Celebrating New England Lobsters on National Lobster Day

Cashes Ledge Lobster
A lobster at Cashes Ledge. Photo courtesy Brett Seymour/CLF

If there’s one thing we can be sure of, it’s that New Englanders love lobster. It’s weaved into our culture and history, and it’s unimaginable to think of New England without this famed summer seafood.

Few know that lobsters were once so plentiful in New England that Native Americans used them as fertilizer for their fields, and as bait for fishing. And before trapping was common, “catching” a lobster meant picking one up along the shoreline!

During World War II, lobster was viewed as a delicacy, so it wasn’t rationed like other food sources. Lobster meat filled a demand for protein-rich sources, and continued to increase in popularity in post-war years, which encouraged more people to join the industry.

Popular ever since, now when most people are asked what comes to mind when they think of New England, seafood – especially lobster – is typically at the top of the list.

An industry under threat

We love our New England lobster, but there’s evidence suggesting they’re in danger of moving away from their longtime home. That’s because lobster is under threat from climate change, the effects of which can already be seen on this particular species.

The Gulf of Maine is warming faster than 99% of ocean areas. Until last winter’s uncharacteristically cold temperatures, the prior few years saw an increase in catchable lobster – as the warmer temperatures cause them to molt early, and they move toward inshore waters after molting. However, continued warming will ultimately encourage the lobsters to move north to find colder waters, where they spend the majority of their time.

This is already happening in southern New England, where the industry is already suffering, seeing lobsters migrating northward.

And we’re still learning about the potential for damage caused by ocean acidification, as well as how lobsters may be affected by an increase in colder than usual New England winters.

As we celebrate one of New England’s iconic species on National Lobster Day, let’s remember that slowing down climate change is an important priority for ensuring that future generations can enjoy not Canadian or Icelandic lobster, but New England lobster. Click here to support Conservation Law Foundation’s efforts on fighting climate change.

Puffin Project Coming to the New England Aquarium

Director of National Audubon Society’s Project Puffin Steve Kress and award-winning journalist/photographer Derrick Jackson will join the New England Aquarium Lecture Series Tuesday, May 5 to discuss their new book, Project Puffin: The Improbable Quest to Bring a Beloved Seabird Back to Egg Rock.

Project Puffin is the success story of how puffins were restored to their historic nesting islands in the Gulf of Maine. In the early 1970s, young puffins from Newfoundland were transplanted to Eastern Egg Rock off the coast of Maine, where hunters had previously wiped out the local population. Over the years, the number of puffins slowly increased, and now about 1,000 pairs nest on the Maine islands. Kress and volunteers regularly monitor the young puffins and their nesting success.

Kress and his team now struggle with new challenges, as when warming waters in the Gulf of Maine two years ago affected the amount of forage fish that adult puffins could bring back to the nest. Several nestlings starved and the nesting success for puffins plummeted. Kress is now studying how improvements to the management of fishing on forage species, especially for herring, might help puffins and other seabirds survive disruptions to the ocean food web.

You can read an excerpt from Kress and Jackson’s new book in the recent Boston Globe article, “What it takes to restore the puffin to Maine’s islands,” and be sure to attend the lecture next week to learn more.

Image via Wikimedia Commons, Andreas Trepte 

Seafood Expo, a Free Sample Feeding Frenzy

Yesterday I got out of the office to spend the afternoon at the Seafood Expo of North America (formerly the International Boston Seafood Show). Having never been to an expo of any kind I didn’t quite know what to expect, but I never expected anything so huge! More than 1,100 exhibitors gathered at the expo to show off their products ranging from fresh seafood and aquaculture to the latest seafood processing technologies to food safety services. Some vendors were even dressed up to promote their products; I saw at least one mermaid and one catfish suit.

It was certainly an eye-opening experience to see firsthand the variety of products that are involved in seafood processing and not to mention the decisions that must be made! On top of choosing from a whole ocean of seafood, there’s the type of packaging, mechanized sorting methods, floor material for your processing plant – the list goes on and on. Left and right men and women dressed in suits were sitting in meetings trying to capture new business. I was even asked a couple times if I was in the seafood buying business, to which I would politely say no, grab a free sample, and move onto the next booth.

That’s right, free samples. For any seafood lover, it was like walking into a dream world. There was seafood of every variety from all different countries available to try: lobster mac & cheese, clam and calamari ceviche, seaweed salad, and smoked salmon (just to name a few). My favorite probably had to be the barbeque salmon sandwich.

In addition to all this excitement, NOAA made a big announcement at the expo on Sunday regarding illegal fishing and seafood fraud. Officials unveiled a 40-page plan that includes 15 new measures to curtail this global issue. Some of the measures include more detailed labeling on all seafood imports, improved tracing methods, and a crack down on pirate fishermen. NOAA Administrator Kathryn Sullivan said, “Illegal fishing and seafood fraud undermine economic and environmental sustainability of fisheries and fish stocks in the US and around the world. These actions aim to level the playing field for legitimate fishermen, increase consumer confidence in the sustainability of seafood sold in the US, and ensure the vitality of marine fish stocks.” You can read more about the plan here.

If you missed the expo this time around, it will be back again next year. And even if you are not in the seafood industry, it’s certainly worth checking out.


Image via www.seafoodexpo.com

Boston Sea Rovers 2015 – We Hope to See You There!

We are very excited to announce that we will once again have a booth at the Boston Sea Rovers dive show! The dive show is next weekend, March 7th and 8th, at the DoubleTree by Hilton Hotel in Danvers, MA. You can register and find all the information you need on their website.

Founded by a group of people who shared a love for SCUBA diving and the ocean, Boston Sea Rovers is a non-profit organization dedicated to spreading ocean awareness and appreciation. Each year, ocean lovers convene at the Boston Sea Rovers dive show where they can participate in a weekend of underwater films, compelling seminars, hands-on workshops, and exhibits featuring dive clubs, travel destinations, and more.

You can come by our booth to view Brian Skerry’s photographs of our beautiful New England ocean, chat with members of CLF’s Ocean team, and get up to date on our campaign to permanently protect Cashes Ledge. We hope to see you there!

Happy National Seafood Month!

October is National Seafood Month—a great time to think about the sustainability of our seafood and how our personal choices can help keep our oceans healthy! According to NOAA Fisheries, the average American eats 14 to 16 pounds of seafood a year; with a U.S. population of 319 million people (U.S. Census), that’s 4,466 to 5,104 million pounds per year!

How can our oceans possibly sustain such a booming seafood market? NOAA Fisheries provides one simple answer: habitat protection. Over the summer, NOAA Fisheries released a video titled, “Healthy Habitat: The Foundation of America’s Seafood and Fisheries,” to address the importance of ocean habitat protection, not only for marine organisms, but for us as well!

When it comes to sustainable fisheries New England, unfortunately, has a pretty poor track record. The region is known for historic overfishing, disappointing fisheries management, and sadly, the recent collapse of the Gulf of Maine cod fishery—the iconic fish of our region.

New England fisheries are far from perfect—very, very far. But, in the spirit of National Seafood Month you can educate yourself about sustainably-sourced fish and make smarter, more informed consumer choices. The New England Aquarium has its own list of “ocean friendly seafood species,” as well as delicious recipes that you can try.

Also, it is important now more than ever to take NOAA’s message to heart and protect precious marine habitat. Cashes Ledge—located in the center of our own Gulf of Maine— is one such habitat that we can help protect.

Cashes Ledge is an underwater mountain range whose unique environmental conditions produce a biodiversity hotspot for marine life. On Cashes Ledge, nutrient- and oxygen-rich water at the ledge’s peak give rise to the largest kelp forest on the Atlantic seaboard and a rich diversity of species ranging from bottom-dwelling sea stars, sea anemones, and purple sponges to highly endangered North Atlantic right whales.

Closed to destructive fishing practices for over a decade, Cashes Ledge and surrounding areas are in danger of being reopened to commercial bottom-trawling—a proposal that would ultimately destroy the habitat and further decimate the remaining cod population. National Seafood Month is a great opportunity to remind ourselves of the importance of sustainable fishing practices and its associated benefits associated. Conservation Law Foundation (CLF) is asking NOAA Fisheries to permanently protect Cashes Ledge and maintain it as an ecologically important area and healthy habitat for marine life.

You can help CLF to protect New England ocean habitat by signing our protection for Cashes Ledge petition here.

Photo credit: Ray Troll and Terry Pyles poster, NOAA Fisheries

“Snap the Shore, See the Future”

Living in the Gulf of Maine area, climate change and sea level rise are bound to affect our lives. According to the EPA, we could see a 2-foot rise in global sea level by 2100. For almost 50 years Conservation Law Foundation (CLF) has worked to restore and protect the Gulf of Maine and surrounding waters, New England’s largest public trust resource. Our work includes cleaning up our harbors, protecting ocean wildlife and critical ocean habitats like Cashes Ledge, and working to create a region-wide plan to help coastal communities adapt to rising sea levels caused by climate change.

It can be difficult to imagine the effect climate change will have on our coastlines. That’s why CLF appreciates the work of the King Tides Project, a non-profit organization made up of local interest groups that strives to effectively explain to people just how climate change will impact our coasts and the people living there.

King tides are completely natural phenomena, occurring twice a year when the sun and moon align. And even though they are regular and predictable, king tides have a chance of damaging coastlines if they occur during poor weather conditions. These tides “give us a sneak preview of what higher sea levels could look like.”

The next king tide is tomorrow, October 9th at 12:30pm—this is where you come in. The King Tides Project is hosting a Gulf of Maine King Tides Photo Contest! The organization wants local residents to visually document how the king tide—what may very well be “the new tidal norm” with sea level rise—is affecting Gulf of Maine coastal areas. So, CLF members and supporters, here is your chance to show us how you view the Gulf of Maine and why we should take action to reduce the effects of climate change! For more information, you can go to the Gulf of Maine King Tides website.

Photo credit: Austin Recio, Point Judith Sunset

International Surfing Day – A holiday my husband can get behind

It’s no secret that my husband is not a huge fan of holidays. The pomp and circumstance confuse and overwhelm him. This is not the case for International Surfing Day—a day that he wholeheartedly embraces and celebrates to the fullest extent every year—a day when it is him, not our children, who rises jittery with the promise of holiday-making swells in the North Atlantic.

International Surfing Day is a global celebration of our oceans and beaches organized by the Surfrider Foundation. Friday, June 20th marks the 10th Annual International Surfing Day, and beachgoers and surfers will host more than 140 events ranging from beach cleanups to surf contests in over 30 countries.

Granted living in New Hampshire does not always mean rideable waves or the warmest of waters, but a day in recognition of the dynamic sport that allows you to interact with the ocean in unique and inspiring ways is enough to celebrate regardless of the conditions. That is why tomorrow afternoon will be particularly sad for my husband—not because our family will be heading to Jenness Beach in Rye, NH to join other local families participating in Surfrider’s beach cleanup and play in the waves, but because he had rotator cuff surgery a month ago and is under strict instructions not to paddle out under any circumstances.

CLF's Jen Felt
CLF’s Jen Felt

We will pack a surfboard anyway, because while he is running around on the beach after our children with his one good arm, I will be out on the water attempting to carve inspiration. Do you want to know why? I love celebrating International Surfing Day too. That’s why I do the work I do as part of CLF’s oceans team—protecting the oceans is vital to ensuring that we can enjoy celebrations like International Surfing Day now and far into the future.

Feature image via CLF’s Jen Felt

Celebrating New England’s Oceans on World Oceans Day

This Sunday is World Oceans Day, an international event to celebrate and honor the ocean. This year, volunteers have organized events in locations around the world, from Massachusetts to Mozambique. The message of the day is simple—our oceans are valuable but at risk, and there are easy steps all of us can take to help.

World Oceans Day is a global event, but we thought we’d bring it back home to New England by celebrating the incredible marine habitat in the Gulf of Maine. For the past two weeks, Conservation Law Foundation’s dive team has been exploring some of the amazing places in the Gulf of Maine, from the inshore Isles of Shoals to the incredible Cashes Ledge, 100 miles off the Maine coast.

Cashes Ledge is an underwater mountain range whose steep ridges mix nutrient- and oxygen-rich water, creating a very productive environment. The ledge harbors the largest and deepest kelp forest off the east coast; our divers tell us the kelp on Cashes is so lush and dense it can be tricky to even see the seafloor and navigate along the bottom. To give you an idea of what diving in the kelp looks like, here’s a video from one of the team’s previous trips to Cashes Ledge, taken by videographer Lu Lamar.

The area around Cashes Ledge has been protected for over a decade, but unfortunately, this incredible habitat is now at risk of being opened to commercial trawling. The current proposal under consideration by NOAA and the New England Fishery Management Council would eliminate protection for three quarters of the area around Cashes Ledge. World Oceans Day is a perfect reminder that healthy oceans need healthy habitat, and the incredible ecosystem on Cashes Ledge is worth protecting for good.

You can join in the World Oceans Day festivities by finding an event on the website—there are lots of events in towns across New England, from 5Ks to surfing meet-ups. You can also take a “selfie for the sea”—a photo of yourself doing something for the ocean or making a promise to protect it—and post it with the hashtag #WorldOceansDay. And if you’d like to help protect marine habitat right here in New England,you can help ask NOAA to maintain full protection for the area surrounding Cashes Ledge by signing our petition here.