October 28, 2011 12:00 AM
There was some welcome news for the local fishing industry Wednesday when the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration agreed to increase the annual skate quota by 17 million pounds.

The ruling goes into effect immediately and runs through April 30, 2012, the end of the fishing year. The decision raises the allowable catch from 31 million to 48 million pounds, a 56 percent increase.

“What happened is NOAA updated the catch limits with the 2010 survey,” explained Emily Keiley, a researcher at the School for Marine Science and Technology at UMass Dartmouth. That survey showed a large increase in the population, while a separate study, conducted by the New England Aquarium, revealed that many more skates survived when thrown back in the water as bycatch than the 50 percent mortality rate assumed by regulators. This also influenced the ruling, she said,

Keiley also pointed out that the decision was a long time coming. “We knew about this last December, but it was held up because the calibration between the two survey vessels hadn’t been fully peer reviewed,” she said.

However, the increase prompted feelings of relief on the waterfront.

“It’s about jobs,” said John F. Whiteside Jr., who serves as general counsel to the Sustainable Fisheries Association. Its members include Marder Trawling, Seatrade International and Eastern Fisheries in New Bedford and Zeus Packing in Gloucester. These companies target skate, dogfish and monkfish, primarily for the international market. “This allows the fishery to operate all year, sustaining the jobs of hundreds of people who benefit from a year-round fishery,” Whiteside said.

The full story on South Coast Today is available here…