It is, as our federal lawmakers all noted, good news to learn that the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s fisheries service will cover the cost of the on-board monitors who now regularly keep tabs on the catches hauled in by fishermen by joining them on their trips.
But while all went out of their way to hail NOAA’s decision over the weekend, let’s not forget that to force these costs upon Gloucester and other Northeast fishermen — as the agency had, at one point threatened — would have amounted to tossing a downright obscene unfunded mandate onto the backs of an industry already mired for well over a year in a recognized “economic disaster” that is, in large part, of NOAA’s own making.
And if NOAA officials are seeing this as a good-will offering that might calm other disputes on the eve of today’s February meeting of the New England Fisheries Management Council, they’re sadly mistaken.
The truth is, NOAA officials should now also keep their eyes and ears open to considering scientific data that clearly justifies the opening of previously closed areas for the new fishing year to begin May 1. And neither NOAA, the council nor our federal lawmakers should lose sight of the need to reform the Magnuson-Stevens Act as that moves toward potential reauthorization as well.