Gloucester, Mass. — May 26, 2015 — The battle over the validity of NOAA fish stock assessments that continually have led to slashed groundfish quotas has reached a higher pitch, with mounting calls for a third-party assessment of the manner the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration assesses fish stocks.
Under questioning by U.S. Sen. Kelly Ayotte, R-N.H., on Wednesday, NOAA Administrator Kathryn Sullivan defended the accuracy of the agency’s fish stock assessments and said she would welcome a third-party review of the agency’s methods and performance in arriving at the science that serves as the basis for the federal government’s fishery management policies.
Ayotte’s questioning stemmed largely from the Northeast Seafood Coalition-sponsored petition proclaiming no confidence “in the stock status reported by recent assessments for many groundfish stocks” and seeking a third-party review of NOAA’s methods and results.
The petition urged the formation of a “blue ribbon panel of assessment scientists” that would include government, academic and industry leaders and be coordinated by either the National Research Council or the U.S. Government Accountability Office “to determine the underlying causes of assessment failures.”
The petition also seeks binding recommendations from the blue ribbon panel “to correct those causes in a transparent and collaborative manner and in time for the updated review scheduled for all groundfish stocks this coming September.”
The petition, signed by almost 150 fishermen from Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Maine, Connecticut, Rhode Island and Virginia, was sent to 14 U.S. senators and 20 members of the House of Representatives.