GloucesterTimes.com, Gloucester, MA

Letters/My View

March 6, 2013

My View: Science, sense needed in fishing's 'human crisis'

The human crisis in the groundfishing industry is a real crisis. It is not contrived, it is not looming, it is not a threat, it is here.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) and the New England Fisheries Management Council (NEFMC) have all realized, and admitted, that the scientific conclusions that guided their fisheries management system over the past decade are wrong. The government’s cuts to the New England 2013 groundfish allocations to the fishing fleet are 77 percent of the previous year’s anemic allocations. The reason for these cuts is that the science that was used to determine allocations indicates that many of the ground fisheries are in peril due to “overfishing.”

Interestingly though, the New England groundfishing fleet, while operating in good faith under NOAA’s management plans, has each year caught only about 40 percent of its stock allocations, hardly “overfishing.” No, “overfishing” is not the reason the fisheries are in danger. The reason is that, over a period of years, the government’s scientific stock assessments were not gathered, compiled or interpreted correctly by NOAA. These miscalculations and faulty assumptions have caused the government’s management plans to fail.

NOAA’s indifference to the human aspect of fishing communities is no longer tolerable. We in the fishing communities know; that fishing families are being decimated, that working waterfront infrastructures are being lost, and that the culture and heritage of the fishing communities of New England will shortly become a memory.

We all agree that accurate science is crucial to establishing a sustainable fisheries management plan. The retooling of the science and establishing effective fisheries management plans will take the government, at the very least, several years. While the government reconstitutes its scientific procedures, it cannot turn a blind eye to the devastating effect of its 77 percent cut in ground fish allocations. No fisherman or family can survive a 77 percent reduction in stock allocation.

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