Maintain Public Access to Fisheries Data

Target: National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration

Goal: Do not limit public access to fisheries data

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration has proposed a draft rule that would limit public access to fisheries data on the grounds of confidentiality of personal and business information. This would hinder many research and environmental interests from accessing data which forms the basis of their work. Several groups are challenging this proposal, arguing that NOAA is going beyond the confidentiality requirement.

NOAA collects fisheries data from numerous independent observers on fishing boats who report information including the gear used by the vessel, the size of the catch, what species are caught,where they are caught, in addition to what is inadvertently caught.

This inadvertent bycatch may include threatened species such as sharks or sea turtles. This information is very important for both research, news reporting, and environmental advocacy. Sixty environmental, journalist, and government groups have submitted a letter to NOAA asking for a reconsideration of this proposal. The groups claim that the proposal would violate the Administration’s scientific integrity policy and the transparency in government memorandum.

NOAA has said that it is committed to transparency and supports the interest and use of fisheries data. The Administration says it would issue aggregate fisheries data, but concerned groups argue that this would not amount to the kind of data necessary for thorough research or reporting. These groups depend on ample data from NOAA in order to identify and monitor problems. Please request that NOAA reconsider its proposal and better accommodate the needs of environmental, reporting and research groups.


Dear National Oceanic and Fisheries Administration,

The proposal to limit access to fisheries data has come under attack from numerous research, environmental, government and journalist groups. Data which NOAA collects from fishing vessels makes up a significant resource for identifying, monitoring and solving problems in fisheries, environmental quality, and aquatic life.

Fisheries data, collected from independent observers on fishing vessels includes information about catch size, location and contents, vessel equipment and inadvertent by-catch. While NOAA has said more confidentiality is needed in regard to the release of this information, concerned groups argue that this proposal would go beyond requirements for protection of personal and business information.

Scientists working through public universities have even said that fisheries information is too difficult to access even now. Further, others have argued that fisheries are a public resource, and thus the public has a right to access information collected about it.

Environmental and research groups depend on this data to monitor the health and safety of fisheries, as well as threatened species and the oceans. Please reevaluate the implications of such a proposal to limit access to information, and improve access to fisheries data.


[Your Name Here]

Photo credit: MSCkeurmerk via Flickr

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One Comment

  1. Fran Fulwiler says:

    NOAA must protect the public’s right to information against big business’ undemocratic efforts to restrict it.

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