Fishermen, scientists snared by animosity
September 30, 2012 -- David Goethel of Hampton, a biologist, fisherman and member of the New England Fishery Management Council, said the multiple hats he wears give him a unique perspective on the industry. He joked that over the years, he has had fishermen, scientists and fisheries managers mad at him, and on a good day, he can anger all three.
Goethel said the issues between fishermen and scientists are wide-ranging and involve a "fundamental disconnect" between what fishermen see happening on the water and what scientific assessments say about fish populations. He said scientists rely too heavily on statistical modeling and a lot of assumptions go into their models.
"They need to spend more time on the back decks of boats," he said. "They're looking at building more elegant computer models and I want them to spend more time at sea."
Local gillnet fishermen dodged a bullet this week when John Bullard, the new regional director for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's Fisheries Service, announced a temporary shift in an impending gillnet fishery closure.
Gillnet fishermen faced the closure because of failures to comply with a provision of the Marine Mammal Protection Act that sought to reduce the amount of bycatch of harbor porpoises. It was the latest in a long string of regulatory moves that angered fishermen.
Bullard, who previously worked for NOAA in the mid-1990s and has been back with the federal agency for about seven weeks, said at a recent gathering of fishermen in Portsmouth that the situation today seems far worse than it was when he was last involved in the industry.
"I don't think there are any easy decisions in front of us," he said.
Bullard has made it his priority to rebuild the relationship between fishermen and NOAA's regulators and scientists. Some fishermen believe the changing of the date of the closure is a step in the right direction because it shows Bullard acknowledges the difficulty it would have placed on fishermen if it went into effect Monday, Oct. 1, which is regarded as one of the busiest times of the year for gillnet fishermen.
Read the full story at Seacoast Online