Written by Jen Finn
The New England Fishery Management Council, after years of exhaustive deliberation and scientific analysis, is finalizing recommendations to modify closed areas off New England to better conform to updated science and current management goals. Several prominent environmental groups and advocates are defending the status quo.
One of the highest profile defenses of the current system appeared in the New York Times, ("Keep the Fishing Ban in New England" Jan. 30) by Dr. Callum Roberts, a tropical ecosystem expert at the University of York. Dr. Roberts claimed that maintaining the current areas is essential to continuing the recovery of species like scallops and haddock. But recent developments in marine science and fisheries management demonstrate that greater access to these areas is possible without negatively affecting conservation.
When the closed areas were designed, fisheries managers used "effort controls," specifying where, when and how fishermen could fish. As part of that system, areas of Georges Bank were closed to make the fleet less efficient, not because they were environmentally important. Today, managers determine catch directly with allocations.
Outside of their original purpose, the closings have provided insights into new management strategies and fishing techniques. We saw that scallops are able to mature and grow to larger sizes. We learned that this provided for a healthier resource with larger harvests and more spawning.
To capitalize on these benefits, scallopers partnered with NOAA and the NEFMC to create a system of "Rotational Area Management." This restricts where and when scallop vessels can fish, directing vessels to areas where fully grown scallops are located and keeping them away from areas with undersized scallops. In 2004, the fishery increased the "ring size" on fishing gear to 4 inches, so that only larger scallops are caught, while smaller scallops and fish bycatch are excluded. This current system is the result of extensive collaboration between the government, scallop fishermen and independent fisheries scientists. Cooperative research conducted by NMFS, the Fisheries Survival Fund, Coonamessett Farm, the Virginia Institute of Marine Science at the College of William and Mary, and the School for Marine Science and Technology at the University of Massachusetts Dartmouth, remains a model of collaborative, conservation-minded fisheries management.
Read the full story at the New Bedford Standard-Times>>
The following was released by the Maine Department of Marine Resources on Jan. 22:
The Maine Department of Marine Resources announced an emergency regulation that will support the continued rebuilding effort in Maine’s scallop fishery. The rule, effective January 23, 2016, will close the Muscle Ridge Area near South Thomaston and the Western Penobscot Bay Area.Read more...
Louisiana’s Department of Wildlife and Fisheries, which governs commercial and recreational fishing in the state, got a new boss in January. Charlie Melancon, a former member of the U.S. House of Representatives and state legislator, was appointed to the job by the state’s new governor, John Bel Edwards.
Although much of his non-political work in the past has centered on the state’s sugar cane industry, Melancon said he is confident that other experience, including working closely with fishermen when in Congress, has prepared him well for this new challenge.Read more...