To the editor:
Well, well, it appears that there is chink in the armor of the Times' relentless anti-NOAA message.
New reports indicate that big offshore boats with modified groundfishing gear may be coming closer inshore at times, taking significant quantities of cod and other fish, and landing them as offshore fish.
Is it possible that these unreported takings help to explain the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's recent lower cod biomass estimate for the Gulf of Maine? Is it possible that we now have another aspect of the issue, rather than the drumbeat of accusations of government incompetence and job-killing hostility toward the fishing industry?
Any critique of NOAA's science and policy should acknowledge three things:
Estimating biomass of wild, open ocean fish populations must be among the most difficult biological field work anywhere.
NOAA is trying to manage a resource seriously diminished from its historic state;
Many things may be going on out there — like offshore boats sneaking in and taking Gulf fish — that we're all unaware of.
Most of us Times readers have little idea about the methodology used to measure fish stocks, and some may even have gotten used to the paper's notion that the government's estimates are always wrong and the fishermen's rosy evaluations are always right.
Here's a suggestion: Give Mr. Gaines or maybe another writer however many column inches he needs to write one or more articles about the science of fish biomass, and what scientists now say about its strengths and weaknesses.
Another would be to get to the bottom of all unreported Gulf of Maine landings so that we may get a clear picture of the pressure being brought to bear on groundfish stocks.
Indian Rock Lane, Essex