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NMFS: Sorry for abrupt squid grounds closure

A top federal fisheries official apologized Tuesday to regional fishermen for the abrupt closure last week of the longfin-squid grounds, a move that some Long Islanders said cost them tens of thousands of dollars.

Managers usually provide several days' notice before closures, which take place when the allotted quota of a targeted species is reached based on vessel landings reports, but in the case of the squid fishery, most fishermen received notice just hours before the closure.

Daniel S. Morris, acting regional director for the Northeast at the National Marine Fisheries Service, in a publicly released letter acknowledged that two primary methods for alerting fishermen of the closure "did not work."

"I have heard from fishermen that the poor communication caused confusion, inconvenience and, in some cases, unnecessary expenses," Morris wrote. "I apologize for the poor communication and am committed to improving."

Fishermen such as Mark Phillips of Greenport said they did not receive word until the afternoon of July 9, just hours before the closure, while he had already steamed to the fishing grounds and had loaded his vessel with ice and supplies. He had to return by midnight.

Three Democratic New York lawmakers, Sens. Charles Schumer and Kirsten Gillibrand, and Rep. Tim Bishop of Southampton, called the agency to task and demanded that it explore more modern alternatives to communicate with fishermen and a better system of advance notice.

Morris explained, "Typically, when we have time-sensitive news to announce, we place paper copies of the permit-holder letter in the mail, air messages over the National Weather Service Radio and Coast Guard Broadcast, and email constituents."

But "these notification methods are obviously not foolproof."

Morris said the problem has led the agency to "troubleshoot and rethink" its notification methods. He also asked fishermen to send suggestions for improving the system by calling 978-281-9315.

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