The Northeast Fisheries Science Center has become the focal point of scrutiny in the last few months.
Questions of how they have been conducting the business of the fish stock assessments for the fisheries of the New England and mid Atlantic regions are gaining momentum.
As these regions fisheries continue to receive a now constant parade of crisis issues following years of optimism regarding rebuilding stocks of the fish off our coast, there are more questions being asked regarding method and accountability.
Justifiably so, when the information leaching from Woods Hole is destroying peoples communities and livelihoods.
This is about demanding justification, and its time for them to do it. Now.
Monkfish Defense Fund
Dr. William Karp, Director
Northeast Fisheries Science Center
166 Water Street
Woods Hole, MA 02543-1026
Dear Dr. Karp
With landings of over $53 million in 2000, monkfish (goosefish) was the most valuable finfish fishery
on the East coast (NMFS Annual Commercial Landings Statistics website). Since then the biomass
has increased steadily, going from 158 thousand metric tons in 2000 to 197 thousand metric
tons in 2009, an increase of 25%. Yet over that same period, due to management restrictions, the
monkfish removals have plummeted from 31 thousand metric tons to 10 thousand metric tons, a decrease
of 66% (50th SAW Assessment Summary Report). In 2009, monkfish landings were valued
at less than $20 million, as they were in 2010, ranking as only the seventh most valuable finfish
fishery on the East coast.
Our understanding is that this sad state of affairs is primarily due to the fact that monkfish are classified
as a “data poor” species, and that as such their management is to be accomplished with even
more precaution than is customary with species whose management is supported by adequate data.
Needless to say, what appears to be a chronic lack of monkfish data – in spite of the fact that a series
of cooperative research projects have yielded what seems to be a wealth of information on the
species – is costing the commercial fishing industry and the coastal economy from Cape Hatteras to
Maine tens of millions of dollars each year. This raises several questions, the answers to which will
be critical to the future of the fishery. They are:
· What criteria do the personnel at the NEFSC use to judge whether a fishery is “data poor” or
· How do these criteria apply to monkfish?
· Who/what at the NEFSC is responsible for making this determination?
· What needs to be done to move monkfish out of the “data poor” category?
· How is NMFS planning on doing this?
The Monkfish Defense Fund is committed to moving monkfish management beyond the artificial
restrictions in place because of its “data poor” classification. We are interested in insuring that the
NEFSC has the resources required to obtain the information needed by management to reclassify
monkfish to fully utilize the productivity of this species. The Monkfish Defense Fund has had very
good cooperative relations with the NEFSC in improving the science on monkfish and we are looking
forward to continuing this relationship. We would very much like to meet with you and your
staff to review research needs to improve the status of monkfish and how the MDF can assist the
NEFSC in obtaining the needed information at the earliest opportunity.
Thank you for your attention on this critical issue.
Monkfish Defense Fund
cc: S. Rauch, D. Morris, A. McHale, A. Richards, R. Robins, R. Cunningham
Brooklyn Navy Yard, Bldg. 313