New England Fisheries

NEFMC’s “Knockout Blow for American Fish Stocks”

Atlantic cod are considered a "choke species" in the Gulf of Maine. Photo credit: Dieter Craasman.

New England fishery managers dealt the “one-two punch to the Georges Bank and Gulf of Maine cod stocks [that] may be the knockout blow,” says Oceana Fisheries Campaign Manager Gib Brogan. Brogan’s op-ed in the New York Times criticizes two most recent actions taken by the New England Fishery Management Council: 1) the drastic reduction of protected ocean habitat in New England and 2) the request for suspension of at-sea on-board fisheries monitors.

In a comment on the op-ed, Appointed Council Member Dave Preble stated that the Council’s action “can neither maintain the fisheries that are currently profitable, nor can they bring back the fisheries that are unprofitable, including those, like the iconic cod, that have collapsed.”

Last summer’s Gulf of Maine cod stock assessment revealed that the population was at only 3 to 4 percent of its target levels, and according to Brogan’s op-ed, Georges Bank cod stocks are only at 7 percent of their target levels (a new Georges Bank stock assessment is expected this fall).

“Attempts to make up for decades of mismanagement and overfishing have ranged from changes in quotas to closures of the fishery,” says Brogan, “But measures like these take time, and the stock has not yet recovered.”

The fishing industry, however, says it cannot afford to wait for closures, and the Council has continued to cave to industry pressure, especially from the scallop and groundfish industries.

This is problematic not only for our fish populations, but for the industries themselves. Brogan emphasizes, “As they try to stay in business in the short term, they are risking the long-term existence of their fisheries. Closures, however painful, are vital for their survival. Weakening protections will undoubtedly continue the collapse of groundfish stocks, including Atlantic cod.”

On the subject of suspending at-sea monitors, Brogan says, “The industry is trying to renege on its responsibilities by pressuring the council to eliminate the program. When the bank balance is low, it isn’t time to fire the accountant.”

Brogan concludes his op-ed in strong favor of management measures that support the long-term health and profitability of our fish populations and fishing industry:  “The temporary price of protecting habitats and monitoring and enforcing quotas should be seen as an investment in the future. It may take years to begin to fully appreciate the returns on these investments, but anything less would be irresponsible, and ultimately far more painful to the people who depend on a healthy ocean for their livelihoods.”

Since yesterday, the op-ed has received nearly 200 comments, majority of which echo Brogan’s conservation sentiment.

You can read the full op-ed and comments here.


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