The long and the short of it

Federal regulators say the measures are needed to reduce overfishing and protect these species. Fishermen disagree; what they see on the water doesn’t jive with what the stock assessments tell the regulators.

But what struck me most as I read the story was a quote attributed to NOAA stating, “We’re willing to accept short-term losses that could have long-term economic gains by having high stocks, high yields and healthy ecosystems.”

What short-term losses is NOAA suffering? Is it trying to figure out how it’s going to make its boat and mortgage payments?

I’m taking the quote with a grain of salt, because the story doesn’t attribute the quote to a person, just NOAA. So color me surprised that anyone in the agency would make that cavalier a statement.

Then again, this business about making short-term sacrifices for long-term gains is routinely trotted out when harvesting restrictions designed to rebuild fish stocks are implemented — usually by folks who don’t have to actually make the sacrifices.

New England groundfish harvesters heard it at least 15 years ago (and probably longer) as regulators began trying to rebuild the region’s flatfish stocks.

And here we are all these years later. Vessels and permits have been bought out. Days at sea have been slashed to a bare minimum and various other effort controls have been implemented. The fleet’s size has dwindled considerably, and further consolidation is likely with catch share management’s arrival in 2010.

But those are all short-term sacrifices, right? For the folks who have to fish in the here and now, the economic gains they’ve been promised are long overdue.

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