Written by Adrianne Madden
December 30, 2010
Listen up, Baby New Year! You've got a big job ahead of you, because 2010 wasn't the kindest year for the U.S. commercial fishing industry.
Seeing as you're in your infancy, Baby 2011, I should fill you in on what happened during your predecessor's term in 2010. Exhibit A would be the millions of gallons of oil that gushed from the sunken Deepwater Horizon oil well.
We're months removed from the April explosion that triggered the disaster, and we still don't know to what extent it will damage the region's commercial fisheries. What we do know is that it most certainly disrupted fishermen's lives in 2010, and will continue to impact them in the new year.
Then factor in the battles Northeast fishermen have had with NMFS over the catch share management system implemented for groundfish and the agency's fisheries enforcement practices. And add NOAA chief Jane Lubchenco's undercutting of the American position on Atlantic bluefin tuna. That led to the American bluefin quota being cut by 50 metric tons for 2011, punishing U.S. harvesters who have worked hard to rebuild and sustain western Atlantic bluefin stocks.
We're not even considering another dismal year for West Coast salmon fisheries, the development of a marine reserve network in California, and the looming implementation of catch shares for West Coast groundfish. Nor are we taking into account snapper-grouper fishing regulations hamstringing Gulf of Mexico and South Atlantic fishermen, or a potential listing of Steller's sea lions on the endangered species list, which could close much of Alaska's Aleutian Islands to fishing.
Now you begin to understand why Baby 2010 is going out looking like a wrinkled, haggard old man.
But for all of the problems bedeviling the industry, fishermen are incredibly resilient, resourceful and adapt to any challenges that come their way. They work hard, aren't afraid to stand up for what they believe in, and fight for what they think is right, no matter how long it takes.
That could make it easier for you to become an outstanding new year. So come New Year's Eve, raise your champagne glass (or in your case, bottle of formula) and salute the nation's commercial harvesters. And resolve to give them a happier and more prosperous 2011.
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