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NOAA Regional Administrator Shows His Support for Fishermen at Rally

John Bullard Attends Fishermen’s Rally to Show His Support for the Groundfish Industry

 On Monday, April 29, the Northeast Seafood Coalition held a rally in Boston, MA to mobilize support for efforts to help the groundfish industry weather what they have called “The Perfect Storm of Circumstances.”  Northeast Region Administrator John Bullard attended the rally to show NOAA Fisheries support for fishermen, fishing families and fishing communities. 

Jackie O'Dell, Northeast Seafood Coalition and an organizer of the Fishermen's Rally.  Photo credit: NOAA Fisheries   

Chris Brown, Rhode Island Commercial Fishermen's Association.  Photo credit NOAA Fisheries  

More than 200 fishermen from Maine to Rhode Island attended the rally along with the media.  Photo credit: NOAA Fisheries

We’ve had to implement strict catch limits for the 2013 fishing year for several key groundfish stocks, but we’ve also been working hard to find ways to help fishermen focus effort on healthy groundfish and other stocks.  We also continue to support cooperative research projects between fishermen and scientists that will help fishermen better avoid those unhealthy stocks. 

The organizers of the Boston rally cited four main objectives for weathering this storm centered around identifying additional harvesting opportunities for fishermen; securing economic relief for groundfish dependent businesses; securing stable funding for monitoring programs; and identifying flexibility in federal fisheries law.

We share the sentiment expressed in these objectives and have taken steps through measures implemented on May 1, and actions over the past year, to demonstrate that we are serious about helping fishermen while we rebuild fish stocks. 

Last year, we used flexibility in federal fisheries law to allow a reduction in overfishing for Gulf of Maine cod for one year, but we don’t feel that we can legally or responsibly allow overfishing to continue for another year in 2013 nor do we think we can, in all good conscience, allow overfishing to continue on another stock - Gulf of Maine haddock -- which is also in poor condition.  That said, we are looking for other ways to help the industry that doesn’t  further risk these already vulnerable stocks.  We’ve stretched our rules to allow some carryover of fish not caught under last year’s quotas and are continuing to cover the costs for monitoring the fishery to the best of our ability so that fishermen won’t have to incur these costs next year.   

On May 1 when lower quotas go into effect for some stocks, we’re implementing catch increases for other stocks including white hake, Georges Bank haddock and redfish – all healthy groundfish stocks.  We established a new quota for Southern New England/Mid-Atlantic winter flounder that could generate an estimated $5.4 million in added revenue for the industry this year.  We’re allowing 23 exemptions for sectors, which should provide further opportunity even though, in some cases, we are requiring industry-funded 100 percent observer coverage.   We need to do this to collect more data on the impacts of these activities, so we can respond as quickly as possible to adjust the measures if necessary. 

Maggie Raymond, Associated Fisheries of Maine.  Photo credit: NOAA Fisheries

In her remarks during the Monday rally, Mayor Carolyn Kirk stated that the city of Gloucester is working on a visioning plan for the port of Gloucester to ensure that the Gloucester fishing heritage endures for the next 400 years.  We support the City’s efforts and attended their first planning meeting in April.  We look forward to collaborating further with the city in these efforts.  We also will continue to speak to the Coalition, who reached out to us a couple of months ago, and anyone else interested in further development of strategies to help the industry transition into the future. And, we keep reaching out to our federal partners in Congress and other federal agencies like the Economic Development Administration, the Small Business Administration and the US Department of Agriculture to see how they can help.

Preserving the groundfish fishery is important to NOAA Fisheries because we care about fishermen and the communities, families and businesses that support them.  We will continue to do everything in our power to help this fishery evolve and thrive in the future while protecting and restoring the natural resources under our care.