Senators John Kerry and Scott Brown, together with Congressmen Barney Frank, John Tierney and William Delahunt today applauded the U.S. Commerce Department for increasing the catch limits on pollock from six million to 36 million pounds.
The new eased regulations, effective almost immediately, will help to ensure that sectors stay open and Massachusetts fishermen can continue to fish. It will also allow the industry as a whole to continue to rebuild.
Pollock have been called a "choke stock" by fishermen because low pollock quotas threaten to trigger automatic sector closures. In the Northeast sector system, all sector fishing must cease once the sector's quota is reached on any groundfish species.
The legislators sent a letter to the Commerce Department in April asking for an increase in the catch share limit to help fishermen survive one of the worst economic climates their industry has ever faced. They said that "unless the federal government takes additional steps to help fishermen adjust through this transition (to the catch shares fisheries management system), many will be forced out of work," and that we need to "make every possible effort to nurture, encourage and facilitate survival of the industry through this difficult period."
"I am pleased that NOAA has agreed to our request to provide a five-fold increase in the annual catch limit of pollock, a key stock in the Massachusetts groundfish fishery. I remain concerned, however, that without corresponding increases in the remaining "choke stocks' our fishermen may not be able to significantly increase fishing this season. Again, I ask NOAA to expand the catch limits for the remaining "choke stocks' so our fishermen will be able to stay in business during this regulatory transition," said Senator Kerry.
"The Commerce Department's decision to increase the catch limits on Pollock is welcome news to our hardworking fishermen. This decision is a good step toward assisting the fishermen who are key contributors to our state's economy and have been struggling through these tough times," said Senator Scott Brown.
"I am pleased at this first step toward meeting the legitimate needs of our fishing industry and of American consumers for whom reasonably-priced fish is an important source of healthy food," said Congressman Frank. "The decision to raise the catch limits based on scientific review confirms our view that previous allocations were much more restrictive than the science requires. The six-fold increase in the pollock limit, for example, demonstrates the seriousness of the underestimate before I and other Members of Congress advocated for the strong need for reassessment. And while I'm very pleased that we have seen an increase in the limits for pollock, I urge the administration to re-evaluate as expeditiously as possible the other relevant "choke species" that are gravely impacting the fishing industry. Finally, I am especially pleased that the decision today was announced directly by the Secretary of Commerce, who has authority over NOAA and has made this a priority."
"While I am pleased to learn that the Secretary has followed through on his promise to raise the Pollock shares, I remain concerned that our fishing communities are still stifled and limited in their productivity because of the low limits on the other choke stocks," Congressman Tierney said. "We implore the Secretary to announce increases in the remaining choke stocks, and I continue to work with my colleagues to provide as much flexibility as possible."
"If the fishing industry is going to survive, then the federal government must take steps like this and provide more access to stocks that are rebuilding, like pollock and dogfish" said Bill Delahunt. "I will continue to work on behalf of our fishermen in promoting initiatives like this."