, Gloucester, MA


April 9, 2013

Editorial: Local fishing forum deserves to get NOAA's attention

Several federal lawmakers are continuing to press for emergency aid for Gloucester and other Northeast groundfishermen — and they should.

It’s now been seven months since the Department of Commerce, parent department of NOAA, recognized the fishery as an “economic disaster,” yet the federal government has done nothing to address it.

And the fishing industry, backed by state lawmakers and others, continues to press NOAA Northeast administrator John Bullard and now even the president to grant an emergency order that could extend the current Gulf of Maine cod limits — or perhaps impose trip quota accumulation caps or other steps — to push back the 77 percent cut in cod limits or otherwise give smaller, independent fishermen a viable chance to make it through another year. That, after all, is something they can’t foresee after the dire new limits take effect May 1.

So, you might think just about every avenue is being explored to help salvage at least something of a fishing year — or really, of the remaining groundfishing fleet.

Yet, that may not be the case. In pulling together a community forum for Wednesday night at The Gloucester House, local activist and former city councillor Valerie Nelson has touched on at least one new alternative — the idea of NOAA redeploying some of the likely sidelined fishing boats to help the agency carry out the kind of credible, cooperative research that NOAA and the industry desperately need. And the 7 p.m. Wednesday forum, which will draw from speakers like The Northeast Seafood Coalition’s Vito Giacalone and retired MIT ocean science professor Damon Cummings of Gloucester, can no doubt raise other potential solutions as well.

To date, of course, NOAA has shown no interest in cooperative research, despite pushes to do so from former U.S. Sen. John Kerry and many others. Yet Nelson is pitching this as part of what she calls a “comprehensive” approach to addressing fishing and other harborfront issues. And in that vein, this forum should hold potential, and deserves community support.

Perhaps most importantly, it deserves the eyes and ears of NOAA officials.

Let’s hope they heed this call — and points raised at the forum, as well.

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