Nautical News: For the week of December 16th, 2012


Dr. Jane Lubchenco, the first female administrator of NOAA, submitted her letter of resignation, saying she will go back to teaching at the University of Oregon. President Obama appointed her in 2009 when the fish stocks in the northeast were rebounding and she now leaves with the stocks in poor health, fishermen facing drastic catch reductions, and the fishing grounds declared a federal disaster area. Congressman Barney Frank said Lubchenco was “hostile” to fishing interests, while Senator Scott Brown called for President Obama to fire her. Congressman Bill Keating promised that NOAA will soon improve its communication, flexibility, and trust with fishermen and Senator John Kerry said that transparency and accountability were of upmost Importance. They all agreed that Lubchenco implemented job killing policies like catch shares that decimated the Massachusetts fishing fleet and that those failed policies should go out the door along with

Lubchenco. In addition to her poor fisheries management system, she was responsible for a number of scandals including 38 million dollars of NOAA money that is still unaccounted.


After Lubchenco submitted her letter of resignation, the acting U.S. Commerce Secretary ordered federal regulators to return about $544,000 in fines she called unjust that were collected mostly from New England fishermen. Acting Secretary Rebecca Blank also directed the NOAA to forgive two other fishermen who owed $150,000 in unjust fines and penalties. She agreed that New England fishermen received abusive and unfair treatment from NOAA’s law enforcement officers, their attorneys, and federal judges who were in bed with NOAA. Fishermen said the money can’t make up for the harm done to their businesses, but getting the truth out and getting rid of Lubchenco would help rebuild their damaged relationships with NOAA.


Still more fish news to report. The Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission voted to reduce the harvest of Atlantic menhaden, which are also known as pogies, by 20 percent. Many local fishermen from Massachusetts attended the meeting in Maryland in favor of the reduction and it paid off. Until now menhaden have been largely unregulated along the east coast. Although they are rarely eaten by humans, they are an important food source for striped bass and bluefish as well as for seabirds and marine mammals. They are often used for bait by both recreational and commercial fishermen. Those opposed to the reduction worked for a corporation called Omega Protein, which grinds up the fish for use in fish-oil pills, fertilizer, and animal feed. That one corporation was said to be responsible for 80% of all the menhaden caught on the East coast.


More trouble is brewing for a local harbormaster. Provincetown’s town manager is asking selectmen to conduct an audit of that town’s harbormaster’s books. According to the Cape and Islands District Attorney, at least 36 of the town owned moorings were illegally moved to a nearby privately owned mooring field which is coincidentally owned by one of the town’s selectmen. Creating even more suspicion, at one time, the harbormaster was an employee of the owner of that mooring field. The DA said the relationship between the town’s harbormaster and the owner of the nearby mooring field “doesn’t pass the sniff test.” The district attorney’s office is also asking the state’s Ethics Commission and possibly the state attorney general’s office to get involved.


For the past 5 years, researchers at the Provincetown Center for Coastal Studies have measured water temperature, salinity, dissolved oxygen and pH levels as part of the 600 square mile Cape Cod Bay Monitoring Program. They claim the quality of the water in the bay close to shore is declining because of increases in population and real estate development. Septic systems are a big problem dumping human waste and unused pharmaceuticals into the bay. So is the fertilizer people use on their lawns. Researchers also blame the increase in the number of invasive species that have moved into the bay.


In March 1804, a 120-foot schooner named the Semiramis, was headed home to Newport, R.I., from a trade journey to South America when it ran aground in Nantucket Sound and sank, taking with it hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of gold, silver, and Chinese porcelain. Now, the shipwreck is at the center of a case in a federal court in Boston that involves treasure hunter Barry Clifford and the Massachusetts Board of Underwater Archaeological Resources. Clifford is famous for finding the wrecked pirate ship Whydah off Cape Cod in the 1980s. Clifford said he found the Semiramis in Nantucket Sound back in 1978 while diving with John F. Kennedy, Jr. and is seeking its exclusive salvage rights. The dispute in court is whether the Semiramis is lying in Massachusetts waters or federal waters. If in Massachusetts waters, the state claims it is entitled to 25% of the sale of its treasure. Clifford said he would pay 25% of the sale of the treasure to the state no matter where the ship lies, but admitted that he has no plans to sell the treasure. He said he would put it all on display in a new museum he would like to build in Hyannis.


The Coast Guard has added a new weapon to its arsenal. They have a new warning device for boaters who ignore their orders to stop. It is called the LA51 device and it is fired from a shotgun producing both a big noise and a flash. Officials said the device is far more effective than a splash in the water caused by M16 tracer rounds. The Coast Guard is using the LA51 in migrant interdiction and counter-drug operations.


And last on today’s nautical news, scientists in Spain claim they have figured out how to reproduce the evolutionary step that grew legs on fish 300 million years ago. They have named the gene cluster that changes the fins into legs HOXD13. Genetic engineers have injected the HOXD13 gene cluster into zebra fish and watched their fins mutate into legs. They said this same cluster of genes is what produces the number of fingers on your hands as well as the shape of your legs. Let’s hope they don’t try to grow legs on a great white shark.

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