National Fisherman


FrankMirarchi MagnusonhearingFrank Mirarchi runs his small groundfish dragger, the F/V Barbara L. Peters, out of Scituate, Mass. He is out of quota until the next season begins on May 1, and the free time has allowed him to follow congressional hearings for the reauthorization of the Magnuson-Stevens Act, the law overseeing U.S. fisheries.

“I watched with horror the crescendo of voices calling this the ‘empty ocean act,’” he said at a workshop on the reauthorization held on Monday at Seafood Expo North America in Boston. “We’re not going to have empty oceans. We’re going to have empty ports.”

The act’s inflexibility has been tough for fishermen in places like New England. Mirarchi (he's in the photo above in the green plaid shirt) has been a commercial fisherman for 50 years. He said although the industry will receive $33 million in disaster funding, it may not be enough to save small ports like Scituate. The town has only six draggers left.

“The reality is rusty old boats and burned out people. It’s terrible,” he said.

The session was part of a series of public workshops put on by the Center for Sustainable Fisheries (CSF) and National Fisherman. CSF is led by former Congressman Barney Frank (D-Mass.), Scott Lang, former mayor of New Bedford — the nation’s No. 1 port in terms of landings value — and Brian Rothschild, former dean of the School of Marine Science and Technology at the University of Massachusetts, Dartmouth.

Frank, Lang and Rothschild saw the Magnuson reauthorization as an opportunity to fix arbitrary requirements and the act’s failure to balance the needs of fishing communities with sustaining healthy fisheries.

“The fishing industry understands the need for regulations,” said Frank. “They don’t want fishing to disappear — they want to keep this up.”

But some of the act’s arbitrary requirements, like the 10-year time line for rebuilding depleted stocks, are making it difficult for fishermen to stay on the water. Frank said when he asked the former head of NOAA Fisheries Jane Lubchenco if the 10-year timeline was scientifically justified, she told him it wasn’t, but when he asked if she would consider changing the law, she said no.

“It did not seem to me to make a great deal of sense to have something that arbitrary,” he said. “Frankly, that’s when I lost confidence in her.”

Rothschild said CSF believes the authorization should be based on certain fundamental principles, including maintaining the scientific process, a recognition of flexibility, decision-making from the bottom up and a national discussion that accommodates and builds upon regional differences.

“We have centralized solutions for decentralized problems and they don't work,” said Rothschild.

Mirarchi said it would help if the law could be changed immediately to prevent catch limits from fluctuating wildly from one year to the next.

“You can run a business with that kind of volatility, and it is basically breaking down the economic structure of our ports,” he said.

The next Magnuson workshop will take place on Tuesday, April 8, in Baton Rouge, La.

Inside the Industry

The following was released by the Maine Department of Marine Resources on Jan. 22:

The Maine Department of Marine Resources announced an emergency regulation that will support the continued rebuilding effort in Maine’s scallop fishery. The rule, effective January 23, 2016, will close the Muscle Ridge Area near South Thomaston and the Western Penobscot Bay Area.

Read more...

Louisiana’s Department of Wildlife and Fisheries, which governs commercial and recreational fishing in the state, got a new boss in January. Charlie Melancon, a former member of the U.S. House of Representatives and state legislator, was appointed to the job by the state’s new governor, John Bel Edwards.

Although much of his non-political work in the past has centered on the state’s sugar cane industry, Melancon said he is confident that other experience, including working closely with fishermen when in Congress, has prepared him well for this new challenge.

Read more...
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