In the News

Fish Talk in the News – Friday, January 25th

Northern shrimp is historically a favorite winter seafood choice in New England, but the fishery has been closed since 2013. Image via NEFSC/NOAA.

  • The Science and Statistical Committee (SSC) of the New England Fishery Management Council met this week to determine the Allowable Biological Catch (ABC) levels for Georges Bank Cod, Gulf of Maine Cod, and Southern New England/Mid-Atlantic winter flounder. Ahead of the meeting, The Council indicated that cuts of up to 81% from 2012 levels could be expected based on recommendations from the Groundfish Plan Development Team (PDT). Information from all stock assessments was disheartening, with the last above-average year class for Georges Bank cod occurring in 1991; additionally, the PDT noted that the stock assessments were likely overly optimistic. The Science and Statistical Committee chose to forward on the recommendations of the PDT, including an ABC of 2,506 mt for Georges Bank cod and an ABC of 1,249-1,550 mt for Gulf of Maine cod (the stock assessment’s use of two different models based on different levels of natural mortality led to the SSC recommending two ABCs for this stock). The Council will take the Allowable Biological Catch determinations into account when determining the Annual Catch Limits for these stocks for fishing year 2013 at its meeting next week.
  • Meanwhile, NOAA regional administrator John Bullard responded to a request instigated by the Northeast Seafood Coalition and others to implement a second year of interim measures for FY 2013. This action would have allowed managers to set catch limits that reduce, rather than end, overfishing for a second year, resulting in less drastic cuts to quotas. In his letter to Paul Howard, the executive director of the New England Fishery Management Council, John Bullard indicated that there is no legal justification for implementing a second year of interim measures under the Magnuson-Stevens Act. He also indicated that the agency is researching ways to allow sector carryover of some uncaught 2012 ACLs while still being consistent with federal law and policy guidelines requiring an end to overfishing.
  • The abbreviated New England shrimp season began on Wednesday. Due to environmental conditions inhospitable to shrimp, including warming waters, the shrimp quota has been cut to 1.4 million pounds, compared to last year’s catch of 5.3 million pounds. Because of this sharp cut, the shrimp season is expected to end quickly. Maine fishermen generally catch about 90 percent of the harvest.
  • A column this week by Ben Martens of the Maine Coast Fishermen’s Association expresses concern about the loss of fisheries advocates in Congress. The article notes the recent retirement of Barney Frank and Olympia Snowe, the death of Daniel Inouye, and John Kerry’s move to Secretary of State as factors contributing to the loss of institutional history on fisheries issues. With the New England fishing industry in a declared disaster and fishermen unable to find even the small quotas they are allocated, the industry is in dire need of a strong voice in Congress.
  • The first stage of an investigation into federal fishing rulemaking, released on Wednesday, has found flaws in recordkeeping and financial disclosures by managers. The report, prepared by the Inspector General of the US Commerce Department, was produced at the request of Representatives Barney Frank and John Tierney. Among the issues highlighted in the report were that Fishery Management Council’s financial disclosures did little to improve transparency, and a lack of uniform record-keeping across NMFS regional offices. Recommendations included strengthening formal reviews of financial interest disclosures and developing uniform measures for collecting and maintaining documents related to fisheries management.

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