Environmental Protection

Fishery Disaster Determinations, Acidification Studies Announced

The actions by the Commerce Department highlight continuing pressures on important fisheries and the economics depending on them.

Two recent actions by the U.S. Department of Commerce highlight continuing pressures on important fisheries and the workers who depend on them. The more recent one was NOAA's Sept. 19 announcement it has awarded three grants worth a total of $1.6 million to fund studies on ocean acidification’s effects on fisheries and the coastal economies dependent upon them.

Three days earlier, Acting Secretary of Commerce Rebecca Bland issued fishery disaster determinations for fisheries in the Northeast, Alaska, and Mississippi.

The acidification research projects will examine the effects on species such as scallops and claims. The three-year grants were awarded to:

  • Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution: $682,000 to understand the connection between fluctuations of carbon dioxide levels and ocean scallop populations, harvest, and economic conditions
  • The State University of New York at Stony Brook: $533,000 to examine bay scallops and hard clams to determine acidification's effects on each species and identify the most vulnerable regions of estuaries
  • The University of Washington: $374,000 to study a large climate model with fish populations and economic models in order to predict ocean conditions and economic effects

"Efforts to estimate the effect of ocean acidification on fishery populations will be valuable to our own work," said Jonathan Hare, oceanography branch chief of NOAA's Northeast Fisheries Science Center. "The goal is to incorporate the effects of ocean acidification into advice provided to the regional fishery management councils."

Blank's determinations allow Congress to appropriate money to offset the financial hardship caused by these disasters. Her agency outlined these causes for the three:

  • Northeast – Despite fishermen's adherence to strict catch limits, several key fish stocks in the Northeast groundfish fishery are not rebuilding, and further cuts are expected in 2013.
  • Alaska - Low returns of Chinook salmon to the Yukon River, Kuskokwim River, and Cook Inlet have resulted in a fishery resource disaster have caused a continuation of the Yukon River commercial fishery failure in 2010-2012, a Kuskokwim River commercial fishery failure in 2011-2012, and a Cook Inlet commercial fishery failure in 2012.
  • Mississippi – Affected by the massive freshwater impacts from the flooding in the lower Mississippi River in spring 2011, a commercial fishery failure has been declared for the Mississippi oyster fishery and the state's blue crab fishery.

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