Fishermen react to feds rejection of porpoise plan

GLOUCESTER, Mass.—A fishing industry group says regulators didn’t fully consider key factors when they rejected a request to delay a coming fishing area closure. The Northeast Seafood Coalition made the proposal after regulators announced the two-month closure to protect porpoises in the Gulf of Maine, starting in October. Porpoises aren’t endangered, but regulators say too many are getting killed in stationary gillnets. The coalition asked the government to start the closure in February. It said that would better protect porpoises and ease a $10.3 million loss to gillnetters. But regulators said the delay wouldn’t help fishermen or porpoises much. It also said too many gillnetters failed to install net devices that drive porpoises away. The coalition said regulators aren’t considering when fish are present in certain areas or how the closure will affect vessel crews.

NMFS rejects Northeast Seafood Coalition’s request to adjust Gulf of Maine harbor porpoise closure

NMFS rejects Northeast Seafood Coalition’s request to adjust Gulf of Maine harbor porpoise closure

The National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) has rejected a request by the Northeast Seafood Coalition (NSC) to alter the boundary and timing of the harbor porpoise closure area in the Gulf of Maine.

The NSC made the request  due to the projected economic losses the fishery would incur from the timing and location of the closure, and stated that their proposal, “provides a far greater degree of protection to harbor porpoise while having less of an economic impact to the struggling dayboat gillnet fleet.” NMFS originally announced the closure of an area of the Gulf of Maine for the purpose of protecting harbor porpoises in April 2012, as a result of a high number of harbor porpoise takes.
The NSC’s request included adjusting the location of the closure area, and adjusting the time of the closure from October to November as currently scheduled to February to March. The closure area is currently set to go into effect in the middle of the fall fishery, which is a critically important season for groundfishermen. A 2012 analysis  by Dr. Joshua Weirsma, “Economic Impacts of Potential Harbor Porpoise Consequence Closure,” found that the the total economic loss associated with the planned closures was approximately $10 million. Due to the location of the closure areas and their proximity to shore, smaller, inshore day boats would be most affected in the closure areas near New Hampshire, Gloucester, Boston, and the South Shore of Massachusetts.
On September 6, the newly appointed Regional Administrator of NOAA’s Northeast Regional Office, John Bullard, responded  to the NSC’s request, explaining that after their own evaluation, NMFS found that the proposed changes provided, “a negligible conservation gain for harbor porpoises and little economic benefit for the fishermen that would be affected by the closure.” Bullard also mentioned low compliance among gillnet fishermen with efforts to reduce porpoise takes as a reason for the closure, stating, “unfortunately, during the past two years, fishermen in the Gulf of Maine did not fully respond to the compliance challenge.” He added, “without compelling evidence of improved harbor porpoise conservation or economic relief, we must hold fishermen to the commitment they made to comply” with porpoise conservation measures.
The NSC’s request has been supported by 12 members of Congress, who wrote a letter  to Sam Rauch, NOAA’s Acting Administrator for Fisheries, urging NMFS to approve the change. The bipartisan group of New England Senators and members of Congress stated that the modifications would “provide significantly greater conservation benefits for the harbor porpoise and reduce the economic impacts on our fishermen.”


Read the Northeast Seafood Coalition’s original request to NMFS here   Read Dr. Joshua Weirsma’s Economic Impact Study here  Read the letter from John Bullard to the NSC here  Read the letter from Congress to NMFS here

ASSOCIATED / CONSOLIDATED / AMALGAMATED Issue Statements on Industry Destroying Fishing Aid Plan

Seems as though the architect’s vision of the fishing policy initiatives they prefer have made separate statements regarding the “out of the blue” proposal delivered to Senator John Kerry’s office, which arrived in a plain brown wrapper with no signatures!

Fishing aid letter ignores catch share impact

A draft letter to congressional leaders from the office of Sen. John Kerry, circulating within the New England delegation in connection with a proposed and controversial fisheries aid package, blames the decline of the groundfishery on weakened fish stocks — and nothing else.

Fish aid plan gets mixed reviews By Richard Gaines gloucesterdailytimes

The Northeast groundfishing industry proved deeply divided Thursday about a draft legislative proposal under discussion within the New England Congressional delegation for a massive federal bailout and buyback package for fishermen and related businesses.

The size of the package is $200 million, including a government loan to industry for purchasing permits and boats to be repaid by those who continue fishing.

The Gloucester-based Northeast Seafood Coalition, the region’s largest industry group, earlier this week approved a resolution at its board meeting supporting in principle the disaster relief package. And according to a spokesman for Rep. Barney Frank, “all the action items” in a draft letter circulating in the delegation “were directly requested by the fishing industry.”