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Regional Council Approves Mandatory Monitoring For New England Fishing Boats

Robert F. Bukaty
Associated Press
In this Nov. 15, 2013 file photo, fishermen Ed Stewart, left, and Tannis Goodsen mend groundfishing nets on Merrill Wharf in Portland, Maine.

A regional fishery council has approved a plan to require human or electronic monitors on all New England fishing boats targeting groundfish such as cod and haddock. The controversial measure seeks funding from Congress to help pay for the monitors.

Conservationists and some fishermen are applauding the New England Fishery Management Council’s decision. They say it would improve depleted fisheries by providing better data on their actual status, while providing fishermen an incentive to more precisely target species that are within set quotas.

“As they get close to their quotas they can adjust their gear and they can fish in different areas, in order to avoid those stocks that they don’t have quota for,” says Geoffrey Smith, marine program director for the Nature Conservancy in Maine.

The Nature Conservancy is providing $2 million to help pay for electronic or video monitoring equipment. And some fishing groups, including the Maine Coast Fishermen’s Association, are supporting the measure. Others say the requirements create an unnecessary and potentially costly burden on honest fishermen.

A final decision falls to the National Marine Fisheries Service. And if Congress did not provide full funding for 100 percent monitoring, the industry would still be required to pay to monitor up to 40 percent of at-sea trips.

A Columbia University graduate, Fred began his journalism career as a print reporter in Vermont, then came to Maine Public in 2001 as its political reporter, as well as serving as a host for a variety of Maine Public Radio and Maine Public Television programs. Fred later went on to become news director for New England Public Radio in Western Massachusetts and worked as a freelancer for National Public Radio and a number of regional public radio stations, including WBUR in Boston and NHPR in New Hampshire.