January 15, 2003
Fishermenís Partnership Hails
NOAA Fisheries Decision to Extend Rebuilding Schedule
Partnership Graphs of Catch Projections Support Decision
The decision by NOAA Fisheries head William Hogarth to extend the
rebuilding schedule for New England fish stocks is a major victory for
fishing communities, offering hope that the industry as well as the stocks
will be sustainable.
Numerous organizations joined the Massachusetts Fishermenís Partnership (MFP)
campaign on this issue and all had a hand in advancing the agenda. Particular
thanks must go to the congressional delegation for their support and hard
work. Senators Kerry and Kennedy, Congressmen Frank, Markey, Tierney and
Delahunt have all supported the common sense approach of granting more time
because the goalposts had been moved.
On November 6, 2002, members of the New England Fishery Management Council
under the leadership of Chairman Tom Hill responded to MFP and other industry
comments by voting to create an option in Amendment 13 to the Multispecies
FMP to re-set the clock and request the federal court to grant more time to
create better management. The Councilís vote and Hogarthís decision to
support extending the rebuilding schedule is based on a reading of the whole
law and not just part of the law.
The wisdom of this decision is illustrated by graphs posted on the MFP
The MFP graphs display catch rates or the Total Allowable Catch (TAC) as
projected for certain important species according to the New England Fishery
Management Councilís draft of Amendment 13. The draft relied on the
Groundfish Assessment Review Meeting (GARM) report that advised most fishing
effort be cut by 50% or more and kept low over the next seven years. The
bizarre result would have been the sudden jump by as much as three to four
fold in the catch rates between 2009 and 2010.
It makes better business sense to grow the fish stocks gradually so that
the infrastructure and market can build to accommodate the anticipated
volume. The New England Fishery Management Council estimates that up to 90%
of fishing vessels would go out of business if the GARM reportís fishing
rates required by the old rebuilding schedules were implemented. While NOAA
Fisheries stock assessments continue to show rapid growth in stock abundance
for most species even in the face of research vessel trawl warp errors,
fisheries management should allow for the gradual increase in harvesting
rates over a longer period of time until the stocks are fully rebuilt.
Clearly NOAA Fisheries Administrator William Hogarth has determined that
the scientific understanding of the fish stocks supports coordinating a
reasonable business strategy with a successful rebuilding strategy. The
Magnuson-Stevens Act clearly mandates such linkage whenever it is possible
without endangering rebuilding the fish stocks.
Given continuing dramatic recoveries in fish abundance, it makes perfect
environmental sense to allow New Englandís locally owned fishing vessels to
stay in business and be available for the future gains of rebuilding by
extending the rebuilding deadline.
The MFP began its rebuilding flexibility campaign at the May 2000 New
England Fishery Management Council meeting in Plymouth, MA and has been on
the forefront of this issue ever since. As soon as NOAA fisheries began
discussing the possibility of changing the biological targets, the
Partnership began educating fishermen and the public about the impact of
changing targets without changing the time to reach them.
The Partnership urges the New England Fishery Management Council carefully
examine the new Total Allowable Catch (TAC) projections and to revise its
proposed Amendment 13 management strategy accordingly.
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