Fish-counting method needs scrutiny

WASHINGTON — A bipartisan group of senators is pressing for an independent review of how the federal government calculates fishing stocks in the Gulf of Mexico and South Atlantic.

Those stocks are used to determine catch limits and have long been a source of contention for the fishing industry and environmentalists.

Environmental groups concerned about dwindling stocks of vulnerable species say overfishing could affect the Gulf region’s ecology and economy for decades.

Fishermen say current catch limits are based on flawed science and have cost coastal communities jobs and other economic benefits.

The senators, led by Republican Marco Rubio of Florida, want to settle the dispute.

They’ve asked the Government Accountability Office, Congress’ watchdog arm, to look into how the National Marine Fisheries Service determines which fishing stocks to analyze, how often they’re examined and how much it costs federal taxpayers to conduct the inventory.

They also want the GAO to address reports that the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, which oversees the fisheries service, “may not be placing a high enough priority on conducting robust, peer-reviewed stock assessments on fisheries on the Gulf Coast and South Atlantic,” according to the Feb. 28 letter asking for the review.

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