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September 13, 2013

Report fuels Giacalone's fishing testimony

He had already finished preparing his testimony last week for the congressional committee on the re-authorization of the Magnuson-Stevens Act when the National Research Council report on rebuilding fish stocks fell into his lap like manna from heaven.

With that, Gloucester’s Vito Giacalone went to Washington with a little more credibility in his Wednesday testimony before the House Committee on Natural Resources.

“I thought (the NRC report) was notable enough to take up a portion of my five minutes,” Giacalone said Thursday of his testimony. “Who cares what ‘Guido’ has to say? They want to know what the NRC has to say.”

Clearly, the committee wanted to hear exactly what Giacalone had to say, both as a long-time commercial fisherman and as policy director for the Gloucester-based Northeast Seafood Coalition.

But it also didn’t hurt the coalition’s cause that many of the conclusions of the recently released NRC report dovetailed nicely with what Giacalone wanted to impart to the committee members — particularly on issues related to scientific uncertainty and the need for more flexibility in managing stocks.

“The basic management strategy set forth in (Magnuson-Stevens) places demands on science that far exceed its capacity in the case of Northeast groundfish,” Giacalone testified. “In many ways, it feels like our fishery is the poster child for their findings and recommendations.”

The NRC report’s findings, which also complimented NOAA in its efforts to rebuild U.S. fish stocks, highlighted the limitations of the science used in the rebuilding and questioned the value of the 10-year timelines imposed by Magnuson-Stevens.

“A time frame-based rebuilding strategy depends on relative stability and, thus, predictability of population parameters that cannot be controlled,” Giacalone told the committee. “In our fishery, none of that stability exists.”

Giacalone and the other half-dozen scientists and researchers testifying before the committee agreed that, overall, Magnuson-Stevens has provided effective management of the nation’s fisheries. But they also agreed there are areas in which the law could be strengthened.

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