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NMFS budget expands catch share funding, stock assessment but decreases overall
NOAA released its detailed budget document today, and the top line for the National Marine Fisheries Service is a requested appropriation of $1.001 billion, a decrease of $15 million from the actual 2010 enacted budget.

NOAA says 'This budget request supports NOAA and the Department of Commerce's (DOC) efforts to conserve, protect, and manage living marine resources in a way that ensures their continuation as functioning components of marine ecosystems, affords economic opportunities, and enhances the quality of life for the American public.'

The decrease has come primarily from reductions in headquarters expenditure. Overall, employment will rise by about 75 positions. Total NMFS employment is 2,897 full time equivalent positions.

The largest increase in funding ($36 million) goes to a new line called national catch share programs. However, the agency does not predict an increase in catch share programs over the next five years. Instead, most of this money is to pay for implementation, observer coverage, monitoring and other costs that cannot be passed on for cost recovery to the industry at this time, especially in the Northeast.

The budget document says "Key catch share programs, such as the Northeast Multispecies sector program, the West Coast Trawl Individual Quota program and the Gulf of Mexico Grouper and Tilefish program will be supported by this increase. The transition in New England, which began in 2009, to sector management (a type of catch share program) for the Northeast multispecies fishery will improve the economic health of the fishing industry while also meeting conservation mandates. The Northeast Multispecies Fishery is one of the most important U.S. fisheries. The fishery has problems with overcapacity and quotas have been significantly reduced in order to end overfishing and rebuild those stocks, causing significant short term revenue losses to the industry. NOAA's investment in this catch share program, particularly for fishery monitoring, is critical to ensure that the program succeeds and the fishery is maintained until the stocks rebuild further, revenues increase and the industry can pay more of the costs."

The rationale for catch shares is that NOAA believes these programs are the best way to rebuild fish stocks to maximum sustainable yield, which would lead to a 54% increase in overall value of US fisheries when achieved, worth more than $2 billion at the dock.

Other budget highlights include an increase of $5.5M to support the Endangered Species Act (ESA) and Marine Mammal Protection Act.

Stock assessments and fisheries research will increase by $15 million. "The Magnuson-Stevens Act (MSA) mandates establishment of annual catch limits (ACLs) in all fisheries by 2011 to prevent overfishing. NMFS will increase capacity to conduct stock assessments in FY 2012. Adequate stock assessments increase economic opportunities by allowing optimum catch levels to be set without risking overfishing and harm to the marine ecosystem. NMFS will prioritize assessments using the following criteria: 1) valuable stocks and associated fishery-limiting stocks with high uncertainty influencing ACLs, 2) intensity of fishing, 3) stock abundance, 4) updating outdated assessments, 5) economic and ecologic importance of the stock, and 6) synergistic factors. "

Also $3 million additional will be spent for recreational fisheries assessment and monitoring.

One very negative feature in the budget is a transfer of about $17 million from cooperative research programs to the catch share program. Cooperative research is used for the payments NMFS makes to industry, often including matching industry funds, for work involving commercial vessel, gear modifications, and other developments which have had spectacular success in areas such as bycatch reduction. Many in the industry are strongly opposed to any weakening of commitments to cooperative research.

Finally, overall the NOAA budget went up from $4.7 billion to $5.5 billion, an increase of nearly $750 million. NMFS is losing ground within the overall budget. At a budget briefing yesterday, this was partly explained as due to the costs of maintaining the US satellite network run by NOAA. The Marine Conservation Alliance strongly urged Congress to fund adequately the satellite program so as not to cripple other NOAA activities.

Republished with permission from SeafoodNews.com






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