Fisheries in Alaska, Gulf of Mexico and New England all hit hard
By Summit Voice
SUMMIT COUNTY — If you had any doubts that at least some — if not all — the world’s oceans are in trouble, then look no farther than the most recent fisheries disaster declarations from the U.S. Commerce Department.
Due to varying factors, including overfishing, Mississippi River flooding and “unfavorable ocean conditions” (global warming, anyone?), the department has made disaster determinations in the Northeast, Alaska and Mississippi.
Along the Northeast coast of the U.S., ocean temperatures reached record high levels this past summer, shifting fish stocks away from U.S. waters. According to the disaster declaration, several key fish stocks in the groundfish fishery are not rebuilding and further cuts are expected in 2013.
According to the declaration: “Low levels of these stocks are causing a significant loss of access to fishery resources with anticipated revenue declines that will greatly affect the commercial fishery. This determination provides a basis for Congress to appropriate disaster relief funding … and for NOAA to use these funds to provide assistance to affected communities.”
In Alaska, low returns of Chinook salmon to the Yukon River, Kuskokwim River, and Cook Inlet have resulted in 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.
The Commerce Department said the exact causes of the poor Chinook return are unknown, but suspect unfavorable ocean conditions, freshwater environmental factors and disease.
The commercial fishery failures can have cascading economic impacts on subsistence and sport fisheries. Rural communities on the Yukon and Kuskokwim Rivers depend on both the commercial and subsistence Chinook salmon fisheries for income and survival. In addition, the Cook Inlet Chinook salmon fishery supports an important sport fishery, which is one of the principal economic drivers for the local and regional economy.
In the Mississippi Sound, oyster and blue crab commercial fisheries were also declared to be disastrous, attributed primarily to flooding from the Mississippi River waterway system that required the Bonnet Carre Spillway to be opened in 2011.