Jes Hathaway is the editor in chief of National Fisherman magazine and NationalFisherman.com.
Friday, 14 September 2012
Yesterday, the Commerce Department issued federal disaster declarations for two disparate fisheries — Alaska king salmon and Northeast groundfish.
What is it about a disaster declaration that garners huge headlines? And yet, the fact that small-boat fishermen are going out of business every day in the Northeast and slowly but surely crippling the working waterfront infrastructure their communities have been built on for centuries gets the occasional offhand mention.
Well that's just journalism. Big moves make big headlines. This is my gripe about our 24-hour news cycle and the somehow even more slowly grinding federal government. Too many people are eager to make a big splash. The result is no water left in the pool. Makes for a lot of irritated bystanders.
That's who we are today, as fishing industry stakeholders, as Americans, as humans in a global economy. So little of what we do is truly in our own hands. Some of that is even the result of people who purport to want to give us back our so-called freedoms.
So it's understandable that we would want to establish and maintain our independence somewhere. However, I can't even begin to process the irony of Alaska's Gov. Sean Parnell asking the federal government for help by declaring king salmon fishery disasters for the Bering Sea-bound Yukon and Kuskokwim rivers and for Cook Inlet region south of Anchorage, which includes the Kenai River.
This from the same governor who is suing the federal government for treading on state's rights by responding to a threat to the world's largest salmon run.
Many Bristol Bay fishermen begged the federal government to get involved in the Pebble Mine dispute in order to protect their livelihoods and a naturally renewable resource. If Parnell wants federal help for one fishery, then perhaps he ought to at least consider abiding by federal guidelines for another.
We can't have our cake and eat it, too. We have to work within the system — as contrary as that is to the spirit of fishermen everywhere. The last cowboys are being reined in. It's up to us to figure out how to keep fishing communities — not just the fisheries themselves — vital.
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