2016 fishing review highlights monitors —human and electronic

NOAA’s Greater Atlantic Regional Office released its annual year in review for 2016 and nowhere does it mention the ever-churning debate over Gulf of Maine cod and the yawning divide between scientists’ data and the primary-source observations of fishermen.

For the most part, the report is a four-color chronicle of what officials at Gloucester-based GARFO — which manages the nation’s federal fisheries from the Gulf of Maine south to Cape Hatteras and west to the Great Lakes — consider the agency’s most tangible accomplishments in 2016.

Still, the review gives some insight into some of the agency’s management priorities and policy areas where it may marshal its resources in the future.

It specifically mentions the office’s work in drafting a recovery plan for endangered Atlantic salmon and a five-year action plan for the species. It highlights its work with commercial groundfishermen — many of them from Gloucester — on potential changes to the small-mesh whiting fishery.

The report also highlights the agency’s transfer of the cost of of at-sea monitoring to permit holders.

“This was a difficult transition for a fishery that has been hit hard by quota reductions, but all active sectors were able to get contracts in place with at-sea monitor providers by the beginning of the fishing year,” the report stated. 

GARFO also touted its pilot program to test electronic at-sea monitoring systems to replace human observers and its work with the Northeast Fisheries Science Center in Woods Hole on a climate strategy action plan for the Northeast.

“The plan outlines a strategy and specific actions for increasing understanding of, preparing for, and responding to climate change effects on the region’s ocean species,” the report stated. “With water in the Gulf of Maine warming at a significant pace, understanding how environmental changes are affecting species in our region is critical to planning for a sustainable fisheries future.”

And there are some interesting numbers. Consider:

* GARFO employs 155 federal workers and about 50 contractors at its Blackburn Industrial Park facility, funded by an annual average budget of about $55 million.

* The permit office at the GARFO issued more than 6,000 fishing permits in 2016 and 900 seafood dealer permits.

* GARFO, in partnership with several other regional management commissions and councils, managed 42 fish stocks for the year, specifically working on rebuilding 14.

* The agency and its partners were able to save the majority of the 598 cold-stunned sea turtles — most of them endangered Kemp’s ridley sea turtles — that washed up onshore during the winter of 2015-16.

The report trumpets GARFO’s rebuilding of the barndoor skate stock and its work to protect the river herring, also known as alewives, including its participation in project at West Gloucester’s Little River.

It also highlighted the agency’s work in enhancing the protection of right whales, including the expansion of the right whale critical habitat to 30,000 square nautical miles in the Gulf of Maine and Georges Bank region. It also identified calving areas in waters off the Southeastern United States. 

Contact Sean Horgan at 978-675-2714, or shorgan@gloucestertimes.com. Follow him on Twitter at @SeanGDT

Trending Video

Recommended for you