Dr. Kathryn Sullivan
National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration
1401 Constitution Avenue, NW
Washington, DC 20230
Dear Acting Administrator Sullivan:
I am writing to express my concern over the preliminary estimates of the summer flounder landings July and August of 2013. There continues to be a troubling lack of confidence among fishermen and many fisheries managers in the data produced by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and these estimates may reinforce the criticisms weighed against NOAA's data collection program.
According to preliminary data estimates, more than 3 million pounds of summer flounder were landed during this past July and August. This would mean that there were a greater amount of landings during these two months than during the same period of any other year dating back to 2004. Given the continued difficulties faced by the fishing community as a result of Superstorm Sandy, these estimates cannot be reconciled with observational reporting. For instance, many marinas were damaged and are still rebuilding. Additionally, a considerable number of boats were destroyed and have yet to be replaced. This leaves me concerned that there are a number of considerations that NOAA has failed to incorporate into its estimates.
I also remain concerned about whether NOAA has the resources necessary to collect reliable data. In recent years, I have advocated for additional funds to be directed towards cooperative research and in-season data collection so that better fishing estimates can be made. Yet, rather than investing in management of an industry that serves as an economic driver, sequestration is forcing across the board cuts. I have opposed sequestration and want to know what impact it is having on NOAA.
As Congress considers reauthorization of the Magnuson Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act the reliability of data collection remains a primary concern of mine. The 2006 amendments to the act included requirements to develop an improved recreational data collection program, now the Marine Recreational Information Program (MRIP). Yet there is still concern that random sampling is heavily relied upon by NOAA and that the estimates produced are inaccurate.
I ask that NOAA fully review the preliminary estimates for summer flounder landings and that any additional biases potentially created by Superstorm Sandy be taken into account before the final estimates are released. Furthermore, I ask that you provide me with details about any challenges NOAA faces in providing more accurate fishing data, including limited resources and obstacles faced in implementing the MRIP program.
FRANK PALLONE, JR.
Member of Congress