New England Fisheries

John Bullard Expresses Concern to NEFMC

Photo credit: Dieter Craasmann.

Yesterday, Northeast Regional Administrator John Bullard sent a very strong letter to the New England Fishery Management Council regarding the shortcomings of the Habitat Committee’s recommendations for the Omnibus Habitat Amendment.

Bullard begins the letter by expressing his concerns that the amendment is contrary to the Council’s own goals and objectives and to national fishery law:

“After a decade of development, the Council may be poised to take actions that significantly weaken, rather than improve, essential fish habitat (EFH) protection in New England…I feel strongly that the Committee’s recommendations for preferred alternatives do not meet the Magnuson-Stevens Act’s requirements.”

Two areas of particular concern for Bullard are Cashes Ledge in the Central Gulf of Maine and Georges Bank, for which he feels the Committee’s recommendations “are severely inadequate.”  The Committee’s recommendations would result in a 26% reduction of protected area from the status quo on Cashes Ledge, a known “refuge for spawning cod” and threaten to “reverse 20 years of habitat protection and recovery” on Georges Bank.” He also addresses his concerns for the Eastern and Western Gulf of Maine, the Great South Channel, and spawning alternatives.

Bullard further notes that the Committee has ignored much of its own data and analysis in making these recommendations:

“There is a compelling amount of analysis … that strongly suggest the Committee recommendations have not made use of the best available scientific information…I am very concerned about this. It is critical that the Council relies upon the best scientific information available when making its final decisions because we cannot approve measures that are contrary to that information.”

Bullard concludes his letter by reiterating the shortcomings of the recommendations in regards to the Council’s own goals, and warns the Council that, in its currents state, GARFO would be unable to approve much of the Amendment:

“There is an appearance that the collective suite of alternatives being recommended to the Council by the Committee substantially decreases habitat protection in New England, and fails to meet the Amendment’s goals and objectives…this is particularly evident in the Central Gulf of Maine and on Georges Bank.”

“Based on our preliminary evaluation of the Committee recommendations, we believe we would not be able to approve substantial portions of the Amendment if the Council adopts the Committee recommendations in full. I strongly encourage all of the Council members to consider the long-term implications of the decisions to be made at this upcoming meeting.”

You can read John Bullard’s full letter here.


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