New program will
identify fishery questions
and find answers
NMFS Northeast Region
N E W SNOAA Fisheries has established a program to involve the fishing industry directly in planning and conducting studies that provide useful information for managing fisheries.
The new industry/government cooperative research program, announced today by NOAA Fisheries Northeast Regional Administrator Pat Kurkul, is made possible by a $1.88 million appropriation designed to improve the management of Northeast commercial fisheries.
"Virtually everyone who looks at the challenges facing fisheries in the Northeast agrees it is time to get the fishing industry and scientists working together more closely -- and we've begun to do that," Kurkul said. "These new funds provide the people and money we need to demonstrate the benefits of a longer-term, ongoing program of rigorous, collaborative industry-based research."
In one key element of the new program, a NOAA Fisheries staff office in the Northeast will be devoted to encouraging, managing, and coordinating research collaborations that involve industry and others. The program will also fund technical expertise needed to design research projects and analyze results, and trained observers needed to monitor experiments in some fisheries.
"This is a multi-faceted program that we hope will provide information and answers for managers," Kurkul said. "The program includes support for the New England Fishery Management Council's new scientific steering committee -- the mechanism in the Northeast for reaching consensus on collaborative research priorities. The agency will work with industry and the council to support cooperative research projects that address what we've all agreed are the most important fishery questions."
Initially the program will coordinate cooperative research that utilizes fishing vessels that received compensation under this year's $5 million New England groundfish disaster relief program. The disaster relief program, which was designed with input from industry, directed NOAA Fisheries to provide compensation to some fishermen affected by the continued poor condition of the Gulf of Maine cod in exchange for their help with as-yet-undefined fishery research to be conducted sometime before 2001.
"We want to move quickly to take advantage of research opportunities generated through the disaster relief program," Kurkul said. "At the same time, we will make sure the projects reflect sound scientific methods, and produce reliable data that truly help us make better fishery management decisions."
The new Cooperative Programs Coordination (CPC ) office will be the point of contact between NOAA Fisheries and fishermen who want to become involved in joint research projects. The CPC office will have a budget to allocate funds to cover the cost of NOAA Fisheries' participation in collaborative projects.
The cooperative research program also includes support for:
* the New England Fishery Management Council's research planning and coordination — this will include support for a scientific research steering committee
* the Northeast Fisheries Science Center to allow center personnel to participate in collaborative research
* training and paying fishery observers
* scientific sampling of landings in ports and data processing
* improved groundfish fishery monitoring — including purchase of a computerized system to simplify vessel reporting requirements and to improve access to vessel records for vessel owners
* additional enforcement costs that arise from research projects that have been granted exemptions from regulations.