Blumenthal Voices Connecticut Fishing Industry Concerns at Senate Commerce Committee Hearing

Blumenthal recently heard directly from Connecticut fishermen during a town hall meeting in Stonington

(Washington, DC) – This week, U.S. Senator Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) impressed upon Stephen Rauch, Deputy Assistant Director for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), the need for NOAA to change regulations under the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act (MSA) to provide greater input from fishermen, especially regarding the establishment of fish quotas.

Blumenthal also urged NOAA to ensure that changing environmental conditions are taken into greater account and that those who actually fish and have knowledge of the conditions in the Northeast have greater representation on the regional fisheries councils as species like black sea bass and summer flounder migrate northward due to warming sea temperatures.  Blumenthal noted the economic impact of the fishing industry on Connecticut and the importance of giving fishermen a stronger voice in the oversight of fishing stocks.

Last week, Blumenthal held a town hall meeting in Stonington with representatives from Connecticut’s fishing industry to discuss their biggest concerns with the management of fisheries. 

“Last week with our Connecticut fishing community, I met with them in a town hall in Stonington and I heard their perspectives and concern as they relate to the Magnuson-Stevens Act--- and frankly, I strongly believe that the goals of conserving and rebuilding fish populations and promoting the growth of the fishing industry are two goals that should be and are compatible, not mutually exclusive. But unless the best science is brought to bear and unless the views of that fishing industry have some say, the system will run amuck--- and right now it is running amuck in their view,“ Blumenthal says.

The full testimony can be found here and below.

This hearing is vitally important to Connecticut and our country and particularly so because the Magnuson-Stevens Act, can be effective only if the latest science is brought to bear on decisions that are made and only if the people who are affected by this law have representation so they can bring a real-world sense of what’s happening to bear on these decisions.

I have met often over the past years when I served as Attorney General and most recently as senator. Last week with our Connecticut fishing community I met with them in a town hall in Stonington and I heard their perspectives and concern as they relate to the Magnuson-Stevens Act and frankly I strongly believe that the goals of conserving and rebuilding fish populations and promoting the growth of the fishing industry are two goals that should be and are compatible, not mutually exclusive. But unless the best science is brought to bear and unless the views of that fishing industry have some say, the system will run amuck and right now it is running amuck in their view. And I think their views are very persuasive and convincing.

They tell me the sea bass and flounder among other species have migrated north, are available in much greater abundance than ever before because of the effects of warming and so the system that gives primary say in determining the catch numbers permissible to the Mid-Atlantic Council and Management Organization is not only inequitable but ineffective.  And their industry is under economic stress and that matters to the entire state of Connecticut, the commercial and recreational fishing industries involve 6600 jobs in my state and has an economic output of $763 million. These are numbers that are approximate but even if they are off by a little bit, the magnitude of the effect is certainly significant. So my hope is we can have smarter, more efficient targeting of resources in these programs and greater effort to take into account the effects of climate change and shifting fish populations and other environmental issues and we can make this system work well for fishermen and protect and rebuild vulnerable species at the same time.

So my question to you is: what can be done to take account of those moving fish populations? I know I’m probably stating in imprecise laymen terms but the seas bass and the flounder don’t speak our language anyway they are just going to do what they are going do based on water temperatures. And those water temperatures are driving more of them north and here is the really egregious and unacceptable outcome: these fishermen are throwing overboard tons of fish that are dead when they hit the water. So they are of no use to any one least of all people who are hungry, literally hungry in Connecticut and around the country who could benefit by having those fish available. So there is extraordinary unnecessary waste in this system right now and I want your view on what we can do about it.

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