Clean up the act
Industry, anglers call for Congress to modify Magnuson
By Kirk Moore
Paul Theriault held one end of a banner on Capitol Hill and cheered passionately as Sen. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) declared, "The days of managing fisheries with ideology, not science, need to come to an end... We need to start caring about fishermen as much as we do about fish."
Theriault said he's up against the wall now, trying to run a 42-foot boat out of Gloucester, Mass., with a groundfish-sector allocation of 22,000 pounds for 2010, down from 130,000 last year — "not even enough to make expenses. I'm not against catch shares per se," Theriault said without irony, "if they give us some fish to catch."
More than 3,000 commercial and recreational fishermen massed Feb. 24 in Washington for the United We Fish rally, a joint effort backing legislation that would lend flexibility to the timelines for rebuilding fish stocks.
It all started with summer flounder, when projected stock growth fell short of scientific models. The resulting reversal in quota, even as fishermen saw more fluke in the ocean, raised howls from the recreational sector.
Bills S-1255 and H.R. 1584 by Schumer and Rep. Frank Pallone Jr. (D-N.J.) would give NMFS and its regional management councils more room to maneuver around a 10-year rebuilding deadline set by reforms in 1996 and 2006 to the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act.
According to Jim Donofrio of the Recreational Fishing Alliance, a primary rally organizer, the accelerating crisis in New England groundfish and the red snapper closure in the Southeast angered and scared thousands of fishermen, creating a new sense of urgency around Pallone's bill, introduced three years ago.
"Timing was definitely on our side," Donofrio said. "The president has said jobs are a priority. People are fed up with Congress and want to see action."
Bringing commercial and recreational fishermen together to demonstrate was especially significant for a Florida contingent that for 20 years "has been at each other's throats," said John Sanchez, who was in the front row holding a banner for the Florida Keys Commercial Fishermen's Association.
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