The Sorting Table features stories from National Fisherman contributors and guest bloggers.
Written by Jes Hathaway
February 24, 2014
By Andrew Minkiewicz and Anne Hawkins
Last week, the lawyers at the Conservation Law Foundation used a posting on their Talking Fish blog (“Industry Lawyers Wrong on Closed Areas Science: An Open and Shut Case,” Feb. 18, 2014) to attack our Washington Lookout column (“Wishing doesn't make it so,” National Fisherman, March 2014, p. 8). They accused us of “sending the council… misinformation regarding the science in an attempt to weaken the habitat plan.” In line with previous Talking Fish articles, the CLF lawyers provided little insight into the issues at hand when they attacked the position of the Fisheries Survival Fund on the Georges Bank area closures.
The reality remains: The peer-reviewed scientific recommendations developed over 10 years by New England fishery stock assessment scientists and habitat experts agree that the current closures are not meeting the goals that the New England Fishery Management Council has set for groundfish habitat protection.
CLF claims to stand with science but continues to misrepresent the facts guiding important processes to update fisheries management according to comprehensive scientific evaluations.
On Tuesday, Feb. 25, the council will meet to determine preferred alternatives to the current closures.
The research cited by CLF does not support the organization’s recommendation to maintain the status quo.
When the current closed areas were designated over 20 years ago, scant information was available to determine where important fish habitat was located. Today, with the help and support of the scallop industry, scientists are working with a peer-reviewed Swept Area Seabed Impact model to both locate areas that are vital to groundfish spawning and stock health, and offer solutions that minimize potential adverse impacts from fishing.
In the council’s SASI analysis, large portions of the current closures were not identified as meriting protection. The models also indicate that many areas previously considered Essential Fish Habitat are not ideally located for habitat protection. Adjusting the present closures according to up-to-date and comprehensive analyses will best protect important fish habitat while eliminating the unnecessary and ecologically harmful restrictions that are currently in place.
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