September 26, 2012 -- NOAA officials offered a workshop sometime next year to examine the chronic problems present in a number of fisheries assessments, but offered no immediate remedies to the scientific and management issues raised by FSF.
WASHINGTON (Saving Seafood) Sept. 25, 2012 -- Responding to a request by the Fisheries Survival Fund (FSF) to reject the most recent yellowtail flounder stock assessment and adopt alternative measures for setting yellowtail quotas, NOAA officials offered a workshop sometime next year to examine the chronic problems present in a number of fisheries assessments, but offered no immediate remedies to the scientific and management issues raised by FSF. The 2013 quota is expected to be as much as 50 percent less than the quota for 2012. The letter, sent signed by Deputy Science and Research Director Russell Brown for Acting Science and Research Director William Karp, was sent last month.
FSF did not immediately release the response. "We had several conversations with Director Karp, and hoped to negotiate an outcome resulting in action sooner than next year." said FSF attorney Drew Minkiewicz. "Ultimately, that proved impossible."
In their original letter, issued in July, the FSF sought to have the National Marine Fisheries Service declare that the most recent yellowtail stock assessment, "is not viable for use as a basis for catch advice," and that alternatives to the assessment, based on data from surveys and catch indices, be devised to set yellowtail quotas. While recognizing the flawed nature of the assessment, the Science Center did not state whether or not the assessment would be rejected, only that, "the Transboundary Management Guidance Committee (TMGC) and the New England Fishery Management Council (NEFMC) will take these uncertainties into account when recommending catch limits for 2013." The FSF had noted in its letter that the Transboundary Resource Assessment Committee (TRAC) concluded that the assessment should not be the basis for setting catch limits, instead relying on an adjusted model to make its recommendations.
What the letter from the Northeast Science Center did propose was holding a national workshop sometime in 2013 to address the strong retrospective patterns that have emerged in several stock assessments nationwide. The retrospective pattern, which occurs when data from a new assessment contradicts the estimates of the previous assessment, is one of the FSF's primary concerns with the yellowtail assessment, and one of the reasons it contends that the assessment in unusable for management purposes. Because the workshop would not convene until 2013, it would not be able to affect the quota for the 2013 fishing year, the original focus of the FSF's request.
The Science Center acknowledged that yellowtail flounder are in the midst of a period of poor recruitment, which, along with fishing pressure, has led to a decline in their numbers. He promised further research into the causes of the decline, including "possible linkages with climate change and other environmental factors," and expressed interest in cooperative research with the FSF.
Read the response from the NOAA Science Center here