National Fisherman

Valentine's Day was Saturday, but NMFS wasn't feeling the love.

When NMFS announced its interim rules for the 2009 groundfishing season, angry Northeast fishermen roundly criticized the fisheries management agency. The combination of further whittling of days at sea and increased area closures, including most of southern New England groundfishing grounds, further handcuffed an already struggling fleet.

Even folks in the environmental community said the agency's restrictions went too far.

Then Massachusetts and New Hampshire asked the courts to set aside the Framework 42 groundfishing rules. They argued that the agency had failed to consider using the so-called "mixed stock exception." That management tool would let regulators allow fishing on healthier stocks even if another was rebuilding.

U.S. District Judge Edward Harrington agreed, temporarily suspending Framework 42 for 60 days. He ordered the agency to thoroughly examine whether the mixed stock exception could be used. And he upbraided NMFS for failing to fully consider the impacts of its edicts upon fishermen. Ouch.

Last week, NMFS asked the judge to reconsider his ruling. He said no, without adding further comment. Double ouch.

Next, NMFS asked the New England Fishery Management Council to approve the draft report the agency wanted to send to the judge, which explained why it can't consider the mixed stock exception. NMFS says Congress explicitly stipulated in the 2006 Magnuson-Stevens re-authorization that rebuilding stocks to optimum population levels trumps any other consideration.

The council didn't agree with that interpretation. It voted last Tuesday to ask NMFS to reconsider its position and make it consistent with congressional intent that optimum yield should be from the fishery as a whole, and that one stock should not dictate severe constraints on the fishery as a whole while that stock is being rebuilt. Ouch yet again.

Even the mainstream press was scolding NMFS. The Gloucester (Mass.) Daily Times delivered a scathing editorial http://www.gloucestertimes.com/opinion/x645319322/Forum-spotlights-flaw-regarding-NMFS-accountability?keyword=topstory , calling NMFS "a rogue agency accountable to no one but its own agenda. It must be reined in." Another round of Excedrin for the NMFS table, please.

Harrington stepped in yet again http://www.gloucestertimes.com/fishing/x645319684/Judge-frees-up-fishing-days-at-sea yesterday. Granting the requests of Massachusetts and New Hampshire fisheries departments, he reinstated the days-at-sea leasing program NMFS halted when Harrington suspended the Framework 42 rules. And he suspended the two-for-one counting of days at sea.

NMFS may have the last word yet on regulating New England's groundfish stocks. But chances are on Valentine's Day, NMFS was, like Charlie Brown, staring forlornly into a mailbox devoid of any cards showering the agency with love.

National Fisherman Live

National Fisherman Live: 3/10/15

In this episode, Online Editor Leslie Taylor talks with Mike McLouglin, vice president of Dunlop Industrial and Protective Footwear.

National Fisherman Live: 2/24/15

In this episode:

March date set for disaster aid dispersal
Oregon LNG project could disrupt fishing
NOAA tweaks gear marking requirement
N.C. launches first commercial/recreational dock
Spiny lobster traps limits not well received

Inside the Industry

Alaska Gov. Bill Walker is required by state statute to appoint someone to the Board of Fisheries by today, Tuesday, May 19. However, his efforts to fill the seat have gone unfulfilled since he took office in January. The seven-member board serves as an in-state fishery management council for fisheries in state waters.

The resignation of Walker’s director of Boards and Commissions, Karen Gillis, fanned the flames of controversy late last week.

Read more...

Keith Decker, president and COO of High Liner Foods, will take over for the outgoing CEO, Harry Demone, who will assume the role as chairman of the board of directors. The Lunenburg, Nova Scotia-based seafood supplier boasts sales in excess of $310 million (American) for the first quarter of the year.

Read more...
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