Washington, D.C. – In May 2020, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Fisheries started canceling research surveys to protect the health of its crews and personnel at sea on account of the COVID-19 pandemic. In support of coastal communities across the country who rely on these surveys as a basis for their livelihoods, U.S. Senators Susan Collins (R-ME) and Angus King (I-ME) joined their colleagues in calling on NOAA to identify and resolve any challenges created by COVID-19 that prevented surveys from occurring in 2020 in order to ensure surveys can be safely conducted in 2021.
“Fishery and ecosystem research surveys are essential to support the U.S. blue economy and provide valuable fishery-independent data needed to carry out provisions of the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act (MSA). Data collected from NOAA’s research surveys are used to manage commercial and recreational fisheries that contributed 1.74 million jobs, over $240 billion in sales, and $111 billion in gross domestic product to the U.S. economy in 2017,” the Senators wrote. “The economic output of U.S. fisheries is maximized by setting accurate quotas and catch limits, which depend on the long-term, fishery-independent datasets collected by NOAA’s research surveys.”
The Senators acknowledged NOAA’s initial response and actions to compensate for lost survey data; however, they reiterated that the methods used are not sufficient replacements for the typical large-scale, long-term research surveys required to sustainably manage fisheries under the MSA. In closing, the Senators requested a clear, written plan for FY2021 surveys before December 15, 2020.
In addition to Senators Collins and King, the letter was signed by Senators Lisa Murkowski (R-AK), Doug Jones (D-AL), Dan Sullivan (R-AK), Ed Markey (D-MA), Richard Burr (R-NC), Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), John Kennedy (R-LA), Maggie Hassan (D-NH), Rick Scott (R-FL), Jeff Merkley (D-OR), Roger Wicker (R-MS), Jack Reed (D-RI), Cindy Hyde-Smith (R-MS), Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI), John Cornyn (R-TX), Chris Coons (D-DE), and Brian Schatz (D-HI).
Click HERE to read the full letter.