Possible Delay In Monkfish Protection Threatens NE Fishing Industry

November 5, 1999
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In a letter sent today to US Commerce Secretary Richard Daley, six environmental organizations called on the Secretary to avoid any delay in implementing the long-awaited Monkfish Fishery Management Plan for the waters off the coast of New England and the Middle Atlantic States. The plan is scheduled to go into effect on Monday, November 8. The National Marine Fishery Service (NMFS) and other independent scientists have repeatedly found monkfish to be overfished and depleted. Despite these consistent findings, the Secretary has been repeatedly pressured by members of Congress as well as fishermen and their representatives to delay implementation of the plan until January 15, 2000 or later.

"Any delay in putting the monkfish plan into action would be bad news for the fish and for the long-term health of the New England fishing industry," said Environmental Defense Fund senior attorney Doug Hopkins. "The plan's protections need to go into effect on Monday, as scheduled."

Scientists have presented compelling evidence of the precariously depleted condition of the monkfish population, including low and decreasing biomass and fish size. Most troublingly, large adults seem essentially to have vanished; they are now absent from survey tows.

No credible scientific evidence exists to refute these conclusions or to cast doubt on the urgent need to end the overfishing of monkfish.

"Even a delay of a little more than two months, until January, could have a significant negative impact on the monkfish population," said Hopkins. "This is the time of year when a very large percentage of the annual catch is landed, since the prices of monkfish tails and livers rise sharply during this period in response to the increased demands of the holiday season. Allowing unchecked fishing for monkfish during this critical two-month period would violate the Magnuson Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act and would waste a critical opportunity to slow the further depletion of this badly over-exploited fish population."