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Study: Illegal fishing harming present and future New England groundfish fisheries
Date:6/4/2009

Solomons, Md. (June 4, 2009) Weak enforcement combined with fishermen facing serious economic hardships are leading to widespread violations of fisheries regulations along the Northeastern United States coast. This pattern of noncompliance threatens the success of new fisheries management measures put in place to protect and restore fish stocks, according to a new study published online this week in the journal Marine Policy.

Among their findings, environmental economists Dr. Dennis King of the University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science and Dr. Jon Sutinen of the University of Rhode Island detail nearly a doubling of the percent of total harvest taken illegally over the last two decades in the Northeast multispecies groundfish fishery (NEGF). The study estimates the annual illegal harvest to be 12 to 24 percent, significantly higher than estimates of 6 to 14 percent in the 1980s.

The study, supported by the Lenfest Ocean Program, is based on the results of an extensive 2007 survey of fishermen, managers, scientists and enforcement officials involved in the Northeast multispecies groundfish fishery, and analysis of enforcement data from the NOAA Office of Law Enforcement and NOAA National Marine Fisheries Service.

"The one-two punch of weak enforcement and deteriorating economic conditions combined with declining faith in the competency and legitimacy of fisheries management is encouraging more and more fisherman to press their luck and fish illegally," said Dr. King. "To many fishermen, the current situation has reached an economic and moral tipping point where the potential economic gains from illegal fishing far outweigh the expected cost of getting caught."

In the article, the authors outline how the existing enforcement system in the NEGF fishery does not significantly deter illegal fishing because economic gains from violating fishing regulations are nearly five times the economic value of expecte
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Contact: Christopher Conner
cconner@umces.edu
443-496-0095
University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science
Source:Eurekalert

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