It was a study that came out of the blue — a report of an admittedly “unscheduled” NOAA stock assessment that the agency dropped on the fishing world last week, suggesting that Gulf of Maine cod is in even more dire straits than thought.
Yet, by last Monday, officials with the New England Fisheries Management Council were already suggesting the panel will be operating “under the assumption” that it will have to cut allowable catch limits even further if the NOAA assessments are confirmed. True to form, the Conservation Law Foundation’s Peter Shelley said the numbers called for “emergency action” in the wake of the new numbers.
To all of that, we offer a one-word reaction: Whoa!
Council Executive Director Tom Nies, to his credit, qualified any “assumption” regarding any new cod limits cuts by noting that would be the case if the new NOAA cod stock assessments hold up under peer review — and rightfully suggested that no one should take any action until such peer reviews are complete. In that vein, his reaction serves as a warning to fishermen already caught in a recognized “economic disaster” as to what may be next to come. That may be a wake-up call that the industry and area lawmakers all needed.
The truth is, NOAA owes fishermen and New England fishing communities a lot of answers before anyone should be allowed to adjust any limits at all. And those questions don’t have anything to do with the actual numbers in the NOAA study, or even the health of the cod stocks.
Instead, they have everything to do with NOAA’s handling of this “unscheduled” assessment, and the fact that the industry had no apparent knowledge that it was in the works, let alone input for it.
Read the full story at The Eagle-Tribune>>
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