Peter Baker, manager of the Pew Environment Group's End Overfishing in New England campaign, today issued the following statement in response to the National Marine Fisheries Service announcement of its interim rule for managing groundfish (including cod, haddock and flounder) in New England for the 2009 fishing year.
"The National Marine Fisheries Service's draft interim rule shows that the agency sadly is committed to fixing New England's broken management system with the same tools that have proven ineffective at rebuilding fish stocks for years. That failed system, based on limiting both the number of days a fisherman can fish ("days-at-sea") and the amount of fish that can be carried back to the dock, is decimating the traditional fishing fleet, reducing revenues and forcing many coastal businesses to close. Regrettably, this system has not ended overfishing nor rebuilt depleted stocks.
"This interim rule will not solve our problems, and may well cost many of the region's fishermen their livelihoods. The time for a new approach has come.
"With the support of many forward-thinking commercial fishing organizations, the New England Fishery Management Council is already developing a new management structure that can rebuild fish populations and make the region's cod and groundfish fleet profitable once again.
"Fishermen across the region are working to ensure that future management of fisheries includes a place for the fishermen. A new management system, known as 'sector allocation' has been working well for two groups of fishermen in Chatham, Massachusetts for the last five years. Sectors are harvesting co-ops that receive a share of the annual catch determined by science-based catch limits. These limits are essential to prevent overfishing and depend on good monitoring so that we know how many fish are caught. This new system allows the co-ops to set guidelines that fit their own fishing methods, providing them with the flexibility to be economically viable. With this independence comes accountability - once a co-op has caught its share of the catch for a given species, fishing ends, ensuring that catch limits are respected.
"Co-op proposals from 17 fishing groups (sectors) have already been submitted to the New England council, but in the transition period, other fishermen will continue to operate under the old days-at-sea system. These fishermen will be in a common pool, and it is imperative that hard catch limits be put in place for them, as well as for sectors.
"Ending overfishing and allowing the fish to recover will benefit all of New England's fishermen and fishing communities. The National Marine Fisheries Service must support the work of the New England Fishery Management Council to end overfishing by implementing science-based catch limits and sectors. Work must begin now to be ready for the 2010 fishing year."
The Pew Environment Group is the conservation arm of The Pew Charitable Trusts, a non-governmental organization headquartered in the United States that applies a rigorous, analytical approach to improving public policy, informing the public and stimulating civic life.
Chart of proposed Gulf of Maine differential Days-At-Sea area & Southern New England Closure Area: http://www.nero.noaa.gov/nero/hotnews/multipir/