NEW BEDFORD, MA / ACCESSWIRE / October 2, 2020 / This week, Ed Anthes-Washburn, Director of the Port of New Bedford, proposed improvements to the Magnuson-Stevens Act during the latest fisheries listening session conducted by Congressman Jared Huffman (D-CA), Chairman of the House Subcommittee on Water, Oceans, and Wildlife. As part of his testimony, Director Washburn called for changes to the term "overfishing"; more collaboration between fishermen, regulators and scientists; greater flexibility in rebuilding periods and catch limits; a legislative fix for the conflict between fisheries management and national monuments; and maintaining and enhancing funding for fisheries research.
Representing the nation's highest grossing fishing port, Director Washburn called for threatened fish stocks to be labeled as "depleted" instead of "overfished," a charged term that may not accurately describe why a stock is diminished, and may inaccurately imply that fishermen are to blame.
"There can be a number of reasons for the loss of biomass of a given fish stock that have nothing to do with fishing activity, including the effects of climate change, pollution, changes in migration patterns, or other reasons," Director Washburn said.
Chairman Huffman agreed, saying, "I know that we have situations, salmon in California for example, where the overfish framework applies because the numbers are down, but it is not the fishermen's fault." Chairman Huffman cited drought impacts and diversions of water that have forced the closure of the salmon fishery, making the term "overfishing" "a completely inaccurate term that many fishermen feel like is highly disparaging."
Chairman Huffman also asked Director Washburn specifically about the success of the Atlantic scallop fishery, which Director Washburn attributed to buy-in from industry, regulators, and scientists. Programs like NOAA's Scallop Research Set-Aside, in which a portion of the industry's scallop profits go to research projects, as well as collaborative research from the University of Massachusetts Dartmouth's School for Marine Science & Technology have led to high confidence in the fishery's management. Director Washburn called for a Magnuson-Stevens Act reauthorization that encourages a systematic approach to cooperative research.
In his testimony, Director Washburn expressed support for flexibility in rebuilding periods and annual catch limits. The current 10-year rebuilding requirement places unrealistic mandates on fishery managers since many stocks lack proper scientific data, leading to overly conservative catch limits. Greater flexibility for managers in setting catch limits would also help to achieve the Magnuson-Stevens Act's goal of optimum yield on a continuing basis.
Director Washburn also called for a legislative fix to the conflicting goals of the Magnuson-Stevens Act and the Antiquities Act. While President Trump recently allowed fishing to resume in the Northeast Canyons and Seamounts Marine National Monument, Director Washburn reiterated the industry's concerns with the process that led to the monument's creation. "The process that led to the designation lacked the scientific rigor and industry input that ordinarily come with temporary ocean closures, much less a permanent closure," Director Washburn said.
Director Washburn concluded his testimony by calling for maintaining and enhancing funding for fisheries research. He recommended using funds from offshore wind lease sales to ensure NOAA has the funding to adequately review offshore wind plans and conduct vital stock assessments.
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SOURCE: Port of New Bedford