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March 16, 2013

NOAA economic report seen as 'sham'

Sales, job data doesn't add up, fishermen say

NOAA's annual statistical progress report on the vitality of the nation's fishing industry, which traditionally accentuates the positive, indicates that 2011 produced the "highest landings volume since 1997 and the highest value" in dollars "ever recorded."

The massive document of narrative, charts and figures provided fodder for the testimony Wednesday by Samuel D. Rauch III, the deputy assistant administrator at NOAA, before the House Natural Resources Committee's opening hearing in the lengthy process of rewriting and reauthorizing the Magnuson-Stevens Act.

Pulling from "Fisheries Economics of the United States 2011," Rauch testified to the committee that the seafood industry — including imports and multiplier effects — generated $129 billion in sale impacts and supported 1.2 million jobs while the recreational fishing sector generated $70 billion in sales impacts and 455,000 jobs.

But questions about the credibility, historical and editorial objectivity of the report from multiple sources across the industry and elsewhere are raising doubts about the integrity of the document, which was developed in the Economics and Social Analysis Division of the National Marine Fisheries Service's Office of Science and Technology in Silver Spring, Md.

Members of the recreational fishing sector have questioned statistical claims about the growth of their industry between 2008 and 2011. And the fishing industry website SavingSeafood.org has disputed the claim in the narrative report about NOAA's resurrection of the scalloping industry..

Finally, "Fisheries Economic of the United States 2011" restates the boiler plate language used by recently departed NOAA Administrator Jane Lubehenco to explain the benefits of managing wild resource fisheries through commodity markets trading in catch shares, but it neglects to note that the catch share experiment in the Northeast groundfishery since 2010 has brought the commercial industry into a socio-economic disaster, which was declared by the acting commerce secretary in September 2012. The 2011 annual report was published in January 2013, a month before Lubchenco resigned to return to academia.

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