NewburyportNews.com, Newburyport, MA

Opinion

July 23, 2013

Fed panel's provisions beyond cash are keyto fisheries

(Continued)

Over time, however, Congress shifted the Saltonstall-Kennedy revenues into NOAA’s operating budget, and that’s how it is shamefully still used today. The Appropriations panel measure would, as of now, steer 10 percent of the seaport import money toward projects to modernize both fishing fleets and waterfront businesses — and that would at least be a start.

Those same state and federal lawmakers — and industry lobbying groups like the Gloucester-based Northeast Seafood Coalition — have also pushed for years to get NOAA to submit to cooperative research that would allow input from fishermen who don’t just look at NOAA computer models, but know what they’re seeing in the oceans and, most importantly, know where the fish are, recognize their moving patterns, and now which gear to use to catch them.

That, of course, is something NOAA and its science experts — some tied, of course, to the likes of Pew Environment Group and Conservation Law Foundation, who don’t want to find abundant species of anything — have never come close to mastering, whether using the wrong nets during the almost laughable “Trawlgate” surveys of 1999-2000, to conflicting assessments in just the last three years. Yet NOAA officials have refused any scientific help from working fishermen in carrying out assessments that have brought limit cuts of up to 78 percent this year, and pushing many fishermen out of Gloucester and other ports to the brink of an industry’s extinction.

NOAA could, of course, just ignore these mandates, just as this rogue agency has for years regarding economic impact mandates within its own Magnuson-Stevens Act, and with calls from congressional leaders.

But tying these dictates to NOAA’s core budget should indeed step up the pressure for change.

Let’s hope these provisions, especially, become part of the Senate’s and House’s finished products.

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