The head of the NOAA-affiliated New England Fishery Management Council has told NOAA Northeast Regional administrator John Bullard than the panel stands opposed to Bullard’s call for fishermen venturing into newly opened areas off Cape Cod and Nantuck to bear the full cost of NOAA-mandated on-board monitors for any such trips.
In a letter dated July 26, Council Chairman C.M. “Rip” Cunningham told Bullard that the monitoring cost requirement may prevent virtually any fishermen from participating in the program.
He notes that as a result of the fragile economic state of many participants, the increased costs to fund observers may not be affordable. He also noted that little, if any, justification for this requirement was provided other than two general statements which the Council did not find convincing.
“Little, if any, justification is provided other than general statements that without higher coverage rates, ‘discard rates would be difficult to estimate because there is little catch history in these areas’ and the higher coverage would ‘allow (the National Marine Fisheries Service) to monitor whether vessels are interacting with protected species,’” Cunningham wrote. “Neither argument is convincing ...”
The letter follows a July 10 announcement in which Bullard, essentially saying he and the agency want to provide relief to fishermen dealing with a federally declared “economic disaster” and 2013 fishing year cuts of up to 78 percent in their landing limits, formally launched proposals to open portions of previously closed fishing areas.
NOAA spokeswoman Maggie Mooney-Seus — based, like Bullard, at NOAA’s Northeast regional headquarters in Gloucester’s Blackburn Industrial Park — indicated that the areas to opened would includes parts — but not all — of Areas I and II and the Nantucket Light Ship area. Mooney-Seus also noted that the change would primarily provide a boost only to the larger trawlers due to the distance to the grounds from Cape Ann; it would not be expected to help the smaller, independent day boats that make up Gloucester’s remaining but shrinking groundfishing fleet.