National Fisherman


The Rudderpost 

jesJes Hathaway is the editor in chief of National Fisherman magazine and NationalFisherman.com.

 

These days New England groundfish fishermen are on quite a roller coaster ride.

First, a week ago, we learned that the loudest voice behind the catastrophic (for the Northeast) catch shares system, NOAA chief Jane Lubchenco, will be stepping down from the agency in February. That most certainly was a rare zenith for the fleet.

Then acting Commerce Secretary Rebecca Blank ordered federal regulators to return more than half a million dollars in unjust fines collected under the much-maligned NOAA Office of Law Enforcement.

But now Senate Republicans are threatening to keep fishery disaster relief money out of the Hurricane Sandy relief package. The groundfish fishery was declared a disaster this fall. The relief money for the fishery would be $150 million, which was slashed from a $60.4 billion package.

And lastly, today fishermen start down the long, hard road that as near as anyone can tell will deal the fishery its last blow. Between catch shares and climate change, fishermen who have spent decades cutting quotas and fishing effort with the promise that one day it would all be worth it now face quotas so disastrously low, they would have no way to make a living and no hopes that their prospects will look up anytime soon.

Analysis of the stocks is ongoing, amid disputes over the validity of trawl survey methods. And there's no telling what the results will be and what effect they will have on quotas in the near future.

Today the New England Fishery Management Council voted 15-2 to delay until January the deep cuts to catch limits.

Fishermen are hoping for a Hail Mary pass on the stock analysis. Otherwise, it will truly be the end of the world as they know it.

Inside the Industry

The following was released by the Maine Department of Marine Resources on Jan. 22:

The Maine Department of Marine Resources announced an emergency regulation that will support the continued rebuilding effort in Maine’s scallop fishery. The rule, effective January 23, 2016, will close the Muscle Ridge Area near South Thomaston and the Western Penobscot Bay Area.

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Louisiana’s Department of Wildlife and Fisheries, which governs commercial and recreational fishing in the state, got a new boss in January. Charlie Melancon, a former member of the U.S. House of Representatives and state legislator, was appointed to the job by the state’s new governor, John Bel Edwards.

Although much of his non-political work in the past has centered on the state’s sugar cane industry, Melancon said he is confident that other experience, including working closely with fishermen when in Congress, has prepared him well for this new challenge.

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