John Bullard’s Listening Session Highlights

NOAA Fisheries Service’s new Northeast Regional Administrator, John Bullard, has been holding a series of public meetings around the region.  His goal was to learn more from fishermen, scientists, environmentalists, seafood dealers and processors, the aquaculture industry and other members of the interested public about not only the challenges they are facing, but also what success looks like.   Here are some of the key points raised during each discussion.

Philadelphia, PA (after Mid-Atlantic Fishery Management Council Meeting) August 14, 2012

  • Science is incorrect 
  • Not enough funding for research
  • NEMAP should have a line item in the budget
  • Fishermen need to be more engaged in collecting information for stock assessment,  should replace Bigelow with a fleet of NEMAP fishing vessels and fishermen  -- only way to bring credibility to the science and get fishermen to believe in it
  • Need a comprehensive review of the Research Set Aside Program - what results has it generated, how is research being used?  Mid-Atlantic Fishery Management Council is doing this, but may need further review
  • Better educate fishermen about assessment, strengths and weakness of all the data used in it
  • Develop a strategic plan for research, with fishermen, to build support
  • Do a better job explaining how the survey feeds into the stock assessment and what other data are used in the assessment, along with the strengths and weaknesses of all the data collected
  • Management hasn’t worked -- Prior to 1976, fishermen practiced ecosystem management – they fished for multiple species that weren’t so restricted by regulations.  Regulations have only made things worst. 
  • The ecosystem is out of balance.  Dogfish is a major hindrance to recovering stocks, particularly offshore populations of male dogfish.
  • No funding or resources for people who are interested in getting into fishing
  • Sturgeon should be delisted 
  • Need a referendum for catch shares in the Mid-Atlantic

What Does Success look like?

American consumers being able to purchase U.S. caught seafood cheaper than they could buy chicken. 100 percent utilization of everything caught by commercial and recreational fishermen

Surf City, NJ August 16, 2012

  • Science Limitations and Funding Concerns
  • Lack of credibility with MRFFs and Marine Recreational Information Program (MRIP) due to use of extrapolated data based on a small sample size and limited phone survey
  • Things are changing within the ecosystem.  Should be allowing fishermen to fish for a diversity of species
  • A lot of the management decisions being made based on bad science and fear of legal action against the agency 
  • Recreational discards should be taken off the top, not assumed 100 percent mortality
  • Potential impact of the Atlantic sturgeon listing on monkfish fishery
  • Displaced effort from groundfish fishery into monkfish fishery
  • Rhode Island should not be allowed a seat on the Mid-Atlantic Fishery Management Council
  • Lack of flexibility in management to react in real time
  • Groundfish fishery is a concern but equally important is to focus on successful fishery (like scallops) and make sure that it doesn’t go by the wayside
  • Department of Commerce was supposed to be about economic development – 87 percent of our seafood is coming in from outside U.S., why not have higher tariffs and use that money for science?
  • Why are people who were involved in enforcement scandal not penalized?
  • Concern about the potential for more consolidation in the groundfish fishery
  • Catch shares were seen as resulting in winners and losers
  • Impact on marketplace and shoreside service industry
  • No opportunity for young fishermen to get into business
  • Closed Areas  -- important to understand what value these areas have before they are changed
  • A lot of changes happening in the marine ecosystem, where did mackerel go?  Why was this a record year for Loligo squid? 
  • Want to see further support for cooperative research projects like the monkfish low profile gillnet gear study so fishermen, scientists and NOAA Fisheries could continue to work together on solutions
  • Want access to the northern edge of Closed Area II for scallop fishermen
  • Improve the way the Georges Bank yellowtail flounder stock is managed (e.g., reject any management advice based on the recent Georges Bank yellowtail flounder stock assessment  and apply techniques used to manage a “data-poor” fishery to set the overall U.S./CA yellowtail TAC and apportion the TAC fairly between the two countries)

What would success look like related to fisheries in the Northeast Region?

While the scallop fishery has been successful, NOAA Fisheries and the Council need to invest more management resources into helping ensure long term success of this fishery. Provide real time data about the fishery’s estimated Georges Bank and Southern New England/Mid-Atlantic yellowtail catches as the fishing year is progressing so industry can avoid exceeding  their annual catch limits

 Boston, MA Seafood Dealers and Processors Meeting August 22, 2012

  • Science needs to be improved
  • NOAA continues to use outdated scientific models – need new look at industry and new ways of making predictions
  • Bigelow should be used for climate science, not fisheries – commercial fishing vessels and fishermen should be employed to collect accurate data           
  • Use acoustic sampling for herring to obtain accurate numbers
  • Get scientists out on the ocean to determine herring abundance
  • Need more fish landed to keep auctions open and infrastructure working
  • Processors are eliminating local species from their sales lists because the supply is inconsistent
  • Processors’ business models are becoming increasingly centered on the distribution of foreign seafood that is flown or trucked in
  • Natural cycles of distribution and abundance should be considered in fishery management decision-making
  • Reduce minimum size limit on haddock to match Canada’s requirements. Otherwise, will lose market share and revenue from 2010 and 2011 year classes
  • Costs of observer coverage
  • Move NOAA Fisheries under Department of Agriculture for increased funding
  • Seafood exporters should not have to pay fee-for-service costs for inspection services provided by the federal government. These services are over-priced and inferior
  • Support aquaculture development
  • Address discards as they are extremely wasteful
  • Address and implement the recommendations of the Touchstone report
  • Concern that the Regional Administrator has orders to downsize the fleet

Gloucester, MA August 21, 2012

  • Need more review of government science by scientists outside of NOAA Fisheries
  • Fishermen need to be more involved in cooperative research
  • Employ an ecosystem-based approach and include people as a factor in the successful evaluation of the ocean environment
  • More industry representation is needed on the New England Fishery Management Council
  • Sector allocation is not an effective method of fisheries management as evidenced by the shrinking fleet
  • Federal and state agencies need to work and plan ahead together to prepare for the next fishing year.  Would be helpful to foresee impacts on coastal communities as well
  • A successful industry would include a healthy local economy and surrounding community
  • Need robust infrastructure services to have healthy industry
  • Fleet structure, including fuel consumption and vessel  efficiency, needs to be considered as a criteria for a viable industry NOAA Fisheries and New England Fishery Management Council should have staff with boat engineering expertise
  • Regulations should be based on hold capacity, not length, so that vessels could be longer and narrower so they would ride higher in the water and use less fuel
  • A vision of success is when people are excited to fish
  • Catch limits need to be changed for next year to prevent fishermen from going out of business
  • On-going efforts are needed to ensure continued funding for the Cooperative Research Program
  • Sector management may have been better-received if NOAA Fisheries had allowed for more time and discussion with industry as to how a sector system would work, and for both industry and the agency to better prepare for the transition

Scituate, MA August 24, 2012

Recreational Fishing Industry

  • Been a decline in key stocks due to large vessels fishing on Stellwagen Bank
  • Preserve Western Gulf of Maine Closure area to protect spawning cod, open offshore closures to get large vessels to fish offshore
  • Lack of consideration for charter boats when establishing trip limits
  • Distrust the Stellwagen Bank National Marine Sanctuary office due to Ecological Research Area proposal
  • Should manage to reduce predators/predation
  • Want input restrictions (like old daily trip limits) that make Stellwagen Bank unattractive to large vessels
  • Establish the recreational daily bag limits early in the calendar year to allow fishermen to market trips, plan year
  • Disaster relief should respect the unintended consequences that sectors/catch shares caused to recreational/charter fishery

Commercial fishery

  • Local fishermen accepted and implemented input controls early to conserve stocks -- Instrumental in rebuilding stocks
  • Early conservation resulted in current low allocation due to the catch history years selected by the New England Fishery Management Council 
  • Lack of input controls today resulted in overfishing of inshore stocks by large vessels.  One large boat without a trip limit can catch in one night what used to support 20 boats for days
  • Although Sector 10 qualified for disaster in first year of new regime, they don’t want money, they want to be allowed to work
  • Economic analyses write off the $70,000/year losses.  While this is a good trip for a big boat, this is an annual salary for independent operator
  • Discard assumptions are incorrect when applied to day boats fishing with input controls.  They adopted measures to release fish in good shape (e.g.,  zippers to release them before onboard).  There are no dead fish around small vessels, lots after large vessels have been through
  • 2013 cuts will be lethal.  Already cut crews, vessel upgrades not being done.  Additional cuts will cut into family subsistence; mortgages, groceries
  • Safety is a big concern.  Aging vessels and people.   Northeast is now the deadliest catch fishery due to older equipment and fluctuating annual catch limits, inability for fishermen to develop long-term business plans, obtain bank investment.   Need long-term time horizon
  • Reduce costs – observers, assumed discards, quota shares
  • Will not be able to pay for monitors in 2013
  • Monitoring data from at-sea monitors not being used in stock assessment, but taking funds from Northeast Fisheries Observer Program
  • Rebuild stocks again, using input controls for near shore waters
  • Revise Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act and Marine Mammal Protection Act to make them more flexible
  • Keep Western Gulf of Maine closed area – do not open; good habitat, safe haven for cod.  Open up offshore closed areas as incentive for large boats to fish offshore
  • Volatility in annual catch limits is unsustainable
  • Get rid of ten year rebuilding in Magnuson-Stevens Act as primary goal
  • Restrict fluctuations between years to 10 – 15%, no more
  • Finesse system to stabilize catch limits (e.g. extend rebuilding periods)
  • Result: Fishermen can make business plans, banks will have more confidence in fishing if ACLs are stable, will be more willing to lend money
  • Cooperative research partnership needs to be rebuilt
  • Reinvest in this fishery, help fishermen with business plans, bank loans, long-term horizons
  • Clarify role of the New England Fishery Management Council’s Science and Statistical Committee:  do they make recommendations for the Council members to consider within the big picture that includes social sciences, or do they dictate to the councils?
  • For projects affecting fishing grounds (wind farm);  require fishermen at the table early, require mitigation if adverse effects occur
  • Abandon single species management and manage and maintain the biomass of a healthier ecosystem; reduce predators and increase valuable stocks
  • Manage to reduce predation instead of just using predation estimates to reduce fishermen’s allocations
  • Develop management that allows catch of abundant species, doesn’t make poor discard mortality or bycatch assumptions
  • Wind farm: Reinitiate consultation on effects of wind farm to Essential Fish Habitat and fishermen. Request an emergency congressional hearing on effects of wind farm on fishermen
  • Pilgrim Plant: NOAA Fisheries needs to reinitiate and do a more thorough Essential Fish Habitat and Endangered Species Assessment for Pilgrim Nuclear to assess effects of the plant on Cape Cod Bay Closed loop system should be required

Portland, ME August 28, 2012

  • Too many dogfish, seals doing a good job on winter flounder, no groundfish left in Maine
  • Need an area (inshore) where small boats can fish and big boats have to stay out 
  • Environmental changes; High incidence of disease in seals a problem. Increased number of harmful algal blooms
  • Lack of hake allocation making it difficult for Maine fishermen to target pollock
  • Catch shares are a lost opportunity because the allocations were based on catch history.  They should have been based on permits
  • Lack of forage fish in the ecosystem (e.g., herring, mackerel)
  • Need to pay more attention to the recreational fishing industry
  • Draggers on Stellwagen Bank a problem
  • Cost of at-sea monitoring
  • Survey boats don’t have incentive to catch fish.  Survey boats always go to the same place.  “If I wanted to catch fish I wouldn’t go there.”
  • Management measures take too long to develop, Omnibus Habitat Amendment has been eight years in the making
  • In favor of maintaining the closed areas,  like the v-notch program protects lobster brood stock, closures protect brood stock for groundfish industry
  • We are bringing in bait from other parts of the world and putting pathogens in Gulf of Maine  we should have to prove it is good before we put it into the ocean.  Ask the question does it have an impact on forage fish? 
  • Don’t forget about aquaculture 

Ellsworth, ME August 30, 2012

  • NOAA is still using data collection methods and technology that was used in the 18th century. Why aren’t you using hand held scanners?  “This would save me hundreds of dollars a week and then you would have instantaneous information for policy.”
  • Need gauge consistency across states (RI, CT southern MA, increased gauge)
  • A lot of changes are happening in the ocean
  • Bottom temperature warmer in Frenchman’s Bay
  • Earlier spawning of species like elvers, blue mussels, horseshoe crabs
  • Estuaries going to be the first place really see signs of Global warming, eel grass die offs
  • Sandlance on beach in Port Clyde
  • Small groundfish in Penobscot Bay
  • Squid in Southwest Harbor in March, unusual
  • Problems with the science
  • Variation in the Gulf of Maine cod assessment for 2011 -- big difference between earlier assessment
  •  Cooperative Research is good.  Sentinel fishery is in its third year. 
  • When fishermen aren’t catching fish, you lose valuable information for stock assessment. “We need a dedicated ecosystem study of coastal Maine waters because there is no fishery there to sample for groundfish.”
  • With the opening up of the Penobscot, hopeful that the bait fish are going to come back, followed by groundfish 
  • Need to have mechanisms in place for new entrants when groundfish do come back
  • Small fixed gear herring  fishery using stop seine shouldn’t be constrained as to when they set their nets by regulations in the offshore big boat fishery
  • Before you open up closed areas, you need to evaluate what is going on in there with a sentinel fishery   -- For instance, Closed Area I, northern area had greatest age structure of age 11 cod 
  • Fishermen need to be able to diversify, fish for various species to survive
  • Concern over having to pay monitoring costs for sector management
  • Need to think seriously about aquaculture, have lost, through selective fishing, the large spawning cod, maturing earlier now
  • To address consolidation you could apply a conservation tax.  This tax could be transferred back to area banks every time a large boat buys a small permit 

Portsmouth, NH September 12, 2012

  • NOAA Fisheries and fishermen should work together to develop more effective pingers - technology exists to get down to zero by-catch levels
  • Upcoming harbor porpoise closures could reduce groundfish landings sufficiently to put the only remaining Co-op left in New Hampshire (the Yankee Co-op) out of business. If the Co-op closes, the New Hampshire fishing fleet will have no shore side support
  • Pinger testing gun and the observer process don’t work to determine compliance
  • In consequence closure area, fish mortality will not decrease as mobile gear will come in and take those fish
  • Small vessels cannot make up the lost revenue from these closures in other months, captains will not be able to afford their crew
  • Consequence closure is being implemented based on a faulty methodology and ratio
  • Local fishermen make money during the proposed closure months and simply cover costs the rest of the year. The economic consequence for industry is much more severe in October/November than in February/March
  • Commit to change at the highest levels of NOAA Fisheries leadership to safeguard a successful future for industry
  • Need additional financial resources to keep the groundfish industry afloat
  • Roll back minimum size of Bluefin tuna to be able to catch the full quota
  • How are fishermen supposed to detect pingers when they emit a high frequency sound that is not detectable to human ear?
  • Why can't you just keep the fishery open and have observers come down to the docks with guns to make sure all the pingers are working so fishermen can go fish?
  • How do you explain when the fisherman knows the pinger is working and both the observer and the fisherman hear it, but the gun says it isn't working?
  • Why are you punishing fishermen who are compliant along with those who aren't?  This closure isn't fair.
  • Concerns about the methodology and the way that the bycatch trigger that prompted the closure was calculated 
  • It is not easy for fishermen who fish inshore to fish around these areas