DMF NEWS is Published quarterly by the Massachusetts Division of Marine Fisheries to inform and educate its constituents on matters relating to the conservation and sustainable use of the Commonwealth's marine resources
Volume 18 Third Quarter July - September 1998
With the stroke of his pen, Governor Argeo Paul Cellucci helped preserve one of the Commonwealth's most important resources by imposing stiffer penalties on fishermen who blatantly violate state laws protecting egg-bearing lobsters. On June 19 with the DMF Martha's Vineyard Lobster Hatchery as a backdrop, the Governor signed into law House 90 thereby increasing fines for taking or possessing egg-bearing lobsters.
With this major increase in penalties, it is no longer cost effective to violate the law. Fines for taking an egg-bearing lobster were increased from $50-100 to $150-$500 per lobster for the first offense. For subsequent offenses, the penalty will be $500-$1000 per lobster or imprisonment from 60 days to 6 months, or both. The even more egregious crime of removing eggs from female lobsters carries a heftier penalty of $250-$1000 per lobster for the first offense and $100-$2000 per lobster or by imprisonment from 90 days to one year, or both for any subsequent offense.
To safeguard the lobster resource and to deter violators, the Administration filed the bill in January of 1997 on behalf of DMF. "This law will give the Division of Law Enforcement the teeth it needs to apprehend violators," exclaimed Commissioner John Phillips at the signing ceremony. "This new law and the test developed by DMF [see below] are two important law enforcement tools which will ensure that violators are 'caught in the act' and are punished for their crime against our natural resources"
The new law has extra impact because it provides authority for Environmental Police Officers (EPOs) to use a test designed to detect when eggs have been removed from female lobsters. DLE and DMF reported that in recent years, violators have abandoned the practice of "scrubbing" lobster eggs from the abdomen of female lobsters with a brush or high-pressure water hose. Instead, violators have adopted the practice of "dipping" lobsters in chemicals or substances capable of removing eggs.
"Dipping" is a cleaner procedure, leaving no trace of eggs or glue on swimmerets; therefore, violators think they can avoid detection. Fortunately, Michael Syslo, Director of the Lobster Hatchery, and Dr. Robert Bullis, Woods Hole Marine Biological Laboratory, have developed and perfected a test for law enforcement to use to determine whether lobsters have been "dipped." They have trained state and federal law enforcement personnel to use the test with proven results. Under the new law, EPOs may take a small part of a lobster in order to test for chemical substances. Evidence of a "positive" result is prima facie evidence of a violation.
Many thanks to the legislators who helped gain passage of this bill in various stages, including Natural Resource Committee members: Senators Lois Pines (Chair) and Robert Antonioni (Vice Chair) and Representatives Douglas Petersen (Chair), George Peterson, Anthony Verga, and Robert DeLeo.
It has been argued that the Atlantic bluefin tuna fishery presents the most difficult challenge to U.S. fishery managers. Regardless of which fishery lays claim to that dubious title, the tough ones often share the common obstacles of international agreements, competing domestic interests, and high economic value for a species with extensive migrations. The Atlantic bluefin tuna fishery displays all these traits to an excess and is further characterized by uncertainty over many basic aspects of tuna life history.
Atlantic bluefin tuna are presently managed under an international agreement recognizing two Atlantic stocks separated into management zones by the 45degrees west longitude line. Western Atlantic fisheries have been under strict quota management since 1982. However, eastern Atlantic fisheries, now enjoying record catches, only recently have imposed quotas.
Population assessments assume mixing does not occur between the two stocks and indicate serious reductions in both spawning stocks during the last 20 years. More information on stock structure and movements is clearly needed. Some bluefin do cross the Atlantic, and concern is high over the potential for action (or inaction) in one management zone to influence resources and fisheries in the other.
Due to their large size and highly migratory behavior, bluefin are hard to handle and difficult to study. Unanswered questions remain concerning their ocean-wide movements, stock structure and stock mixing, and reproductive biology. Fortunately, new applications in tagging technology are developing at an exciting rate and soon should provide a wealth of information on giant bluefin habits in the Atlantic.
Dr. Frank Mather of Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute (WHOI) began putting conventional tags on bluefin over 40 years ago. Since then, recapture data from collective efforts have provided the basis for much of what we know about bluefin wide-scale movements and growth rates. Hydroacoustic tags have been applied to fish for the last 25 years to allow fine-scale tracking of bluefin movements.
These efforts also have provided revelations on bluefin physiology, including Frank Carey's (also of WHOI) discovery that bluefin have an ability to retain metabolic heat, an ability unmatched among bony fish in the ocean.
DMF biologists have contributed to this field in recent years through their participation in the tracking of 15 bluefin during experiments on stress physiology and fine-scale movements. These experiments involved two new tag types that combine the data logging capacity of micro-processors with the tried and true approach of "tag and release."
The first tag type is the archival tag, which can store data such as location, water temperature, body temperature, and depth for several years. These data only can be retrieved when the tuna is caught again and the tag is returned by fishermen. The second type is the pop-up satellite tag which presently has limited data logging capacity. The tag transmits data to an ARGOS satellite once it electronically disengages from the tuna and floats to the surface at a predetermined time. Pop-up tags have an external dart attachment while archival tags are implanted internally into the body cavity with a sensor protruding outside the stomach.
The real prize will come with development of an archival tag that pops up and transmits all data to a satellite. This marriage is expected soon and will depend on enhanced battery capacity to send data to the satellite. The satellite will, in turn, send all this valuable data to scientists' desk computers by e-mail.
Atlantic bluefin tuna studies using high technology tags began in 1996 with archival and satellite tag deployment off Cape Hatteras by a Stanford University and NMFS team. In 1997, a team of scientists and fishermen deployed 20 pop-up satellite tags off Massachusetts. This New England project was a cooperative effort headed by Molly Lutcavage of the New England Aquarium and included biologists from DMF and the University of Hawaii, the East Coast Tuna Association and expert tuna fishermen. The two essential ingredients to this project were the tag itself, developed by Paul Howey of Microwave Telemetry, Maryland, and the fishermen whose combined years of experience put bluefin in good condition alongside tagging boats and at a rate scientists could never hope to achieve by themselves.
Twenty pop-up satellite tags were deployed last fall by this cooperative team working off Gloucester and Cape Cod. Bluefin were caught, outfitted with tags, and released by the purse seine vessel, White Dove Too, and rod and reel boats, Cookie Too and Low Bid. Tags were designed to pop-up from the fish in groups of 5 tags at 5.5, 7.5, 8.5, and 9.5 month intervals. These pop-up times were selected to reveal locations of bluefin around spring and early summer spawning periods for the west and east Atlantic.
As of late July, 17 tags have communicated successfully to satellites, revealing their locations and a record of water temperatures along the migration. All pop-up locations were well east of the U.S. continental shelf, and 4 tags popped-up east of the 45 degree west boundary line.
Surprisingly, none of the 17 recoveries occurred in the Gulf of Mexico, the presumed spawning grounds for the western Atlantic bluefin. One of the more vital issues that these new tags can provide is spawning site fidelity. Do bluefin return to spawn at locations where they originated or is there mixing among spawning sites in the Atlantic? Are there other spawning locations?
This cooperative effort will continue in 1998 with deployment of more pop-up tags designed to answer other questions on seasonal movements. There will be new partnerships with more U.S. fishermen and with NMFS and Canada's Department of Fisheries and Oceans.
Each successful pop-up provides an enlightening trail of data on individual bluefin. These data retrieved from the New England project and other studies in different locations will provide a fascinating view of behavior and movements of giant bluefin and will set the stage for essential decisions on managing Atlantic bluefin throughout their range.
You can be sure that technology available for tagging experiments is not going to stop here. Imagine what the next millennium will bring.
By Brad Chase and Greg Skomal.
A six-year old male northern right whale, entangled in lines for at least a year, was freed in southern Cape Cod Bay on Friday July 24. This whale was last seen in August and September of 1997 entangled in the Bay of Fundy (Canada), carrying lines wrapped tightly around its fluke. This rescue was an accomplishment for the state's Conservation Plan supporting the federal Large Whale Take Reduction Plan.
Right whales are the most endangered large whale with a population of only 300-350 animals. They use Cape Cod Bay during winter and early spring for feeding, socializing, and possibly mating. During January-April of 1998, DMF's aerial (and ship-board) surveillance and monitoring program under contract to the Center for Coastal Studies (CCS) in Provincetown, identified at least 95 individual right whales in Cape Cod Bay. Predictably, whales departed Cape Cod Bay by the end of April for other plankton-rich feeding grounds (presumably) in the Bay of Fundy and off Nova Scotia. However, every year there are occasional summertime reports of right whales that appear to be transiting state waters and other areas of the Gulf of Maine. Previous studies of satellite-tagged right whales have documented these long distance wanderings.
DMF's Conservation Plan attempts to document all right whale sightings year-round to determine if it is entangled in fishing gear. Researchers use photographs to identify individual whales through the New England Aquarium's Right Whale Catalog. They can track individual whale's life history to determine if it ever was entangled or injured for other reasons (e.g. ship strike).
On Friday morning, July 24, beach goers reported a large black whale swimming near the Dennis shoreline in southern Cape Cod Bay. Dennis Harbormaster, Ed Goggins, investigated and called CCS on his cellular phone. He remained on-scene while CCS researchers steamed from Provincetown to investigate. State Environmental Police also were sent to the scene in a patrol vessel. Lower Cape Cod Bay during summer is known for its recreational vessel traffic and density of lobster pots.
Fortuitously, the U.S. Coast Guard was also flying a fisheries enforcement mission over state waters with State Environmental Police officer, Lt. Peter Hanlon aboard. The Coast Guard agreed to divert the flight to the scene for support. "Eagle eye" Hanlon saw not one but two right whales and photographed them. He noticed the larger of the two whales had lines wrapped around its fluke. There was constant communication between the helicopter, the CCS vessel, and Harbormaster Goggins. Researchers were assisted at CCS's request by some recreational boaters who helped spot the whales after long dives.
The Center's federally-contracted Disentanglement Team arrived on scene with the support of a Coast Guard cutter from Cape Cod Canal Station along with DMF officials and Environmental Police. The team felt the entanglement would eventually be life-threatening for the whale. Within 3 hours, the Disentanglement Team of Stormy Mayo, David Mattila, and Ed Lyman, working from their inflatable boat, succeeded in cutting all lines wrapped around the fluke. Their time-tested technique involves tiring the animal by adding large floats and sea anchors to existing lines on the whale. Once the whale became fatigued, they cut the lines wrapped on the fluke.The whale thrashed for about 30 seconds pulling the lines through the wounds and free of the tail.
Center scientists consulted New England Aquarium researchers and identified the whale as #2212 in the right whale catalog. They compared photographs taken last year during the Aquarium's summertime Bay of Fundy research program that showed the whale was entangled in the same black and red rope wrapped around the fluke. The year-long entanglement had cut deeply into the whale's tail with obvious swelling and scar tissue.
The whale swam off at high speed and surfaced about one half mile away. Right whale #2212 is expected to survive the injuries because researchers re-sighted it in the Bay of Fundy in mid-August. Surveillance teams will be on the lookout to determine its long-term fate. The second whale was watched by Harbormaster Goggins for a few hours until it swam away from the entrance of Sesuit Harbor.
Fishermen and regulators were relieved that this was not a new entanglement. Rather, it was a resolved former entanglement that provides evidence of the time and distance right whales are capable of carrying gear. For example, in June 1997, the Disentanglement Team rescued an 8 year-old male right whale off Chatham from gear that federal officials believe was set 100 miles offshore.
There was another entangled whale (#2027) seen last summer in the Bay of Fundy that was photographed gear-free in Cape Cod Bay on January 4. Also, DMF's surveillance flights "resurrected" two right whales presumed dead since they had not been seen in more than five years. Documenting these whales are significant accomplishments for the state's Conservation Program that attempts to fully document all right whale sightings.
Meanwhile DMF's Conservation Engineering Program continues to work with National Marine Fisheries Service colleagues and private researchers to find ways to reduce the risk of harm from fishing gear for all large whales.
This event demonstrated extraordinary cooperation among citizens, researchers, and all levels of government: town, state, and federal agencies. Congratulations to all involved.
By Dan McKiernan
The Executive Office of Environmental Affairs and the Department of Fisheries, Wildlife, and Environmental Law Enforcement have released a report entitled: The Massachusetts Fresh Marine Fish Marketplace, A Blueprint for Growth and Stability. This report was completed by a consulting firm at the request of the Massachusetts Seaport Advisory Council.
The focus of this report is fresh fish display auctions: the exchange of fresh fish from harvesters to buyers. The Massachusetts seafood industry employs over 24,000 people and generates about $4 billion of economic activity. Harvesting, seafood processing, distribution, and retail industries account for the majority of these jobs.
Seafood display auctions, such as those in New Bedford and Gloucester, are vital links to allow the Massachusetts seafood industry to increase revenues, improve fish quality, and re-position the state as a leading provider and purveyor of seafood products to the world.
Display auctions unload fishing vessels, sort catches, and display seafood in a large refrigerated room for buyers to inspect prior to purchasing their supplies at an open auction. Most auctions operate five days a week, and an early morning auction sells the catch landed during the night at the facility.
In the past, most seafood in Massachusetts was purchased sight unseen by the buyer. Display auctions promote higher quality and less uncertainty by increasing the information available to both buyers and sellers and providing a fair, more open, and efficient market for seafood. These auctions ensure a common venue where buyers and sellers can easily find each other and where the price is set through a fair auction process.
The report concludes that the two display auctions in Gloucester and New Bedford and one "trip" style auction in Boston are operating and selling fish, but functioning well below their potential to serve more of the Massachusetts industry.
Declining fish stocks and stringent state and federal regulations to restore fish populations have dramatically disrupted the fresh fish marketplace for Massachusetts fishermen and processors. Today, fishermen must navigate through layers of rules to earn a living: closed areas, catch limits, limits on days-at-sea, and gear restrictions, to name a few. Processors have replaced domestic supplies with imported fish to keep their plants operating. Some stocks are rebounding, but by necessity, restricted fishing will be a permanent way of life for fishermen; higher quality will be the key to preserving revenues in the future. The report identifies display auctions as the most effective place to facilitate open, "transparent" trades where quality is verified and demands a higher price.
Through an examination of display auction successes throughout Europe and in Portland, New Bedford, and Gloucester, the Commonwealth seeks to protect and secure this vital link in our seafood marketplace. The report presents a blueprint for state government's role in overseeing all seafood auctions in the Commonwealth; as an impartial arbiter of standards; and as a partner at the table with industry to promote display auctions and our seafood economy.
Plans for a state of the art market information system are complete and ready for implementation. This central source for marketplace information will improve information flow in the marketplace and will be a very powerful business tool for the seafood industry. Imagine accessing supply forecasts, real-time auctions, and auction results or price trends from all of the auctions in Massachusetts and New England through one source over the Internet.
The Commonwealth and the industry have an opportunity to focus the world's attention on fresh seafood landed and processed in Massachusetts. This important work will continue with the industry to implement a comprehensive seafood auction system and achieve the goals of stability and growth in this valuable piece of the Massachusetts economy.
By David McCarron
Many federal, state, and local agencies have worked with the Massachusetts Water Resources Authority (MWRA) on the nationally known "Boston Harbor Cleanup Project." DMF has devoted many hours to this cleanup effort by offering expertise on diverse species from the Northern Right Whale to the microscopic zooplankton that feed it. Possibly the most common marine animals affected by the Boston Harbor Cleanup are soft shell clams, blue mussels, scallops, and surf clams found in Boston Harbor and Massachusetts Bay.
DMF's Shellfish Sanitation and Management Program has monitored water quality for shellfish areas in and around Boston Harbor since 1988. Based on amounts of rainfall and operation of area wastewater treatment plants, Shellfish Program biologists manage shellfish harvesting in the Harbor and all shellfish are transported to DMF's depuration plant in Newburyport before being marketed.
Areas are opened and closed in compliance with the National Shellfish Sanitation Program (NSSP), a federal/state cooperative program recognized by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the Interstate Shellfish Sanitation Conference (ISSC) for the sanitary control of shellfish produced and sold for human consumption. NSSP requires an agreement between the shellfish control agency (DMF) and operators of any wastewater treatment facility that may impact shellfish areas.
MWRA operates the largest wastewater treatment plant in Boston Harbor and the second largest in the country. The newly renovated and expanded Deer Island facility provides primary and secondary treatment of wastewater from 43 Boston area communities. DMF is notified weekly of the plant's daily operation by MWRA personnel as part of an existing written Memorandum of Understanding (MOU). This provides DMF with up-to-date information needed to ensure that sewage effluent is not adversely affecting the overlying water quality of shellfish beds.
DMF is notified within 24 hours (usually almost immediately) when there are high effluent flows or plant malfunctions. Shellfish bed closures are immediately imposed, if needed, to protect public health. This working relationship has allowed DMF's Shellfish Program to effectively manage Boston Harbor shellfish beds.
MWRA's $5 billion effort to upgrade its regional sewage treatment facilities has reduced the discharge of inadequately treated sewage effluent and sludge into shallow waters of Boston Harbor. One of the final components of this effort has been the construction of a new 9.5 mile outfall with a 24' diameter deep rock tunnel ending at a depth of 100' in Massachusetts Bay. When the effluent is discharged, it will flow through 55 diffuser heads spaced over the final 1 1/4 miles of the outfall tunnel. MWRA computer modeling predicts the highest concentrations of contaminants will shift to offshore thereby improving shellfishing opportunities in Boston Harbor while having "....very limited impacts near the outfall in Massachusetts Bay, and virtually no effect on Cape Cod Bay."
The moving of the Boston Harbor outfall to Massachusetts Bay has required changes to the MOU between DMF and MWRA. In addition, as a part of the U.S. EPA's National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) program, a new discharge permit must be issued to MWRA for the upgraded treatment plant and outfall. The new MOU with an outfall monitoring plan will be included in that permit.
DMF shellfish biologists worked with MWRA to expand overlying water quality monitoring throughout Massachusetts Bay to include fecal coliform testing. The monitoring program will provide DMF with data to assist a correct classification of shellfish areas adjacent to the outfall in Massachusetts Bay in compliance with NSSP requirements. The NSSP mandates a "Prohibited" area adjacent to each sewage treatment plant outfall or a combination of "Prohibited" and "Conditional" areas depending upon actual volume of flow, performance of the treatment plant, water quality, dispersion and dilution, time of transport of effluent to shellfish resources and time required to notify DMF of problems and for DMF to effect closures. "Conditional" areas can be harvested under certain conditions.
Three different types of sampling surveys - assisted by DMF - have been established: Conditional Area monitoring, transect, and plume tracking surveys. Stations were selected to provide information about the effluent plume and its impact on Massachusetts Bay.
DMF chose 12 Conditional Area monitoring stations from existing MWRA near field and far field monitoring stations. In addition to fecal coliform levels, the stations provide monthly profiles of physical, chemical, and biological water column characteristics as well as the identification of seasonal cycles and effects of high effluent flows and/or heavy rainfall. The conditional area monitoring survey will be ongoing and is scheduled to begin this fall.
Four transect sample runs have been set up for the following locations to gauge the effluent plumes's impact on coastal shellfish resources: Devereaux Beach in Marblehead, the eastern tip of Nahant, Nantasket Beach in Hull, and Cohasset Harbor. DMF established 19 stations over the four transects. These stations will be sampled 8 times over two years, once a season before and after the outall goes on line.
Information collected from this sampling will include the same water quality parameters as conditional area monitoring. DMF shellfish biologists will use fecal coliform loading at the diffusers and fecal coliform counts found along the transects at set distances from the outfall to calculate field-verified dilution profiles. These profiles will be used to determine time of travel of contaminants from the outfall to shellfish resources along the coast. Transect surveys also will provide baseline fecal coliform levels for Massachusetts Bay.
Once the outfall is on line, plume tracking surveys will be conducted at least once per season to determine the effluent plume location and dilution profile. Sample stations will be set during the tracking surveys based on actual movement of the effluent plume. Water samples will be collected for laboratory analysis of fecal coliform levels. Sampling will also include salinity, temperature, dissolved oxygen, and suspended solids. Conditional area monitoring stations may be revised or added to as a result of these Plume Tracking surveys. It is the consensus of DMF and MWRA that DMF's current PSP (red tide) and phytoplankton monitoring in shellfish and water samples coupled with data supplied by MWRA from offshore phytoplankton sampling provides DMF with sufficient information at the present time to adequately protect public health.
The working relationship between DMF and MWRA has grown and evolved along with the demands of meeting the needs of the Boston Harbor Cleanup. The two agencies have worked together to develop monitoring plans and notification agreements to assure that the marine environment and public health are protected. The monitoring plans established in this cooperative effort will allow a greater understanding of the marine environment in Massachusetts Bay in the years to come.
By Stephanie Cunningham
DMF has successfully produced a new full-color magazine that describes work being accomplished by our Sport Fish Program. We are extremely proud to present this first edition of our Sport Fish Program Guide. It is a companion piece to our ever popular, Saltwater Fishing Guide. Both guides are available free of charge at most Massachusetts coastal bait and tackle shops. It can also be obtained at any of the Division's five office locations.
The Sport Fish Program, as is the cost of these Guides, is supported by Federal Aid in Sport Fish Restoration. Commonly called the Wallop-Breaux Program. If you area recreational angler or boater, chances are you have already contributed to this very successful program which is fueled by excise taxes placed on fishing tackle and related equipment.
Enjoy these publications. Learn and obey the laws which govern your sport, returned undersized or unwanted catch back to the water, and do not misuse beach or marine habitat Happy Fishing
By Paul Diodati
EDITORS: Dan McKiernan & David Pierce
DMF receives state and federal funds to conduct research, management and development of the Commonwealth's marine fishery resources. Information in this publication in alternative formats is available.
Philip G. Coates, Director, DMF
Comments and suggestions for the newsletter are welcome. Please contact the Editors at (617) 727-3193, or write to DMF, 100 Cambridge St., Boston, MA 02202.
Publication #17020-12-7000 9/98-$2250
Division of Marine Fisheries
Division of Marine Fisheries