The draft of a five-year strategic plan developed by NOAA's Gloucester-based Greater Atlantic Regional Fisheries Office is short on specifics and long — very long — on the stilted linguistic gymnastics of the bureaucracy.
Still, the draft, which is being released for public comment before final implementation, gives some sense of the federal agency's priorities during the next half-decade that could ultimately determine the fate of the increasingly imperiled Northeast multispecies groundfish fishery.
The plan, which would serve as an operational playbook for the agency that operates with about 170 employees and an average annual budget of $51 million at its Blackburn Industrial Park headquarters, breaks the strategic objectives into seven goals: sustainable fisheries; protected resources; habitat conservation; community resiliency; aquaculture; organizational excellence; and customer service.
The first four goals are of the greatest interest to the fishery's stakeholders, particularly against the backdrop of increasingly restrictive regulations and expanded area closures in the Gulf of Maine, measures that embody the agency's campaign to rescue the region's iconic cod stock.
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