maine cod in 2014; this is less than previous years. Despite the Draconian cut backs in catch, try as they might fishermen were not able to catch even the reduced number allotted.  Fortunately for fishermen the government did give them $75 million for damages caused by regulating downwards their catch of cod.  Government regulations can have a financial benefit after all.

The June 2014 NOAA Report suggests cod fishermen are not the only culprits, who’s to blame now? Consider a six-inch pencil thin fish of no commercial value.

Changes in forage fish abundance alter Atlantic cod distribution, affect success of the fishery.

“Atlantic herring and sand lance are dominant prey for Atlantic cod in the Gulf of Maine. This long, standardized time series of data has been invaluable to our ability to both show and understand where and when predators and prey are distributed across the region,” said David Richardson. “When sand lance are abundant, they account for a high proportion of the diet of cod. Also, cod tend to be more aggregated when they are feeding on sand lance than when they are feeding on other prey.”

The sand lance-induced cod aggregations led to a number of challenges in evaluating population trends in Gulf of Maine cod,” Richardson said. “During the 2007 and 2008 spring bottom trawl surveys, extremely high catches of cod were recorded at individual stations on Stellwagen Bank, while the remainder of the stock area had low catch rates. At the same time, the fishing industry was experiencing high catch rates of cod in the same small area on Stellwagen Bank. One of the main conclusions of this study is that the trends in cod abundance in this small region were not truly reflective of the overall resource at the time.”