Your editorial on fishing limits misleads the public on the best way to move forward with fisheries management in New England (“Fishing limits may be inexact, but reflect a real problem,” June 10).
First, the essence of Attorney General Martha Coakley’s petition is not to eliminate protection of cod, nor is it to reinforce “perceptions of the federal government as an enemy of the fishermen.” Rather, it is to address the fact that the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration has not adequately taken into account standards set forth in the Magnuson-Stevens Act, including balancing overfishing and optimum yield, using the best science available, and noting the economic and social fabric of the fishing community.
Second, you make the specious suggestion that if a quota is not fulfilled, then the stock is depleted. Low catches do not mean the stock is depleted. Economic factors, regulations, and weather conditions need to be taken into account before catch can be used as an index of abundance.
You are right to express concern about the stock of Gulf of Maine cod. But we really can’t separate this from Georges Bank cod or Scotian Shelf cod.
The “constructive discussion” you seek will not come from fishermen “transitioning from cod to more abundant redfish, white hake, or pollock,” as any benefits from this transition would be costly and temporary.
Rather, the constructive discussion will come from improving data collection procedures, understanding the role of the ocean environment, using techniques to manage the entire mix of stocks using simpler techniques, and working with fishermen as management partners.
The writer is a professor at the School for Marine Science and Technology at the University of Massachusetts Dartmouth.