Today Oceana presented a comprehensive new proposal to reduce the millions of pounds of fish and other ocean life that are wasted in New England fisheries, because they are caught, but discarded - dead or dying. Oceana also again called upon federal fishery managers to take action to reduce and stop this waste, which is sometimes referred to as bycatch or dirty-fishing, as they are required to do under law.
Oceana released results of a 2003 survey of 500 commercial fishermen in New England in which 89 percent of those polled said bycatch is a problem, with 61 percent of respondents indicating that it is a major problem. 76 percent of respondents also said that the bycatch problem needs to be solved or the fishing industry will continue to suffer. Comparatively, 79 percent of those polled said overfishing is a problem, but only 40 percent of the respondents indicated that overfishing is a major problem - and 19 percent indicated that overfishing is not a problem at all.
"Many New England fishermen and environmentalists agree that bycatch is a big problem," said Gib Brogan, campaign projects manager at Oceana. "Working together, we can include bring practical solutions to this serious threat to New England fisheries."
In 2002, Oceana filed a formal petition - signed by more than 100,000 citizens - to compel federal fishery managers to "count, cap, and control" bycatch. As part of its response to Oceana's petition, the federal government is hosting a first-ever New England Bycatch Worskhop. Fishermen, fishery managers, and environmentalists will gather in Wakefield, Mass, to discuss ways to reduce the unintended waste of millions of pounds of valuable marine life.
"It's been years now and all the federal government has done is talk about and plan how to reduce bycatch," Brogan said. "The New England fishing community needs to take leadership and seize this opportunity to bring common sense back into New England fishery management."
At the workshop, Oceana presented a comprehensive set of actions to "count, cap, and control" dirty-fishing. The proposal would put more eyes on the ocean - that is, fishery observers, scientists who work on-board commercial fishing vessels, to count exactly what is taken out of the ocean. The proposal would also establish a hard caps system for New England fisheries - fishing limits for various sectors and areas that maximize catch for fishermen, while ensuring the protection of depleted fish populations, marine mammals, sea turtles, and other ocean life.
Fishermen also widely support these types of management measures. In the 2003 survey, 79 percent of those surveyed thought that fishery observers are needed to provide statistically reliable bycatch estimates in all fisheries, and 61 percent supported limits on the amount of catch and bycatch that can be caught in each fishery and closure of the fishery when those limits are met.
"Count, cap, and control is as really as simple as it sounds," said Brogan. "Our proposal provides incentives that reward fishing that avoids and minimizes bycatch as well as measures to maintain fairness, accountability, and stability in every fishery."