Back from the brink
We are living in exciting times for fisheries.
I know, I know. The jobs are not as easy to find; the boatyards are not as busy (or as plentiful); and the regulations can be daunting, to say the least.
But I believe what is happening now is a slow climb out of the nadir of U.S. fishery management. When the TAC for North Atlantic cod goes up, something is going right.
When fishermen can successfully fight for their fishing grounds against vast acres of ocean-based wind farms, someone important is not only listening but hearing.
When salmon return to the West Coast after a three-year dry spell and dams come down to ensure a future for the spawners, good things are happening for fishermen.
When I hear grumbles about the good-old days, I ask the grumblers to compare the way things are now to the way they were 10 years ago.
The fact is it's better out there in a lot of ways. One reason, I believe, is because the public perception of what commercial fishing is and what fishermen do is changing. The Coast Guard likes to talk about the cascade effect — one incident after another leading to a major event. Rarely can you look at a significant incident and point to one factor that changed everything.
The same goes for this slow climb. We can look back on the factors at play (the popularity of "Deadliest Catch," local marketing campaigns, foodie nation sitting up and paying attention when chefs gathered on the Gulf Coast after the oil spill to hold hands with fishermen and encourage Americans to eat U.S. seafood), but really, no single event has caused this shift.
U.S. fishermen have put a lot of resources into non-fishing matters. You have become politicians, marketers, salesmen and experts in federal legal jargon. But more than anything, you got mad as hell and didn't want to take it anymore. Then you got organized.
If you want to relish in the good fight, read our Washington Lookout column on page 11. David Frulla, Shaun Gehan and Andrew Minkiewicz lay out the way fishery management has changed since the enactment of the original Magnuson Act 35 years ago and explain beautifully why fishermen are fighting catch shares so vociferously.
And for a look to a bright future for U.S. fishing communities, Natalie Webster of the American Albacore Fishing Association writes our Dock Talk (page 10) promoting the National Seafood Marketing Coalition's push for federal funding for seafood marketing. As one letter to the editor states (page 13), the Alaska Seafood Marketing Institute has run wild with success. So why not expand that model on a national level?
Things are looking up, and I love to celebrate that. But let's not forget that the hill ahead of us is long and steep.
National Fisherman Live for Dec. 18, 2013
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