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New Hampshire will be hardest hit by decision to reject interim 2013 overfishing measures

(WASHINGTON) – U.S. Senators Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH) and Kelly Ayotte (R-NH) are calling on the Department of Commerce to reconsider its decision to require drastic quota reductions designed to end overfishing of Gulf of Maine cod and haddock in 2013. In a joint letter, the New Hampshire Senators called on the Department of Commerce to reconsider the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) decision which threatens the survival of New Hampshire’s fishing industry and the economic well-being of its coastal communities.

“Fishing is one of the Granite State’s oldest industries, and it is still a critical driver of our state’s economy today. The National Marine Fisheries Service’s recent decision will deal a blow to coastal communities across New England, but New Hampshire will be especially hard hit.  That is why we’re strongly urging the Department of Commerce to reconsider,” said Shaheen and Ayotte in a joint statement. “Sustainable fisheries are essential to the industry’s long-term success, but the Department must first ensure that sweeping measures do not devastate fishing communities.”

New Hampshire’s small boat fisherman rely heavily on Gulf of Maine cod in particular, and the New England Fishery Management Council requested an extension of interim measures to mitigate the economic damage caused by the recent decline of cod and haddock populations in the Gulf of Maine. NMFS’ decision to deny the Council’s request runs counter to congressional intent under the Magnuson Stevens Act, and Senators Shaheen and Ayotte are now urging Acting Secretary of Commerce Rebecca Blank to reconsider.

The full text of the letter Senators Shaheen and Ayotte sent to Acting Secretary Blank is included below.

    January 25, 2013

The Honorable Rebecca M. Blank

Acting Secretary

Department of Commerce

1401 Constitution Avenue NW

Washington, DC 20230

CC:      Deputy Assistant Administrator for Fisheries Samuel D. Rauch III

            Northeast Regional Administrator John Bullard

Dear Acting Secretary Blank:

The National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) recently decided against granting the New England Fishery Management Council’s request for interim measures to reduce overfishing of Gulf of Maine (GOM) cod and GOM haddock for the 2013 fishing year.  While we respect your efforts to prevent overfishing, we believe your current policy decision runs counter to congressional intent pursuant to Section 304(e)(6) of the Magnuson Stevens Act and we strongly urge you to reconsider this request. 

As you know, under Sections 305(c) and 304(e)(6) of the Magnuson Stevens Act, Congress provided the Secretary of Commerce the authority to implement interim measures at the request of the Fishery Management Councils to reduce overfishing, even if such measures would not prevent overfishing during the interim period.  In addition, Section 304(e)(3) of the Magnuson Stevens Act states that a Council has two years after receiving notice of inadequate rebuilding progress to prepare and implement a plan to address the shortfall.  Taken together, these provisions demonstrate the intent of Congress to prevent fisheries from collapsing while Councils prepare and implement rebuilding plans for fish stocks.  For this reason, we urge you to reconsider your decision and set the 2013 Annual Catch Limits to reduce overfishing for these species at levels that will allow the industry to survive.

We greatly appreciated the action taken by the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) in 2012 to adopt interim measures at the request of the Council to reduce overfishing.  Such action demonstrated the cooperation and willingness needed to find a mutually agreeable solution to an increasingly difficult problem.  Allowing interim measures to remain in place through 2013 would show good faith in the Council’s ongoing efforts to prepare and submit a rebuilding plan to be implemented in 2014, within the statutory two years of the date of notification.

Sustainable fisheries are in everyone’s best interest.  However, in keeping with the Magnuson Stevens Act and the intent of Congress, we must ensure that efforts to sustain fish stocks do not eradicate our fishing communities.  Fishing is an historic and honorable trade that has been in many New Hampshire families for generations, and which sustains the livelihood of numerous communities across New England.  New Hampshire’s entire fleet is comprised of small boat fishermen who depend upon cod and haddock for their business’s survival.  Without interim measures for the 2013 fishing year, the New Hampshire fleet will be the hardest hit in the Northeast.  If your decision is not reversed, nearly all fishing jobs in our state will be lost, and it is likely that the fishing industry that has thrived in New Hampshire for generations will soon cease to exist.

For these reasons, we strongly urge you to reconsider granting the Council’s request by implementing an interim action that will reduce overfishing for GOM cod and GOM haddock for the 2013 fishing year.  We remain committed to working with you to achieve a sustainable future for both our natural resources and our fisheries.  Thank you for your consideration of this matter.


   Kelly Ayotte                                                                                                Jeanne Shaheen

   United States Senator                                                                      United States Senator