Dear Secretary Lubchenco,
In response to the recent last minute closure notification of the Trimester 2 directed Longfin Squid Fishery, we write to urge NOAA to revamp its notification system to include opt-in text messaging and email, increasing its facsimile database, and enhanced notification via radio and fishing industry publications. Further, NOAA should provide a minimum of five days notice before a fisheries closure to allow fishermen to better plan so that out of pocket costs, that cannot be recovered, are not wasted.
On July 6, 2012, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's (NOAA) National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) announced the 90 percent trigger had been reached, thereby closing the directed fishery, affecting those vessels issued Federal longfin squid permits. Because of the directed fishery closure, they are now limited to landing no more than 2,500 lbs of longfin beginning July 10, 2012, per trip or calendar day until the start of Trimester 3 on September 1, 2012. Unfortunately, the announcement of this closure was not made widely available to many vessels making up the Longfin Squid fleet until four days later, via email, after a majority of the fleet had already packed, restocked and left port for another trip. This resulted in the loss of thousands of dollars in wasted ice, fuel, food purchases and lost catch, which all could have been avoided with a more timely and streamlined notification of the fishery closure by NMFS.
While we understand that a fax notification was sent out during the late afternoon of Friday, July 6th, to port agents, a majority of the vessels with these longfin permits use Boatracs to track official notices on fishery closures. Many did not receive, see, nor were they notified by port agents of the impending closure. As a result, many members of this fleet came in over the weekend, re-fueled, re-stocked ice and food and left port for their trips only to be forced to return to the docks with wasted supplies and no catch, costing anywhere between $10,000-$50,000 per vessel.
U.S. fisheries supply the majority of Longfin squid in both domestic and foreign markets. The majority of this catch is landed in Rhode Island, New York, New Jersey, and Massachusetts. Collectively, the Longfin Squid Fishery fleet consists of approximately one hundred vessels. These same fishermen are required by NMFS to provide 72 hours advanced notice for their planned trips. The same notification standards should apply when closures are planned by NMFS. We request you to work with these vessels on a standardized way to communicate important fishery closure information.