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.