FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:
Wednesday, July 25, 2012
KEATING TO NOAA: REASSESSMENTS NEEDED NOW
Washington, DC – After speaking with numerous fishermen and industry stakeholders in recent weeks, Rep. Bill Keating today sent a letter to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) urging for an end-to-end review of the stock assessment process and calling for a commitment to cooperative research and data collection between the Agency and fishing industry.
“I find NOAA Fisheries’ solution to alleviate what is sure to be a devastating year for both the ground fish and scallop industry by further delaying the integration of cooperative research and data assessments as completely unacceptable,” said Rep. Keating in the letter. “Anything short of a common sense end to end review of stock assessment prior to the start of the 2013 fishing season with applied readily available resources would be unacceptable for our fishermen, their families, and the communities that depend on them.”
Rep. Keating is not alone in demanding that NOAA prioritize collaboration in order to obtain the best data available and to set the most accurate catch allocations. Fishermen from Maine to New Jersey, Congressional leaders, and other industry stakeholders have stressed the importance of capitalizing on available resources and returning trust to the accuracy of stock assessments.
In his letter, Rep. Keating reiterated the time-sensitive nature of this issue: “[W]ith the industry set to face colossal reductions in allowable catch across a wide variety of stocks, including devastating cuts to both the Gulf of Maine cod and Georges Bank yellowtail flounder for the 2013 fishing year, there is an urgent need to find creative and effective alternatives if New England’s fishing industry is to survive.”
The full text of the letter is below:
July 25, 2012
Mr. Samuel D. Rauch III
Deputy Assistant Administrator
National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration
1315 East-West Highway
Silver Spring, MD 20910
Dear Mr. Rauch,
I am writing today to follow up on correspondence between Paul Diodati, Director of Massachusetts Division of Marine Fisheries, and Dr. Brian Rothschild, Co-Director of the Massachusetts Marine Fisheries Institute, and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), and to express my support for their proposal – a proposal that has been strongly endorsed by the New England fishing community and their representatives.
Since elected to Congress, I repeatedly have been joined by my colleagues and the fishermen we represent in affirming that the need for a new outlook on data collection, management and enforcement is imperative. I am appreciative of NOAA’s continued cooperation in working to bring stability to the industry in spite of stock – and data – inconsistencies. However, with the industry set to face colossal reductions in allowable catch across a wide variety of stocks, including devastating cuts to both the Gulf of Maine cod and Georges Bank yellowtail flounder for the 2013 fishing year, there is an urgent need to find creative and effective alternatives if New England’s fishing industry is to survive.
On June 27th, Mr. Diodati and Dr. Rothschild again proposed an end-to-end review of the stock assessment process following the recent inaccuracies related to the data quality of the most recent stock assessments. The New England fishing industry’s call for collaboration between NOAA Fisheries and the Massachusetts Marine Fisheries Institute (MFI) is the main feature of this plan and would serve to create a partnership between these two entities. Eventually, the increased resources stemming from this collaboration will enable more expansive reviews of the entire assessment process. This venture would yield more accurate data at potentially lower costs.
The Rothschild/Diodati letter also highlighted a feasible pathway to reaching this point of collaboration: a series of workshops designed to provide a comprehensive analysis of the various pieces of the stock assessment process. Similarly, workshops that explore collaborative efforts like employing fishing boats for conducting surveys and research are also warranted by NOAA's recent regulations.
NOAA responded with acknowledgment of the complexity of the challenges facing the New England fishing industry. However, their reply also recommended postponement of the proposed workshops and, thus, the implementation of collaborative assessments until early 2013. As you are well aware, 2013 is slated to bring devastating cuts to the amount of quota New England’s fishermen will be allowed to catch. I find NOAA Fisheries’ solution to alleviate what is sure to be a devastating year for both the ground fish and scallop industry by further delaying the integration of cooperative research and data assessments as completely unacceptable. Already, fishermen are required to provide vessel trip reports in many fisheries to provide information regarding the location, timing, and health of the catch. Anything short of a common sense end to end review of stock assessment prior to the start of the 2013 fishing season with applied readily available resources – from boats to their expert navigators – would be unacceptable for our fishermen, their families, and the communities that depend on them.
Federal regulations on this industry were intended to promote responsible fishing practices and to protect our region's marine species; however, there is clearly still room for improvement. The foundation for a viable fishery management plan begins with the confidence of the men and women impacted by this data. For this reason, inaccuracies risk not only the trust of a historic industry, but of the livelihoods of families throughout New England. The costs of these inaccuracies are so great to both NOAA and the industry that these fishermen have offered to volunteer their time and resources to help achieve more accurate stock assessments while forging a friendlier partnership between industry and regulators.
Thus, I urge you to take advantage of this opportunity to improve the accuracy of stock assessments in conjunction with improving the relationship between NOAA and New England fisheries. Emphasis on this partnership will most certainly begin the trajectory towards a shared confidence in the fishery management process.
Thank you for your ongoing support of the New England fishing industry and your efforts to sustain our coastal populations, and I look forward to hearing your response.
WILLIAM R. KEATING