Roccus7

This is HUGE, Federal Judge Sees Through NOAA/NMFS "Best Available Science"

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It took lobstering, but folks are finally calling out the "Best Available Science" plot...

 

This is huge, in that Federal Judge usually go ahead with Federal Agencies, unless they're really off base. This action demonstrates that the Judge recognized that the "Best Available Science Here" was flimsy at best.
 

Federal judge blocks lobster fishing ban in stretch of Gulf of Maine

By Penelope Overton October 17, 2021

A federal judge in Maine on Saturday blocked a seasonal ban on traditional lobster fishing in a stretch of offshore waters in the Gulf of Maine that regulators say is needed to save the endangered North Atlantic right whale from extinction.

Lance-Walker-220x300.jpg
U.S. District Judge Lance Walker

In his 28-page ruling, U.S. District Judge Lance Walker said regulators had relied on “markedly thin” statistical modeling instead of hard evidence to show the nearly thousand-square-mile area they had planned to close was really a hot spot for the imperiled whale.

While the area targeted for closure may be a viable habitat for the right whale, there is no hard proof the whales actually gather there, or even pass through that part of the Gulf of Maine, with enough frequency to render it a “hotspot,” Walker wrote.

The National Marine Fisheries Service had only just this year deployed acoustic devices along the Maine coast that can detect the presence of right whales through their song, Walker noted. When available, such evidence of a hot spot is preferable to statistical likelihoods.

“I find the certain economic harms that would result from allowing this closure to go into effect outweigh the uncertain and unknown benefits of closing some of the richest fishing grounds in Maine for three months based on a prediction it might be a hotspot for right whale(s),” he wrote.

The Maine Lobstering Union, which is made up of about 200 fishermen, sought the temporary restraining order in a last-ditch legal effort to prevent a closure it claims would cripple the $1.4 billion lobster trade, which is the economic backbone of Maine’s coast.

If the closure had gone into effect, many of the union members would have lost their primary winter fishing grounds, resulting in a loss of 4 million pounds of union-harvested lobster every year – a loss that the union believes could have put it out of business.

“This victory by the Maine Lobstering Union is a significant step in protecting one of Maine’s most precious industries – lobstering,” said union attorney Alfred Frawley. “Our lobstermen have put generations of time, effort, and substantial financial resources into their craft. The lobstering industry is not only a treasure to Maine but a treasure to our American history.”

NOAALobster_083121-4.png

Along with the union, Fox Island Lobster Co. of Vinalhaven and Damon Family Lobster Co. of Stonington filed a joint lawsuit against the National Marine Fisheries Service last month in an effort to block the roughly 967-square-mile, October-to-January seasonal closure.

“The regulations proposed by federal agencies would have had a chilling impact on communities throughout Maine,” Frawley said. “We will continue to push for science and data that reflect what is truly happening in our industry.”

The government’s attorneys, Taylor Mayhall and Alison Finnegan, told Walker in a hearing on Friday that the fisheries service used the best available science. The predictive modeling was based on hard data, including acoustic data and visual sightings from the past.

Taking time to analyze data collected this year would be a loss of valuable time for the whales, which now number fewer than 370, regulators say. The species will not survive if even a single whale dies from entanglement a year, they said.

As Erica Fuller, an attorney for the Conservation Law Foundation, one of a handful of fishing and whale advocacy groups that have petitioned to be heard in this case, told Walker Friday, “We’re watching an extinction crisis in real time in front of us.”

The closure is a hotly contested part of a larger set of regulations issued in September by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration aimed at reducing the right whales’ risk of deadly fishing gear entanglement by at least 60 percent.

The North Atlantic right whale has been on the brink of extinction before, most recently in 1992, when it bottomed out at 295 whales. It rebounded to about 500 in 2010, but poor calving, ship strikes and fishing entanglements, especially in Canada, sent its numbers tumbling again. Since 2017, a particularly deadly year for whales, regulators have recorded 34 right whale deaths – nine of those from entanglement in fishing gear. None of that gear, however, has been linked to Maine.

The government estimates that 62 fishing boats set their traps in the proposed closure area, which is an area about two-thirds the size of Rhode Island about 30 miles off the coast of Maine, while another 62 boats fish near the closed area and would likely suffer from a reduced catch when the displaced fishermen are forced to set their traps someplace else. The government estimates each of these fishing boats will suffer a 5 to 10 percent loss in earnings.

But fishing groups and the state of Maine say the number of impacted fishing boats and resulting losses is most likely far higher, with as many as 200 boats displaced, and some of them losing as much as half their annual earnings. That is because many offshore Maine fishermen make most of their money fishing for top-dollar winter lobster, when the supply remains limited but holiday demand is high.

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Wow, a federal judge who actually gets it.   How long will he last in the current administration?   

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Environmentalists, as expected, even though most have never dipped their toes in the Gulf of Maine, are outraged ROTFLMAO!!!

 

Judge’s rejection of lobstering ban draws praise of industry, ire of environmentalists

By Rob Wolfe October 17, 2021

 

Lobster industry advocates and environmental groups offered starkly different reactions Sunday to a judge’s decision blocking a federal ban on lobstering in a section of the Gulf of Maine designed to protect the endangered right whale.

 

The ruling, by U.S. District Judge Lance Walker, said federal regulators relied on “markedly thin” analysis that didn’t provide hard proof of the whales’ presence in the roughly thousand-square-mile area off the Maine coast. Advocates for the lobster industry had asked for a stay of the three-month ban, arguing there wasn’t evidence that the critically endangered whales actually frequent the area.

 

Environmental groups accused Walker of relying on his own analysis of data rather than that of scientists. Lobstering advocates, on the other hand, praised the judge for offering a lifeline to the $1.4 billion industry, which is critical to Maine’s economy.

 

“We are very excited,” Virginia Olsen, of the Maine Lobstering Union, said in an interview. She acknowledged, however, that an appeal was possible. “We’re very happy that this judge agreed (with us), and we’ll just continue to stand up for the rights of fishermen and move forward.”

 

Olsen and other industry advocates had criticized the statistical modeling used by scientists from the National Marine Fisheries Service, among other federal agencies, to create the corridor where lobstering would have been banned. The area mostly centered on the known locations of lobster buoys, which are connected to lines that can ensnare the endangered whales. But more evidence was needed that whales actually spend time there, said Olsen, who, for her part, believes that the whales congregate farther from shore, where their food has migrated.

 

“We need to have better data,” Olsen said. “We’re very thankful that the judge agreed with our objection there.”

 

U.S. Rep. Jared Golden, a Democrat from Maine’s 2nd District, applauded the court decision as “a positive signal that the voices of Maine lobstermen are being heard.”

 

“For the first time in this regulatory process, the concerns of lobstermen were weighed fairly and as a result we have a ruling grounded in common sense and the public good,” Golden said in a statement Sunday.

 

“The judge’s decision acts on arguments that lobstermen have been making for years now: there is simply not hard data to support the idea that Maine lobster gear is killing right whales. As they have argued and as Judge Walker notes, implementing this closure would cause serious economic damage to lobstering communities without any demonstrated impact on saving right whales.

 

NOAALobster_083121-4.png

I applaud the Maine Lobstering Union for filing and prevailing in this suit on behalf of their members. They are a great example of the power of unions to get results for working people. This struggle is not over in the courts nor in the federal government, and I look forward to working with lobstermen across the state to continue to fight for fair regulations based on accurate data and hard evidence.”

 

But environmental advocates such as the Conservation Law Foundation said the judge had overstepped in substituting his own analysis for that of scientists, endangering the whales during a time critical to the species’ survival.

 

“At this juncture every right whale death matters as to whether we lose this species or not,” said Erica Fuller, an attorney with CLF who works on the right whale issue. “It is incredibly disappointing that a federal judge substituted his judgment of the scientific basis for this closure over the many scientists working to identify areas of particularly high risk. We’re confident that the agency made an evidence-based and reasoned decision when it closed this area … to reduce entanglement risks. These critically endangered right whales need the immediate protections of this (closure) – they don’t have years to wait.”

 

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, one of the agencies supporting the ban, says North Atlantic right whales are “one of the world’s most endangered large whale species, with less than 400 individuals remaining.” Aside from entanglement in fishing lines, whales have been lost to collisions with vessels and have experienced disruption to their communications and behavior patterns from man-made ocean noise.

 

Since 2017, NOAA has documented nine right whale deaths from entanglements and another 14 injuries. Another 11 have died after being struck by vessels, contributing to an overall 50 deaths in the past four years – a sizable chunk of the dwindling population.

 

Earlier this year, the Maine Lobstering Union, the Damon Family Lobster Co. and Fox Island Lobster Co. sued for a temporary injunction to block the closure, which would have taken away many lobsterers’ primary winter fishing grounds. The ban would have taken effect between October and January, and would have allowed ropeless fishing, a technology that’s still developing and that lobsterers expect to be more expensive.

 

In his decision Saturday, Judge Walker noted that the National Marine Fisheries Service has deployed acoustic devices along the Maine coast that listen to whale song to locate their hot spots. That data is still being collected, and once available, would be preferable to the evidence that regulators have provider so far, the judge said.

 

“I find the certain economic harms that would result from allowing this closure to go into effect outweigh the uncertain and unknown benefits of closing some of the richest fishing grounds in Maine for three months based on a prediction it might be a hotspot for right whale(s),” he wrote in his decision.

Patrice McCarron, executive director of the Maine Lobstermen’s Association, also praised the decision on Sunday.

 

“The court’s decision is welcome news for the lobster industry because it prevents unnecessary and significant harm the closure would have caused hundreds of Maine lobstermen, their families and communities,” she said in an email. “But make no mistake, this important victory is just one step in a long fight we must pursue against the federal government’s 10-year whale plan that would decimate our industry. The MLA has filed a lawsuit against this flawed plan which will devastate Maine’s lobster fishery while failing to protect endangered right whales.”

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Much more discussion is needed, a balance or give and take is necessary. Too much harvesting drops price and deletes the fishery. I would like to see lobster income and subsidies, can’t have it all, Balance is the key. If bigger bucks are being gotten along with other Gov. money that’s not good, Buy 1 then 2 boats . We have seen this scenario on all ocean waters, not looking to make lobster fisherman suffer, but I, be seen the lobster wholesale price under $3.00. Who wins then:rav:

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Check out the “offshore” lobster boats, ridiculous money for rich folks, definitely not traditional lobstering. Most people don’t have a clue about Cashes Ledge. 
 

“Cashes Ledge is home to the deepest cold-water kelp forest in the Gulf of Maine and possibly the North Atlantic, as well as bluefin tuna, Atlantic cod, monkfish, blue sharks, and humpback and Northern right whales. It is also teeming with invertebrates, such as sea anemones; orange, red, yellow and blue sponges; horse mussels; sea stars; worms; and northern shrimp.“

 

Lobbysists and politicians can eat **** and die. Use em for chum. 

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Sounds to me like a judge knuckles under to industry lobbyists. 

Scientists, not just environmental groups, seem to feel the risk to whales is real.

 

"Scientists Set Record Straight on Right Whale Risk in Maine

October 28, 2019Francine Kershaw 

“As scientists we call on Maine, together with all New England states and their representatives, to provide their full support for NOAA’s efforts to develop and implement new, effective, and science-based risk-reduction measures that will protect both whales and fishermen from the serious risks they both face.”

Eighteen scientists with leading expertise on North Atlantic right whales have set the record straight on the level of risk that the species faces in Maine waters from entanglement in fishing gear.  

The scientists criticize recent efforts by Maine to delay or suspend the development of new fishing regulations critical the right whale’s survival, in a letter addressed to Senator Susan Collins, cc’ing Maine’s congressional delegation and governor, the Maine Lobstermen’s Association—which recently withdrew its support for the April 2019 Atlantic Large Whale Take Reduction Team proposal for new conversation measures. The letter also cc’ed the Maine Department of Marine Resources, the Atlantic Large Whale Take Reduction Team, several representatives from NOAA fisheries, and several press outlets.

Entanglement in fishing gear, primarily the buoy lines used by lobster, crab, and other trap fisheries, has been the leading cause of death for right whales over the last 10 years

Credit: Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission

The scientists correct three main points of mis-information shared by Maine congressional delegation and lobster industry. They conclude that: “the number of North Atlantic right whales in Maine waters, the number of entanglements that are occurring in Maine waters, and severity of all entanglements and their effects upon the right whale population are all significantly underestimated.”

(Read the full letter here.)

Debunking the Maine Myths with Facts

1. Right whales are common in both Maine and U.S. waters

Right whales have been observed in Maine lobster management zones during every month of the year, sometimes in significant numbers. These observations are likely a significant underestimate of the number of whales present, as systematic visual or acoustic surveys have not been conducted in recent years. Due to long dive times and lack of noticeable dorsal fin, it is entirely possible that most fishermen have never seen a right whale in Maine waters, but that does not mean they are absent.

Also, not all right whales are migrating to Canada. Only 130 to 150 right whales have been sighted in the Gulf of St. Lawrence in Canada in recent years, meaning that approximately two thirds of the population are occurring elsewhere, many of them in U.S. waters. Also, to get to Canadian waters, right whales necessarily travel through the Gulf of Maine during their annual migration.

Because right whales are difficult to see, are distributed unpredictably, and because Maine waters have high concentrations of the right whale’s primary prey and have not been subject to systematic surveys in recent years, the numbers of North Atlantic right whales that occur in Maine waters are likely significantly underestimated by fishermen and managers.

2. Lobster trap density and location mean that entanglement in Maine waters is a key concern

Combined, high lobster trap density and simultaneous whale occurrence will lead to entanglements in any part of the ocean. Right whales are demonstrably occurring in Maine lobster fishing zones, and 87 percent of the U.S. Atlantic lobster fishery falls with Maine waters—representing about 3 million licensed traps and approximately 400,000 vertical lines. Every single vertical line poses an entanglement risk.

Few entanglements have been definitively tracked to Maine fisheries because it is extremely rare to identify the origin of gear to any fishery. Also, due to previous actions of the Maine’s elected officials, 70 percent of Maine’s waters are entirely exempt from regulations requiring gear to be marked with country and state of origin. This means it is not currently possible to determine if right whale entanglements originated in Maine. Even with these challenges, from 1997-2017, three right whale entanglements were definitively traced to the Maine coastal lobster fishery, and three more to the offshore fisheries off Maine.

The high trap counts, the current gear marking scheme, and the challenges on both recovering and identifying fishing gear of any kind, combine to significantly underestimate numbers of entanglement events in Maine waters.

3. Severity of entanglements affects right whale health, reproduction, and survival

One feature that has not yet been incorporated into the NOAA rulemaking process is that most entanglements have negative effects on whales, even if they don’t kill them. Non-lethal entanglements reduce health, delay reproduction, and contribute to lower survival. By not accounting for the sub-lethal effects of entanglement, the NOAA process did not overestimate risk, as Maine’s elected officials and lobster industry have suggested, but rather significantly underestimates the overall level of risk that entanglement poses to the continued survival of the North Atlantic right whale.

The scientists also note that right whale mortality is higher than observed—whales with chronic entanglements sink after death due to weight and fat loss, that right whale entanglement rates are high—nearly 85 percent of all surviving right whales have been entangled at least once, and that entanglements occur everywhere there is fishing gear as right whales may now occur in all U.S. waters at any time—the main gear type implicated in entanglements in U.S. waters is lobster gear.

Reducing entanglements in east coast waters of the United States is critical for North Atlantic right whale survival and recovery

Credit: Georgia Department of Natural Resources / NOAA Research Permit #15488

The time for debate is clearly over. Right whales are at serious risk from entanglement in the waters off Maine. This is scientific fact. Since the scientists sent their letter, Maine’s Department of Marine Resources has submitted an updated proposal to NOAA describing how the state will reduce the number of vertical buoy lines in offshore fishing areas by a mere 25 percent. The state's most recent proposal does not go nearly far enough to provide the level of protection needed to save the species.

Continued political charades will only have one end—the extinction of one of the United States’ most iconic species."

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Posted (edited) · Report post

1 hour ago, mikez2 said:

Sounds to me like a judge knuckles under to industry lobbyists. 

Scientists, not just environmental groups, seem to feel the risk to whales is real.

 

"Scientists Set Record Straight on Right Whale Risk in Maine

October 28, 2019 Francine Kershaw 

 

Since the Government was using "newer data", you may want to quote something more recent too...  Since 2019 the bulk of Right Whale population has been staying in the Gulf of St. Lawrence, thereby bypassing the upper Gulf of Maine, which pretty much invalidates this...

Edited by Roccus7

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25 mins ago, Roccus7 said:

Since the Government was using "newer data", you may want to quote something more recent too...  Since 2019 the bulk of Right Whale population has been staying in the Gulf of St. Lawrence, thereby bypassing the upper Gulf of Maine, which pretty much invalidates this...

"...not all right whales are migrating to Canada. Only 130 to 150 right whales have been sighted in the Gulf of St. Lawrence in Canada in recent years, meaning that approximately two thirds of the population are occurring elsewhere, many of them in U.S. waters. Also, to get to Canadian waters, right whales necessarily travel through the Gulf of Maine during their annual migration."

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13 mins ago, mikez2 said:

Also, to get to Canadian waters, right whales necessarily travel through the Gulf of Maine during their annual migration."

Southern part yes, but not the Northern part...

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2 hours ago, mikez2 said:

Sounds to me like a judge knuckles under to industry lobbyists. 

Scientists, not just environmental groups, seem to feel the risk to whales is real.

 

"Scientists Set Record Straight on Right Whale Risk in Maine

October 28, 2019Francine Kershaw 

“As scientists we call on Maine, together with all New England states and their representatives, to provide their full support for NOAA’s efforts to develop and implement new, effective, and science-based risk-reduction measures that will protect both whales and fishermen from the serious risks they both face.”

Eighteen scientists with leading expertise on North Atlantic right whales have set the record straight on the level of risk that the species faces in Maine waters from entanglement in fishing gear.  

The scientists criticize recent efforts by Maine to delay or suspend the development of new fishing regulations critical the right whale’s survival, in a letter addressed to Senator Susan Collins, cc’ing Maine’s congressional delegation and governor, the Maine Lobstermen’s Association—which recently withdrew its support for the April 2019 Atlantic Large Whale Take Reduction Team proposal for new conversation measures. The letter also cc’ed the Maine Department of Marine Resources, the Atlantic Large Whale Take Reduction Team, several representatives from NOAA fisheries, and several press outlets.

Entanglement in fishing gear, primarily the buoy lines used by lobster, crab, and other trap fisheries, has been the leading cause of death for right whales over the last 10 years

Credit: Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission

The scientists correct three main points of mis-information shared by Maine congressional delegation and lobster industry. They conclude that: “the number of North Atlantic right whales in Maine waters, the number of entanglements that are occurring in Maine waters, and severity of all entanglements and their effects upon the right whale population are all significantly underestimated.”

(Read the full letter here.)

Debunking the Maine Myths with Facts

1. Right whales are common in both Maine and U.S. waters

Right whales have been observed in Maine lobster management zones during every month of the year, sometimes in significant numbers. These observations are likely a significant underestimate of the number of whales present, as systematic visual or acoustic surveys have not been conducted in recent years. Due to long dive times and lack of noticeable dorsal fin, it is entirely possible that most fishermen have never seen a right whale in Maine waters, but that does not mean they are absent.

Also, not all right whales are migrating to Canada. Only 130 to 150 right whales have been sighted in the Gulf of St. Lawrence in Canada in recent years, meaning that approximately two thirds of the population are occurring elsewhere, many of them in U.S. waters. Also, to get to Canadian waters, right whales necessarily travel through the Gulf of Maine during their annual migration.

Because right whales are difficult to see, are distributed unpredictably, and because Maine waters have high concentrations of the right whale’s primary prey and have not been subject to systematic surveys in recent years, the numbers of North Atlantic right whales that occur in Maine waters are likely significantly underestimated by fishermen and managers.

2. Lobster trap density and location mean that entanglement in Maine waters is a key concern

Combined, high lobster trap density and simultaneous whale occurrence will lead to entanglements in any part of the ocean. Right whales are demonstrably occurring in Maine lobster fishing zones, and 87 percent of the U.S. Atlantic lobster fishery falls with Maine waters—representing about 3 million licensed traps and approximately 400,000 vertical lines. Every single vertical line poses an entanglement risk.

Few entanglements have been definitively tracked to Maine fisheries because it is extremely rare to identify the origin of gear to any fishery. Also, due to previous actions of the Maine’s elected officials, 70 percent of Maine’s waters are entirely exempt from regulations requiring gear to be marked with country and state of origin. This means it is not currently possible to determine if right whale entanglements originated in Maine. Even with these challenges, from 1997-2017, three right whale entanglements were definitively traced to the Maine coastal lobster fishery, and three more to the offshore fisheries off Maine.

The high trap counts, the current gear marking scheme, and the challenges on both recovering and identifying fishing gear of any kind, combine to significantly underestimate numbers of entanglement events in Maine waters.

3. Severity of entanglements affects right whale health, reproduction, and survival

One feature that has not yet been incorporated into the NOAA rulemaking process is that most entanglements have negative effects on whales, even if they don’t kill them. Non-lethal entanglements reduce health, delay reproduction, and contribute to lower survival. By not accounting for the sub-lethal effects of entanglement, the NOAA process did not overestimate risk, as Maine’s elected officials and lobster industry have suggested, but rather significantly underestimates the overall level of risk that entanglement poses to the continued survival of the North Atlantic right whale.

The scientists also note that right whale mortality is higher than observed—whales with chronic entanglements sink after death due to weight and fat loss, that right whale entanglement rates are high—nearly 85 percent of all surviving right whales have been entangled at least once, and that entanglements occur everywhere there is fishing gear as right whales may now occur in all U.S. waters at any time—the main gear type implicated in entanglements in U.S. waters is lobster gear.

Reducing entanglements in east coast waters of the United States is critical for North Atlantic right whale survival and recovery

Credit: Georgia Department of Natural Resources / NOAA Research Permit #15488

The time for debate is clearly over. Right whales are at serious risk from entanglement in the waters off Maine. This is scientific fact. Since the scientists sent their letter, Maine’s Department of Marine Resources has submitted an updated proposal to NOAA describing how the state will reduce the number of vertical buoy lines in offshore fishing areas by a mere 25 percent. The state's most recent proposal does not go nearly far enough to provide the level of protection needed to save the species.

Continued political charades will only have one end—the extinction of one of the United States’ most iconic species."

Yup, a judge is far from qualified to determine scientific/statistical validity.

 

But this is the funniest quote 

 

 “We will continue to push for science and data that reflect what is truly happening in our industry.”-Lobster Union Rep

 

Yea, sure you will :point:

 

 

 

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Few entanglements have been definitively tracked to Maine fisheries because it is extremely rare to identify the origin of gear to any fishery. Also, due to previous actions of the Maine’s elected officials, 70 percent of Maine’s waters are entirely exempt from regulations requiring gear to be marked with country and state of origin. This means it is not currently possible to determine if right whale entanglements originated in Maine. Even with these challenges, from 1997-2017, three right whale entanglements were definitively traced to the Maine coastal lobster fishery, and three more to the offshore fisheries off Maine.

 

Pretty much proves the intent right there. If they can't prove we are responsible we are not responsible.

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Have to factor in all the changes from the 1997-2017 era in gear including the elimination of float rope, lower breaking strength warp, and breakaway fixtures in the rigging, directly addressing the items cited. 

 

People not looking at the bigger picture here.  Many fisheries management edicts are put in place as knee-jerk reactions with little, or no real foundation.  In this case the data were so flimsy a Federal Judge saw through the BS.  This is just a stay on implementation, allowing all parties to prepare a more convincing FACTUAL case for their position.  This puts some pressure on really getting "the best available science", a nice buzz phrase that NOAA/NMFS loves to use, but does little to actually pursue.  

 

 

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