GloucesterTimes.com, Gloucester, MA

March 29, 2013

Letter: NOAA system needs thorough overhaul


Gloucester Daily Times

---- — To the editor:

Three years ago, I watched a horrifying movie at Gloucester High School which showed fishermen having to throw overboard half, if not more, of everything they caught.

They couldn’t even give away their bycatch to the needy — all those fish dead, overboard and doing nobody any good.

According to Vito Giacalone, who talked last week at the Maritime Museum, improvements in the nets have reduced bycatch discards to 5 percent. Is this really the situation now?

Then there are the monitors. NOAA hires private contractors to oversee what the fishermen are doing. Some of these guys have never been on a boat. How can they get an accurate weight when the boats are rolling and pitching on the high seas and they are leaning over the rails seasick?

Moreover, the monitoring occurs for only a fraction of the total vessels. These statistics, as well as the landing statistics, are major. As they work their way into the quota system, “Voila!” We have a 77 percent cut in cod scheduled to occur on May 1.

Meanwhile, the fishermen are being charged for discards that they didn’t even catch. The kept/discard ratio is way off across all species. There shouldn’t have to be discards in the first place.

Like Scott Memhard of Cape Pond Ice said, “It’s like death from a thousand cuts.”

Ditto for the fishermen and their families.

The system is more than broken. We can do a lot better than this. With all its bells and whistles, NOAA has got to get serious and do a major overhaul of the whole system.

I suggest that NOAA put the monitors on land where they belong, count everything, quit penalizing the fishermen and pay them instead, and give everybody another year’s grace to show their stuff.

Like my dad said, “If you’re going to dream, dream big and go for your dreams.”

SUSAN WALLER

Rockport