January 27, 1999 -- Scientific Analyses Confirm Need to Improve Protection of Five Stocks from Overharvesting

Northeast Fisheries Science Center

News

Woods Hole, MAFishery scientists confirmed today that five stocks of groundfish in northeastern waters need improved protection from overharvest. The findings also indicate that measures intended to recover primary groundfish, such as cod and haddock, should not rely on shifting existing fishing effort onto other groundfish species.

In the report, scientists reviewed the status of yellowtail flounder off Cape Cod, white hake, American plaice, and winter flounder stocks on Georges Bank and south to the Mid-Atlantic. These are among the species sought by commercial fisheries regulated under the northeast's groundfish recovery plan.

"These findings confirm that strengthened recovery measures are a continuing priority for the groundfishery, not only for Gulf of Maine cod, but for other groundfish species in the region as well," says Patricia Kurkul, Sustainable Fisheries chief for NOAA Fisheries in the Northeast Region. "Clearly, a healthy fishery depends on recovery of all the species, including those such as hakes and flounders, not just primary stocks," she says. NOAA Fisheries is the federal agency charged with building sustainable fisheries in federal waters.

Contact:

Teri Frady,

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Communications

PH: (508)495-2239

FAX: (508)495-2258

Pager: 508 806-9485

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Northeast Fisheries Science Center

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Groundfish Protection

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The findings were reported today by NOAA Fisheries staff in Portsmouth, New Hampshire, at a regular meeting of the New England Fishery Management Council, the regional body that devises fishery management plans for commercial and recreational fisheries in federal waters. At this meeting, the council is scheduled to finalize measures intended to eliminate overfishing of Gulf of Maine cod.

The scientific report is a product of the 28th meeting of the Northeast Regional Stock Assessment Review Committee, the scientific body convened regularly since 1985 to review fish stock status and produce scientific advice used by fishery managers in the Northeast.

In general, recovery measures in place for northeastern groundfish have been most effective in improving prospects for commercially important cod, haddock, and yellowtail flounder stocks on Georges Bank. Measures intended to protect Gulf of Maine cod have not been as successful, and the analyses released today confirm that as with cod, Gulf of Maine stocks of white hake, American plaice (dabs), and yellowtail flounder remain overfished. As a result, total and spawning biomass continue to decline, reducing the probability that sizable groups of new fish will be produced.

The picture is slightly better for Georges Bank and Southern New England winter flounder, where fishing morality has declined, and there is some evidence of increases in the number of spawning-sized adults. Nevertheless, for both of these stocks, the analyses indicate that continued significant protection from overharvest is required to assure a sustainable fishery.

The Stock Assessment Review Committee reports provide some of the information used by scientists and managers to describe the status of fish and shellfish stocks and to build sustainable fisheries. The New England Fishery Management Council has primary responsibility for managing most northeastern groundfish. Winter flounder are managed by the Council in federal water and in state waters under an interstate management plan developed through the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission.

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