Senators question agency’s fish stock assessments

GULF OF MEXICO — U.S. Senators Thad Cochran (R-Miss.) and Roger Wicker (R-Miss.) have joined a request for a study of how well the federal government conducts its assessment of fish stocks in the Gulf of Mexico and the South Atlantic.

The Mississippi Senators signed a letter to the U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) requesting a review of fish stock assessments conducted by the U.S. Department of Commerce.

National Marine Fisheries Service reviews, which provide official estimates of fish stock populations, are used to set regional fishery management policies related to commercial catch limitations.

The letter, spearheaded by Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), asks the GAO to determine whether sufficient peer-reviewed stock assessments are being carried out in the Gulf and South Atlantic.

“This study will gauge the quality of Gulf of Mexico fish stock assessments, which have significant effects on Mississippi’s seafood and tourism industries. Decisions that affect the health of the Gulf and those who rely on it for their livelihood must be based on accurate and timely data,” Cochran said.

The letter reads in part:“It has come to our attention that NOAA may not be placing a high enough priority on conducting robust, peer-reviewed stock assessments on fisheries in the Gulf of Mexico and in the South Atlantic. This lack of empirical data forces fishery council managers and their Scientific and Statistical Committees, who establish total allowable catch, to rely on what the councils have referred to in Congressional testimony as ‘flawed’ and incomplete science.”

In addition to Wicker and Cochran, the Rubio letter was signed by Sens. Richard Shelby (R-Ala.), Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.), David Vitter (R-La.), Mary Landrieu (D-La.) and Kay Hagan (D-N.C.).

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