Fisheries Historical Highlights: 1990s

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fishing fleet at dock New Bedford


Clyde L. MacKenzie, Jr. of the NEFSC Sandy Hook Laboratory publishes "The History of the Fisheries of Raritan Bay," a modern classic of regional history combining information on fisheries and science.

The Mississippi Laboratories Harvesting Systems Division develops a protocol for the qualification of new turtle excluder devices using captive-reared turtles.

The Mississippi Laboratories Harvesting Systems Division develops Bycatch Reduction Devices (BRD's), selective gear modifications to reduce catches of nontargeted species in shrimp trawls. It also develops new trawling technology for sampling and harvesting coastal pelagic species in the Gulf of Mexico.

Monetary value of U.S. commercial fisheries landings are at over $3.5 billion at dockside with economic value of recreational fishing an additional $13.5 billion. --Letter from American Fisheries Society to U.S. Senate Committee.


At a symposium organized for the purpose, Sandy Hook staff report the results of a four-year study into the recovery of marine life and habitat at the 12-mile dumpsite off New Jersey. The intensive, multidisciplinary effort described changes in the physical oceanography, sediment processes, and biota. The results will be reported in a dedicated issue of a peer-reviewed journal in 1995.

The nationwide Coastal America Program (CAP) is established. The SWR chairs the first meeting of the CAP Southwest Regional Implementation Team, composed of representatives from the Department of the Interior, EPA, Corps of Engineers, and NOAA.


An interdisciplinary team of scientists headquartered at Woods Hole begins the first large-scale ecosystems study of Georges Bank GLOBEC. The resulting work will be the first attempt to describe and model the processes and marine life on the bank as a complete system.

The Convention for the Conservation of Anadromous Stocks in the North Pacific Ocean is signed in Moscow by Canada, Japan, Russia, and the United States establishing the North Pacific Anadromous Fish Commission.

The North Pacific Anadromous Stocks Convention Act repeals the North Pacific Fisheries Act of 1954 and implements protective measures for salmon and shad.

A NOAA/NMFS lawsuit results in successful judgment prohibiting the Glenn-Colusa Irrigation District in California from violating the ESA by diverting Sacramento River water during the endangered winter-run chinook salmon migration period

The Central Valley Project (CVP) Improvement Act is passed to balance competing demands of humans, fish, and wildlife for use of CVP water throughout California

A ban is imposed on importation of shrimp caught with gear that harms sea turtles unless the country in question has a strong turtle conservation program in effect

The High Seas Driftnet Fisheries Enforcement Act is passed to maintain a list of nations that allow large-scale driftnet fishing (which entangles protected mammals and fish as well as commercial fish) beyond their EEZ.


NEFSC's Dr. Nancy Kohler tagging a shark

The NEFSC Cooperative Shark Tagging Program marks its 30th anniversary. The value of the in-kind contribution of the volunteers is estimated at $8 million annually. Shark scientists decide to aggregate results of the program for a benchmark publication on distribution and migration to be published in 1995.

NMFS issues a biological opinion (with alternatives) concluding that longterm operation of the Central Valley Project in California will likely jeopardize the continued existence of the Sacramento River endangered winter-run chinook salmon

The new NMFS facility at Sandy Hook, N J., now named the James J. Howard Laboratory, is officially dedicated, replacing the one destroyed by arson.


The new NMFS laboratory at Sandy Hook, the James J. Howard Laboratory, is officially opened.

The SWR and other Federal and state resource agencies, working with public and private interests, reach a hardfought, three-year Bay-Delta agreement on water quality standards to protect the Sacramento-San Joaquin estuary in California.

A South Korean fishing company, whose vessel was caught poaching fish from U.S. waters in the western Pacific settles in U.S. District Court for a $1 million fine and agrees to have its fleet of 17 fishing vessels tracked by satellite for 5 years. The provision allowing satellite tracking by U.S. authorities is unprecedented.

Fall 1994The federal Marine Mammal Protection Act is reauthorized and amended to include a requirement for the service to develop, with stakeholders, plans for reducing and eventually eliminating significant takes of marine mammals in all fisheries known to frequently or occasionally capture marine mammals. Nearly all of the category 1 and 2 fisheries occur along the U.S. eastern seaboard.


RV Delaware II undergoing repairs

The Delaware II is sent to Detyen's Shipyard in Charleston, South Carolina, to undergo an RTE (Repair to Extend its useful life), under the Fleet Replacement and Modernization (FRAM) Program.

Management of the Pacific halibut and sablefish fisheries off Alaska is converted from an open-to-entry derby-style system to individual fishing quotas, allowing an 8-month season, improved product quality, and availability of fresh halibut and sablefish to the consumer.

Florida State University and the SEFSC Panama City Laboratory sign an agreement to study new ways to increase stocks of declining fisheries. Seagrasses (which serve as fish nurseries) and sharks (which are dwindling) are early research targets.

1995-1996--Due to a budget impasse in Washington, the National Marine Fisheries Service employees are among those government workers furloughed with full pay from December 22, 1995 to January 8, 1996.


The Fisheries celebrates it's 125th anniversary by, among other things, co-sponsoring two exhibits at the Smithsonian Institution's National Museum of Natural History in Washington, DC. - Ocean Planet and "Science at Sea"

An oil spill occurs in Narragansett Bay when the vessel North Cape runs aground during a storm. NOAA Fisheries NEFSC diverts the NOAA Ship Albatross IV to the scene to sample marine life at the site in order to provide a baseline against which to measure recovery. The NOAA Fisheries Northeast Regional Office assists the State of Rhode Island with seafood inspection and closures of Narragansett Bay to fishing until the spill effects are dissipated.

A new field test that confirms the presence of bleach on the abdomens of female lobsters is approved for use by NOAA Fisheries Enforcement agents. The test was developed by NOAA Fisheries agents and seafood specialists in partnership with other scientists. It is illegal to land an egg-bearing lobster, and bleach can be used to remove the eggs. Word of the new test results in a zero incidence of bleached females.

Amendment 7 to the New England groundfish recovery plan is put in place. For the first time, the plan includes measures to end overfishing and rebuild the stocks.

Sea scallopers test the first ever electronic reporting system in the northeast. As part of a voluntary experiment, the vessels use transponders linked to a satellite to report their use of days at sea.


NOAA Fisheries goes to public hearing with a plan intended to reduce takes of large whales in gillnet, lobster, and shark drift gillnet gear off the East Coast as required by the Marine Mammal Protection Act. The hearing set in motion a unique program of cooperative research and training to reduce large whale entanglements.

NOAA Fisheries scientists report first progress toward rebuilding for Georges Bank groundfish stocks, noting improvements in the weight of the spawning stocks for cod, haddock and yellowtail flounder.

For the second time in the organizationís 95- year history, the U.S. hosts the annual meeting of a convention organization, the International Council for Exploration of the Sea (ICES), in Baltimore, MD. NOAA Fisheries NEFSC and the National Science Foundation do most of the work organizing the meeting. More than 500 scientists from 28 countries attend. The meetingís keynote address was on harmful algal blooms (HABs) and the event coincidentally occurs during an outbreak of pfiesteria, a harmful algal bloom, in Chesapeake Bay, attracting significant local interest in the ICES meeting.

New England Fishery Management Council committee confirms that for the first time in more than 20 years, Georges Bank stocks are not being overfished.


A tanker vessel strikes and kills a blue whale, probably during its transatlantic crossing. The whale is spotted across the tankerís bow, towed to shore near Middletown, RI, and attracts national attention as the carcass is necropsied by a group of nationally known whale scientists. It is only the second recorded stranding of a blue whale off the U.S. Atlantic coast in this century.

The regions first all-female scientific party conducts the annual marine mammal survey aboard the NOAA Ship Albatross IV

NOAA Fisheries NEFSC assists in conducting the most formal experimentation to date involving commercial scallopers in research that has direct implications for evaluating management schemes to be used in their fishery. Six commercial vessels conduct survey and depletion experiment work in Closed Area II on Georges Bank, resulting in more than 1700 tows and important measurements that can be used to evaluate the effects of rotational closure to manage the scallop stock sustainably.

Within weeks of one another in different incidents, two Massachusetts whale watch vessels strike whales while returning from Stellwagen Bank, the first such recorded incidents in the region.


In January, scientists at the NOAA Fisheries NEFSC confirmed that five stocks of groundfish in northeastern waters need continued protection from over harvest: yellowtail flounder off Cape Cod, white hake, American plaice, and winter flounder stocks on Georges Bank and south to the mid-Atlantic. The findings were announced in a report produced by the 28th Northeast Regional Stock Assessment Review Committee, a scientific body convened regularly since 1985 to review fish stock status and provide scientific advice to fishery managers in the Northeast.

A federal plan to protect endangered large whales from entanglement in fishing gear was published in February. The plan focused on the 300 or so remaining right whales remaining in the North Atlantic, as well as humpback and fin whales (also endangered) and minke whales. One aspect of the plan involved aerial surveys in which biologists spend hundreds of hours aloft collecting information on the number, location, and movement of right whales and other marine mammals. The 1999 surveys resulted in more than 900 sightings of right whales and more than 2,300 slides that were added to a right whale photo identification catalog.

In April a team of veterinarians and biologists necropsied a right whale found floating dead in Cape Cod Bay. The three-day necropsy on a Cape Cod beach reveal the animal had a broken jaw. An autopsy report later concluded the animal died from injuries most likely sustained when she was hit by a ship.

In mid-June commercial sea scallopers returned to portions of Georges Bank that had been closed since 1994. The opening was made possible by a 1998 survey conducted jointly by NEFSC scientists and commercial scallopers. The 1999 fishery continued until November 2 and resulted in nearly six million pounds of scallop meats worth approximately $36 million.

In August NEFSC scientists reported that the northeastern witch flounder stock is much improved and that sea scallop stocks are still recovering. The report, a product of the 29th Northeast SARC, was hailed as a confirmation that recovery measures can work for these species. The report also recommended restraint on fishing for longfin squid and recommended against an increase in harvest of short fin squid.

A statistical profile of marine recreational fisheries in the Northeast was published and posted online by the NOAA Fisheries Office of Science and Technology in late October. The three-volume set provided a comprehensive portrait of marine anglers on a state-by-state basis.

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