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We need better way to monitor fishing boats

The controversy, questions, and misinformation about the number of cod in the Gulf of Maine won’t go away until we do what the successful Pacific groundfish fishery does — monitor every fishing boat to see what is caught and what is thrown back (“How does the government count fish?” Page A1, Nov. 22).

Currently, only about 20 percent of New England fishing boats include human observers, compared with 100 percent in the waters off the West Coast. Not only are roughly 80 percent of New England boats unmonitored, but the way we monitor that small percentage is expensive and inadequate. We pay these human observers to go out on boats for days at a time, a system that would cost us $25 million a year to expand to the whole fleet.

Fortunately, there's a better, cheaper approach that many fishermen prefer: We could outfit boats with video and other electronic systems that would provide us with the same information as human monitors in a much more cost-effective and timely way.


If we are going to be serious about saving the iconic cod and the fishing industry that depends on it, we need to invest in a better monitoring system.

Matt Mullin
Northeast regional director
US Oceans Program

Environmental Defense Fund