National Fisherman


The Rudderpost 

jesJes Hathaway is the editor in chief of National Fisherman magazine and NationalFisherman.com.

 

I've been chatting with a West Coast friend this week about different perspectives on the Gloucester (Mass.) Seafood Display Auction case. (Find daily updates on our Top News page.)

As a West Coaster and a former Alaska commercial fisherman, this friend has a radically different view of fisheries, management and the industry in general than the average East Coaster.

His primary point, which I think is a reasonable one, is that the auction should not be allowed to act outside the law. Fair enough. The law is the law, and when people cheat, the whole industry feels the wrath.

However, after a lot of back and forth, he came to the conclusion that whatever happens, the punishment should fall on the auction and its owners — not on the fishermen.

This, I believe, is at the root of the protests against the action NMFS has taken against the Gloucester auction.

I don't think folks around here would say they have a right to break the law. But they would ask that the punishment fit the crime.

A mislabeled tote of cod does not seem to warrant a 120-day closure. After all, who gets hurt most by the closure? The fishermen.

But the biggest problem here is cultural.

First, you have hundreds of years of fishing history and heritage that are being eroded year in and year out with more stringent management. It seems the only way to solve the problem of the cod not returning is to shut down the fishery altogether.

That may or may not solve the managers' problems of biomass. But shutting down is not managing. In fact, it's the opposite.

What's more, if you shut down the fishery altogether for the sake of one species in an otherwise healthy multispecies fishery, then you are missing the opportunity to sustain these centuries-old fishing communities and families on healthy stocks.

Many opponents will also say that trawling is inherently bad for the ecosystem, which is why the cod are so few and far between. If it's bad for the fish, then how come other fish in this same environment are so healthy?

I think New Englanders have come to accept that there was a time when gear and boats outstripped the cod fishery's ability to reproduce. But that time is long past. The fishermen who remain just want to pay for their boats, their homes and their kids' education.

What's left at the end of the day is a glimmer of hope that they might be able to pass down this tradition just as it has been passed down through so many generations since the founding of this country.

On the East Coast, the people, the culture and the fish must be considered in concert. They cannot be separated after hundreds of years of symbiosis.

Inside the Industry

The following was released by the Maine Department of Marine Resources on Jan. 22:

The Maine Department of Marine Resources announced an emergency regulation that will support the continued rebuilding effort in Maine’s scallop fishery. The rule, effective January 23, 2016, will close the Muscle Ridge Area near South Thomaston and the Western Penobscot Bay Area.

Read more...

Louisiana’s Department of Wildlife and Fisheries, which governs commercial and recreational fishing in the state, got a new boss in January. Charlie Melancon, a former member of the U.S. House of Representatives and state legislator, was appointed to the job by the state’s new governor, John Bel Edwards.

Although much of his non-political work in the past has centered on the state’s sugar cane industry, Melancon said he is confident that other experience, including working closely with fishermen when in Congress, has prepared him well for this new challenge.

Read more...
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