Written by Adrianne Madden
Wednesday, 26 August 2009
President Obama is visiting Martha's Vineyard on vacation. Tuesday, groundfish harvesters visited the Vineyard, too – but they were all business.
Banner-bearing groundfishing vessels steamed from New Bedford to Martha's Vineyard to express to the president their reservations about sector management.
There are fears that the sector management system, a form of catch share management New England groundfishermen will fish under come May 2010, will displace many fishermen. An already pared-down fleet, harvesters say, will be further whittled to those few operators who can afford to purchase the catch shares of exiting harvesters.
And demonstration organizers say the move to catch shares is being made too quickly. They object to having to decide by Sept. 1 whether to join a sector — a group of fishermen who pool their harvest histories to receive a share of the fishery's total allowable catch — even though rules, regulations and quotas won't be set until late this year.
Will the demonstration lead to the president having an epiphany that will provide for healthy fish stocks and promote sustainable harvests that will allow fishermen and their communities to prosper? Probably not.
But it could at least bring the groundfish fleet's concerns to the president's attention. And it certainly doesn't hurt to demonstrate when a fair amount of national media has descended upon Martha's Vineyard along with the Obamas.
And if that eventually leads to a management system that ensures a robust resource and rejuvenates New England's fabled fishing fleet, then it'll have been well-worth it for the boats to steam to Martha's Vineyard.
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