Written by Adrianne Madden
March 20, 2009
It's the first day of spring, and efforts are afoot that aim to end the long winter of discontent that's plagued the Northeast groundfish fishery.
Federal fishing regulations have become ever stricter as managers have attempted to rebuild populations of lagging groundfish stocks within the Magnuson-Stevens Act's 10-year time frame. Now it's feared that if the interim management rule is implemented come May 1, it will destroy what's left of the groundfish fleet, whose numbers have thinned over the years with each turn of the management screw.
New England fishermen aren't the only ones concerned. New York draggers also fear the loss of their groundfish fishery should the interim rules take effect. Consequently, East Hampton, N.Y., town officials are trying to get other affected towns and their state and federal representatives to ask NMFS to revise the interim rule.
The question is, can legislators act quickly enough to prevent it from being implemented in May?
Meanwhile, a bill that aims to extend the 10-year stock rebuilding deadline that is shackling fishermen and fishery management council members alike was introduced in the House of Representatives on Wednesday.
Authored by Rep. Frank Pallone (D-N.J.) and supported by Rep. Barney Frank (D-Mass.), the bill would give fisheries regulators flexibility to extend the rebuilding period for a weakened fish species, provided it can be shown that the stock in question is demonstrably rebuilding. Doing so could help fishing communities weather the economic storm as fish populations rebuild.
They say hope springs eternal. Maybe spring's arrival brings hope that better days lie ahead for the Northeast's troubled groundfish fishery.
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