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April 8, 2013

Fishing councilor pushes for change

A scientist and member of the New England Fishery Management Council, citing multiple failures within the current system, is asked his colleagues to consider a series of radical and controversial changes in fisheries management that he asserts is in line with advanced scientific research papers and essential to the survival of the region’s fishing fleet.

”Overall,” council member David Goethel wrote in a March 3 letter to the panel’s chairman, Rip Cunningham, “these papers demonstrate that the current management program will guarantee the destruction of the groundfishing fleet with negligible benefits to the fish.”

Recognizing the time required to make proposed transformations, Goethel, a biologist and commercial fisherman from Hampton, N.H., also urged the council, an arm of NOAA, to ask Congress to suspend 10-year rebuilding deadlines for weakened stocks, and loosen recommended draconian catch limits for the annual fishing cycle beginning May 1, and introduce interim catch limits — allowing more fishing while the science of fisheries management is modernized.

Letters were sent from lawmakers and others last Monday to NOAA’s acting administrator for fisheries, and last Thursday to Gov. Deval Patrick, imploring him to intervene with President Obama sought similar relief to save the groundfishing industry. which faces enormous cuts in landings beginning May 1 that are widely believed to sound the death knell for the nation’s oldest industry.

Goethel, who is completing his final term on the council, having served the maximum three, three-year terms, wrote to Cunningham that he intended to introduce his ideas as motions for debate and vote at the April 24 meeting of the council in Mystic, Conn.

In a telephone interview, Goethel said he expected the motions to be highly controversial because they challenge the longstanding practices of NOAA and the council which he said have self-evidently failed to achieve the goals of the Magnuson-Stevens Act — to preserve the wild resources at a maximum sustainable level and also generate the greatest output for the fishing communities and the nation’s economy.

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