Sunday, October 21, 2007

Fluke on the Brink from the NYT

This editorial was published in the New York Times on September 15th of this year. It all sounds depressingly familiar except they don't call their excessive fishery a "food fishery".

I suppose a local could argue that none of this applies because our circumstances are unique and distinct and we need made-in-NewfoundlandLabrador solutions. They would be fooling themselves


Fluke on the Brink
September 15, 2007

Of all the ingredients of a successful summertime party-boat fishing trip in the Northeast — beer, ice, sunscreen and fluke as big as doormats — only one comes in limited supplies. Like many other species, fluke have been overfished for decades. A serious test of whether the federal government can finally change that, and protect other species as well, is at hand.

Last year Congress revised the Magnuson-Stevens Act, the basic law regulating fishing in national waters, to give it sharper teeth. Although catch limits for vulnerable species have been in place for years, they are too generous and are routinely exceeded. The revised law gives scientists a much greater say in establishing firm catch limits to ensure that overfished species recover within a finite period, generally 10 years.

Seven years into its recovery plan, the fluke population is only about halfway to the goal of 197 million pounds set for 2013. Fishery managers must now find a way to make up tens of millions of pounds of fluke in about five years. That means much lower quotas, and acute pain in the fishing industry.

A scientific panel of the Mid-Atlantic Fishery Management Council, one of the regional councils that manage fishing in federal waters, concluded in July that the 2008 fluke quota would have to be about 12 million pounds to give the species a decent shot at recovering on schedule. The council is instead endorsing a quota of nearly 16 million pounds, trying to balance the fate of the fluke with the economic needs of those who catch them.

Fishing interests, unsurprisingly, want an even bigger catch. Representative Frank Pallone of New Jersey argues that the 2013 goal is unreachable, and that next year’s quota should be 17.5 million pounds. That gives his state’s fishing boats a short-term breather, but would leave the fluke recovery dead in the water.

It is easy to sympathize with the hard-working fishermen who say that drastically lower quotas would be devastating and who insist that there are still plenty of fluke out there. But at some point overfishing has to stop. Rejecting the sound conclusions of scientists would undermine the revised federal law in its first real test and could push the fluke populations into potentially irreversible decline. The National Marine Fisheries Service must decide next month on the 2008 quotas. It should keep the fluke catch within the lowest range of what the best available science recommends.

No comments: