Jes Hathaway is the editor in chief of National Fisherman magazine and NationalFisherman.com.
Tuesday, 25 March 2014
Oceana made a big splash last week with its "Wasted Catch" paper, touting details on the nine dirtiest American fisheries.
Like many of Oceana's campaigns, this "report" goes to great lengths to vilify U.S. fisheries for their bycatch rates without mentioning the efforts made on the industry side to reduce bycatch. (What better way to beat the drum for donations than to tell only half the story?)
Oceana's recommendations at the end of the report (which occupy half of a page out of a total 44) are perfectly in line with what I hear from most fishermen. (The key there is that I actually talk to fishermen.)
For example, Oceana would like to reduce bycatch, as would fishermen. The report also recommends that the industry avoid bycatch by using cleaner gear. If Oceana got involved in the process of gear improvement, it would find itself in a crowded field. Fishermen, fishing organizations and researchers all across the country would love to improve access to gear modifications. The problem is that our fisheries are managed by federal and state governments, so any tiny modification to gear must go through the slow-grinding wheels of government due diligence.
Oceana's staff also recommends finding a way to account for bycatch and discards. Well that's where the fishing industry takes it a step further. Fishermen would rather land fish than throw them overboard. So why not allow them to land bycatch (at no profit) and channel it into local food banks?
If you combine bycatch reducing gear with allowable bycatch landings, you would have a better idea of what fishermen are catching (by counting it at the dock instead of at sea), cleaner fishing gear and phenomenal sources of protein for the hungry.
If you want to be a part of the solution, then your solution should not be relegated to a few short talking points at the end of a long diatribe. I challenge Oceana to take a step away from the keyboard and the streams of federal data, and get involved in what's actually happening in U.S. fisheries. The picture is not as daunting as they would have anyone believe, themselves included. Fishermen all over this country are working hard to make this industry better every single day.
Kudos to all of you who truly care about the future enough to put on your boots and walk the walk.
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