, Gloucester, MA

February 19, 2013

Editorial: Rollover quota spotlights absurd 2013 cod cuts

Gloucester Daily Times

---- — It’s good to see that John Bullard, the Gloucester-based NOAA Northeast regional administrator, has agreed to extend a 10 percent carryover of uncaught fishing quota to the new fishing year for most species.

As Bullard noted, current federal fishery management regulations allow up to 10 percent of unused quota to be carried forward to another year, and that indeed “provides fishermen with some flexibility on when they fish — so they can avoid bad weather and take advantage of times of year when fish are available and prices are highest.”

Yet there is a stock conspicuous by its absence. That is the Gulf of Maine cod, for which NOAA’s 77 percent cuts for the 2013 and 2014 fishing years are seriously threatening the existence of virtually the entire cod fishery, and with it, the earning power of the Gloucester fleet. And, while Bullard is allowing some cod quota carryover – a whopping 1.85 percent — this limited carryover once again cries out for a needed, cooperative confirmation of the data that has led to the “economic disaster” federal officials have already declared.

There is a context to the limited cod carryover. Bullard and NOAA officials have no doubt calculated that a 10-percent carryover for Gulf of Maine cod would essentially serve as fishermen’s entire 2013 fishing year quota under the new limits. Yet remember that all of this is predicated on two things:

The reliability of NOAA’s scientific data that has spawned these new limits; and there are all sorts of questions about NOAA’s latest assessment figures, with no frank-and-file fishermen who know the waters allowed input into the study.

Bullard’s own interpretation — backed by NOAA’s general counsel, Lois Schiffer, and her shady law enforcement gang — of the Magnuson-Steven Act, which suggests he had no option to extend the current year’s 22-pecent interim cut for a second year. That stand is widely refuted by the Gloucester-based Northeast Seafood Coalition, and by several members of Congress, which put the Magnuson-Stevens’ mandates in place and urged Bullard to reconsider.

NOAA officials will no doubt portray that the lack of a 10-percent rollover shows the dire level of cod stocks. It shows no such thing, given the reliability of NOAA science that’s been proven laughably unereliable in the past.

It does, however, show the dire level of the agency’s forced cuts and the havoc they are about to foist upon the economic well being of countlesss fishermen, their families, their small businesses and fishing communities like Gloucester itself. That should grab the attention of all congressional lawmakers and the administration alike.