Finding Common Ground by Jim Kendall

With regard to the letter from Sam Novello posted on, Finding Common Ground off to a Bad Start, he very eloquently laid out some of the faults, errors, and out and out incompetence of the Northeast Fisheries Science Center with respect to their continued mismanagement of the Northeast fisheries stock assessments.

I know from past work and associations with the NEFSC that this has been going on for so long that they likely now believe their own Mantra about their science being the best (and only way) in which to compile the NE groundfish stock assessment. Unfortunately groundfish is not their only problematic stock assessment.

For years they were so wrong about scallop assessments, they very nearly brought the scallop industry to its knees! Even when it was proven to be woefully inaccurate, they continued to make excuse after excuse to defame the camera study that was the “Brainchild” of Dr. Kevin Stokesbury. Luckily, “U-Mass Dartmouth’s” “School for Marine Science and Technology” (SMAST) allowed Dr. Stokesbury to work and  collaborate with members of the scallop industry to develop and implement his radical new camera survey concept.

NEFSC, didn’t want to accept his work and evidence regarding the camera study’s results. When they finally began to ‘reluctantly’ accept some of his results, they tried to claim that the rebuilt stock and huge sized scallops that were now found in “Closed Area 1( CA1), were the result of the closure and sound “Closed Area Management”! Trouble with that claim and pronouncement was and is; That the U10 (“U10s” are scallops that number less than 10 scallops to a pound”) scallops that were found in the CA1 were several years older than the closure’s existence!

Now I’m not suggesting that the CAs don’t or didn’t work, but that there had to be a fairly large amount of scallops in CA1 prior to the closure. What the CA1 did luckily, was prevent us from fishing on that resource until they had grown to U10s and similar sizes! As our own worst enemies, without the closure, we would have fished that resource out, just as we had done before. Thus, proving that “sound management” can and does work!

Please note and take heed that I said “sound management” which doesn’t come to science or the fishing industry without sincere efforts, and most times (for the industry) with a lot of pain. We have found a way to exit the “Dark Ages” in scallop management, isn’t it time to at least make an effort to move in the same direction with groundfish, and other species!

The NEFSC CAN NOT continue to utilize science of 30 or 40 years ago to justify their continually ongoing computations regarding groundfish surveys and management! They were able to find a way to accept the “New Science” in scallop management, it’s time to do the same for their other management purviews. It is a strong bit of irony that they can take their “bad numbers” from the R/V Bigelow, and the R/V Albatross IV, and elsewhere, and work them into “their “models “and making them acceptable (at least, to themselves) groundfish stock assessments.

“Unfortunately for the fishermen, NOAA says that consistent undercounting is OK because their model adjusts for it, and they wouldn’t be able to use better data because it wouldn’t fit their models.: (excerpted this statement from Sam’s letter) Isn’t this a quintessential example of excusing their own failings, by using their own ‘anecdotal’ findings?

Over the past 30 years I have had opportunities to work with, an alongside many scientists and fishery managers, both from the NEFSC and elsewhere, who were very good at their work, and  some agreed that fishery science, as practiced here in the North East, is sadly lacking, and refusing to come of age!

Once again, we come back to Dr. Stokesbury and his inventive mind! His unique concept of using a net and cameras with an open codend is revolutionary! Count and identify fish without having to catch and kill them!

Even given his hugely successful scallop assessment work, the NEFSC as well as NOAA and NEMFC are dragging their collective feet, rather than work to find ways to proof out his theory.

We as a nation of caring and involved peoples, have a great concern regarding the extinction of endangered species, shouldn’t that same concern apply to the American commercial groundfish fishermen (as well as our other fishermen) who are rapidly becoming an endangered species themselves?

Remember, if our fishermen can no longer provide our fish for the American consumer, there are many foreign fleets who will!

Jim Kendall
New Bedford Seafood Consulting
[email protected]
November 5, 2021