Written by Adrianne Madden
January 15, 2010
Science above all else, we are told, is driving the train when managing the health of our nation's fish stocks. But it's getting hard to tell exactly what role science is playing these days.
Take the Atlantic scallop situation for example. Scientists have determined that the scallop population isn't overfished nor is experiencing overfishing. But the New England Fishery Management Council set the 2010 quota at a level far lower than what the council's Science and Statistical Committee had recommended.
Council officials said they based the 2010 quota on estimates of high fishing mortalities in 2008-09. The 56 million pound quota, council officials say, is well within the allowable biological catch total of 65 million pounds.
But the scallop industry asserts that the SSC recommended that the ABC could be safely set at 80 million pounds. The council decision to cut the quota and the fleet's fishing days by nine, industry advocates say, will result in a revenue loss of some $40 million to the fishery.
This of course ignited an uproar, and politicians jumped into the fray, this week persuading John Pappalardo, the council chairman, to schedule a review and possible reconsideration of the scallop situation at the council meeting in Portsmouth, N.H., in late January.
In addition to the scallop situation, there's a bill that's been introduced in Massachusetts to ban commercial striper fishing. Again, striped bass isn't overfished nor is overfishing occurring. The commercial fishery only landed 3.3 metric tons in 2008 versus 12.3 by the recreational sector.
So you can see the urgent need to ban the commercial fishery...
Commercial fishermen have long understood that good science will lead to better fisheries management. But the precautionary approach to management has taken hold to a point that it'd be hard to fault a fisherman for thinking that it doesn't matter what story the data tells, commercial harvesters won't be allowed to catch fish.
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