June 17, 2014
Because of the state of the fishing industry today, small fishermen find themselves squeezed between massive international fleets and heavily depleted stocks. In their fight for survival, many are finding themselves becoming both educators and advocates along the way. In grappling with these forces and trying to find a way to keep afloat, they may have just hit on a key principle that lies at the heart of the sustainability journey.
I spoke with two fishermen on the New England coast (on different days), who both wear multiple hats.
Chris Brown is both the owner of the Brown Family Seafood Co. in Rhode Island and also the president of the newly formed Seafood Harvesters of America (SHA), a group that, among other things, is focused on lobbying Capitol Hill, to ensure that the concerns of commercial fishermen are represented in the re-authorization of the Magnuson Stevenson Act (MSA).
Josh Wiersma is the Manager of Northeast Fisheries Groundfish Sectors XI and XII in New Hampshire. He is responsible for the implementation of the sector management system established in 2010. Josh is also the founder of New Hampshire Community Seafood, a community supported fishery (CSF).
Triple Pundit: Josh, can you give me some background on where the New England fisheries are today and how we got there?
Josh Wiersma: The Grand Banks were once so abundant with cod that they were key to the early development of our country, particularly in New England. By the 1960s, massive trawlers came in and depleted the stocks, much of which was shipped overseas. The government encouraged this trend because of the huge fortunes that were being made and the belief at that time that fish stocks were inexhaustible. By the 1970s, catches had plummeted, and the science began to catch up with reality. This led to the passage Magnuson-Stevens Act in 1976.