Written by Melissa Wood
January 24, 2013
With temperatures in negative numbers, I’m tempted to Google images of an island in Mexico I’d like to visit this spring. Apparently if you go to Isla Mujeres at the right time of year you can swim with giant whale sharks in the clear, blue Caribbean water. I’ve never been but I’d like to go.
Right now I need to get back to work. But thinking about what spring holds for some in the commercial fishing industry is depressing:
Next week, the New England Fishery Management Council is expected to decide on cod quotas for the groundfish fleet. Another cod assessment came in this week that confirmed already dire reports. For inshore Gulf of Maine cod, cuts may be as high as 76.8 to 82.6 percent for each of the next three years (quota was already cut 22 percent this year).
We may see a part of this industry — especially small boats that can’t go after offshore catch — disappear completely in our lifetimes.
Small boats are in trouble in Alaska too. Those in the halibut fleet had hoped electronic monitoring would help them cope with the expenses and hassles of observer coverage requirements. But no. Last week a NOAA official told Sitka fishermen that electronic monitoring won’t be an option for two years. The new rules will affect about 1,300 small boats.
I thought about finding some positive news to write about next so I could contrast it with the bad. But I’m not going to do that. In life sometimes you need to look at the bad stuff full in the face and decide it’s time for a change.
So let’s change our attitude toward small boats. Both of these issues are especially damaging to small-boat operators, whose viability is critical not just to feed their families but also to support their communities.
We need to value them more. Fishery managers should make the preservation of small boats a bigger priority, but only outside pressure will make that happen. Could environmental groups, which have been enormously successful in implementing catch shares, put some of their efforts into making fishing communities sustainable as well? What do you think?
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