Written by Adrianne Madden
October 30, 2009
Hundreds of New England fishermen have gathered in Gloucester, Mass., today at a rally to call for better federal fisheries law, regulations, and management. If they don't improve, rally organizers say, fishermen can't survive.
A press release issued by the Washington, D.C.-based Project to Save Seafood and Ocean Resources states that at this time of national economic distress, it is imperative that NOAA joins the White House in focusing on economic recovery.
"It is time," the release states, "that NOAA obeys the national fisheries law that instructs it to 'minimize adverse economic impacts on [fishing] communities.'"
Rally organizers and participants alike also realize the real problem is the Magnuson-Stevens Act. Specifically, it's the portion of Magnuson that mandates fish stocks be rebuilt within a 10-year time frame.
It's a problem because New England Fishery Management Council members are saddled with the impossible task of hurrying to meet the Magnuson requirements and develop the necessary management measures in all too short a period of time. And why must they scramble so? Because they're up against the constraints of the 10-year rebuilding period, that's why.
Why the 10-year period was chosen in the first place has never been made clear. Couldn't the populations of those groundfish stocks that are lagging be just as safely rebuilt in 15 or 20 years?
Meanwhile, that rebuilding deadline is crippling the groundfish industry. The economic impact of fishery management regulations and restrictions on fishermen is barely recognized.
It's great to see that fishermen taking a stand to call for better fisheries management and to protect their livelihood. While they're at it, they should also think about heading to Washington, D.C., and rallying on Capitol Hill to insist that Congress amend Magnuson-Stevens and the rebuilding period length so that fish stocks can rebound in a more reasonable time frame.
Because if the time period can be adjusted, it's just possible that a rebuilding plan could be developed that can boost fish stocks without decimating New England's groundfish industry — or any other U.S fishery.
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