Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Scientists Say Cod Still Overfished By Steven A. Rosenberg

A preliminary assessment that cod are still being overfished could lead to further tightening of federal regulations on a fish that has been associated with the region for more than 400 years.

Last week, a group of scientists met at Woods Hole and backed the preliminary analysis of the area’s cod stock prepared by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, which oversees fishing in federal waters. The analysis, released last month, asserted that even if all fishing of Gulf of Maine cod was prohibited, it would be unlikely that the stock would be rebuilt by 2018, some four years after NOAA had expected cod to rebound to healthy amounts.

The analysis contrasts with a 2008 NOAA report that showed cod stock on the rebound. But the new report suggests that the previous assessment may have overestimated the amount of cod in the sea by nearly 300 percent. NOAA conducts its research with ocean trawlers, uses academic scientists to study fishing stocks, and incorporates statistical reports of fish landings submitted by fishermen and seafood dealers into its reports.

In recent weeks, fishermen have called for the government to review its latest findings and said any new regulations could have a devastating impact on the local fishing industry.

“We stand to lose everything and it’s not fair. Their calculations are incorrect and we need some help to get it changed,’’ said Dennis Robillard, a Gloucester fisherman who estimated that cod constitute 90 percent of his annual catch. “We’re seeing cod in places that we don’t normally see them. They seem to be, for all intents and purposes, everywhere we fish.’’

“The preliminary stock assessment is troubling and could have a disastrous effect on our local fishermen,’’ US Representative John Tierney, a Salem Democrat, said in a prepared statement. Tierney, who has called for the Department of Commerce to provide disaster assistance to the fishing community, also questioned the assessment’s findings. “It underscores the continuing need for better data and science upon which to make such important decisions.’’

According to NOAA spokeswoman Teri Frady, the latest cod assessment is more robust than the 2008 study, and corrects a previously accepted finding that there was an abundant amount of cod born in 2005. The new assessment also includes more data on both commercial and recreational discards that were not available 2008, and includes improved biological data about fish growth, according to Frady.

While the final assessment is set to be released next month, discussions have already begun between members of the fishing industry and federal regulators on how to keep the battered groundfish industry alive.
From articles.boston.com/ 

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