It possibly may be the pin-ultimate worst survey news ever for any fish stock in either New England or the Mid-Atlantic. Even NOAA Fisheries couldn't spin their way out of the facts that:
1- The GOM - SSB is currently at 3-4%, down from the last measurement which was pitiful when last measured the SSB in a 2011 stock assessment of between 13-18%
2- The 13-18% SSB surveyed in 2011, was noted at that time is well below necessary for the cod biomass to sustain MSY (Maximum Sustainable Yield or 'CATCH')
3- The preliminary results have found;
a- All survey indices are at ALL TIME LOWS
b- Spawning Stock Biomass, the SSB, is AT A ALL TIME LOW
4- Since the last bottom trawl survey conducted in 2012,
a- ALL MAJOR INDICATORS OF STOCK HEALTH HAVE DETERIORATED
At first glance, one would either say incredible.....or is that impossible... the GOM codfish stock has literally gone into a death spiral in two years time?
For those who do follow the groundfish news in New England would you say,
1- How is that possible, when there is way less directed and indirect effort from both the commercial, for-hire and recreational sector over the past two years
2- The Catch Share program implemented during the 2009/2010 time period which all commercial vessels must abide by, were fishing on the smallest quotas of codfish since the species has been managed under the New England Council
3- The for-hire industry and the private vessel sector have been fishing under various recreational regulatory controls with notable cuts over the past few years to season length, minimum size and possession limit
4- The ACL for the commercial sector has been cut so severely since 2012, with the numbers of a cut of 78% and allowable catch allowance of 1500 MT (metric tons) over a three year period, sending shockwaves through the New England region when they were announced
Lets back up for a moment and ask a question that I was asked late this morning...
1- Why was a GOM cod stock survey made this year, when it was previously noted that the HADDOCK assessment was to be done in the spring of 2014 with the results released in the summer of 2014, and the GOM cod stock survey to be done in 2015?
2- Who at NMFS made the call and approved of this change, when as noted in today's GDT that (note if you are not a subscriber, you can only view a limited of pages per month, along with a paywall in place now there if you regularly view that online site):
When its requests for updated (and unscheduled) assessments in the past have been denied for budgetary reasons.....
So again we ask, who at NMFS made the call, and how far up the NOAA chain of command was the approval given to change the OBJECTIVES of the bottom trawl survey in the Gulf of Maine from surveying haddock to codfish?
Why wasn't the public notified of this change, one very notable due to the news once the results were completed, specifically representatives from the New England commercial fishing industry, the NEFMC, commercial fishing vessels, permit holders and businesses, for-hire businesses and the public at large along the shoreline in New England.... have they forgotten that it is tax payers that fund federal government agencies, thus these programs?
One would also have to ask due to the great importance on whether the codfish stock in the GOM was either rebuilding or diminishing, wouldn't the objectives change from conducting a "eco system survey" to one dedicated in strictly making measurements and collecting data on stock density, ratio of female to male codfish and age distribution at the various survey stations, just on GOM codfish?
Let us get even more specific..... "who asked for this to be done... to be done in such secrecy"...........
Was this prompted by some well funded and politically connected conservation group so that they would have the latest scientific data to lead NMFS to totally close the cod fishery, not only in the GOM, but possibly areas and regions southward?
One of the "why's" which may-be answered at this time and what leads a few of us to the sneaky suspicion that this was not done on the "up and up" with the fishing industry, is that the dire news was released on a Friday, in the afternoon during the middle of the summer.
Why then.....why at this time......
How long have they known this news at NMFS...at NOAA Fisheries?
Just side-tracking for a moment, hasn't this been the pattern of the Obama Administration's to either lie, delay, claim utter ignorance of not knowing or just trying to bury the worst news for any one of the federal agencies to be released on a Friday at sometime during the afternoon?
There is a great deal of explaining here to do by someone high up at NMFS or better yet, NOAA, to give us some answers here on why the GOM bottom trawl survey was essentially done and kept under wraps till last Friday.
As much, the commercial and for-hire fishing sector along with shoreline communities along the waters of the Gulf of Maine, now have to brace themselves to what seems inevitable....a complete shutdown to either direct or indirect fishing for codfish and a number of other groundfish species.
Just after lunch I had a call and it was repeated to me once again about the fishing industry in New England "not taking their medicine" back then, with harsher cuts at that time while the codfish stock was in much better shape then it is at the current time.
I do know there will be commercial fishermen who were around at that time who will tell you how bad the cuts with *Amendment 5, with the groundfish industry forceably being whittled down (point of reference, read this book which goes into great detail about that time period): Vanishing Species: Saving the Fish, Sacrificing the Fisherman By Susan R. Playfair.
With the 2014 GOM codfish survey at hand, we are now past the point of talking about "over fishing" (the act of catching more fish in a given time period (usually one year) than the population can naturally replace, and "over fished" (refers to a state of being—an over fished fishery means the fish population is below sustainable levels, due to fishing activity).....we are at the point where Deputy Science and Research Director of the Northeast Fisheries Science Center, Russell Brown is quoted in the Boston Globe as stating:
“We’re deeply concerned about the fish stocks, and we’re also deeply concerned about the fishermen and communities that depend on the stock,” Brown said. “I think our findings would lead to recommendations that we need to be very careful about subjecting the stock to any additional fishing mortality.”
Before anyone states, "oh this is not a good survey due to the way it was done...it was rushed", is talking out his %#%$#, since it neglects the current reality of the situation at hand with cod in the Gulf of Maine.... not only on a historical basis over the last few hundred years that have shown periods of boom, bust and recovery with the codfish stock, but as much, that there are just few codfish left in that particular region off New England when all survey indices are recorded to be at all time lows.
Dean Wormer had it right when he said "it stinks!", and now we just wait, watch and worry to/and what happens next for ALL ground fishermen and fishing in the Gulf of Maine.
*Amendment 5 completed (1993/94): Moratorium on new fishing permits; days at sea (DAS) limits imposed- minimum mesh size 6”, closed areas expanded, fishing mortality rate to be reduced by 50% in 5 years, loose 10% per year.
An excellent synopsis on the major time periods and Amendments in New England can be found at the link below: