The New England Fishery Management Council will meet as scheduled next week, but the agenda for the three-day meeting in Portsmouth, New Hampshire, will be colored by the ongoing shutdown of much of the federal government.
While the council is not scheduled to vote on any final actions, the shutdown has precluded a legion of scientific and fisheries management staff at the Gloucester-based Greater Atlantic Regional Fisheries Office and NOAA Fisheries' Northeast Fisheries Science Center from contributing analysis and participating as they normally would in the management process.
"It's really affected the plan development teams," said Janice Plante, council spokeswoman. "Without their participation, the plan development teams just can't get the analyses done. We knew this would be one implication of the shutdown. But the longer and longer it goes on, the more and more we miss their participation."
The plan development teams are made up of technical experts responsible for developing and analyzing management measures. They operate under the direction of the council.
The shutdown, barring a deal between President Donald Trump and Congress over the the president's much-coveted wall along the U.S. southern border with Mexico, will enter its 33rd day on Wednesday.
"I guess this is kind of what we expected when the shutdown first started," Plante said. "But we're also growing more concerned about getting all of the work done if the shutdown goes on much longer."
The council, in response to the closure, has massaged its agenda for the meetings set to run Tuesday through Thursday in Portsmouth. It shortened the allotted times for some of the scheduled agenda items and moved others within the three-day window.
"We knew some of the discussions were probably going to run a little short because we're missing the federal people at the meeting," Plante said.
As an example, the council originally dedicated 2 1/2 hours for Tuesday's discussion on ecosystem-based fishery management, but cut out the last half hour because the plan development team associated with the measure never met because of the shutdown.
On Wednesday, the council will convene at 9 a.m. rather than the originally scheduled start time of 8:30 a.m. Also, the 2 p.m. agenda item Wednesday dealing with previously scheduled workshops on New England recreational fishing has been pared to 15 minutes after the workshops were postponed due to the shutdown.
The next full council meeting is scheduled for April 16 to 18 at Mystic, Connecticut.
Contact Sean Horgan at 978-675-2714, or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter at @SeanGDT.