Fish first

However, when I read things like the comment in yesterday’s Kansas City (Mo.) Star from former NOAA chief scientist Sylvia Earl, claiming that NOAA’s unofficial purpose is “about killing and marketing fish,” I have to wonder what is going on in Washington.

Is the Beltway so congested and constricted that no one down there can see all the way to the ocean anymore?

Since when has NMFS been a helpful aid to commercial fishing? As far as I can tell, more and more fishermen and fishing communities are going about marketing and selling fish on their own, giving rise to numerous and popular community-supported fisheries. (Not to mention the actual fishing — or “killing” part, which we all know is getting tougher to do by the minute.)

NMFS is derided from coast to coast for dropping the ball when it comes to supporting working waterfronts and fishing communities. So whose fish are they killing and marketing?

To be fair, the councils have a tremendous job on their hands, and many fisheries are improving. So I have to give credit where credit is due. But those rebounds are not the result of good marketing or excessive killing of fish.

Earle went on to say that marine sanctuaries should henceforth completely ban fishing, because, “if there are to be fishermen, there have to be fish.”

And there you have it: the gold standard behind the disastrous effect NOAA and NMFS have had on fishing communities for the last decade.

This government sentiment is the reason working waterfronts and fishing towns are collapsed, dwindling or clawing their way back from near-takeover by luxury condos.

The flaw is the notion itself: that we have to put fish first and people second.

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