GloucesterTimes.com, Gloucester, MA

Opinion

March 25, 2013

Editorial: Influx of cod must spark feds to delay limit cuts

The return of cod to nearby Stellwagen Bank, as documented by a number of area fishermen and by the findings through landings at Gloucester’s two waterfront auctions last week (see news story, Page 1) is certainly good news for Gloucester and other New England fishermen.

And it should mean a busy week ahead for those who have expected the great New England fish’s cyclical return before one of those infamous NOAA rolling closures essentially shuts down the fishery April 1.

But the influx of cod must be seen as bad news by those esteemed NOAA “scientists” and officials who, with the help of their closely-related environmental nonprofit spin doctors, have poured countless PR dollars and effort into spreading the false word that, indeed, the cod stocks are so diminished — especially from the Gulf of Maine — that we need to cut those fishermen’s 2013 quota by a job- and industry-killing 77 percent.

For the influx of cod — and just what fishermen have been expecting all along – raises significant red flags regarding the NOAA trawl surveys and stock assessments that, despite renewed and ongoing credibility questions, has led to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s and its New England Fishermen Management Council’s dire limits that are set to take hold May 1, just 5 1/2 weeks from today. And it cries out NOAA Northeast administrator John Bullard or higher Commerce officials in Washington to grant an extension — perhaps for a year, maybe even less — for the interim limits now in place, a step Bullard has declined to take.

This is, of course, hardly the first time that NOAA science has been show to be less than credible, if not absolutely worthless. We could start with the infamous Trawlgate debacle of 1999-2000, when NOAA’s trawl studies were carried out the wrong size nets, meaning targeted stocks could swim right through, creating a false perception that the stocks were down. Then came the surveys of 2009-2010, so skewed that NOAA officials had to “adjust” them by raising the fishery limit on pollock by a mere 600 percent.

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