Nautical News: For the week of October 21st, 2012


Congressman Bill Keating led a Federal Fishing Advisory Board meeting at the UMass School of Law to discuss drastic cuts of up to 70% in groundfish landings next year. UMass Dartmouth’s School for Marine Science and Technology said they would step up and help fishermen by doing an independent survey of groundfish stocks as fishermen said they did not trust the government’s last survey of the groundfish population. If the groundfish landings were cut by 70% many fishermen would be forced out of business. Scituate fisherman Frank Mirarchi told reporters that “We’re going to see a wholesale collapse of fishing communities in the Gulf of Maine in 2013 if something isn’t done.” Dr. Brian Rothschild from the UMass Dartmouth’s School for Marine Science and Technology said he was hoping the survey would become a collaborative effort with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, but that appears unlikely since the government said they do not have the time nor money to do another survey. Scientists and students from UMass Dartmouth will tow an underwater vehicle provided by the Massachusetts Division of Marine Fisheries. The device will count the number of groundfish like haddock, cod and monkfish that it encounters. A camera mounted on a net will also record the fish that pass through the net unharmed. Photos and lasers will allow scientists to identify species and measure the size of each fish. The survey will cover around 480 nautical miles


The Coast Guard’s mandatory commercial fishing vessel safety examinations for those operating more than three miles from the territorial sea baseline are now in effect nationwide. To help fishermen comply with the regulations, the Coast Guard has set up a website for owners and operators to go to see a checklist of what is required. To get a safe vessel inspection decal, commercial fishermen should contact their local Coast Guard marine safety unit.


Boston Harbor Cruises is proposing to anchor a floating restaurant in Boston harbor off East Boston. Boston Harbor Cruises General Manager Alison Nolan said East Boston was the best location for the restaurant because it would provide wonderful views of the city and allows for easy water transportation service between East Boston and downtown Boston. She said private boat owners would be allowed to dock for free, tying on to the barge that the restaurant was built on. The plans still must be approved by the Boston City Council, and the Coast Guard and the Boston Harbormaster would have to approve the location of where the barge would be anchored.


A study of the damage caused by lawn fertilizer on the Plum Island marshland is now being reported in journal Nature. Plum Island is north of Boston between Gloucester and Salisbury. For the past nine years, researchers hauled a ton of fertilizer and dumped it in the salt marsh every four days in the spring and summer. What they noticed at first was a robust growth of marsh grass, but eventually the banks of the creek deteriorated from within and collapsed into the water due to an overload of the nutrients. Linda Deegan, the lead scientist from the Marine Biological Laboratory Ecosystems Center in Woods Hole said that even people who live 25 miles away from the coast and use fertilizer to make their lawns green, the fertilizer sinks down into the ground water and makes it to the saltwater marshes.


In somewhat of a related story, a controversial geoengineering experiment done by a private business has caused concern amongst the government scientists. Geoengineering is any deliberate, large-scale manipulation of environmental processes in order to impact the Earth’s climate and life on the planet. In this case, more than 200,000 pounds of iron sulfate were dumped into the Pacific Ocean in international waters off Canada to trigger plankton blooms with hope of boosting salmon and other fish populations. Scientists agree that plankton needs iron to grow, but no government approved the experiment because it was done in international waters.


The maker of Banana Boat sunscreen is recalling some half million bottles of spray on lotion after reports that a handful of people caught on fire after applying the product and came in contact with an open flame. A company spokesman said there were five reports of people who got burnt after using the sunscreen spray last year. People who came close to a barbecue grill or a camp fire after spraying the sunscreen had the highest risk of getting burned. In one case a welder was severely burnt after using the sunscreen. Consumers who purchased the products are being told not to use them. More information is available from the manufacturer at 1-800-SAFESUN.


A San Francisco lawyer is defending his client’s claim to a $200,000 salvage award after he discovered the French America’s Cup World Series racing team’s 45-foot catamaran aground in the middle of the night and returned it to safe harbor. The person who salvaged the boat found it on the rocks a few miles from where it apparently broke free from its mooring. The boat was in peril and he pulled it into safe harbor. He has filed his claim based on a centuries old maritime law regarding salvage at sea. He is not a pirate as some have accused. The French team’s sailboat is now being stored inside a warehouse and awaits the court’s decision. Meanwhile, the French are out of the America’s Cup races.


And speaking of pirates, Somali pirates are still holding six ships and a total of 170 crew members after just releasing a cargo ship owned by a United Arab Emirates company. That ship was released after its owner paid a $600,000 ransom. Its seven crew members are still being held hostage after nearly two years of being captured. One of the crew was shot and killed just before the $600,000 was paid.


Although shark finning is banned in the United States and 30 other countries, hundreds of dead sharks without fins were reported to be found floating in the mid east in the Persian Gulf. Fishermen from the United Arab Emirates are selling the fins to the Chinese where shark fin soup can cost as much as one hundred dollars a bowl. Pressure to ban the practice of “finning” – cutting the fins off of sharks and throwing them alive overboard where they die a slow death – is being made by environmentalists and fishermen around the world who have already entered into an agreement to not to take the fins without taking the whole fish.


And last on today’s nautical news, the mystery of the giant eyeball found on a Florida beach has been solved. Scientists claim it came from a swordfish. They said straight line slashes on the softball sized eye suggest that it was freshly cut out of the fish’s head by a fisherman and thrown overboard. At first it was speculated that the eye might have come giant squid, but after analyzing the color, size, structure, and presence of bone around it, it was determined the eye came from a swordfish.

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