Budget cuts are hampering the ability to monitor and manage stocks of fish liked by recreational fishermen, Congress was warned. Robert Beal, executive director of the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission, testified on Tuesday, March 19 before the Senate Commerce, Science & Transportation Subcommittee on Oceans, Atmosphere, Fisheries, & Coast Guard that the commission's budget has remained flat and in some cases decreased over the past decade, despite increasing demands on it and increased costs. You can read Beal's testimony and other testimony from the hearing and watch a recorded webcast of it at http://commerce.senate.gov/public/index.cfm?p=Hearings&ContentRecord_id=f1818c0e'-c289-4a1e-bbe2-7863fc181acd&ContentType_id=14f995b9-dfa5-407a-9d35-56cc7152a7ed&Group_id=b06c39af-e033-4cba-9221-de668ca1978a.
Beal said that the commission has had to cut stock assessments and fishery management updates because of lack of funds. While all federal agencies are coping with a mandatory sequester, Beal warned the committee that “constraining of the commission's budget is occurring at a time of unprecedented state budget cuts and threatens to limit the effectiveness of the commission process and interstate management coastwide.”
States are required to develop plans, working with the commission to manage recreational and commercial stocks and they couldn't do it with any further budget cuts. Beal testified. Any further cuts would require the commission to reduce the number of its annual meetings from four to three and “cancel stock assessment training for state scientists; delay (one year) benchmark stock assessments for American lobster, Atlantic striped bass, and northern shrimp; eliminate a stock assessment scientist position; suspend outreach activities and reduce (management) coordination capacity.”
This could require shorter fishing seasons, he warned.