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April 25, 2013

Fish panel eyes changes, declines 'interim' call

Acknowledging climate regime change, notably fast warming water in the once fish-rich Northwest Atlantic, the New England Fishery Management Council Wednesday approved a trio of changes in deciding how catch limits are calculated, outlined earlier by biologist and commercial fisherman David Goethel.

The council agreed with near unanimity to motions derived by Goethel from his March 4 letter to the council which cited six peer-reviewed scientific journal articles that together, he wrote, “demonstrate that the current management program will guarantee the destruction of the groundfish fleet with negligible benefits to the fish.”

At its three day meeting in Mystic, Conn., the council, a policy advisory arm of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, also voted to:

”Map changes to spawning sites and the general distribution of all groundfish” and the impact on the long-term yield from the waters of the Gulf of Maine and Georges Bank as well as the waters of Cape Cod and Southern New England;

”Consider the development of an ecosystem management plan for a priority in 2014; and,

“Calculate new “biological reference points” – the foundation of fishermen’s catch limits — and put them to use as available to modify existing catch limits.

David Pierce, the council representative for Massachusetts and the state’s deputy director of marine fisheries, described Goethel as a “Copernicus,” a reference to the Renaissance astronomer who theorized that the earth circulated the sun, rather than serving as the center of the universe as the Church had always insisted.

Unsuccessful were two other motions by Goethel, a biologist from Hampton,. N.H., who will complete his third three-year council term – the maximum allowed — at its June meeting.

The council, on a 7-10 vote, refused his motion to petition the Secretary of Commerce to approve one year “interim” rebuilding plans for a number of stocks, with those landings to be severely constrained beginning May 1 — next Wednesday. Gulf of Maine cod landings are slated to be reduced by 77 percent, Georges Bank cod and yellowtail flounder by more than 60 percent and many other stocks’ availability also will be curtailed.

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