In the News

Fish Talk in the News – Friday, December 28

As of December 19, only 3% of the Georges Bank haddock quota for fishing year 2012 had been caught (Photo credit: NOAA)

  • The Northeast Fisheries Science Center released a report on Wednesday indicating that in 2011, landings, gross revenues, and net revenues per vessel for the Northeast groundfishery reached a three-year high. In 2011, roughly 800 groundfish vessels brought in $330.9 million in gross revenues, an increase of $36.4 million from 2010. 31 million pounds of groundfish quota were traded in FY 2011. Fishermen responded to the report skeptically, with Dr. Brian Rothschild of SMAST claiming it was a “Kafkaesque” cover-up of the true conditions of the fishery. Some took issue with NOAA’s inclusion of non-groundfish species caught on groundfish trips and said the report did not reflect their experiences of the economic state of the groundfish fleet, placing blame on lowered catch limits and fishing regulations. Cape Cod fishermen, meanwhile, said that the apparent rise in catch for 2011 has not continued in 2012—with seven months of the season elapsed, fishermen have not come close to approaching catch limits for most species. Tom Dempsey, a member of the New England Fishery Management Council and policy director at the Cape Cod Commercial Hook Fishermen’s Association, says the fish simply aren’t there to be caught, and pointed to warming waters and increased predation as potential causes.
  • A move to include $150 million in disaster aid funding for fisheries in New England, Alaska, and the Gulf of Mexico in a bill for Hurricane Sandy relief will face a fight on the floor of the Senate. Republican Senators John McCain of Arizona and Tom Coburn of Oklahoma have promised to oppose many of the items included in the Sandy bill, which also includes $336 million for Amtrak, saying they want to ensure relief funding is spent only on those directly impacted by the storm. Debate on the bill began on December 19th.
  • Industry members responded this week to the New England Fishery Management Council’s move to delay a decision on 2013 catch limits until its next meeting in January. Some fishermen, led by the Northeast Seafood Coalition, are pushing for an extension of interim catch limits through the upcoming fishing year. The move would reduce, rather than end, overfishing as mandated by the Magnuson-Stevens Act, and would result in cuts of only 10% to catch limits for most groundfish species rather than the up to 80% cuts that have been considered. NOAA Regional Administrator John Bullard has reportedly agreed to consider the option, but when the 10% cuts were proposed in a motion at the Council meeting on December 20th, Chairman Rip Cunningham called it out of order. Meanwhile, reporter Steve Urbon of the New Bedford Standard-Times noted the financial difficulties faced by New England fishermen and predicted that cuts to catch limits would forces some boats out of business, while scorning the environmentalist argument that the Council must abide by its legal requirement to end overfishing.

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