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October 24, 2010

Report shows room for hikes in fish limits

A state university report in response to Commerce Secretary Gary Locke's call for the New England fishing industry and fishing communities to make their case for "emergency" boosts in groundfish stock limits has found scientific data to support increases in fishermen's annual allowable catch.

The report marks the first definitive step in the state's and communities' effort to make the case for higher catch limits that would free up the tight federal regulatory clamps that have kept many Gloucester and New England fishing boats on shore for much of the summer out of fear they would quickly use up their full allocations for the new fishing year, which began May 1.

As reported in the Times, statistics from the first quarter of the new fishing year showed that the fleet has landed only 8.6 percent of the 95,257.6 metric tons of mixed groundfish that was allocated for the year.

The new report, outlined Friday in New Bedford at a Mayor's Oceans and Fisheries Council meeting hosted by New Bedford Mayor Scott Lang, was developed by Steve Cadrin, Kevin Stokesbury, Dan Georgianna, Emily Keiley, and Cate O'Keefe of the University of Massachusetts at Dartmouth's School for Marine Science and Technology, together with David Pierce of the Massachusetts Division of Marine Fisheries.

UMass-Dartmouth's marine studies program is led by marine scientist Brian Rothschild, who is also credited with providing assistance in the report. Rothschild and the UMass-Dartmouth program have previously outlined independent data that contradicts that used by the government through NOAA trawling surveys.

The new report finds that increased ACLs (allowable catch limits) can be scientifically justified.

"In summary, scientific information is available to support increased Annual Catch Limits (ACLs) for New England groundfish that do not undermine conservation mandates of the Magnuson-Stevens Act," the report indicates.

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