Nautical News: For the week of February 26th


Coast Guard’s Admiral Bob Papp in his State of the Coast Guard address this past week sent an SOS message to President Obama. He pleaded for new ships, saying that many of his ships were built 40 years ago and are now falling apart. He predicted that the Coast Guard would cut a thousand jobs next year as President Obama threatens to cut the military’s budget. Papp said he will fight to maintain the Coast Guard’s annual budget of nearly 11 billion dollars. He concluded his speech saying “as any ship Captain can tell you, the most important element to weathering a storm is a great crew. Eventually the weather will improve.”


A conservation group from Maine called Stripers Forever has renewed its efforts to ban the commercial harvest of striped bass in Massachusetts. If the ban should pass, consumers would not be able to eat striped bass unless they caught it themselves or a friend or relative gave it to them. The Joint Committee on Environment, Natural Resources and Agriculture will hold a hearing at the State House, in Room 1B, this Tuesday at 11 a.m. to vote on the matter. Commercial fishermen abide by a strict annual quota and they claim that the commercial striped bass fishery has been a sustainable one since colonial days. The state’s Division of Marine Fisheries said that the striped bass stock is indeed healthy, and that there is no reason why the recreational and commercial striped bass fisheries cannot continue to thrive. Two years ago, the Legislature rejected a similar bill submitted by Stripers Forever.


Two Gloucester fishermen were rescued before their fishing boat sank about 8 miles off the coast of Maine. The captain of the boat named the Plan B called the Coast Guard. The captain of another fishing vessel, the Cameran Lee Heard the mayday call and headed toward the position given. He rescued the two men before the boat sank in about 286 feet of water about 8 miles west of Kennebunkport. A helicopter was sent from Air Station Cape Cod, and the Coast Guard Cutter Tahoma and a Station South Portland Coast Guard boat also arrived

on scene. No injuries were reported.


A peer-reviewed scientific paper just published has found that less than 10% of the spawning habitat of western Atlantic bluefin tuna in the Gulf of Mexico was impacted by the Deepwater Horizon oil spill that occurred in April 2010. Preliminary estimates made by NOAA’s National Marine Fisheries Service in the months after the spill were much higher, ranging from twenty to thirty percent. These new findings are very good news for the west Atlantic bluefin tuna stock. Scientists say that the Gulf’s warm, nutrient rich waters are not only the spawning grounds for west Atlantic bluefin tuna, but also the spawning grounds for a large number of other salt water species. The scientific paper was authored by scientists from the National Marine Fisheries Service, the University of Miami, the University of South Florida, and Roffer’s Ocean Fishing Forecasting Service of West Melbourne, Florida.


Closer to home, scientists cannot explain why there are an extraordinary number of right whales off Provincetown Cape Cod this time of year. Usually the right whales migrate south for the winter to warmer waters off the coasts of Florida and Georgia and do not return to the north until April or May. Scientists admit they do not know if these whales stayed here for the winter, knowing that the winter was going to be a mild one, or if they went south and returned to Massachusetts early. Researchers say that the copepods, a type of zooplankton that the right whales eat, are plentiful and at a level that usually isn’t seen until mid March or April. Despite erroneous reports on TV and radio that state only 400 right whales exist in the world, there are in fact thousands of right whales in the world. They simply do not live in the north Atlantic.


John Fairfax, the first known person to row alone across the Atlantic Ocean, has died of an apparent heart attack at the age of 74. Fairfax rowed across the Atlantic alone in 1969. It took him six months to finish the 5,000-mile journey from the Canary Islands to Florida. Then, three years later in 1972, he and his girlfriend became the first known couple to row 8,000 miles across the Pacific Ocean from San Francisco to Australia. They survived a year at sea, eating fish and navigating by the stars. During that trip, Fairfax lost a piece of his arm when a shark attacked him while he was fishing.


CBS TV’s “Undercover Boss” put the spotlight on the U.S. seafood industry when Bernt Bodal, the CEO of Seattle based American Seafoods went undercover. Bodal took off his shirt and tie to work in a seafood processing plant in New Bedford, and then on one of his factory ships as a deckhand. Despite his previous experience working as a fisherman 30 years ago, he wasn’t quite prepared for what he encountered – rough waters, fish guts, and backbreaking work. Today, his company American Seafoods is one of the United States’ largest seafood producers. They catch and process more fish in the U.S. Bering Sea, owning 45% of the Bering Sea catch shares.


The publicly traded treasure hunting corporation Odyssey Marine Exploration Inc. lost its case in U.S. Federal Court. The company was ordered to turn over to Spain a 17 ton haul of treasure and artifacts it found on a sunken Spanish warship five years ago. Included in those 17 tons were 900,000 silver pesos, 5,809 gold pesos, and about 2,000 copper and tin ingots worth today about 500 million dollars. Spain had claimed the ship was a Spanish Royal Navy Frigate that exploded and sank in combat in 1804, and under the Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act, a nation never gives up its rights to a warship. Odyssey argued in court that the ship wasn’t entitled to sovereign immunity because it was primarily on a commercial voyage when it sank, and therefore should not be considered a warship.


What looked like a piece of driftwood floating in Boston’s Charles River surprised some people when it started swimming towards the river bank. One person quickly snapped a picture of it with his cell phone and sent it to the New England Aquarium. Workers at the aquarium identified the three foot long object as a juvenile Atlantic sturgeon, an endangered species that has not been seen in the Charles River for as long as anyone could remember. The confirmed sighting delighted marine biologists who said Atlantic sturgeon existed before the dinosaurs and are now fighting for their survival. Adult sturgeons can weigh more than 800 pounds and are sometimes seen in the Merrimack River north of Boston.


Last on today’s nautical news, a 27 pound, nearly 40 inch long, lobster was caught by a shrimp fisherman 5 miles off the coast of Rockland, Maine. When he returned to shore, the fisherman donated the lobster to the Maine State Aquarium where they named the lobster Rocky. An aquarium spokesperson said this was the largest lobster ever brought into the aquarium, and one of the largest lobsters ever caught in Maine. The lobster’s stay at the aquarium was short lived though, because yesterday officials there released Rocky back into the ocean so that it could grow some more. How big can a lobster get? The largest lobster known was caught in 1997, in Nova Scotia. It weighed 44 pounds 6 ounces and was 41 inches long.

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