WASHINGTON – Today, the National Marine Fisheries Service published a proposed rule that would change the way that the level of observer coverage for fishing trips in the New England groundfish fishery is calculated. If approved, the proposal would drop monitoring levels from 24 percent to 14 percent, leaving 86 percent of fishing trips unobserved in this fishery.
Five years ago, the New England groundfish fishery transitioned to a new management program that divided the fishery into “catch sectors,” and in return, the fishing industry agreed to pay for its own monitoring. Yet until last year, the federal government funded the at-sea monitoring of the fishery, despite that bargain. The groundfish fishery is now being asked to fund the program itself, but due to cost concerns, the New England Fishery Management Council approved an action last year to cut down on monitoring levels, which led to the rule proposed today.
Oceana fisheries campaign manager Gib Brogan released the following statement:
“The New England groundfish fishery is on the brink of collapse. Instead of recognizing this looming disaster and helping fishermen move towards a more sustainable future, this proposed rule would instead weaken the chances of recovery for this historic fishery.
Observers on fishing vessels are crucial for accurately estimating how many fish are caught, including what’s thrown back overboard, as well as helping to make sure fishing stays within limits so populations can rebuild in the future.
There is ample evidence showing that fishing behavior on observed and unobserved trips is different. Considering the dire state of our stocks like cod, we need confidence that every fish is counted and accounted for. There isn’t any room for error.
The proposed rule today is bad for the future of this fishery. This risky proposal show a callous disregard for conservation and a fundamentally irresponsible management style that the fisheries of this region cannot afford. We need the Fisheries Service to do its job as a steward of this fishery and reject this half-baked attempt to build a cheaper monitoring option at the expense of the population.”
The proposed rule published today will have 15 days for public review and comment. The agency hopes to have the new regulations on the water on May 1, 2016.
Oceana is the largest international advocacy organization focused solely on ocean conservation. We run science-based campaigns and seek to win policy victories that can restore ocean biodiversity and ensure that the oceans are abundant and can feed hundreds of millions of people. Oceana victories have already helped to create policies that could increase fish populations in its countries by as much as 40 percent and that have protected more than 1 million square miles of ocean. We have campaign offices in the countries that control close to 40 percent of the world’s wild fish catch, including in North, South and Central America, Asia, and Europe. To learn more, please visit www.oceana.org.