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Coakley calls for taking of last codfish

Attorney General files law suit over fishing cuts to kill more cod

Cod are Political Capital for Attorney General in Suit Against NOAA

May 30th, Martha Coakley with lawmakers and fishermen by her side on Boston’s Fish Pier cast a wide net of accusations against NOAA, NMFS and the New England Fisheries Management Council.

Demonstrating an astounding lack of knowledge of how fisheries management is based on sound science for sustainable seafood, the AG stated: “Even if NOAA’s fish counts can be reversed in 2012 or 2013, that may prove far too late.” That’s not science, that’s politics.

How many mistakes can you find in the AG’s 1 minute video: http://bcove.me/7atdlpsb  I count five.

  1. The government has failed in its responsibility in recognizing the devastating impact of its regulations on our families. The laws call on fisheries councils to manage a sustainable fishery and not to aid this year’s fishermen with overtaking of declining stocks. That would only hurt fishermen the next year.  Relaxing the catch quota in 2008 is hurting fishermen now when they can find very few cod.
  2. It is not too much to ask if the science be credible and reliable, even if NOAA’s fish counts can be reversed in 2012 or 2013.  Government funding restricts the Science Center from surveying fish to every three years.  To reverse fish counts on years when fish were not counted is not science.
  3. NOAA must take steps to mitigate that harm.  The science calls for a closure of the cod fishery until stocks are rebuilt.  However despite the science, NOAA did take steps to mitigate harm by permitting fishermen to fish for cod yet again.
  4. “Built on, we believe, an imperfect science.” A “perfect science” is known to most of us as religion. Science is a process of experimentation, observation, questioning, recording and going ‘round the carousel again.  Science involves muddling through, trial and error, doing one’s best with incomplete knowledge.
  5. NOAA’s regulations are a death penalty on the fishing industry of Massachusetts as we know it. NOAA’s regulation of cod rolls the quota numbers back to the 2003 level of take.  It has been many decades since cod was a major source of income for any one. Meanwhile the fisheries council has restored red fish, pollock and white hake.

The Fisheries Management Science Center counts fish stocks every three years.  There is no science for reversing counts made in the past year or months.  In 2008, one of seven fish trawls found an astounding number of cod feeding on sand lance above sandy bottoms.   This one finding led to an increase in the permitted cod take for the first time ever.  For three years fishermen could take more cod. However, try as they might, last year only 60% of the quota was caught.  In the 2011 survey, much fewer cod were found.  Sand lance breeds every six or seven years, so there was no reason for cod to school in one location convenient to the surveyors.

Despite calls for a more complete closure of the cod fishery by the Conservation Law Foundation, NOAA permitted fishermen to go to sea for cod by calling for a 78% reduction in take from the liberal 2008 quota numbers. This puts the cod limit back to the 2003 take – hardly the end of fishing, as we know it.  With the introduction of freezers on ships by Clarence Birdseye in the 1930s, fishermen have diversified their take to more than cod.  Redfish, white hake, and pollock are all being managed sustainably by the New England Fisheries Management Council in concert with NOAA.

Maggie Mooney-Seus, a spokesman for NOAA, summarized sentiments well in the Boston Herald article.  She acknowledged in a statement that the regulations this year are “severe”, but “necessary” because of the low levels of fish, including cod.

It is unfortunate that the Massachusetts Attorney General has decided to pursue this course of action, rather than working with us cooperatively to identify constructive solutions for helping fishermen, such as refocusing energies on healthy, abundant groundfish and other species,” she said. “It is time for us to look forward, not backward, if we are going to be able to help fishermen through this difficult transition.”

For the love of Cod – Tell the AG to move forwards, not backwards. Comment and sign ORI’s letter.

2 responses on “Coakley calls for taking of last codfish

  1. Rob Moir, Ph.D. Post author

    In addition to commenting here. I invite you to join with people across the nation and beyond in commenting and signing on to our letter to the A.G., for the love of cod. Please click on “Comment and sign ORI’s letter.

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