Nautical News: For the week of March 16, 2014


The Coast Guard said there were no injuries or damage to a Hingham to Boston commuter boat that ran aground on a sandbar as it left Hingham’s Back River with 9 passengers and 5 crew aboard. A state police boat safely transferred the passengers back to shore where they boarded another ferry boat to Boston. The Hingham and Weymouth harbormasters also responded to the scene. Routine drug and alcohol tests were conducted on the crew. The name of the commuter boat is the Massachusetts. It is owned by the Massachusetts Bay Lines and it has a history of accidents. On July 4th, 2010, the two-deck red, white and blue ferry was carrying 174 people when it hit the rocks known as Devil’s Back near Boston Light, putting holes in the hull, filling the boat with water. Three years before that it was ferrying 151 passengers and crew when it crashed into another ferry in thick fog during the morning commute in Boston Harbor, and in 2006, with 70 passengers and crew on board, an engine on the Massachusetts caught fire while the boat was off Quincy. Fortunately, in all cases, no one was reported to be seriously injured.



Massachusetts’ 2014 commercial striped bass season regulations were announced and there are some changes from the 2013 commercial striper season. In 2014, commercial striped bass fishermen will only be able to fish on Mondays and Thursdays with a 15 fish limit for boat operators and a 2 fish limit for individual rod & reel license holders. The regulations are also accompanied by a brand new striped bass tagging program for primary buyers, ensuring that all commercially caught stripers will be accounted for after their sale to retail seafood businesses and restaurants. The minimum size allowed for commercial fishermen remains at 34 inches. This year the season opens June 23rd and the total allowable catch quota will be increased to 1/15 million pounds.



Congress is now debating whether recreational fishing should be added to the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act before it is re-authorized. The act expired last September and has yet to be reauthorized because of the controversy around making the changes. From its inception in 1976, the Magnuson-Stevens Act has managed and regulated commercial fisheries in federal saltwater areas. Now there is a push nationwide to extend the act by adding language that would specifically cover recreational fishermen in terms of catch limits, allotments, and conservation.



In a lawsuit to stop the Cape Wind farm project, the U.S. District Court in Washington D.C. has ordered that the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the National Marine Fisheries Service revisit Cape Wind’s impacts on migrating birds and endangered right whales in Nantucket Sound. The court ruled that the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the National Marine Fisheries Service violated the Endangered Species Act in their reviews of the massive industrial project that has struggled to get off the ground for the last 13 years. The court also sent the case back to the Fish and Wildlife Service to evaluate a shutdown of turbines during the migratory bird season. Officials from Cape Wind claimed the shutdown would destroy the economic feasibility of its project, but the developers The Cape Wind would consist of 130 wind turbines, each standing 440′ tall, covering 25 square miles of Nantucket Sound between Cape Cod, Martha’s Vineyard and Nantucket, an area the size of Manhattan.



The City of New Bedford is seeking special legislation from Beacon Hill that would exempt the city from the general law that makes the appointment of a harbormaster a lifetime appointment. Massachusetts law fixes the terms of municipal harbormasters indefinitely “unless the harbormaster is removed for neglect of duty, negligence, or conduct unbecoming a harbormaster.” Since New Bedford’s former harbormaster retired in October 2012, the city has been without a harbormaster and is now awaiting Beacon Hill’s legislative decision before appointing a new one. Both the city council and the mayor favor an initial term of 5 years for their new harbormaster.



Remember when the Carnival Triumph cruise ship suffered an engine fire last year leaving the ship adrift for five days in the Gulf of Mexico? The ship was left without engine power, or air conditioning and working toilets. The passengers described human waste seeping into hallways, and being forced to sleep on deck under makeshift tarps with no cooked food. Well, a group of passengers on board that ship is suing Carnival cruise lines for damages. They want the cruise lines to pay them $5,000 a month for the rest of their lives for medical bills and mental anguish. Officials from Carnival Corp told the court that everyone returned safely and was provided with a full refund, a free future cruise, and $500 per person. A federal judge in South Florida last week finished hearing three weeks of testimony from passengers and is expected to issue a decision in the next two months.



A beluga whale that was captured from the wild in 1985 and spent the rest of its life at the Mystic Aquarium in Connecticut has died. A necropsy was done at the University of Connecticut to determine its death, but staff at the aquarium believe the whale died of a respiratory illness. It was 33 years old. Mystic is now trying to obtain another beluga from Russia.



And last on today’s nautical news, a Salvadoran fisherman, who claims he spent 13 months adrift in the Pacific Ocean, arrived in Mexico to meet with the family of the young man who was with him and died. He said he promised that he would deliver a message from his friend to his family, but would not reveal it to the public. Many questioned how he managed to survive by catching turtles, fish, and birds and drifting more than 6,500 miles. He said he will tell all in a book that he plans to write. He also revealed that he no longer wants to be a fisherman and will find a safer job on land in his native El Salvador.


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