Oceana Applauds Decision to Require At-Sea Monitoring on All Fishing Vessels in New England Groundfish Fishery
Press Release Date: April 13, 2022
Yesterday, the National Marine Fisheries Service approved a final rule that requires all fishing trips in the New England groundfish fishery to be accompanied by professionally trained at-sea monitors or electronic systems to gather first-hand data about what is being caught and discarded at sea. Also known as Amendment 23 of the New England groundfish fishery management plan, this rule follows an interim decision by NOAA Fisheries in December that required and funded on-the-water observers for 99% of all commercial fishing trips in the New England groundfish fishery beginning May 1, 2022 (up from previous rate of 40%).
Oceana, who has been campaigning for these changes for more than a decade, said this level of observer coverage is critical to ensuring that all the fishery’s catch is counted and accounted for so that fisheries managers can set and enforce scientifically sound catch limits for the fishery. Oceana says these steps are needed to properly oversee the 13 species that are managed by this fishery management plan, including many that have suffered from decades of overfishing and excessive uncounted bycatch (i.e., non-target fish that are caught and often thrown overboard, dead or dying, to avoid counting toward a catch limit).
Oceana applauded the decision and released the following statement from campaign director Gib Brogan:
“This is a great day for New England’s historic groundfish fishery, including the chronically overfished Atlantic cod. There will finally be meaningful accountability and catch limits for both targeted catch and bycatch in this fishery, and honest fishermen will stop being undermined by those that refuse to play by the rules. In the past, monitoring of this fishery had been lax at best, undercutting efforts to rebuild and sustainably manage the region’s commercially valuable fisheries. Today’s decision not only validates Oceana’s years of advocacy, but also finally brings accurate and precise catch information to our fisheries managers so they can properly manage and rebuild this struggling fishery. We know that fisheries can recover if we count everything that’s caught, and then set and enforce proper catch limits. This is a major achievement for New England’s fisheries and a significant day for U.S. fish conservation. We look forward to working with Congress to ensure this program is properly funded in the years ahead.”