Jes Hathaway is the editor in chief of National Fisherman magazine and NationalFisherman.com.
Thursday, 12 May 2011
The wheels of government are turning slowly. But the fact that they are turning at all is a good thing for New England's groundfish fleet.
This week, representatives from the U.S. Commerce Department showed up in New Hampshire to hear what the fishing community had to say about the first year of catch shares and sector management.
And in a remarkable about-face yesterday, NMFS made a move not only to stop monitoring the holds of the groundfish fleet, but to eliminate dockside monitoring, as well. The change would free up funding to help offset the costs of running the sectors.
It's amazing to see how the tide has turned from this time last year, when the first year of sector management was proving to be an uncomfortable shift for many small-boat operators, and members of Gloucester's fishing industry were chafing under excessive fines and punitive actions from NOAA's Office of Law Enforcement.
Since then, national media has exposed the OLE scandal to a mainstream audience, Congress refused to fund NOAA's catch share initiative, and people from all aspects of the industry have been working together to find a way to make catch shares work for the little guys — though we still have a long way to go on that front. And last week the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, Regulation and Enforcement cut in half the area to be zoned for offshore wind farms off Cape Cod — a response to many concerns voiced by fishing industry advocates.
Though the Commerce Department's team in New Hampshire had little to offer the local fishing industry by way of coping mechanisms, the fact that anyone from the federal government cares enough to listen to fishermen is a far cry from the treatment the industry was getting from NOAA Director Jane Lubchenco — for all intents and purposes, their federal leader — this time last year.
In the words of New Hampshire fisherman David Goethel, as reported by the Gloucester Daily Times in response to the proposal to reassign monitoring funds, "We've had an outbreak of common sense; I hope it's contagious."
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