February march is an important one

Thousands of commercial and recreational fishermen will head to Washington to gather on the steps of the Capitol at noon to protest federal fisheries management actions that they say are crippling the nation’s coastal fishing communities. The New Jersey-based Recreational Fishing Alliance is organizing the rally through United We Fish.

Is it a stretch to say that commercial fishermen in this country feel marginalized? That they think NMFS doesn’t value their input regarding fisheries management issues? That they believe their industry, which is older than the country itself, is being choked by regulation? Or that they believe the Magnuson-Stevens Act has evolved into a weapon that is used against them?

In an East Hampton (N.Y.) Star Feb. 4 article about the fishermen’s march, Bonnie Brady, executive director of the Long Island Commercial Fishing Association, may have best summed up their feelings. She said she was disturbed about NMFS’ recent decision not to renew its contract with the Cornell Cooperative Extension to collect biological samples and landing statistics.

“It seems to crystallize a disconnect that is endemic to NMFS itself, a lack of respect for the fishing communities, and no input or voice by fishermen into a regulatory process that we are governed by daily,” Brady said.

The Feb. 24 march would seem an excellent opportunity for fishermen past and present from all over the country to go to Washington and make their discontent known to NMFS, our elected leaders, and the American public, and campaign for meaningful change.

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