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In the News
Fish Talk in the News – Friday, June 28
Members of Congress are seeking a higher U.S. allocation of Atlantic bluefin tuna.
- For the second week in a row, an opinion piece published in the Boston Globe points out the likely negative consequences of Massachusetts Attorney General Martha Coakley’s lawsuit to raise groundfish catch limits. Johanna Thomas of the Environmental Defense Fund notes that NOAA “had no choice but to make tough cuts”, and that Coakley’s move to raise the limits “would have negative consequences for both fish and fishermen.” Thomas suggests that the suit will compromise fishery management by discouraging fishermen from finding alternatives to depleted stocks, fostering distrust of the NEFMC and NMFS, and causing irreparable damage to the environment. She recommends alternatives to raised limits, including better marketing of healthier fish species, federal disaster relief funding, and economic revitalization plans for groundfish ports.
- NOAA Regional Administrator John Bullard hosted a conference call on Monday open to fishermen and other stakeholders to discuss his plan to support the recovery of the groundfish industry. The call focused on NOAA’s “Fishing Through Tough Times: A Working Document on Resources to Support the Northeast Groundfish Industry”, which was released last week and circulated at the NEFMC meeting. The draft initiative includes such measures as identifying federal loan programs that could help fishermen and improving marketing of healthier species to improve prices. During a question and answer session on Monday’s call, fishermen largely focused on the need to improve resource sharing agreements with Canada on Georges Bank and streamline reporting requirements in that area, as well as the desire for more industry representation on the US/Canada Transboundary Management Guidance Committee.
- Also addressed on Bullard’s conference call was the need for an immediate new stock assessment of Georges Bank yellowtail flounder. On Wednesday, a forum was held at the Whaling Museum in New Bedford to seek industry participation in this assessment. NOAA will use two large industry vessels to survey portions of Closed Area II, and will employ yellowtail fishermen as crew members on these vessels. The small population and low catch limits for yellowtail flounder mean that it currently functions as a choke species for many groundfishermen, who must stop fishing once they fill their yellowtail allocation.
- The Senate has nearly unanimously confirmed billionaire real estate entrepreneur Penny Pritzker as Commerce Secretary. Pritzker will oversee the department that includes NOAA and NMFS, among numerous other bureaus and agencies.
- Ten members of Congress have written to NOAA’s Deputy Assistant Secretary for International Fisheries Russell Smith to ask for an increase in the U.S. Atlantic bluefin tuna quota. Bluefin are managed by the International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tunas, which has progressively cut the U.S. allocation of western Atlantic bluefin tuna in response to a depleted population. The members of Congress ask that NOAA push for a higher total allowable catch for the U.S. at upcoming ICCAT meetings and favor one of the two scientific recruitment models that will allow for a higher catch.
- Two letters to the editor published this week ask that Attorney General Martha Coakley and NOAA face the reality of depleted fish stocks. Fritz Lauenstein wrote to the Cape Cod Times that commercial fisheries management has failed to help groundfish stocks recover and that the myth that there are still plenty of cod to be found in New England is incorrect. Meanwhile, Warren Salinger told the Gloucester Daily Times that climate change is profoundly impacting New England’s fish populations, and it may be time for Gloucester and other ports to transition to new industries. Meanwhile, Saving Seafood’s Bob Vanasse wrote to the Providence Journal and argued for the usefulness of stock assessments that involve industry collaboration in managing groundfish, pointing to surveys conducted by SMAST with the scallop industry as a model of effective cooperative research.
- Former New Bedford Mayor Scott Lang and former SMAST director Brian Rothschild have joined forces to create a new group to serve as a watchdog for and counterweight to NOAA. Lang has not yet named the group or indicated who will participate, but has said that Rothschild will be the executive director. Lang has consistently called for reviews of NOAA and the NEFMC, arguing that their efforts to regulate the fishing industry have caused economic difficulty for New Bedford’s fishermen. Rothschild has often argued against NOAA’s stock assessments and fisheries science, and wrote the New Bedford Stadard-Times this week arguing that Congress must seriously consider the reauthorization of the Magnuson-Stevens Act and attempt to make its intent clearer.
- Maine Governor Paul LePage has signed L.D. 486 into law. The bill allocates $2 million per year to support the marketing of Maine lobster, with the funds sourced from surcharges on lobster harvesting and processing licenses.