Jes Hathaway is the editor in chief of National Fisherman magazine and NationalFisherman.com.
Thursday, 28 April 2011
For too long now, New England groundfish stocks have been the poster child for increasingly punitive management tactics.
At long last, an independent review of the management process in the Northeast and the data upon which fishery policy is based has raised important questions about the quality of the scientific data, as well as monitoring and enforcement methods.
The review simply says what fishermen have said for years: The system is not set up with the industry in mind. The impetus is to react immediately to save the fish from a perceived doomsday at any and all costs, but data collection does not allow for timely stock assessments.
Who takes the hit in this scenario? Fishermen.
The retort to this sentiment is often that fishermen don't care if they catch the last fish; they just want to make money. That may be true of some fishermen, but I haven't met any of them yet. The fishermen I talk to want to pass their fishery to their kids. But they don't want to pass on the stress and worry of barely making boat payments because they're not allowed to leave the dock or can hardly manage the amount of paperwork required to rig a net.
We ought to be doing our best to maintain healthy stocks, but we must balance that with reason and an eye to the future of the industry.
There is a balance to be struck here, but we are still far too skewed toward a mythical vision of abundance for all stocks. As long as there are any fish in the sea, some stocks will be up while others are down.
It is clear that we have a remarkable system that is working to establish and maintain healthy stocks. We ought to be proud of that.
But I also hope that one day we can be proud of our robust working waterfronts and fishing fleets from coast to coast.
Read a PDF of the review requested by John Pappalardo, chairman of the New England Fishery Management Council, and Eric Schwaab, NMFS director.
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