GloucesterTimes.com, Gloucester, MA

June 20, 2012

Lawmaker forms new fishery research panel

By Richard Gaines
Staff Writer

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.

"I envision that the Advisory Board will work with industry and NOAA to focus on the problems and issues of a sustainable fishery and stocks," Keating said in an email. "The board, however, will also gather information independent from NOAA and analyze it objectively. Ultimately, the partnerships created by this board will help facilitate the changes necessary in the industry."

Keating thanked "consistent champions for our fishermen" in the Massachusetts delegation, naming Frank, Congressmen John Tierney, who represents Cape Ann, and Stephen Lynch of Boston.

Also serving on the board are Paul Diodati, director of marine fisheries in Massachusetts, and his deputy David Pierce, who serves on the New England Fisheries Management Council.

Diodati and Rothschild are co-chairmen of the Massachusetts Marine Fisheries Institute, an organization that provided Gov. Deval Patrick with the research he submitted to Commerce Secretary John Bryson last November intended to prove that the catch share system, which commodified the groundfishery in 2010, had brought about a social and economic disaster.

Also appointed to the advisory board were Richie Canastra, who owns BASE, the region's leading auction business with outlets in Gloucester and Boston and based in New Bedford, and treasurer of the Northeast Seafood Coalition; Tom Dempsey, policy director of the Cape Cod Commercial Hook Fishermen's Association; Laura Ramsden Foley, an owner of Foley Fish Co. in Boston and New Bedford; and retired New Bedford fisherman Rodney Avila.

Dempsey, Foley and Avila also serve on the New England Fishery Management Council, the policy, science and political arm of the National Oceanic and Atmosheric Administration's Northeast Regional Office in Gloucester.

Rothschild said the board would meet regularly and irregularly, as required, using video satellite conferencing technology.

The announcement of the advisory board featured presentations on the performance of fishery management generally and specifically on NOAA's interpretation of National Standard 8, which requires the government to make conservation policies that "provide for the sustained participation" of fishing communities and "to the extent practicable, minimize adverse economic impacts on such communities."

Richard Gaines can be reached at 978-283-7000 x3464, or rgaines@#gloucestertimes.com.