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
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
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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