Larger-than-average ‘dead zone’ is forecast for Gulf of Mexico

Based on streamflow and nutrient runoff from the Midwest and Plains, federal scientists forecast a "dead zone" of 5,827 square miles in the Gulf of Mexico this summer, 50 percent larger than last year and three times bigger than the 2035 target for reducing nutrient pollution. This year's dead zone would be the equivalent of 3.7 million acres, or 14 percent of the farmland in Illinois.

Swap crop insurance for area-based coverage — analysts

The government could save more than $2 billion a year if it replaced the public-private partnership of the crop insurance program with simpler and more tightly targeted disaster programs, said two agricultural economists. In an analysis for the American Enterprise Institute, Eric Belasco and Vincent Smith said a template for the less expensive program was the Pasture, Rangeland and Forage (PRF) insurance product offered by USDA.

U.S. permit may jumpstart ocean aquaculture, despite concerns

Aquaculture companies seeking to cultivate finfish in the open ocean could soon have an easier path to approval under a nationwide permit issued by the Army Corps of Engineers last week, despite concerns from environmental groups. The permit, which could create an industry for aquaculture in federal waters, was written in response to a May executive order by President Trump calling on agencies to deregulate and expand seafood production in the United States.

Environmentalists, fishermen protest bill to allow open-ocean aquaculture

Environmental advocates, fishermen, and residents of several states on the Gulf of Mexico appeared at a virtual hearing on Wednesday protesting a bill and other measures to expand ocean aquaculture. Under the new legislation, which is looking to settle a long-running debate over the future of aquaculture in the United States, fish farming would be allowed in federal waters.

Trump administration seeks overhaul of fishing industry with new executive order

As the coronavirus pandemic ravages the meatpacking sector, the Trump administration late last week made a major announcement about another essential food industry: seafood. With a late-afternoon executive order, the administration laid out a pathway for the approval of ocean aquaculture in federal waters, a controversial departure from existing policy that could reshape the country’s seafood production.(No paywall)

Increased risk of spring flooding in central and southeastern states

Major to moderate flooding is likely this spring from the northern Plains southward to the Gulf Coast, with the greatest risk in the upper and middle Mississippi River basin, the Missouri River basin, and the Red River of the North, said NOAA on Thursday.

‘Extensive flooding’ to continue through May

Spring rains and melting snow are helping to create the potential for major or moderate flooding in 25 states, with the greatest threat in the northern Plains and the upper Mississippi River basin, said NOAA in a spring outlook issued on Thursday.

2018 joins the roll of five hottest years, all since 2014

Last year was the fourth-warmest worldwide since 1880, said NASA and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration on Wednesday, ranking behind 2016, 2017 and 2015. "2018 is yet again an extremely warm year on top of a long-term global warming trend," said Gavin Schmidt, director of NASA's Goddard Institute for Space Studies.

As climate warms, toxic algae blooms expand into Arctic

In NOAA’s annual Arctic Report Card, scientists highlighted the recent rise of toxic algae blooms in the region. The blooms, common in more temperate climates, are expected to increase in the Arctic, affecting people who depend on wild foods.

Looming renewal of ‘fish bill’ reveals industry-advocate divide

More than 100 organizations submitted a letter to members of Congress on Wednesday asking them to oppose ocean aquaculture. The letter was delivered as the looming renewal of the “fish bill,” the Magnuson-Stevens Act, reveals divides between the fishing industry and environmentalists, ocean advocates, and other stakeholders about the future of fisheries regulation.

Hurricanes, wildfires and other disasters cost U.S. $306 billion

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) ranked 2017 as the most expensive year ever for natural disasters in the United States, reported the Washington Post. Hurricanes, wildfires and other catastrophes caused a combined $306 billion in damage, with 16 events that cost $1 billion apiece.

California and Oregon urge feds to send relief to salmon fisheries

Officials in California and Oregon are calling on the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s fisheries division to release emergency funding after salmon fisheries were closed in both states.

The Codfather gets 46 months in prison

Criminals don't come more colorful than Carlos Rafael, once the most powerful fisherman in the nation’s most valuable seafood port. Rafael, who was the subject of a FERN story published earlier this year with Mother Jones, was known widely as the Codfather. He conquered the fishing industry in New Bedford, Mass., through a combination of guile and rule-bending; he famously described himself as a pirate, and told regulators it was their job to catch him. On Monday, the law finally caught up to the Codfather: A federal judge sentenced Rafael to 46 months in prison for masterminding one of the biggest fisheries frauds in American history. (No paywall)

Fraudulent fishing tycoon exposes weakness in New England ‘catch shares’

After decades of gaming and monopolizing the system governing commercial fishing rights in New England, a crime lord known as The Codfather has been kicked from his throne in New Bedford, Massachusetts, writes Ben Goldfarb in FERN’s latest story, co-produced with Mother Jones. Rafael will plead guilty for fraud before a federal judge in Boston on Thursday, facing 25 years in prison and $500,000 in fines.

White House hopes to make big cuts at climate-science agency

The White House wants to cut funding 17 percent at the National Oceanic and Atmosphere Administration (NOAA), one of the government’s chief resources for climate science, according to a budget memo from the Office of Management and Budget obtained by The Washington Post.

Scientists scramble to download U.S. climate data ahead of Trump

Worried that federal climate databases might soon be taken offline, scientists are frantically trying to download as much data on climate change as they can before the Trump administration takes office, says The Washington Post.

U.S. swordfish fishermen say they can help save leatherback turtles

In California, fishermen and conservationists are putting pressure on fisheries managers to re-open the U.S. swordfish catch, which had been heavily restricted to protect endangered species frequently caught in gill nets, says the San Diego Tribune.

NOAA rule holds fish imports to bycatch standards of U.S.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration said it has issued a final rule that would hold nations exporting fish and fish products to the United States to the same bycatch standards as U.S. commercial fishing operations.

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