King, Pingree Urge NOAA to Protect Gulf of Maine Scallop Industry
WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Senator Angus King and Congresswoman Chellie Pingree have sent a letter to a regional NOAA official requesting additional information on measures being taken by the agency to ensure the future sustainability of the Gulf of Maine sea scallop fishery. The letter comes in the wake of problems that the area’s management plan faces in accounting for scallop landings by fishermen with different types of permits.
Additionally, the letter follows the Fishermen’s Forum earlier this month where Senator King and Congresswoman Pingree heard concerns that Atlantic sea scallops were being overfished in the Northern Gulf of Maine (NGOM) management area. Senator King and Congresswoman Pingree were able to raise those concerns to NOAA officials during the forum and then also held a joint phone call with NOAA officials last week to discuss the issue.
“We are concerned that an emergency action seems to be completely off the table before the consideration of potential justifications,” Senator King and Congresswoman Pingree wrote in their letter to Greater Atlantic Region Fisheries Office Regional Administrator, John Bullard. “To be sure, we are not attempting to affect a decision that might favor one type of permit over another—the existing diversity in types of permits can and should continue to work but that there needs to be an improvement in accountability so that fishermen pursuing the species in the same area are not unfairly and unproductively pitted against each other, over fears of overfishing, by the way their fishery is managed.”
The Senator and Congresswoman also posed three questions:
1. What threshold of NGOM landings would constitute overfishing or pose a threat to future economic opportunity in the fishery and what are those numbers based on? The NGOM plan development team recently indicated that 500,000 pounds was the high end of what can sustainably be harvested annually from the entire NGOM area, is that accurate? Would a different number be used to qualify overfishing and if so, what is it?
2. If such a threshold were to be met well before NGOM permit holders hit the 75,000 pound TAC, why, specifically, would it not meet the standards for an emergency action? During the phone call you mentioned that the legal authority did not exist; as you know, some of the concerned parties believe that it does.
3. Why might an emergency action take four to five weeks to facilitate—especially when, as you pointed out, the length of the NGOM season is often closed out within a comparable timeframe?
To read the complete text of the letter sent by Senator King and Congresswoman Pingree, click HERE.