In the News
Fish Talk in the News – Friday, January 4
- Late Friday, the Senate voted 61-33 to approve a $60.4 billion Hurricane Sandy relief package that included $150 million in aid for the northeast groundfish fishery and several other fisheries in declared disasters. The House of Representatives did not vote on the aid before the close of the 112th Congress on Tuesday, postponing further action on the bill and requiring that it again be approved by the new Senate. The House’s move drew sharp criticism from both parties. Republican New Jersey Governor Chris Christie placed the blame firmly on House speaker John Boehner for “the continued suffering of… innocent victims”, Republican Congressman Peter King said “anyone from New York and New Jersey who gives one penny to the Republican Congressional Campaign Committee should have their head examined” and called the move an “absolute disgrace”, and Democratic Massachusetts Congressman John Tierney expressed his disappointment that the process would have to start over in the next Congress. In response to the universal outrage, John Boehner agreed to schedule a vote on Friday on $9 billion for the national flood insurance program and another vote Jan. 15 for the remaining $51 billion. The Senate will have to re-approve its version of the legislation.
- The end of the 112th Congress also saw the departure of ME Senator Olympia Snowe, MA Senator Scott Brown, and MA Congressman Barney Frank, among others, all of whom have been heavily involved with fisheries issues in recent years. On his departure, Frank heavily criticized some environmentalists and expressed disdain for the ten-year rebuilding requirements in the Magnuson-Stevens Act, calling them arbitrary and harmful. He also criticized outgoing NOAA Administrator Jane Lubchenco and expressed concern for the future of the School of Marine Science and Technology at UMass Dartmouth. Frank is also reportedly seeking an interim assignment to John Kerry’s Senate seat.
- Industry stakeholders responded this week to the December 26th release of NOAA’s “2011 Final Report on the Performance on the Northeast Multispecies (Groundfish) Fishery (May 2011-April 2012).” Among the reactions was a focus on “underfishing”, since only 41 percent of the total annual catch entitlements for the multispecies fishery was caught in 2011. Although 93% of the quota for Gulf of Maine cod was caught, just 12% of the Georges Bank Haddock was caught, leading to calls for better targeting of these underutilized species. Another focus was the shrinking size of the fishing fleet. The report indicated a 6% decline between 2010 and 2011 in vessels with revenue from at least one groundfish trip, part of a continuing trend of declining boat numbers since at least 2007 (see Table 39 in report).
- Discussion continued this week on the New England Fishery Management Council’s decision to approve a measure in Framework 48 that will effectively open many areas currently closed to commercial fishing. The measure would allow sectors to amend their Sector Operation Plans to apply for access to current groundfish mortality closures, which would then require NOAA approval. The proposed framework must now be sent to NOAA for approval, and will face a public comment period. Although NOAA Regional Administrator John Bullard has announced his support for some limited openings and some commercial fishermen support the openings, recreational fishermen and environmentalists continue to oppose the measure. In addition, some commercial fishermen also oppose opening groundfish mortality closed areas in the Gulf of Maine, noting their importance as refuges for reproducing fish and de facto habitat protections.