Jes Hathaway is the editor in chief of National Fisherman magazine and NationalFisherman.com.
Friday, 28 October 2011
As NOAA head Jane Lubchenco continues to tout the economic outlook for the New England groundfish fleet, the people who do the hard work of running and managing those fishing businesses met in Portland, Maine, earlier this week.
The consensus (aside from the well-known fact that the overwhelming majority of smaller boats are struggling to stay in business) is that last year NMFS bungled data management from one end of the season to the other. Disappearing quota, mystery VMS reports, and paperwork black holes were some of the top concerns of sector managers on the second day of meetings.
And that brings us to the people who, in my estimation, are the ones wringing every ounce of success out of the catch shares system: the sector managers.
Fishermen are doing hard work out there, no doubt, but without their advocates back at the docks, I suspect many more boats would have been scuttled by now. The level of attrition in the first year alone would have been catastrophic for the fleets and the ports that rely on fishing income.
If only all the nation's fishermen had someone akin to a sector manager to fight for them when NMFS loses or mismanages paperwork.
But until or unless we can find a way to fund fishing advocates for the nation's fleets, perhaps we can turn to regional marketing programs to promote the catch — wild American fish.
Farmed finfish and shrimp continue to flood the market with cheap (and generally comparatively bland) product. Dealer and restaurant mislabeling abounds, fuel prices show no signs of decreasing, so what can you do as a fisherman?
Start with marketing, and let the experts be your guide.
This year our annual Profitable Harvest conference (held Wednesday, Nov. 16 in Seattle — the day before Pacific Marine Expo) will focus on maximizing your access to local, regional and federal marketing and certification programs to make the most from your catch.
If you're a commercial fisherman who wants to educate your buyers and increase the value of your catch, this event is for you.
I'll see you there.
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