New England Fisheries

John Bullard Condemns the Status Quo as NEFMC Prepares to Discuss Groundfish Monitoring

Photo credit: Joachim S. Mueller.

Tomorrow the New England Fishery Management Council will begin its discussion of changing the monitoring program in the groundfish fishery through Amendment 23. The Council initiated a scoping process on the Amendment at the beginning of 2017 to gather input from stakeholders about the range of alternatives the Council should consider, specific issues to be addressed, and potential ways to update reporting methodology.

Based on the summary of comments provided by the Plan Development Team, majority of the commenters were either from the fishing industry or the environmental community. To generalize, many fishermen seem most concerned about cost effectiveness of the monitoring program, while environmental groups are concerned with overfishing and compliance with catch limits. Although commenters disagreed about the particulars, there is a general consensus that the current monitoring system is not working.

It’s clear that NOAA Regional Administrator John Bullard shares this sentiment as well. In a recent blog, he called out those who complain about the system but still choose to only point fingers and not take any action to change. Although there is no “silver bullet,” he said, “The status quo is short-sighted and leaves us with few options.”

Bullard provides a few fundamental ideas for how he believes we can see improvement in the groundfish fishery. In terms of monitoring and Amendment 23 that means:

“An improved monitoring program that will provide full accountability and full coverage. The program will tap into emerging technologies with increased use of electronic monitoring coverage…The resulting increase in accuracy and shared sense of responsibility for effective monitoring and management of this fishery may allow uncertainty buffers to be reduced, which could then allow us to increase quotas.”

That last part should really be emphasized. Even though groups may disagree, the end goal for everyone is the same: a healthy fishery, strong fishing communities, and the ability to sustainably harvest fish. Given the past and current hardships of the groundfish industry, it may take some time to fully get there, but improved monitoring is one big step in the right direction.

You can continue reading Bullard’s ideas for improving the fishery here.


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