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November 4, 2013

Fed panel hears pleas for fishing reforms

The Magnuson-Stevens Act reauthorization road show hit Boston on Monday, when U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren hosted a State House session that again left fishing advocates questioning the science that serves as the basis for so many federal policies governing the nation’s fisheries.

The session featured numerous speakers and drew a large audience of policymakers, federal and state politicians, as well as fishing and conservation advocates.

“If folks in Washington are really looking for a path to help rebuild and sustain the fishery, they got the answers to that today,” said Massachusetts Senate Minority Leader Bruce Tarr, R-Gloucester. “The one message that came through loud and clear for everyone is the science is inadequate, and the decisions based on that science, by extension, are questionable.”

Tarr was part of a large Gloucester contingent at the session that included state Rep. Ann-Margaret Ferrante, Northeast Seafood Coalition executive director Jackie Odell and policy director Vito Giacalone, and Angela Sanfilippo from the Gloucester Fishermen’s Wives Association.

They were joined by U.S. Rep. John Tierney and both Massachusetts senators, Warren and Edward Markey. Gov. Deval Patrick also attended a portion of the hearings.

The congressional contingent included Alaska Sen. Mark Begich, the Democrat who chairs the Senate subcommittee on Oceans, Atmosphere, Fisheries and Coast Guard.

That subcommittee is at the center of the ongoing effort to reauthorize the Magnuson-Stevens Act, which regulates the nation’s fisheries and fishing industry.

Begich told the audience the reauthorization legislation should be ready by the middle of 2014.

Giacalone testified that much of the destruction to the Northeast multispecies fisheries is a result of a failed federal policy “pretending to know the unknown and control the uncontrollable.”

He told Warren, Begich and Markey that the three elemental components of any fish stock are natural mortality, the growth rate of the stock and recruitment — the measure of how many first-year fish make it into a given fishery.

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