The arrest of Carlos Rafael, a New Bedford-based fishing mogul, sends a stark message to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, our congressional delegation, and everyone who cares about the future of fishing: It is time to make the full-fleet monitoring of commercial fishing boats a priority so that we know what is happening on our oceans.
Currently NOAA is monitoring very few New England fishing boats, at a time when the region’s cod fishery is in the midst of a historic collapse. This means we do not know what fishermen are catching and selling, or throwing back into the sea. The switch to more cost-effective electronic monitoring would not only end the widespread distrust of NOAA’s scientific assessments, but it would also increase confidence among fishermen that everyone is playing by the same rules.
Funding is available now to get electronic monitoring up and running. It’s imperative that scientists, fishermen, and regulators know what is happening at sea in this era of climate change, and that starts with full-fleet electronic monitoring.