The New England Fishery Management Council made the right move recently, voting to ask the federal government to suspend an at-sea monitoring program required of the groundfish industry, according to long-time fisherman Fred Mattera, who said shifting the cost to fishermen could decimate the industry.
Mattera, who was a commercial fisherman for 40 years, said fishermen already have to deal with quota cutbacks and depressed prices for locally caught fish.
“So here we are creating an economic hardship,” said Mattera. “We’re asking them now to pay anywhere between $400 to $500 a day for an at-sea monitor. And we’re taking all this fish away from them. And costs – they’re increasing. So that formula doesn’t work.”
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration requires that one out of every five fishing trips has a human being monitoring catch. The regional head of NOAA Fisheries said the at-sea monitoring program is one measure of holding the industry accountable. But Mattera argues fishermen already report their catch when they land their fish.
Mattera said fishermen are also pleased with the council’s vote to re-open areas in the Gulf of Maine and Georges Bank to commercial fishing. He said these habitat protection decisions affect every type of fishermen differently.
“It’s hard to find that common ground to please everyone, but what they did do to this extent, I think, is favorable in that they open some grounds where we know there is an abundance of fish,” said Mattera.
Mattera said fishermen hope having access to more fishing grounds will benefit those who are financially hurting. Environmental advocates think re-opening areas to commercial fishing exposes important nurseries to habitat destruction.
NOAA Fisheries will open a public comment period for the regional council’s habitat protection recommendations, before making a final decision. It will also review the council request to suspend the at-sea monitoring program.
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