On the surface, the creation of eight regional fishery management councils — including the one for New England based in Newburyport which carries out policy hearings and helps set catch guidelines and limits under the federal Magnuson Stevens Act — is a good idea.
The council, which held its three-day December meetings this week at the DoubleTree Hotel in Danvers, is designed to bring fishermen, government representatives and environmental groups to the same table to discuss and consider regulatory policies. And, to a large extent, it does that — with members appointed by state’s governors, theoretically outside the reach of the long arm of NOAA.
But the council system has an absolutely fatal flaw – and it is one that took center stage again just this week.
Despite all the input, all the debate, and yes, even emphatic votes by the council’s members — including John Bullard, who serves as NOAA Northeast regional administrators and heads up fishery regulation from Maine to the Carolinas from his office in Gloucester’s Blackburn Industrial Park — if Bullard and NOAA decree that a council-approved policy will not go forward, it’s dead in the water.