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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 fisheries.

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.

Sincerely,
David G. Bergeron
Coordinator

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