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May 3, 2013

NOAA report ignores 'disaster'

Without acknowledging the socio-economic disaster that has befallen the Northeast groundfishery, endangering the scale of the nation’s oldest fishery and the viability of small ports like Gloucester, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Thursday released its annual status of the stocks 2012 — proclaiming “significant continued progress to “end overfishing and rebuild fish stocks.”

In a 400-word cover message, the assistant administrator for fisheries, Samuel D. Rauch III, concentrated on the agency’s successes — noting that, of the 446 stocks managed by NOAA, 10 more were “no longer subject to overfishing,” the biomass of four other stocks have been rebuilt to the point that they are no longer considered overfished, and six other stocks were totally rebuilt.

Overfishing is defined as the taking of a share of the biomass that jeopardized its capacity to reproduce to maximum sustainable yield. The term “overfished” refers to a stock’s biomass and describes a stock’s biomass that is too small to produce maximum sustainable yield.

No longer subject to overfishing in the Northeast are southern New England /Mid-Atlantic windowpane flounder and yellowtail, while the windowpane and redfish are no longer overfished, the report states.

The status of the stocks was addressed to Congress which last month received President Obama’s $8.6 billion budget request for the Department of Commerce, the parent cabinet agency for NOAA.

The department’s budget in brief, submitted by outgoing acting Commerce Secretary Rebecca Blank incorrectly asking for $5.447 million for NOAA — the agency meant to write $5.447 “billion” — notes the National Marine Fisheries Service budget request at $896.5 million.

NOAA’s budget, which has been in the billions for years, came under intense scrutiny by Congress last year in the wake of revelations that NOAA had made unauthorized shifts of $43.8 million, according to an internal investigation, from weather forecasting to bonuses and extensions to contractors, outlined in a report by MSNBC.

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