'Phantom' discards seen skewing fish quotas

Because only a fraction of the fishing trips are monitored for NOAA by private contractors, whose employees keep records of the number and weight of the fish discarded, their calculations are then extrapolated and applied universally no matter what fish are targeted and what fish are discarded.

Worse still, Goethel has written in a letter to top officials of the agency, it is a practical impossibility for these monitors to get true weights while a boat is rolling and pitching on the high seas. Yet, those projected weights work their way into the stock assessment system and bias the conclusions, distorting the findings about the profile of stocks and even their overall vitality, Goethel says.

In a technical letter to William Karp, director of the NOAA Science Center at Woods Hole, John Bullard, NOAA’s Northeast regional administrator, and Rip Cunningham, chairman of the New England Fishery Management Council, Goethel analyzes the flaws in the incumbent system of attempting to determine discards which is anchored to the system of at sea monitors on a fraction of the commercial trips.

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