Senator John Kerry (D-Mass.), in a letter sent today to Samuel D. Rauch, Acting Assistant Administrator for Fisheries at the National Marine Fisheries Service, called on him to organize a meeting with scientists from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and Northeast experts and fisherman to discuss groundfish stock assessments.
"I can't stress enough how important it is that fishermen who fish our waters every day are at the table for the discussions that shape rules that shape their economic fortunes," said Sen. Kerry. "Northeast fishermen have a vested interest in making the system work. The jobs of more than 77,000 folks in Massachusetts depend on the fishing industry and my job is to make the rules of the road work for them from start to finish."
By engaging local scientists, members of the New England Fisheries Management Council and our fishermen to discuss the complexities of accurately assessing stocks, regulators will gain a more complete picture of the realities of the fishing industry in Georges Bank and the Gulf of Maine. In his letter to Rauch, Kerry explained:
"It is critical that NOAA provide fishermen and others the opportunity to engage in the process, provide feedback, and share ideas about existing methods used by NOAA and other federal agencies and how they can be improved."
Senator Kerry is working to ensure that fishermen and industry stakeholders have a voice in any further actions regulators take to reduce catch limits in Northeast fisheries. Groundfish stock assessments are a key factor in changes to Adjusted Catch Limits, and the accuracy of those assessments is critical to the future of the fishing industry in Massachusetts and the jobs it supports.
The full text of Senator Kerry's letter is below:
September 24, 2012
Mr. Samuel D. Rauch
Acting Assistant Administrator for Fisheries
National Marine Fisheries Service
1315 East-West Highway
Silver Spring, Maryland 20910
Dear Acting Assistant Administrator Rauch:
I am writing to you to follow up on our recent meeting concerning fishery science. While the recent securing of a disaster declaration will provide much needed assistance at this difficult time, it is not a solution to the many and complex underlying causes of the problem. As you know, fishermen and fishing-related businesses in coastal communities around New England are bracing for additional limits on fishing in both Georges Bank and the Gulf of Maine due to a recent National Marine Fisheries Service interim report, which showed dramatic declines in the six major groundfish stocks in the New England fishery and included potential changes in the Adjusted Catch Limits (ACL) as a result of these declines.
The severity of the potential consequences of these proposed cuts demands that every possible step is taken to ensure that the data and methodology used to set catch limits is as robust and accurate as possible, with buy-in from the people whose livelihoods are most impacted by the results. I strongly believe that credible science is the keystone of a sustainable and successful fishery and for this reason, I am requesting that you organize a meeting within the next month with NOAA scientists, local scientists, members of the New England Fisheries Management Council, and our fishermen and industry participants to collaboratively discuss and review the complex stock assessment process.
I am hopeful this meeting will be an important first step forward in improving fisheries science in New England and in improving NOAA's engagement with stakeholders. It is critical that NOAA provide fishermen and others the opportunity to engage in the process, provide feedback, and share ideas about existing methods used by NOAA and other federal agencies and how they can be improved. This meeting and this type of close collaboration is needed so that fishermen have science they can trust and rely on. This is vital to the future of the New England fishery.Thank you for your consideration and for your ongoing efforts to work with me to ensure a sustainable and successful groundfish fishery in New England.
John F. Kerry