March 14, 2002
The Honorable Edward M. Kennedy
304 Russell Senate Office Building
Washington , DC
Via fax (617) 565-3183
Dear Senator Kennedy:
We write to ask you to do everything possible to urge that the National
Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) immediately publish a technical correction to
an egregious error in Amendment 9 to the Northeast Multispecies Plan. This
error is causing fish stocks to be classified as “overfished” even if they
are virtually rebuilt to their government targets.
Assistant Administrator for Fisheries William Hogarth spoke publicly at
the Maine Fishermen’s Forum on March 1st on the matter of the definition of
an overfished stock in the Framework 33 lawsuit by the Conservation Law
Foundation and other groups vs. the Secretary of Commerce. Much to everyone’s
relief he said that it is safe to assume that 100% of biomass at maximum
sustainable yield (Bmsy) is not the correct definition of an overfished
stock. It is lower. Otherwise, National Standard 8 for sustaining fishing
communities has no purpose.
The fishing industry has asked NMFS to publish a technical correction to
this error. Such an action is within the agency’s authority.
At issue is the following definition in Amendment 9:
“A stock is overfished when its biomass is less than that which can
produce maximum sustainable yield (Bmsy) on a continuing basis.”
There is no other fishery on earth where this definition applies. This
error clearly removes flexibility for management to use the 10 years mandated
by Congress to rebuild stocks while protecting fishing communities.
This should be corrected to read as National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS)
defined it in its Status of New England Fishery Resources 2001:
“A stock is considered to be overfished if biomass falls below the
Minimum Stock Size Threshold (MSST, or Bthreshold); usually ½ the stock
biomass level that can produce MSY (Bmsy).”
This change would make the definition consistent with the tables included
in the rest of the Amendment 9 document. It will have a huge impact on
fishermen’s livelihoods and the public’s perception of the condition of our
It is very important that this correction be made prior to the March 22
deadline set by Judge Gladys Kessler in the Framework 33 lawsuit.
Thank you for your attention to this urgent request.
David G. Bergeron
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