GloucesterTimes.com, Gloucester, MA

Opinion

February 23, 2013

NOAA chief owes fishermen apology

To the editor:

We’re writing to you today in response to the story headlined “Fishermen look to White House” (the Times, Page 1, Thursday, Feb. 22).

This is an extremely challenging time for the commercial groundfish industry, in particular the groundfish-dependent port of Gloucester.

All segments of the fleet are faced with radical reductions in catch limits on critical stocks set to begin on May 1. These cuts will undoubtedly bring our industry to its knees. In turn, this hurt will trickle down and affect fishing communities, shore-side businesses that depend on our landings, and American seafood consumers.

Unfortunately, this was caused by the failure of Magnuson-Stevens, the law under which we operate, to accept and come to grips with the fact that current scientific capabilities are inadequate to manage this fishery. The system is broken and does not reflect the reality of today’s fishery.

Yet, according to NOAA’s Northeast Regional Administrator John Bullard, it’s our “day of reckoning.” In Thursday’s article, Mr. Bullard says industry “played a significant role” in the demise of the fishery. However, for more than a decade, fishermen have fished at or below catch limits. Plus, less than three years ago, the whole fishery transitioned to hard total allowable catches under the catch-share management system.

There is more accountability in the fishery today than there ever has been in history. What is to “reckon?” What “significant role” did we play?

We can only attribute Mr. Bullard’s unfortunate statements to his lack of recent experience within the groundfish fishery. Over the summer, we met with Mr. Bullard when he was new to the job and conducting “listening sessions.” Then, he assured us that he would do the right thing.

Now that we find ourselves in the midst of a fisheries management disaster, we call upon Mr. Bullard to “listen” and learn once again from fishermen and the leaders who represent us as to the reality under which our businesses are forced to operate.

We welcome, encourage and challenge Mr. Bullard to meet face-to-face with fishermen to apologize for his misguided statements.

JOSEPH ORLANDO

Gloucester,

Captain, FV Padre Pio

ALBERT COTTONE

Gloucesterina Maria, Gloucester

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