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June 20, 2012

Lawmaker forms new fishery research panel

A high-profile federal fishing advisory board, including major industry figures from Gloucester, New Bedford and Cape Cod and aimed at providing a research and policy counterweight to the federal fisheries regulatory system, has been organized by Congressman William Keating.

Brian Rothschild, the chief marine scientist at the University of Massachusetts Dartmouth, will be chairman.

"Fisheries management is stagnant," Rothschild said in remarks at the introduction of the board last week in Plymouth. "Many suggestions and requests have been made to move management forward, yet these suggestions and requests are not addressed.

"The main purpose of the Federal Fishing Management Advisory Board is to change this situation," said Rothschild, who is closely allied with Congressman Barney Frank, a longtime leading fisheries advocate who represents the port of New Bedford.

Among the top problems slated for analysis and critique are stock assessments. These efforts became hyper-controversial when a 2011 assessment of Gulf of Maine cod, which found the stock was not recovering quickly and was being overfished, seemingly contradicted a 2008 assessment that drew a rosy picture of efforts to restore the iconic resource to sustainability. The 2011 assessment has led to a 22 percent cut in the inshore cod allocation for the 2012 fishing year, but more dramatic and draconian impacts are expected in the next cycle, which begins May 1, 2013. Another assessment is planned for later this year.

Gloucester members of the board are Vito Giacalone, a fisherman and policy director of the Northeast Seafood Coalition, and Jackie Odell, the coalition's executive director. Giacalone is also president of the Gloucester Fishing Community Preservation Fund, which was established as a permit bank endowed with $10 million in mitigation for the two liquefied natural gas terminals just off the coast.

"The Federal Fishing Advisory Board, which will consist of fishermen, scientists, government officials and other members of the fishing industry and related shore-side businesses, will provide an opportunity for all stakeholders to come together, discuss issues facing the fishing industry and look for collaborative solutions," said Keating.

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