Nautical News: For the week of March 25th, 2012

FISHERMEN RALLY IN WASHINGTON FILLED WITH PROMISES

The Keep Fishermen Fishing rally in Washington DC this past week was deemed a success by organizers! About 5000 recreational and commercial fishermen united and came from all across the country from Florida to Alaska. They held signs: “Save the fishermen! Save our jobs! Put flexibility back in Magnuson! United we fish! Protect fishermen, not just fish!” Promises made by powerful members of Congress who spoke at the rally gave hope to the fishermen that the Magnuson Stevens Act would be reformed this year. Everyone agreed that fish populations have surged in the past decade and that existing arbitrary timelines should be relaxed. Legislation was filed and is now being reviewed by the House Natural Resources Committee. It is called the Flexibility and Access in Rebuilding American Fisheries Act. It would extend the rebuilding timelines, suspend regulations for fish stocks where science and data are insufficient to meet the national standards, it calls for economic impact when management decisions are made, and requires the National Research Council to perform a comprehensive review of NOAA’s data collection. New Jersey Congressman Pallone who sponsored the bill said, “Current fishery rebuilding plans are much too rigid, hurting the fishing communities economically.”


LOTS OF RIGHT WHALES SWIMMING OFF CAPE COD

The warm weather and the unusually high number of right whales off the tip of Cape Cod has caused the state’s Division of Marine Fisheries to issue a high risk advisory warning mariners to be careful not to hit a whale. All mariners are strongly urged to proceed with caution at a speed of no more than 10 knots and post lookouts to avoid colliding with a whale. Some of the whales are swimming within 500 yards from shore while others are in the shipping lanes where there is an abundance of food. The whales can feed underwater for 15 to 20 minutes, making them difficult to see. Researchers still do not know why so many whales have been hanging out off Cape Cod since December, making people wonder if there are a lot more north Atlantic right whales than previously believed.


THE HERRING ARE RUNNING

George Loring, Weymouth’s herring warden, reports the herring are running and that this is the earliest the herring have returned to the rivers to spawn in at least the last 25 years. In addition to the herring, there is also a great number of smelt. Police are now on the lookout for poachers who were video taped taking herring from the run early in the morning behind Niko’s restaurant in Jackson Square in Weymouth.


STRIPED BASS BILL LOCKED IN COMMITTEE

After hearing testimony from hundreds of fishermen and restaurant chefs on a bill in Massachusetts to ban the commercial harvest of striped bass, legislators voted to keep the bill in committee meaning no action will be taken on it. The bill was sponsored by a group from Maine called Stripers Forever. It tried to pit recreational fishermen against commercial fishermen, but in this case, the fishermen remained united. Although this battle was viewed as a victory by the fishermen, the war is not over as the bill remains a threat if it comes out of committee next year.


BOSTON’S NEW FIRE BOAT OUT OF SERVICE – SEAWORTHINESS QUESTIONED

The city of Boston’s brand new $4.2 million state-of-the art fire boat, named the John S. Damrell, is now out of service. The fire department questions the boat’s sea worthiness and is hauling the boat out of the water. The city used federal stimulus money to buy the 71-foot fireboat from a Canadian ship builder. It replaced the Boston Fire Department’s 40-year-old boat named The Firefighter. The manufacturer said they will inspect the hull and its propulsion system to see how it is holding up in saltwater. The boat was launched into the water only a few months ago. It is unknown how long the vessel will be out of service.


COAST GUARD DENIES RESPONSIBILITY FOR MENENSHA BOATHOUSE FIRE

On Martha’s Vineyard, the Coast Guard has denied the town of Chilmark’s 1.3 million dollar claim for damages from the July 2010 fire in Menemsha because the Coast Guard claims the fire did not start on the Coast Guard’s property, but instead started on the town’s pier. The Coast Guard denies all responsibility for the fire. Town selectmen deny that the fire started on the town pier and insist it started inside the Coast Guard’s boathouse. There were several conflicting eyewitness reports to exactly where the fire started. Selectmen say the denial of the town’s claim is retribution to the town’s opposition to the Coast Guard’s plans for a new boathouse.


THIEVES STEAL WIRE FROM YACHT CLUB’S DOCKS

The Commodore of the Point of Pines Yacht Club in Revere called police after thieves cut and stole all of the electric cables on his docks as well as electric cables under the clubhouse. He is warning all yacht clubs and marinas to be on guard to prevent such a crime happening at their marina.


FORMER NEW BEDFORD MAYOR COULD LEAD NOAA’s NORTHEAST OFFICE

If approved by Congress, former New Bedford mayor John Bullard and member of the Clinton administration is slated to become the new Northeast regional administrator for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. He will replace Patricia Kurkul who retired from NOAA after 10 tumultuous years. Bullard is currently president of the Sea Education Foundation, a $14 million, non-government organization that provides approximately 175 college students a year an “at-sea semester” on campus in Woods Hole and aboard one of SEA’s two 134-foot sail training vessels. Bullard is also known for his controversial plan to zone the ocean that was endorsed by President Obama. However, if Republicans have their way, George LaPointe, who recently ended a long run as director of marine resources in Maine, would be their choice.


FISHWATCH WEB SITE BACK IN ACTION

NOAA re-launched the FishWatch website at the International Boston Seafood Show. FishWatch is supposed to help consumers make smart seafood choices. NOAA claims their web site is informative, user-friendly, and easy-to-read. Visit www.fishwatch.gov and judge for yourselves.


LEG 5 OF VOLVO OCEAN CAUSES PROBLEMS

Leg 5 of the Volvo Ocean Race is underway. The 6,705 mile leg will take the fleet from New Zealand, around The Horn to Brazil. Already, Leg Five is living up to its fierce reputation as a powerful storm has churned up the water and created plenty of wind. The Chinese boat lost its rudder and was forced to return to port, and a sailor onboard American boat Puma dislocated shoulder forcing his teammates to put it back in place. Thanks to the assistance of doctors back on land, skipper Ken Read of Newport, Rhode Island said his mates slowly popped the shoulder back into place giving the injured sailor instantaneous relief. Spain’s boat named Telefonica is the overall leader in the race and is again leading the fleet to Brazil. The boats are expected to reach Brazil around April 4.


JAPANESE FISHING BOAT LOST IN TSUNAMI DRIFTS ACROSS PACIFIC

And last on today’s nautical news, a 150 foot long fishing boat has drifted across the Pacific after being washed away in last year’s tsunami that struck Japan. The steel hull ship was spotted adrift off the British Columbia coast. It is believed that nobody is aboard. The vessel was identified as coming from Japan and officials say it’s drifting very slowly towards shore. A warning has gone out to mariners because the vessel poses a potential hazard to navigation. The ship will eventually be towed to shore by another fishing boat as hoping to salvage some of its equipment as it gets closer to shore. Commercial towing companies will not spend the money to tow the ship because it has such little value.


About John Shea