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THE STATE OF MAINE'S BOATING NEWSPAPER Volume 24 Issue 11 November 2011


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Maine Coastal News FREE GROUNDFISHING TAKES TURN FOR THE BETTER?


October 3, 2011


By Jane Lubchenco, Ph.D., Under Secre- tary of Commerce for Oceans and Atmo- sphere and Administrator National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration U. S. De- partment of Commerce Before the Committee on Commerce, Science & Transportation, U. S. Senate, Boston, MA,


Senator Kerry and members of the Sub- committee, my name is Jane Lubchenco, and I am the Under Secretary of Commerce for Oceans and Atmosphere and the Adminis- trator of the Department of Commerce’s Na- tional Oceanic and Atmospheric Administra- tion (NOAA). Senator Kerry, I would like to thank you for your leadership over the many years on fisheries, oceans, and climate is- sues. In your tenure in the Senate you worked closely with Senator Stevens to rewrite the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act (Magnuson-Stevens Act) and you continually show commitment to building sustainable coastal economies. I appreciate your support of NOAA and our efforts to improve the products and services that are vital to supporting America’s busi- nesses, communities, and people. Fishing jobs have been at the heart of this region for centuries. I take the challenges in the Northeast region very seriously, as I know you do. Following decades of overfish- ing and decline, including the collapse and closure of this fabled fishery, and years of


legal battles, the past ten years have been particularly challenging for those who catch cod, haddock, and other groundfish. Court rulings calling for science-based catch levels drove the government to implement well in- tentioned but ever tightening regulations under the “days at sea” management system. Under this system, individual fishermen were told how many days and when they could fish, which often forced them to sea in bad weather. And they were told how much fish they could bring back to port on each trip, forcing them to pitch their extra catch over- board as wasted by-catch. From 2001-2009, landings dropped by nearly 40 percent, rev- enues fell by more than one half, and the number of vessels in the fishery dwindled to less than half their previous levels. And be- cause these regulations often did not suc- ceed in halting overfishing, the rules were always changing. The last decade saw 11 major regulatory overhauls and changes in the rules every four months on average, in- cluding ratcheting down on the number of “days at sea” available. Decades of overfish- ing, failing fish stocks and punishing regula- tions interacted to threaten the region’s most iconic industry.


That system was not working for fisher- men. It was driving them out of business and the stocks were not rebuilding to a point where they could sustain a profitable indus- try. In response, the New England Fishery Management Council — with representa-


tives from Massachusetts and other New England state governments, commercial and recreational fishermen, and a representative from NOAA — held more than 60 public meetings over 3 years to develop a new approach called ‘sector management’. This approach revolves around a system of volun- tary cooperative fishing groups (called ‘sec- tors’). Most importantly, this approach gives fishermen greater flexibility and ownership over the day-to-day management of their businesses. In June 2009, the Council voted 14-1 to approve the new program. This new sector management program was expanded at the same time that the much lower catch limits required by the Magnuson-Stevens Act were implemented.


The adoption of this new management system and the lower catch limits happened early in my tenure as Administrator. Indeed, sustaining the groundfish fishery and the economic health of the industry has been of paramount importance to me since my first day in office. I understand how important it is to the region’s economy and culture. I also know that implementing tough measures to end overfishing and to rebuild stocks is not easy for fishermen and fishing communities. For those reasons, I have devoted sig- nificant energy to take action in three key areas that I will talk about today: 1) our work with fishermen and the New England Fishery Management Council to help get this fishery on a pathway to sustainability and long-term


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profitability; 2) our top-to-bottom overhaul of NOAA operations in the region, including an independent management review and fol- low-up actions we have already taken; and 3) advancing concrete proposals that build on your ideas — and those of other partners in New England — to address residual prob- lems faced by fishermen in the region and to build on the progress made.


Our goals are clear: to be a partner in the success of fishermen, to sustain fishing jobs, to create a profitable and healthy future for fishing communities, and to maintain marine fisheries. We appreciate your support in get- ting there.


We are working with fishermen and the Council to put the fishery on a path to prof- itability.


As described in detail later in my testi- mony (Attachment A), fishing in all its forms is a $71 billion per year industry in the United States, generating economic activity that cre- ates 1.4 million full and part-time jobs, from the boat captains and crews, to people in processing plants, trucks, seafood markets, and restaurants. Rebuilding all U.S. fish stocks would generate an additional $31 bil- lion in sales impacts, support an additional 500,000 jobs and increase dockside revenues to fishermen by $2.2 billion, which is more than a 50 percent increase from the current annual dockside revenues. New England, the


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