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Tuesday, 18 November 2014

So much for fisheries management

So much for UK / USA  cod / ray / skate / plaice / bass (un-delete as appropriate) fisheries management.


This is yet another example of fisheries 'management' from across the pond in the USA - substitute NMFS for the MMO and a few other terms and you just as well be talking about the UK.


Here's the story:
For those of you across the fruited plain, here’s how it went down in New England’s cod fishery. Beginning 20 years ago or so, NMFS cut the number of days boats could fish. Then it cut them again. Then it bought back some vessels. Along the way it discovered its stock assessments were flawed. It bought back more vessels and cut more days.


So much for effort controls.

In 2009 Jane Lubchenco, a college professor from the West Coast, took over the reins at NOAA and led the effort to convert New England to catch shares management. Kool-Aid drinkers with a taste for this regime believe that catch shares “rationalize” fisheries, scaling production capacity to match a desired harvest level.

As of today, the desired harvest level for cod is zero. “Thanks for playing,” fishermen have been told.

So much for output controls.

“We couldn’t be any worse off, either the resources or the people, if we had no management at all for the past 20 years,” Maggie Raymond, owner of two groundfish boats and a longtime industry activist, told Maine’s Portland Press Herald this week.

Which brings to mind Thomas (Diddy) Martin. Diddy was a first-rate welder and mechanic who worked on a lot of the fishing boats around southern York County, Maine, in the 1970s and ’80s, including mine. Diddy could make anything run but his specialty was putting scrap metal to indestructible use by fishermen who otherwise could be counted on to break anything. “This has got worms,” he’d say about whatever he was rigging. “But we’ll rube” — as in Rube Goldberg — “something together."

When we were done work we would go to a bar and argue. Diddy believed that fishery management was a waste of time. I was a champion of fishery management, which at the time had no impact on me as an inshore fisherman. I didn’t even fill out the logs.

“Diddy,” I’d say earnestly, “we’ve got to manage these fish.” “No way!” he’d declare. “All you’ve got to do is catch them. If you can’t make any money catching dabs you’ll catch something else or go out of business. “I’m tellin’ ya,” which he always said when he was telling us something, “The last thing you want is for the government to get involved.”

I miss you old friend. And you were right all along. 



Interesting feedback from website reader Jim kendall:
There's a whole bunch of irony involved here (without involving Diddy's scrap metal), when you look back at all that's been done in the name of fisheries management. It's a damn good thing that the people who work for NOAA/NFMS aren't paid based upon what they've managed to produce (or catch).

By the simple virtue of devastating & downsizing the commercial fishing industry, they've managed to grow their own "business" to some unimaginable size & value. I've tried unsuccessfully to learn as to how large it (NOAA/NMFS) has grown in the past 20 years, & what the budget has as well.

Let's take Gulf of Maine cod for example. All of a sudden the industry was made aware of an unscheduled & previously unannounced, reassessment, or review of an earlier assessment without the benefit of, or the need for, a new survey. This happened after we were told that there wasn't time or money to do other research or reviews to update the stock assessment for the coming year. Then all of a sudden, here we have a new evaluation of the same old data that gave us last year's 75% reduction. This time stating that there apparently was just 3-4% of the required spawning stock, & not the 13-18% of the last assessment

Remember pollock? When their first assessment required another huge reduction in quota, a second look brought about a nearly 500% increase in the quota. Apparently, quota adjustments of, plus or minus (+ or -) 400 to 500% are within the acceptable confidence levels of this august panel? At that time it required about 2 to 3 weeks time to do a peer review after the announced quota increase. Since then, they've apparently gotten much better at doing their peer reviews as well, as the latest one for the GOM cod only required 2 days! Probably because there are so few cod to count now.

At the time, apparently the error in the first assessment was due to a newer method of modeling as explained in the June 17, 2010 New Bedford Standard Times by Jud Crawford, the science and policy manager for PEW's New England Fisheries Campaigns. "This represents a big improvement in the way they go about the assessment," he said, "because scientists formerly employed an "index-based" model for stock assessment". "That was fairly primitive. But over the past several years they have been able to assemble the data for a more sophisticated age-structured model," Crawford explained. How quickly that has become flawed & antiquated, apparently.

At the Portsmouth, NH peer review meeting this past August, questions & issues regarding climatic & changing ocean conditions were raised. I tried to get some reasoned response from the peer review panel as to why; "if water temperatures, & ocean conditions were causing dramatic changes, & were very possibly causing the beginning of a regime shift for cod & its food sources, was the NFMS & the NEFMC continuing to try to manage this resource by reducing mortality through effort reductions on fishermen???

Those questions remain just as unexplained & enigmatic as to how in the hell they expect the small boat fishermen, in particular, to survive? Perhaps in the end it can all be explained as: SHIFT HAPPENS!

Jim Kendall NBSC Nov. 13, 2014