, Newburyport, MA


June 18, 2013

Our view: State budget steps are vital toward credible fish science


The fishery science budget items also go hand-in-hand with the lawsuit filed late last month by Attorney General Martha Coakley, whose bid to put the clamps on NOAA’s industry-killing catch limits emphasize that NOAA came to its half-baked conclusions by failing to use the “best-available science.” But don’t tell that to people like Jud Crawford, who worked on the stock assessments currently in use.

“The fishermen are in trouble because there aren’t enough fish ... ,” Crawford pontificated in an interview with the State House News Service. Yet, anecdotal findings of fishermen who are out on the water show that’s clearly not the case — and NOAA’s scientific history, with a 600 percent catch limit increase needed to “correct” the science wing’s erstwhile data on pollock three years ago, has all too often failed to hold water.

How, you might ask, did Crawford land a role in evaluating fish stocks when NOAA continues to shut out New England’s own fishermen? Well, he’s a fishing science and policy leader for the Pew Charitable Trusts Environmental Initiatives, part of other “Big Green” coalitions — big, for the most part on environmental concerns, but also big on donated corporate green dollar bills.

And that cuts to the core problem: His presence provides even more evidence that NOAA’s “science” is agenda-driven, with inside roles played by organizations who have shown time and time again they may be committed to fish but have no interest in fishermen or fishing communities. And that, as Coakley’s lawsuit also cites, is a consideration mandated by the Magnuson-Stevens Act — one that NOAA and its parent Department of Commerce have consistently ignored.

If the state budget provisions for fisheries survive the current reconciliation fight — and they should — they will show that the state Legislature is indeed serious about taking on the kind of meaningful reforms that have been needed in fishery science for years. And our state attorney general has shown she’s serious about seeking justice through her suit that cites clear fishery management wrongs on the part of our own federal government.

Now, when will NOAA get serious and recognize its need for change? Or, failing that, when will Congress force this wayward agency’s hand?

Time, and this year’s fishermen’s catch limits, are already running out.




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