WASHINGTON-- Today, as the New England Fishery Management Council meets to discuss fishing plans for the coming year, Oceana expressed disappointment that the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) has again missed an opportunity to create a viable electronic monitoring system for the 2014 fishing year, despite years of work and support from fishermen, the New England Council and conservation organizations. Oceana calls on NMFS to approve and implement electronic monitoring in the New England groundfish fishery for cod, haddock and flounder as soon as possible.
NMFS has a duty to monitor the overall amount of catch in each fishery, including discards, as well as to set and enforce quotas to prevent overfishing. This process requires a timely, accurate and precise monitoring system that can guide fishery management decision making. Electronic monitoring is one such system that uses video cameras on fishing vessels to monitor behavior and document catch, and it can be a more cost-effective alternative to using human observers.
Oceana released the following statement from Northeast Representative Gib Brogan regarding monitoring needs in the New England groundfish fishery.
“Monitoring programs are crucial tools in getting accurate data on how many fish are being caught, as well as helping NMFS set scientifically based quotas that would ensure the depleted New England groundfish population is healthy enough to rebuild in future years.
Yet, year after year, NMFS has ignored the monitoring needs of this fishery and has instead set extremely low monitoring levels. Oceana calls on NMFS to commit to fully developing an electronic monitoring system for the groundfish fishery that can be implemented in 2015.
The New England Council must immediately take action to ensure that catch monitoring in 2014 will provide accurate and precise information to manage this struggling fishery and protect the fishery’s overall future and sustainability.”
In 2010, the historic New England groundfish fishery transitioned to a catch-share management program, which divides the fishery into “sectors” and allocates quotas to individual fishermen. This system relies upon the fishery having an adequate monitoring system in place to make certain each sector stops fishing when the number of fish landed and discarded reaches its assigned quota.
Oceana sued NMFS in 2010, 2012, and again in 2013 after it became clear that the federal government did not adequately consider what level of observer coverage was needed to monitor the sectors and that discards from the fishery would not be accurately monitored.