Jes Hathaway is the editor in chief of National Fisherman magazine and NationalFisherman.com.
Friday, 10 February 2012
Among the top things that make me cringe is seeing any government pour resources into a project for the sake of PR or remove public access to resources that provide valuable wages, especially in remote parts of the country.
Today I heard about a meeting that will take place this evening in Port Lavaca, Texas, between commercial oystermen and representatives from the U.S. Coast Guard and Texas Parks and Wildlife.
The reason for the meeting is an attempt to discover why state and federal authorities showed up in droves on the opening day of the state's oyster season — a season that has been delayed by three months because of a lengthy red tide outbreak.
Reports on the scene were of more state and Coast Guard skiffs than fishermen had ever witnessed in decades of work in the local commercial fishing industry. Some fishermen reported that state game wardens boarded boats repeatedly and forced them to dump oysters of legal size. Some speculate, based on the agents' interest in personal documents, that they hoped to catch illegal workers and perhaps make a show of nabbing undocumented residents.
Meanwhile, in Alaska, a federal judge asked NMFS to review the environmental and socioeconomic effects of western Aleutians Atka mackerel and Pacific cod fishing closures as quickly as possible. NMFS' response is that it will take 23 months to do a complete assessment and they could not perform a review before next June.
The fishing closures are an attempt to protect a small subset of the western substock of Steller sea lions, though there is no widely accepted theory as to the cause of the stock's decline. However, each year of closures costs the fishing community $80 million in revenue.
I understand that local and federal governments are called upon to manage increasingly vast responsibilities. But I am tired of seeing fishing communities take the hit to make someone else feel better about their day or look better in the public eye. It's time we took stock of what we value in this country. A press release versus a living wage based on actual work and a legitimate product. I think the choice is pretty easy.
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