Jun 23 2010

SHELBY REQUESTS GULF FISHERIES INFORMATION

U.S. Senator Richard Shelby (R-Ala.), today sent a letter to the Secretary of Commerce, Gary Locke, to request information on the status of fisheries stocks in the Gulf of Mexico, which has been severely impacted by the Deep Water Horizon oil spill.

“The Deep Water Horizon oil spill has brought devastation to the Gulf Coast, and in particular has severely hurt our fishing industry.  The damage could last years as we are faced with a potentially severe decline in fisheries stock.  Unfortunately, the limited amount of baseline, fishery-independent survey information collected according to a scientific sample design impedes the assessment of the immediate impact to the Gulf stocks, as well as the ability to predict long term impacts of the spill on these stocks.  NOAA must address the shortfall in fishery-independent stock surveys in the Gulf.” 

The full text of the letter is below.


June 23, 2010

 

The Honorable Gary Locke
Secretary
US Department of Commerce
1401 Constitution Ave., NW
Washington, DC 20230

Dear Secretary Locke,

The Deep Water Horizon oil spill has brought devastation to the Gulf Coast, and in particular has severely hurt our fishing industry.  The damage could last years as we are faced with a potentially severe decline in fisheries stock.  The economic impact to tourism that is drawn by the availability of seafood and recreational fishing opportunities will be hurt, perhaps even more severely than the ecosystem itself.

Unfortunately, the limited amount of baseline, fishery-independent survey information collected according to a scientific sample design impedes the assessment of the immediate impact to the Gulf stocks, as well as the ability to predict long term impacts of the spill on these stocks.  In addition, because of the fisheries closures, the other source of fisheries stock information - landings data from the commercial and recreational fisheries - is limited or not available.  As the closure of the fishery boundaries continue to grow due to the spill, the source of data may not be available for months, putting a high premium on increased fishery-independent data collections.  The oil spill has only highlighted this reoccurring issue concerning the need for current, high quality fishery-independent stock information.

As the steward of our nation’s marine resources, NOAA is required by law to monitor and assess the status of the resources under its purview. The reliability and comprehensiveness of fishery stock data is essential to effective decision making.  While fishery-dependent data collected directly from fishermen is a vital component to understanding the status of fisheries, it cannot be a substitute for surveys that provide a scientifically-designed assessment approach. Therefore, I would like clarification on NOAA’s plans for addressing the shortfall in fishery-independent stock surveys nationwide and, in particular, the need for a thorough and systematic study of the status of fisheries stocks in the Gulf of Mexico.

I look forward to working with you in developing an appropriate strategic approach to ensure our fisheries remain vibrant.

Sincerely,

 

Richard Shelby