Fishing regulators delay vote on catch cuts

The council voted 15-2 to delay a vote until its next meeting, Jan. 29-31. Proposed allocations for the year starting May 1 have been cut drastically, 75 percent for some species. A Groundfish Committee proposal that would have replaced those cuts with an across-the-board cut of 10 percent of the 2012 landings was declared out of order by council Chairman C. M. “Rip” Cunningham. He said it wouldn’t satisfy the requirements of the Magnuson-Stevens Act that governs fishing and could never be accepted by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. The proposal had already been sideswiped by Peter Shelley, senior counsel for the Conservation Law Foundation, for the same reason. He threatened a lawsuit, drawing boos from the packed hall where about 150 New England fishermen faced down the council. About 20 people from Greater New Bedford were among those in attendance.

Much of Thursday’s meeting dealt with the flawed science used to make quota decisions, especially the data collected by the research vessel Bigelow. Seafood consultant Jim Kendall, of New Bedford, along with council member John Quinn, of Dartmouth, ridiculed NOAA for making decisions with nothing but poor science, speculation and guesswork.

The Bigelow’s data on yellowtail flounder has resulted in a dramatic cut in quota for next year, which could well shut down the Gulf of Maine fishery. But the fishermen insisted the Bigelow was taking test trawls in places where they knew there would be no fish and avoided the places where there were fish.

The council did adopt a motion to allow fishing in some areas that have been closed to groundfishing for 22 years. This angered the environmental representatives, both Shelley and Oceana’s Gib Brogan. Read More