National Fisherman

The Rudderpost 

jesJes Hathaway is the editor in chief of National Fisherman magazine and


Many Massachusetts politicians had strong reactions to NOAA chief Jane Lubchenco's testimony last week at a federal hearing in Boston.

During the testimony, U.S. Rep. Barney Frank (D-Mass.) chastised Lubchenco for apparently not answering questions directed at her as she repeatedly leaned over to consult with NMFS director Eric Schwaab.

New Bedford, Mass., Mayor Scott Lang has called again for President Obama to replace her as NOAA administrator. Gloucester, Mass., Mayor Carolyn Kirk posted a YouTube appeal for Lubchenco to meet with representatives of the city's fishing and port interests.

In March 2010, Lubchenco visited Gloucester and expressed support for the local and national fishing industry.

But Lubchenco's testimony that catch shares are working is in direct contradiction to her professed support of the fishing industry. NOAA's line, as Lubchenco testified, is that an increase in revenue means catch shares are working for fishermen as well as the fish stocks. However, last year Gloucester lost nearly 20 percent of its fleet to the regulatory restrictions of the catch shares program; overall, the New England industry lost hundreds of crew positions, and 20 percent of the fleet took in 80 percent of the revenue.

Simply put, catch shares are not working unless the fishermen and port infrastructure are operating.

Fishery management ought to seek a balance between keeping already reduced fleets afloat and maintaining sustainable populations of commercial species. Sacrificing one for the other simply makes no sense. It is not an act of attrition; it's an exercise in futility.

New England's groundfishermen have made significant headway by keeping their heads held high and their voices aloft. Permit banks, quota caps and port infrastructure are on the federal radar because fishermen have been vocal and their representatives have spread the word.

Calling for Lubchenco's ouster may be cathartic, but it will not solve the problems the New England fleets face. Success lies at the end of the long, slow march toward transparency at NOAA.

Inside the Industry

NMFS recently released a draft action plan for fish discard and release mortality science, creating a list of actions that they hope can better inform fisheries.

We know that fishermen have to deal with bycatch by discarding or releasing unwanted catch overboard, but there is a data gap regarding how those fish survive.


A new study has identified a set of features common to all ocean ecosystems that provide a visual diagnosis of the health of the underwater environment coastal communities rely on.

Together, the features detail cumulative effects of threats -- such as overfishing, pollution, and invasive species,  allowing responders to act faster to increase ocean resiliency and sustainability.

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