Friday, April 12, 2013

Saving Seafood Offers Red Herring for Groundfish

In favor of opening protected areas in New England, Saving Seafood has offered red herring.

Earlier this year, fisheries managers in New England proposed to open long-protected areas to groundfishing. 

In an Ocean Views post, Carl Safina, co-founder of the Blue Ocean Institute, and marine scientist Elizabeth Brown said that opening the protected areas will “undo decades of progress.”

They noted that “removing these protections could mean the depletion of the last known abundant groundfish areas in the Northeast.”

In response on their web site, Saving Seafood did not address the negative impact on adult groundfish and marine mammals but instead asserted that rotational closures work better.  Only no one is proposing rotational closures; they’re not even on the table.  It's easy to wonder why Saving Seafood is talking about rotational closures.

Maybe it's an argumentative red herring, a distraction from an untenable position that favors opening areas that have been closed for years to the benefit of healthy fish populations.

In Saving Seafood’s "analysis" of Pew's The Bottom Line: Changing Course for America's Oldest Fishery, another head fake is offered.

They said that closed areas do not work and that is why they are being looked at.  "The existing closure boundaries are ultimately up for modification because they are not very useful for habitat protection," according to their site.

This overlooks the stated and affirmed motivation to open the closed areas -- to get at more fish and make up for heavily depleted open areas.

Saving Seafood seems to want to argue anything as long as it diverts genuine scrutiny of the very bad idea to open up long-protected areas to fishing.



Bob Vanasse said...

Our complete response with links to supporting documents is available at

Saving Seafood was not offering its readers what Mr. Misner curiously referred to as a “head fake” when we accurately pointed out that “the existing closure boundaries are ultimately up for modification because they are not very useful for habitat protection.” We correctly mentioned that the current closed areas under consideration via the New England Fishery Management Council’s (NEFMC) Framework 48 are not useful for habitat protection because that’s not what they were designed to do.

The closed areas being reviewed by NOAA were implemented to control fishing mortality in the era before fishery managers moved to a Total Allowable Catch (TAC) system. Maintaining these areas after implementing TACs only creates redundancies in management. NOAA itself has recognized that the closed areas are redundant, and that removing them in Framework 48 would “provide operational flexibility and efficiency for sector vessels and possibly increase profitability.” Primarily designed to help struggling fishing communities, these modifications do not come at the expense of the ocean.

Mr. Misner also questions how rotational closures are relevant to the current debate on groundfish, when they are not being considered, and insinuates that by including them in its coverage Saving Seafood is distracting from current management efforts. But this was not the focus of our article, and Mr. Misner completely misses the point we were making by raising the issue of rotational closures.

The rotational closures that are currently in use with significant benefit to the scallop fishery are not part of Framework 48, but are still relevant to the discussion. They are a recent example of how allowing limited access to previously closed areas can increase yields without damaging fish stocks. There is a legitimate analogy between rotational closures and the openings proposed by the Council. They arose from areas that were closed to control mortality, not to preserve habitat. While not establishing rotational closures, Framework 48 will allow access to mortality closed areas on a limited basis. In pointing out the recent success of the scallop fishery, Saving Seafood was demonstrating the possibility and value of reopening closed areas in a way that is not at the expense of fish or habitat.

The NEFMC’s recommendations are backed by extensive scientific analyses, and are the end result of adapting to changes in available data and fisheries management. In their analysis, the Council wrote: “We find that for nearly all area and gear type combinations, opening existing closed areas to fishing is predicted to decrease aggregate adverse effects.” The Council continued that “allowing fishing in almost any portion of the area closures on Georges Bank, is estimated to substantially decrease total adverse effects from fishing.” This means that the status quo, as advocated by Mr. Misner and the Blue Ocean Institute, will likely be more harmful to ocean habitat than the proposed alternatives.

Saving Seafood’s goal is to complement, rather than distract from, the current discussion on closed areas. Substantial evidence supports the Council’s proposals under Framework 48, which improves fisheries management while alleviating the fishery crisis in New England.

Mike Misner said...

Thank you for the comments.

Victorina said...

This is cool!

Mike Misner said...

Thanks for the comments.