The New England Fishery Management Council‘s Groundfish Advisory Panel (GAP) met recently in Peabody, Massachusetts to discuss plans and priorities for the coming year. NEFMC, one of 8 fisheries management councils in the United States established by the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act, is tasked with creating management plans for local fisheries, which must be approved by the National Marine Fisheries Service. The GAP is one of several advisory panels which specialize in particular fisheries.
This year’s meeting summary was largely straightforward, with discussions of changes in quotas for several of the species NEFMC is responsible for. However, one line has gone largely unnoticed. On page 10, halfway through the “motion to substitute”, you can see that one of the Groundfish Advisory Panel’s priorities for the next year is to “find a legal way to kill more elasmobranchs”. An audio file of the meeting reveals that the groundfish committee, made up of fishing industry representatives and government officials, neither questioned nor objected to this bizarre and irresponsible motion. It is likely that the elasmobranchs referenced are spiny dogfish and various skates, some of which are considered Threatened regionally by the IUCN Red List. Dogfish and skates are killed in New England as a result of both directed fisheries and bycatch in the groundfish fishery. Quotas for some have increased by an order of magnitude in the last decade.
If you believe, as I do, that fisheries are struggling not because of overly restrictive regulations but because of decades of overfishing that have dangerously reduced fish stocks, and that all marine species deserve both respect and responsible stewardship, I invite you to leave a public comment on the recent Groundfish Advisory Panel report. You can do so by contacting one (or both) of these two people and ask them to share your concerns with NEFMC and the GAP:
NEFMC Public Affairs Officer Patricia Fiorelli, pfiorelli AT NEFMC DOT ORG
Groundfish Advisory Panel Committee Chair Terry Stockwell, Terry.Stockwell AT Maine DOT Gov