Jes Hathaway is the editor in chief of National Fisherman magazine and NationalFisherman.com.
Friday, 17 April 2009
It seems like everywhere I look there are glimmers of hope for East Coast fishermen.
The beleaguered New England groundfish fleet was the first order of business for Dr. Jane Lubchenco, NOAA's new director. That she comes from the West Coast, which is undergoing massive salmon closures for the second year running, certainly speaks to the fact that the urgency of the situation in New England is coming across loud and clear.
Additionally, Lubchenco eased NMFS' interim rule for groundfish, rather than uphold the draconian measures set forth by federal managers in this case.
Next is the movement from Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick on the winter flounder stocks. Federal regulators shut down the fishery as of May 1. But fishermen are saying (as they are with dogfish) that this fishery is not as bad off as the studies suggest.
Finally, someone is listening.
As reported in the New Bedford Standard Times, Gov. Patrick said, "I need plain language. The one sentence to ask for and then the evidence to say this is why we need it... You tell me how I can help you develop that data."
Finally, today comes word from the Chesapeake Bay Foundation that the winter dredge survey shows great promise for the blue crab population.
According to Bill Goldsborough, senior fisheries scientist with the foundation, "The population has now passed 200 million adults, an important interim target that represents the minimum level for a healthy crab population."
Although the juvenile crab population is not on the rise, one key component of this study stands out to me: consideration of the fishing community as well as the fish population.
Goldsborough closes the statement with this:
"To ensure the long-term health of the crab population, and that of the watermen's community, pollution must be reduced and a comprehensive crab management strategy must be developed that is sustainable and will allow watermen to make a reasonable living."
Sure, it could be lip service. But the mere fact that the importance of fishing communities is bubbling to the surface says to me that the drumbeat has not gone unnoticed.
Members of this country's fishing communities have spoken out, and you have been heard. So let's not rest on our laurels. Here is the chance to boost funding for cooperative research, to open the door for more media coverage of working waterfronts, to be invited into American homes and the public consciousness.
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