Nautical News: For the week of March 30, 2014


Research projects in New England and the Mid-Atlantic are expected to receive nearly $5.6 million in federal funding, according to an announcement made by NOAA Fisheries. Under the Saltonstall-Kennedy Grant Program, which is administered by NOAA Fisheries, funding will be made available for research and development projects that benefit the U.S. fishing industry. Of these funds, $2.3 million would support projects to benefit the groundfish industry. Of the proposals received nationally for this competition, more than half were submitted by fishermen and scientists from New England and the Mid-Atlantic. Ultimately 40 projects were selected from across the country and 21 of those were from the Northeast. The grants will be given to projects in aquaculture, conservation engineering, ecosystem studies, fisheries socioeconomics, and finding ways to help fishermen better achieve their annual quotas of fish so they can be more profitable. Areas of focus include: reducing fisheries bycatch in the lobster, monkfish and striped bass fisheries; ecosystem investigations involving Bluefin tuna, blue crabs, cod, lobster, mackerel, and striped bass; understanding the socio-economic issues impacting groundfish fishermen; and projects that increase utilization of redfish and dogfish.



The Marshfield harbormaster saved a lobster boat from sinking in Green Harbor during last week’s n’oresater. The 33 foot lobster boat Tracy-Jeanne was on a mooring with its open stern facing the wind. It didn’t take long for the waves hitting the stern and splashing over onto the deck to start to flood the boat. The owner of the boat was notified and when he arrived at the pier, Harbormaster Dimeo took the owner and a couple of pumps to the lobster boat. The harbormaster said it took about an hour to pump the water out and re-tie the boat so its bow was into the wind and waves instead of its stern. The owner of the boat said he was very thankful and appreciative of the harbormaster’s help.



The Coast Guard has begun unannounced inspections of cruise ships that enter U.S. ports, looking for safety problems. Last year, regular scheduled inspections of 140 cruise ships found 351 safety issues. The most common problems were with fire doors that didn’t close properly and lifeboats that were hard to access or had structural issues. If the Coast Guard finds a safety problem, it will have be corrected before the ship can leave the port with passengers on board. The National Traffic Safety Board said there were simply too many problems involving cruise ships, many of them flying a foreign flag. It is expected that more than 22 million people will take a cruise in 2014.



Counting whales from a ship has always been difficult, but now scientists are using satellites to count the whales. Traditionally, researchers have counted whales from ships by searching for blowhole sprays and tail flips, but that method was inherently flawed because it relied on chance encounters. Also, the field of view was often limited to several miles at a time, even on a clear day. Today, new, high resolution satellites make it much easier to count the whales and will be a great benefit to conservation efforts.



Lent is a busy time of year for seafood markets. Millions of Catholics celebrate Lent, eating seafood on Fridays and other days in between March and Easter. According to an online survey, the number of people who gave up eating meat on Fridays rose 20 percent from 2011 to 2013, causing a record amount of seafood sales. In order to satisfy their customers, retailers offer a variety of seafood products from Gulf of Mexico shrimp to Alaska cod to Maryland crab cakes. As one retailer said, it doesn’t matter what it is as long as it is fresh.



The 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico is still having an impact on the fish. NOAA scientists claim that the tunas that have spawned in the Gulf since the oil spill are now having heart problems. Apparently, the digested oil is slowing the heartbeat in the fish or causing an uncoordinated rhythm, which can ultimately lead to heart failure. The oil clogs the arteries in the fish like plaque clogs the arteries in a human. Severely affected fish with heart failure died soon after hatching. Other species of fish in the Gulf with possible heart problems are swordfish, marlin, and mackerel.



A new report claims the killing and trade in whales and dolphins is still big business in the 21st century. Consumption or utilization of whale and dolphin meat and by-products is not confined to just a few nations, as many people believe. The whales are killed not only for their meat but for their blubber, fatty tissue, and other body parts. Since the moratorium on commercial whaling was introduced in 1986, more than 35,000 great whales have been killed, along with hundreds of thousands of dolphins and smaller whale species which are not covered by the moratorium. While commercial demand for whale meat for human consumption has greatly declined in recent decades, it is still in big demand by dog food manufacturers. In Iceland, whale fins are an ingredient in their beer and the oil is still used to fuel their ships. Whale oil can be found in skin cream on sale in Russia and the use of whale skin in cocktails is on the menu in upscale London bars.



And last on today’s nautical news, in 2009, scientists from NOAA released a message in a bottle off Massachusetts that was found two years later on St. Lucia in the Caribbean. The purpose of releasing the message in the bottle was to determine the distribution of haddock eggs and larvae and to identify general circulation patterns of water in the Gulf of Maine and Georges Bank regions. A recent investigation into the history of releasing drift bottles into the ocean has revealed that since 1931, thousands of these bottles have been released. In fact records indicated that just during a five year period between 1953 and 1958, 19,555 drift bottles were released. The bottles used in these studies were described as about the size of a small soft drink bottle. Each bottle contained a message instructing the finder to fill out the time and place of finding and to mail that information to NOAA as soon as possible to receive a small monetary reward. Also the finder was instructed to throw the bottle back into the water with the original message. Amazingly, the returns from the finders of the bottles from decades ago kept giving the scientists the same message and information about surface currents and ocean circulation patterns as today’s sophisticated instruments and satellite tracking systems reveal. Maybe now they get the message.

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