All posts by lrhigham

Laws to Fight Illegal Fishing and Seafood Fraud in the U.S.

New law empowers U.S. to combat illegal fishing and seafood fraud and promote the sustainable management of international fisheries


Illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) commercial fishing is an issue that threatens both the economic and environmental sustainability of several fisheries around the globe and the United States has just joined administrative efforts with thirteen other nations in efforts to fight illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing and seafood fraud. President Obama recently signed the Illegal, Unreported and Unregulated Fishing Enforcement Act and will now join global efforts to implement the Ports State Measure Agreement (PSMA) to help prevent illegally harvested fish from entering the U.S. ports and help keep illegal products out of the U.S. market.

tuna tails

Once twenty-five countries have ratified the PSMA it will be legally binding and to help encourage ratification by other countries the United States has already implemented most of the measures outlined in the PSMA in domestic ports and vessels. The PSMA will also let the United States to fully participate in the Inter-American Tropical Tuna Commission by allowing us to ratify the Antigua Convention. This means the U.S. can help aid in the process of managing highly migratory species such as the Tuna in the eastern Pacific Ocean.


United States : New Law Empowers U.S. to Combat Illegal Fishing and Seafood Fraud and Promote the Sustainable Management of International Fisheries. (2015, November 7). Mena Report. Retrieved 2016, from

Feds Propose Deep Cuts in Cod Quotas


The fishing season is about to begin in New England and the proposed new regulations have fishermen concerned. The restrictions include new quotas for 20 ground fish species including; cod, haddock and flounder with the heaviest regulating the cod, particularly the cod found along the popular Rhode Island fisherman spot the Georges Bank.


NOAA research has showed significant signs of severe depletion of the Georges Bank cod stock and the proposed catch limit for the Georges Bank cod is a 62% cut from the past year’s limit and including the past couple years, the catch limit has gone down by 90% according to public affairs officer Jennifer Goebel of NOAA. Although fishermen are still able to catch high amounts of other ground fish species, it will be tricky for them to avoid cod bycatch while fishing for other species. Fishermen and others in the fishing industry are concerned for how these cuts will impact the economy.  Daniel Salerno oversees the states ground fish sector says, “There’s going to be less locally caught product available and now we’re probably going to see more imported products or alternative products, maybe farm-raised or what have you.’ Although both the fishing industry and NOAA want to avoid over harvesting, neither agree on how the fish are being counted and thus disagree on the available stock for harvesting.


Such high quota cuts will be hard for fishermen and the economy that thrives of the catch and sale of the cod, but if overharvesting continues the cod fishery in Rhode Island will continue to suffer. The other fisheries that live and thrive in harmony with the cod may also be at risk if the cod stock is not able to replenish and thus further economic hardships will be endured. I think it is more important to find a way to secure the stock and encourage regrowth than to continue harvest beyond sustainable limits.



Espinoza, A. (2016, March 28). Feds Propose Deep Cuts In Cod Quotas. Rhode Island Public Radio. Retrieved April 7, 2016, from

Questioning Alaska’s Crabs Ability to Adapt to Lower pH Levels

This is an interesting article about crab fisheries in Alaska and how things may change in the future due to rising atmospheric CO2 levels and ocean acidification.


Alaska has many fisheries that are important to the United States seafood industry. Ocean acidification may have detrimental effects on the crab fisheries in Alaska due to rising atmospheric CO2 levels. New studies show that higher levels of acid in the ocean may alter the growth and mortality levels of Tanner, Blue King and Alaska Red King crab species.


Chris Long of NOAA Fisheries Alaska Fisheries Science Center says that changes may be due to the stage of life the crab spends in higher acidic conditions. Studies have shown that some crabs that spend a time in more acidic conditions may have slower or weaker growth rates, higher mortality levels and are less able to tolerate change in pH levels. Another issue caused by ocean acidification is that young crabs are not able to retain calcium and thus their shells are not as strong. Having a weak or soft shell leaves these young crabs as an easier target for predators.

In 2013 NOAA Fisheries Alaska Fisheries Science Center announced findings that Tanner crab and Blue King crab could have developmental delays due to ocean acidification and since then research has been steady and new findings suggest a bleak outlook for the crab fisheries. Their projections are that in the next 40-50 years, there will be less crab to catch and more efforts to catch what is there.


The next question scientists hope to answer is whether these species are likely to adapt to lower pH levels in the ocean. Some studies have shown that even in medium high acid conditions some Tanner crab larvae, embryo and juveniles have survived and even grew, suggesting that adaptation is possible. According to Chris Long, the longer some of these crabs were exposed to acidic conditions the more tolerant they became, and their ability to adapt would really depend on how fast pH conditions change.


The crab on the left was exposed to CO2 levels of today around   while the one on the right was exposed to higher CO2 levels around 2,850 ppm. This species showed unexpected  growth results and the one on the right actually grew a larger denser shell. Hopeful signs that crabs may be able to adapt.

Works Cited:

New Studies Raise Questions About Crabs Adaptability. (2016, March 1). NOAA Fisheries Alaska Fisheries Science Center. Retrieved March 16, 2016, from

Madin, K. (2009, December 4). Ocean Acidification: A Risky Shell Game How will climate change affect the shells and skeletons of sea life? Oceanus Magazine. Retrieved March 19, 2016, from

Scientists Plan for Changing Bering Sea


This article states that the North Pacific Fishery Management council heard a draft plan earlier this month about how to address the changes climate change may bring to the Bering Sea. The national Marine Fisheries Service coupled with the Alaska Fisheries Science Center are making efforts to be prepared for fish habitat and population changes that may occur with warming sea water temperatures. Scientists have quality information about several aquatic species in the area and how they may be impacted by climate change and how to adequately change regulations to help maintain sustainability, but there are even more species that scientists do not have any information on at all.


The proposed plan consists of two areas, one area of which information and research is gathered about a variety of species an area that can create models and predictions of what changes will occur and how we can manage these changes. Currently there is not enough information to predict the changes that can occur and how they will affect the management processes for these species.

JD-A_regime shift_diagram-1

With climate change impacting so many different species it is hard to imagine how things might change in the Bering Sea and this project helps to provide more research about these species and how the habitat and populations may be affected. Having this information can make management processes more effective and allow scientists to provide managers with  more reliable predictions for the future.

Works  Cited:

Dischner, M. (2016, February 21). Fisheries scientists plan for a changing Bering Sea. Bristol Bay Times. Retrieved March 12, 2016, from


Warmer Temps Complicate Cod Fishery

Rising Temperatures Complicate Efforts to Manage Cod Fishery  Gulf of Maine Waters Warming More Rapidly than Most of Ocean Study Finds.  By: Chris Samoray October 29, 2015

This article has direct relations with an Atlantic cod fishery in the Gulf of Maine. In summary this article explains that warmer water temperatures have decreased cod stocks. Fishing quotas were based on historical data without considering the change in water temperatures and this lead to higher fishing quotas than are able to maintain sustainability. This brings to light the concept that past evidence ca not always be relied on for future predictions in population size and age without considering new evidence.


Researchers have reported that the Gulf of Maine has heated faster than most of the rest of the world’s oceans over the decade and reached peak warming in 2004—2012. Scientists believe that a Northward shift in Gulf Stream and a shift in weather patterns may be responsible for the rapid warming. The Atlantic cod fishery crashed in the 1990’s and the fishers have been under strict catch limits in attempts to revive the cod population but the fishery is still unable to sustain a healthy stock. Researchers have said that the Atlantic cod is mostly a cold water fish and the Gulf of Maine fishery is near the edge of the cods range, this coupled with warming temperatures could be good reasons this fishery is not doing well. Researchers believe that good fisheries management can save the fishery but the fish stock depends heavily on the temperature conditions.

Here’s a short video.

Sources Cited:

Rising temperatures complicate efforts to manage cod fishery. Gulf of Maine waters warming more rapidly than most of ocean, study finds.  Chris Samoray. Science News. Magazine of the Society for Scince and the Public. October 29, 2015. Retrieved from:

Gulf of Maine a Symbol of Warming Oceans. Associated Press.


Fan O’ Fish!!

Hello! I’m Barba the Burbot!

burbot 3

About me:

Common name: Burbot

Scientific Name: Lota lota of the Gadidae family

Also known as: lawyer, loche, eel pout, methy, lush, mud shark and lingcod, although lingcod is taxonomically incorrect. (“Lingcod are in the family Hexagrammidae, whereas burbot are in the Gadidae family.’)

Interesting fact: Burbot originates from the Latin word barba which means beard, which I have!

Interests: Swimming around on river and lake bottom in the cooler temperature. Feeling the ground with my beard like barb and scuttling around in the mud, gravel or silty river bottoms.

General: I enjoy eating a wide variety of insects and fish. I start out life enjoying many zoo-plankton and insects and as a I grow I prey on any smaller fish (whitefish, sculpins, lampreys and smaller burbot) and have been known to eat mice and shrews.

I don’t like to be around larger burbot or pike because they look at me like food, I also try to avoid otters, minks, and a variety of birds. But mostly it’s the human’s fishing lures I need to avoid, y tasty white flesh makes a great dinner.

Marital  Status: Open relationship, not looking for anything serious or long term.

Hometown: Any cold freshwater locations in North America, Europe and Asia and southward to about 40 degrees north latitude.

Sexual Orientation: male to female but group activity is required.  

burbot 1

Body Type: I have a long body with a flat scooped head and flat tummy for skimming the river beds. I have a wide jaw and a single barbell that hangs from my chin. I look like a mix between a lamprey and a catfish. I have multi colored dark spots ranging from olive, brown, black and even yellow. I have two dorsal fins, one short and low and the second much longer. My pectoral fins are fan shaped and my pelvic fins are elongated as is my anal fin and my caudal fin is very round. My scales are very small, almost microscopic, but my teeth are many and sharply slanted inward.

burbot 2

Children: As a young burbot I began to think about having children when I was about 18 inches long and that was between 5 and 7 years of age. Once of age I waited until late in the winter to go beneath the ice for some super spawning. The females can have hundreds of thousands of eggs in one spawning and can spawn multiple times, but may not always be consistent. The males will create groups of 4 or 5 and entangle with 2 or 3 females for the best spawning chances. The eggs and the milt will then free fall through the water to the bottom where the eggs will float about until hatching.

Occupation: SI’m a free loader and spend my time swimming slowly around in cooler calmer currants browsing for insects and smaller fish to prey upon.

burbot 4

Sources Cited:

Burbot(Lota lota). State of Alaska. Alaska Department of Fish and Game. 2016. Retrieved from:

The decline of the ‘disgusting’ burbot. British Broadcasting Corporation.

Stealthy Reef Fish in the ‘Twilight Zone’

Research is showing that many types of reef fish have the ability to swim at greater depths than previously thought. Scientists have been taking a closer look at different coral reef fish species and analyzing the physiology to get a better understanding of their marine capabilities.

FISH101 coral fish

Coral reefs are generally though to be in shallow sunlit waters and display a variety of fish, but studies are showing that deep water reefs in the ‘Twilight Zone’ of 50-150 m deep are also capable of providing a diverse and unique community of colorful fish.  Dr. Tom Bridge from the  ARC Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies at James Cook University has been researching the physiology of these fish and have found that the tail shape of some fish can help predict whether they can live in a wide range of water depths.

FISH101 twilight zone

Dr. Bridge and Dr.  Osmar Luiz from Macquarie University believe that fish with a more forked tailed shape are able to swim faster and perhaps more silently through the water. Stealth swimming in the greater depths of the ocean is important because deep water habitats provide less light transmittance, less wave energy and the species rely on sensing water pressure and motion changes to help catch prey and avoiding predators. The forked tail is thought to move the fish through the water smoothly without causing major water displacement and allows these coral fish to migrate between both shallow and deep waters.

Understanding this feature can help scientists predict which species is less vulnerable to natural disturbances like cyclones and coral bleaching and scientists are currently working to gain a better understanding of what exactly it is about the forked tail that gives these fish this advantage in deep water.

FISH101 twilight 2

Works Cited:

ARC Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies. (2016, January 20). ‘Twilight zone’ fish swim silently with forked tails. ScienceDaily. Retrieved January 27, 2016 from

Tom C. L. Bridge, Osmar J. Luiz, Richard R. Coleman, Corinne N. Kane, Randall K. Kosaki. Ecological and morphological traits predict depth-generalist fishes on coral reefs. Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences, 2016; 283 (1823): 20152332 DOI:10.1098/rspb.2015.2332


Hello everyone!

My name is Lacey and I lie in Fairbanks, Alaska. I love living here and  experiencing all the wonderful outdoor recreation we have. I am a stay at home mother of two little’s, one four years old and one a year and a half. I love cross-country skiing with my family, I enjoy snowboarding, hiking, snowshoeing in the winter and fishing, hiking, camping and swimming in the summer. I am currently seeking a BA in Natural Resource Management and I think that having a solid understanding on the variety of fish in Alaska as well as understanding what fisheries do and how they can be sufficiently managed will be beneficial for my career plans as well as my plans for fun and educating my children. I look forward to working with all of you this semester!