Nautical News: For the week of September 3, 2017



Nick Russo, the former Hull fire chief is now the head of FEMA. FEMA and the Coast Guard continue to mobilize personnel and resources to support state, local and tribal efforts throughout Texas and Louisiana. More than 21,000 federal staff have been deployed in support of Hurricane and Tropical Storm Harvey response. The numbers released are staggering. More than 34,000 people sought refuge in shelters in Texas and Louisiana. Many areas are still inaccessible. FEMA, the Coast Guard, and the National Guard delivered 53,000 pounds of medical equipment and supplies, 2,500,000 meals, 2,000,000 million liters of water, 5,000 blankets, and 1,500 cots. FEMA has received more than 364,000 registrations for assistance, the largest registration after any single event. $70 million in assistance has already been approved. In addition to all this, the Coast Guard and the Army Corps of Engineers are restoring the navigation aids and clearing the channels so ships can enter the ports. The list of federal agencies involved is long. It includes NOAA, the Small Business Administration, the Department of Defense, the Federal Communications Commission, the Federal Trade Commission, the IRS, and Social Security to name a few. The IRS is involved to prevent fake charities accepting donations, and Social Security is involved to get people in shelters their monthly checks. The Food and Drug Administration and Department of Agriculture are inspecting food and providing assistance through their Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, and the Department of Education has set up emergency school rooms. The Department of Energy is helping the oil and gas industry get back to full strength. Harvey caused damage to the infrastructure of the U.S. oil and natural gas industry. The Gulf is home to nearly half of U.S. refining capacity. Numerous refineries, terminals, drilling platforms and other infrastructure had to shut down because the work force was unable to get to the job sites. An estimated 4.2 million barrels of oil per day, which is about 22 percent of total U.S. capacity has been taken off line. The price of gas shot up 20 cents per gallon because of Harvey.




Individual boat owners are continuing to help rescue people trapped by Hurricane and tropical storm Harvey. FEMA said it expects that 30,000 people lost their homes and that 450,000 will be seeking some sort of disaster assistance. Officials are pleading for more boats to help in search and rescues. Ironically, the Coast Guard said it rescued at least 32 people from several boats riding out the storm.




In a new twist to New Bedford’s Carlos Rafael’s sentencing hearing scheduled the end of this month in Boston, the wife of Carlos “The Codfather” Rafael is claiming she owns half of the assets the government is trying to seize. As you know, Carlos Rafael pleaded guilty to falsifying fish quotas, tax evasion, and conspiracy last March. As part of his guilty plea, Rafael agreed to forfeit 13 fishing boats and the associated groundfish permits, but in a petition filed in federal court in Massachusetts, Conceicao (Con-Say-Sow-O) Rafael said she owns 50 percent of the fishing vessels and three fishing companies and did not know anything about her husband’s criminal activities. Her claims complicate an already muddled process for redistributing Rafael’s assets. The permits alone are worth an estimated 40 million dollars. Fishermen believe that nothing will ever happen to the “Codfather” who is worth hundreds of millions of dollars and is still free and fishing today.




Three men and a woman were thrown overboard when the boat they were in capsized 10 miles offshore in the Gulf of Maine. At the time the seas were choppy. Water started splashing over the transom and quickly filled the back of the boat. The four on board tried to level the boat by walking forward, but another wave came over the boat and swamped it. It quickly rolled over, tossing all four people into the water before they could get the flares or call for help. None of them were wearing a life jacket. One of the men heard the 53 year old woman yell she couldn’t swim. He tried to grab her but she quickly went under. He and the two other men swam to the capsized boat and held on. None of them could find the woman. Then one of the men remembered one of the other men was wearing a gun. He told him to fire it into the air. A boater a half a mile away heard the shot and went to investigate. He found the overturned boat and rescued the three men. Unfortunately, nobody found the woman. She was presumed drowned and lost at sea.




Native Americans are alarmed at the farmed Atlantic salmon that escaped from the damaged pen and are turning up in their territorial waters in Canada. So far at least 20,000 Atlantic salmon have been caught in an emergency fishery. Tribal leaders have promised to pay buyers to take the fish. One tribal chief said the fish don’t know any borders. They go with the tide and populate the rivers. It is possible the farmed fish could mate and/or contaminate the wild Pacific salmon with disease, parasites and waste from the farm. The incident comes as controversy over open-water fish farms comes to a boil in British Columbia. Scientists said the owner of the fish farm in the state of Washington made an incredibly ridiculous statement when he blamed the escape on the recent solar eclipse.




A lawsuit filed by the Center for Food Safety alleges that the United States government is not complying with a federal law on labeling genetically engineered foods. In what appears an effort to confuse or hide something from consumers, the makers of the genetically engineered fish are using electronic and digital labels, like QR codes, to tell the consumer that the fish’s genes were altered. The Center for Food Safety claims that the law stipulates that the labels must be in plain English until the U.S. Department of Agriculture does a study to determine whether the public knows what they are buying and eating. So far no such study has been done. The lawsuit comes as AquaBounty, a Massachusetts based company, is gearing up distribution of the world’s first genetically engineered salmon that many people refer to as “frankenfish”.




NOAA’s Northeast Fisheries Science Center has scheduled a port outreach meeting in Plymouth at the John Carver Inn on September 7th between 3 – 5PM. The purpose of the meeting is to talk with commercial and recreational fishermen about the upcoming operational assessments for 20 groundfish stocks. Stock assessment and cooperative research staff from the science center will provide an informal explanation of the stock assessment process, the cooperative research program, and ways that industry concerns can be addressed by the science center. The center said, “We’re listening to what you have to say.” Final decisions on quotas will then be made the following week at the Woods Hole office.




Alex Todd, a Maine lobsterman, recently caught an iridescent or an almost albino lobster. Officials said the chances of finding an albino lobster are one in a hundred million. A normal lobster gets its color by mixing yellow, blue, and red protein pigments. Through different genetic mutations the colors may not mix and end up with a blue, yellow, or just a red lobster. You can also get a strange combination of those colors as well. This lobster probably has a genetic condition called Leucism, which isn’t a total loss of pigment which would make it an albino. Instead it had a partial loss of pigment. This is why you can still see some hints of blue on the shell and color on its eyes.




And last on today’s nautical news, the North and South Rivers Watershed Association has been sampling water quality every other week between June and August at 10 sites along the North and South Rivers for 24 years and for the second year in a row low concentrations of bacteria were found. This year and last year have had the lowest concentrations of bacteria in within the past decade, so it is expected the shellfish beds in the North and South Rivers will be opened for recreational harvest between November 1st and May 31st. The association believes Title V septic improvements, implementation of town sewerage, and improved treatment and minimization of stormwater runoff – all contributed to reducing pollution. Fourteen dedicated volunteers helped with the testing this year. If you love the river and are interested in volunteering next year, contact Sara Grady at the North South Rivers Watershed Association.

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