The message coming to New Bedford fishermen from federal regulators isn’t all bad.
On Tuesday, the top administrator of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, Dr. Kathryn Sullivan, visited New Bedford to meet with local members of the fishing community and spoke in a way that suggests the regulators understand the industry’s perspective.
“We are committed to working with the best science and trying to find the right way forward to sustain the health of the fisheries and the fishing community,” she said following a closed-door meeting, a harbor tour and a discussion at the School for Marine Science and Technology in the South End.
There are short-term crises for the Northeast Multispecies Fishery as well as long-term crises. A brief postponement of industry-funded observers takes some pressure off the fishermen and allows more work to find a compromise that satisfies the requirement of the law without driving boats out of business. In the meantime, while the right folks work out that short-term crisis, there is a necessity to keep working on the long-term issues.
The industry can hardly focus beyond the looming requirement that they pay for the implementation of at-sea monitors on groundfish boats and the immediate economic effect it will have on marginally profitable permit holders.
For too long, the message from the courts, some environmental groups and older NOAA enforcement actions had been concerned with only the resource, not the impacts of trying to sustainably harvest that resource. Administrator Sullivan’s statement of NOAA’s commitment to keeping both strong — and underpinning that work with science — opens great opportunities for collaboration and success.
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