Press release on Maine Senator Snowe's legislation addressing fisheries research

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Wednesday, September 18, 2002
(202) 224-5344


WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Senator Olympia J. Snowe (R-Maine) today introduced legislation to address failures recently identified in the accuracy of fishing data.   Snowe’s legislation comes in response to revelations last week that the National Marine Fisheries Service research vessel Albatross IV relied on flawed sampling techniques to gather data later applied to fishing rules.

Yesterday, Snowe received assurances from Commerce Secretary Donald L. Evans, and Adm. Conrad Lautenbacher, the NOAA Administrator, that these failures would be remedied and fishing data updated.  Snowe has also asked NOAA to confirm that no similar sampling errors have been made on other research vessels.  To further improve the accuracy and reliability of fishery science, Snowe said she has introduced the Fisheries Research Improvement Act.

“It is crucial that federal fisheries regulations be based on sound science – and reliable data is the foundation upon which these regulations can be based. Fishermen’s lives and livelihoods are dependent on these regulations, so it is
crucial that all those with a stake in the fishery – fishermen, conservationists, and the public at large – have confidence in the data gathered,” said Senator Snowe, who is Ranking Member of the Senate Commerce Subcommittee on Oceans and Fisheries.  “My bill will address the revelations about flawed assessments by providing for independent review, and permitting comparative research by the industry to double-check the information gathered. It will also clarify the ability of the Secretary of Commerce to respond to changes in fish population targets.”

Snowe’s legislation, the Fisheries Research Improvement Act, specifically targets the errors in NMFS data collection, and provides safeguards to ensure these errors are not repeated.  Specif provisions will permit:

Independent review – The Snowe bill requires that the National Research Council conduct an independent review of the data collection techniques used by NMFS to evaluate its calibration protocols; the frequency and cost of these control checks; the accuracy and validity of data collected using verified equipment; and the manner in which measurement errors are accounted for.  This independent review will provide a new foundation for examination of NMFS data collection, updating information last gathered in 1998 on stock assessment techniques.

Cooperative Research – Snowe’s legislation requires and authorizes funds for NMFS to implement a national cooperative research program to facilitate industry involvement in data collection and stock assessments.  The legislation specifically authorizes $3 million for cooperative trawl research efforts in the New England groundfish fishery between NMFS and industry participants, permitting a commercial vessel to trawl alongside NOAA research craft to double-check information gathered.

Flexibility - The legislation states that the Secretary of Commerce has the
ability to adjust the amount of time permitted for fishery recovery if
biological targets have changed amidst the rebuilding plan.
“The fishery relies not only on sound data, but also on the level of confidence fishermen, conservationists, and others have in the plans in place to conserve the fishery.  My legislation will take a step forward to assure that
confidence, so we can be making management decisions based on sound science, rather than subjective assessments,” Snowe said.

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