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LETTER TO THE EDITOR – November 21, 2002

Restoring Faith in Fisheries Management

The Massachusetts Fishermen’s Partnership (MFP) joins with NOAA Fisheries, the congressional delegation, and virtually all stakeholders in calling for more time to resolve questions about fisheries science. There should be no surprise that NOAA Fisheries has been unable to meet unreasonable deadlines set by a federal court in the development of new fishing regulations for Northeast groundfish stocks. 

  The court is requiring implementation of new regulations by August 2003. Many questions remain about the research trawls on which the science is based. A key research vessel is in dry dock for maintenance for as much as six months. Management measures proposed based on current NOAA Fisheries scientific reports could eliminate 91% of the current fishing fleet. New regulations with such devastating impacts on communities must be based upon sound science.

The Massachusetts Congressional Delegation and others have called for a dedicated task force to address the issues. This Northeast Fisheries Science Task Force will employ the resources and skills of fishermen and state marine fisheries agencies, as well as other scientists to help NOAA Fisheries resolve issues and restore confidence in fisheries science. Massachusetts fisheries are the most heavily impacted by the groundfish controversy. Massachusetts Division of Marine Fisheries director, Paul Diodati, is convening this task force. There are many issues the task force needs to focus on, including:

  • Resolving differences of scientific advice, multiple rebuilding targets and overfishing definitions: The task force should coordinate state and other research institutions to review new surveys and to reassess rebuilding targets and fishing rates necessary to reach them.
  • Ensuring accurate data in the NOAA Fisheries survey trawls: Only professional fishermen working in partnership with the scientists are experienced to deploy and operate fishing gear.
    Beyond the natural science questions, the law requires credible socio-economic analyses of proposed regulations. The Massachusetts Fishermen’s Partnership and others are working to meet this need. These efforts must be supported and coordinated with the management development process.

Implementation of new regulations must be delayed as long as necessary to allow The Northeast Fisheries Science Task Force and others involved in social science research to collect and analyze the complete and accurate science needed for genuine sustainable fisheries management.

David Bergeron, Executive Director
Massachusetts Fishermen’s Partnership

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