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Georges Bank on the Habitat Chopping Block

The New England Fishery Management Council’s (NEFMC) Habitat Committee continues to show complete disregard for habitat protection. Up for consideration at the Committee’s Monday meeting was an industry-introduced proposal (Alternative 9) to open critical areas of Georges Bank as part of the Omnibus Habitat Amendment. … More Info »

A Habitat Committee Without Particular Concern for Habitat

Is New England’s fishery management system broken? It certainly seems so after last week, when the stakeholder body that designs and recommends plans and methodologies for managing our fisheries flagrantly ignored the direction of its parent agency, the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS), as well as the wishes of a large segment of the public that ultimately owns the resource. … More Info »

Habitat Protection: Council Apparently Unclear on the Concept

All discipline and adherence to scientific goals and guidance was lost when the Council decided the fate of fish habitat in the central Gulf of Maine by allowing new bottom trawling in nearly three-quarters of the existing Cashes Ledge groundfish protected area – an area which had been protected for the last 15 years. The Council’s choice for this sub-region ignored the goals and objectives of the OHA, which include protecting habitat that supports critical fish life stages, protecting fish spawning areas and enhancing groundfish productivity. … More Info »

Head in the Sand: Industry Steams in Full Reverse on Need for Habitat Protection

With this developing tragedy as a backdrop, the New England Fishery Management Council this week undertakes its first major step in defining protection for vulnerable ocean habitat – the same habitat that our depleted groundfish need if they are ever to recover. The decisions of the Council and NMFS on the pending Omnibus Habitat Amendment will be critical to the future ecological and commercial health and resilience of our ocean and will provide an indication of the seriousness with which our fisheries and ocean managers take this impending crisis. … More Info »

New England Council: Get Your Facts Straight Before Acting on Habitat

With New England’s groundfish populations at historic lows and the prognosis for recovery not getting any better wouldn’t you think that any decision affecting these places—even preliminary ones—would be made with a full review of the best and most complete scientific research and data? And yet it appears the NEFMC has plans to do precisely the opposite. … More Info »

A Squandered Opportunity for Habitat Protection

The New England Fisheries Management Council is struggling to effectively manage significantly depleted stocks like cod, yellowtail flounder and Gulf of Maine haddock while simultaneously coping with unprecedented changes to the ocean environment caused by climate change. These challenges cry out for long term strategies designed to protect and stabilize ocean habitat and buffer against climate impacts. Why, then, is the NEFMC on the verge of squandering an opportunity to employ such critical strategies in its long-awaited fish habitat protection plan? … More Info »

Putting the Cart Before the Horse: Opening Closed Areas Isn’t Worth the Risk

New England’s cod populations are at their lowest levels in history, thanks to decades of chronic overfishing and habitat destruction. Fisheries scientists agree that protecting vital fish habitat is key to restoring these once-plentiful fish species. How does the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) respond? Yesterday NOAA proposed to allow new bottom trawling and other forms of commercial fishing in areas of New England’s ocean that have been protected for almost twenty years. … More Info »

Almost Too Ugly for Words: A Sordid Case of Fishery Council Inaction

An extraordinary milestone was achieved last month in the middle of an otherwise unremarkable meeting of the New England Fisheries Management Council. After fifteen years of foot dragging, delaying and doing as little as possible to comply with legal requirements that it protect the habitat of the fisheries that it manages, the New England Fishery Management Council finally developed and voted to further analyze for final vote in November a potentially meaningful set of proposed habitat protection measures known as the Omnibus Habitat Amendment. This might have been cause for celebration if not for the fact that this required step was largely forced upon an irresponsible Council by the National Marine Fisheries Service. … More Info »

To help GOM cod, NMFS should not touch closed areas

It’s been widely reported that at its February meeting, the New England Fishery Management Council voted to ask the National Marine Fisheries Service to take emergency action on Gulf of Maine cod for the 2012 fishing year. The measures proposed, including a mere 3-13% reduction in the catch limit, were notable largely for their failure to address the condition of the depleted cod stock. But there is an aspect of the proposed package that has received little attention, which is troubling, because it would have NMFS open up five of the six existing areas currently closed to groundfishing. … More Info »