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May 15, 2012

NOAA sustainability reports shows new gains

NOAA made its annual report Monday to Congress on the status of the nation's fish stocks, and noted that, in 2011 the so-called Fish Stock Sustainability Index — a kind of Dow Jones Industrial Average for 230 key fish stocks — continued improving for the 11th straight year.

When the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration created the index in 2000, it stood at 357.5; after 2011 it was at 598.5, an improvement of more than 67 percent, according to Monday's report.

The index calculations are shorthand for slow, steady improvement, which Emily Menashes, deputy director of the Office of Sustainable Fisheries, and Galen Tromble, chief of the Domestic Fisheries Division, emphasized in their joint national teleconference. The presentation came as the NOAA budget for fiscal 2013 remains divided, having cleared the House and the Senate Commerce Committee with a variety of amendments needing reconciliation.

The Senate version would defund the Northeast Division offices here in Gloucester and consolidate them in Silver Spring, Md., where NOAA's National Marine Fisheries Service is headquartered.

The House budget would not allow NOAA to fund new catch share commodification regimens, such as the one that has been used in the New England groundfishery for the past two full years, and is starting a third year, under economic, political and legal duress.

Tromble also acknowledged that the discouraging 2011 benchmark stock assessment of Gulf of Maine cod, which showed that the linchpin stock of New England's inshore fleet not rebuilding quickly, was not peer-reviewed in time to include it in the Annual Report to Congress on the Status of the Stocks, as required by the Magnuson-Stevens Act.

The slippage in the expectation for Gulf of Maine cod was not an isolated case. Georges Bank cod and yellowtail flounder — also important stocks for Gloucester and New England's groundfishermen — were found in disappointing in numbers in updated assessments.

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