The Nantucket Lightship Access Area (Nantucket Lightship), which was scheduled to open on June 15, 2011 under current regulations, will remain closed to scallop fishing in 2011. This closure was done through NOAA’s National Marine Fisheries Service’s (NMFS) authority to take emergency actions and is consistent with proposed Framework Adjustment 22 to the Atlantic Sea Scallop Fishery Management Plan (Framework 22). This emergency closure of the Nantucket Lightship was requested by members of the scallop industry and by the New England Fishery Management Council (Council) because the final decision for approving Framework 22 will not be made before June 15.
In the absence of Framework 22 being approved and implemented before June 15, 2011, the current regulations would have rolled over, thereby opening Nantucket Lightship on that date. This would have undermined the proposed Framework 22 measure designed to prevent high levels of scallop and yellowtail flounder from being caught in the Nantucket Lightship in FY 2011. Industry members told us that many vessel owners were considering taking their Nantucket Lightship trips if the area opened this year. If scallop and yellowtail flounder catch levels are too high in 2011, this would be detrimental to the long-term management and health of the scallop fishery.
We know some vessel owners may have preferred to send their vessels to the Nantucket Lightship this year. However, the risks to the long-term success of management of the scallop fishery for the overall fleet outweigh the short-term benefits for those that would fish in the Nantucket Lightship. If scallop and yellowtail catch had been too high in 2011 because of fishing that occurred in this area, even vessels that chose not to fish their trips would have had to pay for the decision of other vessels. I commend the scallop industry for demonstrating its commitment to effective and successful management of the scallop fishery by urging action to prevent excessive harvest.
Please note that Amendment 15 and Framework 22 are both still in public comment periods through May 26 and May 31, 2011, respectively. If approved, we expect these actions to be in place in July 2011. Measures implemented under Framework 22, if approved, would replace this emergency measure by continuing this closure for the rest of the 2011 fishing year. Please call the Sustainable Fisheries Division at (978) 281-9315 if you have any questions regarding the information in this letter.
Patricia A. Kurkul
For Immediate Release
April 12, 2010
SCALLOP FISHERMEN, FAMILIES SALUTE MASSACHUSETTS GOVERNOR’S SUPPORT FOR ATLANTIC SEA SCALLOP FISHERY
Washington, D.C. – The Fisheries Survival Fund (FSF), the largest national organization dedicated to protecting and strengthening the nation’s Atlantic sea scallop fishery, today strongly praised Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick for his strong support of scallop fishermen and their families. Governor Patrick was honored by FSF and the scallop community last Friday in New Bedford, where he and members of his administration were joined by local elected officials, including New Bedford Mayor Scott Lang, to participate also in a roundtable discussion with scallopers.
“We are deeply pleased and thankful that Governor Patrick was able to visit with scallop fishermen and their families,” said John Murray, scallop boat owner and chair of the Fisheries Survival Fund. “Because of his leadership and dedicated efforts, the future looks much better for the Atlantic sea scallop fishery.”
“Scalloping, like the fishing industry as a whole, is vital to Massachusetts – it supports countless families and communities across our Commonwealth,” said Governor Patrick. “I will continue to stand up for the people who make their livelihoods at sea.”
In January, as a result of efforts by Governor Patrick and others, the New England Fishery Management Council decided to reconsider its decision to restrict fishing opportunities for the Atlantic sea scallop fishery in 2010. The reversal spared fishermen and fishing communities, such as New Bedford and others like it from Maine to North Carolina, from well over well over $100 million in losses.
The Governor began the visit by hearing from representatives of the scallop community and local elected officials, including Mayor Lang, about the importance of the Council’s reversal decision, and the opportunities and challenges facing the scallop fishery in the future. Afterward, he joined the fishermen and officials for a close-up view of recent fishing gear advances and underwater video equipment led by gear technologist and researcher Ron Smolowitz of the Coonamessett Farm Foundation.
The gear included a chain mat and scallop dredge designed to reduce the potential for harm to sea turtles and incidental catch of other fish species, while the underwater camera equipment is designed to monitor scallop stocks and better understand and map the seafloor habitat more generally. The gear refinements were largely designed through the efforts of Smolowitz, an FSF consultant. The video equipment was designed by the University of Massachusetts School for Marine Science and Technology and the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, and is operated with the assistance of the scallop fishing industry.
Patrick honored for fishing regulations effort
Published: April 9, 2010
The New England Fishery Management Council staff is undertaking what appears to be an unprecedented effort to issue press releases and other public statements to build justification and support for the Atlantic scallop fishing levels the Council had recommended in November to the National Marine Fisheries Service. The Commonwealth of Massachusetts, the City of New Bedford, 17 Members of Congress, and well over 1000 members of the public who rely on the scallop fishery all asked the Council to reconsider this decision. Indeed, the Council's own Executive Committee agreed the matter should be reconsidered at the Council's January 26-28 meeting. Regrettably, this decision was reversed, apparently without any transparency or debate.
The Fisheries Survival Fund ("FSF") represents the interests of the full-time limited access scallop fleet. It has worked constructively with the New England Council since its inception in 1998. In that time, scallop stocks have rebounded and the scallop resource is more than 150% of the level that will produce maximum sustainable yield over the long run. Scallops are an undisputed management success story, and the economic engine for fishing ports in New Bedford, MA, Cape May and Barnegat Light, NJ, and Hampton Roads, VA. FSF's participants from Maine to North Carolina are disappointed about the way the Council staff are presenting their case for a 25% reduction on fishing on this abundant resource next year, in an effort to support limiting further debate.
First, there were several issues discussed and decided in Framework 21, and the only controversial issue under review is the Council's decision to allocate only 29 "open area" days at sea for 2010. FSF supported another alternative in Framework 21, which would have allocated 38 days at sea. FSF also has advocated for consideration of one more ecologically friendly "access area" trip for 2010, in as much as these trips would be reduced from 5 to 4 from 2009 to 2010.
The Council's Scallop Plan Development Team (its technical advisors on scallop management) was comfortable with either 29 or 38 open area days. The Council narrowly voted, 7-10, to choose 29, rather than 38, days. Council press statements cite a 16-0-1 vote on the total package of scallop measures for 2010. While the Council releases cite "long-standing protocols" that were ostensibly used to limit further discussion of this issue in January, it fails to acknowledge the general, long-standing convention among Council members that all will generally approve a final total, package, even if they vehemently disagreed with certain elements of it.
Second, overfishing is not occurring in the scallop fishery. As the Council statements note, projected scallop catch for 2009 is 56 million pounds. The Council document also correctly notes that its Scientific and Statistical Committee (which is tasked by law to set maximum scallop fishing levels) recommended an acceptable biological catch of 65 million pounds. However, the Council omits to mention in its public releases that the SSC recommended an overfishing limit of a full 80 million pounds. The projected landings of 56 million pounds for 2009 are not in the vicinity of the overfishing limit of 80 million pounds. Council statements confuse the issue when they claim that overfishing may be occurring in 2009 (it is not, under the SSC standard), but then argue also that the 56 million pounds was very close to the acceptable biological catch ("ABC"). ABC is not an "overfishing limit" but a conservative management target set well below the overfishing level to preclude the possibility of overfishing.
Council releases also unfortunately neglect to mention that federal scientists adjusted their analytical models they employ to project scallop catches to ensure that catch levels will not exceed expectations in 2010, they way they apparently have in 2009. The 38 open area day fishing level supported by a near-majority of Council members, the scallop industry, and wide segments of the public was developed using these more refined catch estimation levels. In fact, in a public presentation to Council members, the federal scientist who prepared the projections for both 2009 and 2010 likened the chances for a catch over-run in 2010 such as occurred in 2009 to the 50-1 Mine That Bird winning The Kentucky Derby.
The Council relies on six-year revenue projections (2010-2016) to justify the allocation of 29 days at sea, claiming there are significant economic benefits. What the Council fails to note is that its own analyses show only a difference of .75% (less than one percent) in net present value between the two alternatives. It also fails to note that the difference between the two alternatives will result in over a $40 million loss to the scallop fishery in 2010, in exchange for a $20 million gain that will only be realized in 2014-2016. As Members of Congress and the public have correctly identified, recovery from the Great Recession is happening now, with the recovery lagging in scallop-dependent fishing communities. In addition, independent economic analysis has called into question the Council's economic analysis due to the vast uncertainty in its long-term projections.
Finally, the Council attempts to make a series of procedural claims to justify not revisiting its decision. These claims are without merit, as the industry supported alternative was fully analyzed and would not require additional analysis. Choosing another alternative now before the anticipated June implementation of Framework 21 would not delay it. Nor would a change in alternatives delay Framework 44 to the groundfish fishery management plan. Framework 44 analyzed the yellowtail allocation to the scallop fishery under all the alternatives and would not require any new analysis. Groundfish sectors and quotas have not yet been implemented, and therefore are not impacted.
In November, the New England Council was confronted with a series of very important decisions regarding the scallop fishery. FSF and the scallop fishery in general appreciate the hard work and consideration the Council and its staff undertook. That being said, the Council's decision-making on the annual fishing levels for 2010 was based on a presentation that may have highlighted the justifications the Council is offering now, but did not address, among others, the important considerations identified above.
Dear Chairman Pappalardo and Members of the New England Fisheries Management Council:
I write to respectfully request that, at its upcoming meeting on January 26, the New England Fisheries Management Council reconsider and reverse its recent decision to sharply reduce fishing days for sea scallopers, from 37 to 29 days, for 2010. I believe that the Council's decision was not based upon the best availavle science, and that the proposed restrictions on scallop fishing would have dire and unnecessary economic impacts on communities that are already severely stressed.
If the Council's decision stands, fishing communities will sustain a devastating economic blow at the worst possible time. Reducing scallop fishing by 22 percent, as the Council's decision would do, will result in a $40 million loss to scallopers and a $200 million loss to fishing communities and onshore businesses.
The New England Fisheries Management Council's Scientific and Statistical Committee, which is tasked with providing unbiased and science-based data on the health of the fishery, has recently reported that scallops are not overfished, and that the scallop fishery could sustainably support a fishing level similar to 2009. In light of these findings, there does not appear to be any compelling case for imposing sever restrictions that will result in such economic hardship in our fishing community. In the interest of using the best scientific information available for management decisions, I believe reconsideration and reversal of the decision to reduce scallop fishing effort in 2010 is warranted.
Thank you for your consideration of this request.
I A. Bowles