Editorial: Panel must heed community impact

Yet this council — a policy arm of NOAA that is supposed to bring the input of fishermen, federal government officials and the environmental community to the same table, yet too often fails the fishermen – could also bury small, largely independent fishing fleets such as Gloucester’s once and for all.

But the means to avoiding that latter scenario are very basic. In considering its next moves regarding a revised groundfish stocks rebuilding plan, or any reconfiguring of open and closed areas with an eye toward sustaining the fisheries habitat, it’s crucial that the council heed to the oft-ignored provisions of the Magnuson Stevens Act that require the economic impact of any rules and policies on the fishing industry and fishing communities be an important factor in any determinations.

While legitimacy questions cloud any NOAA science-driven policies derived from projections and trawl studies with minimal, if any, input from fishermen, it’s hard to dismiss the comments from Jackie Odell, executive director of the Northeast Seafood Coalition, who noted that some stock assessments “have been really poor.” To that end, however, Odell and the coalition have called for the council to adopt management strategies beyond the existing stock assessment models that have clearly played a role in the groundfishing industry’s federally-recognized – though still unfunded — “economic disaster.”

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