A May 16 Commentary piece by Peter Baker of the Pew Charitable Trusts (“Inviting the cod to follow the scallop”) misleads readers on the ecological status of New England’s fisheries, and attributes the recovery of the scallop fishery to strict management under the Magnuson-Stevens Act. He argues that the same model would work for the cod fishery.
But the historical record is not so simple. The success of the scallop industry is actually proof that laws alone are not enough. For “the cod to follow the scallop,” the fishery needs trustworthy science and cooperative efforts that include fishermen. The methods that worked for scallops are not the methods Mr. Baker is suggesting will work for cod.
Collaborations between industry members and independent scientists are responsible for today’s successful scallop management. In the late 1990s, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration surveys claimed scallop populations were depleted, despite contrary observations from fishermen. Facing severe cuts, members of the scallop industry formed the Fisheries Survival Fund and enlisted the help of Dr. Brian Rothschild of the University of Massachusetts School for Marine Science and Technology (SMAST) to survey scallop abundance in the closed areas.
The evidence from this innovative video survey and subsequent industry-funded programs, including surveys by the Virginia Institute of Marine Science, were instrumental in convincing managers to allow controlled access in closure areas.
Scientists and scallopers worked with managers to promote a formal “rotational management” system for harvesting the rebounded population. This method, established in 2003, directs vessels away from juvenile scallops and allows for controlled harvests in areas with high adult abundance.
Thus, industry-led collaborative efforts developed a more informed and sustainable fishery. Conversely, conservation groups such as Mr. Baker’s previous employer, tried to use the Magnuson-Stevens Act to block such programs in court.
Read the full story at Providence Journal>>