The Working Waterfront Festival takes place this weekend and features the traditional Blessing of the Fleet, to be held Sunday afternoon on the State Pier. This year, New Bedford welcomes NOAA’s Eileen Sobeck to the ceremony. Ms. Sobeck holds the title of Assistant Administrator for Fisheries, and in that capacity oversees the management and conservation of marine fisheries. According to the NOAA web site: “Her focus is on rebuilding the nation's fisheries and the jobs and livelihoods that depend on them by promoting management approaches that will achieve both sustainable fisheries and vibrant coastal communities.”

It is difficult to reconcile such lofty goals with the harsh reality facing New England groundfishermen today. The National Marine Fisheries Service and its regional administrator John Bullard, in the face of widespread opposition, is intent on forcing fishing vessel owners to pick up the tab for the at-sea monitors that accompany them on fishing trips to estimate the catch and observe bycatch.

Last April, at the request of the New England Fishery Management Council, NOAA’s own social sciences branch conducted an evaluation of the impact the promotion of this particular management approach would have if industry funded. Here is a quote taken from the study’s findings: “Predictions for FY 2015 are that nearly 60% of the fleet could see negative returns to owner when full 2015 ASM costs are factored in.” The study also predicted that “industry funded ASM could result in restructuring of the fleet.”

In plain language, this means many fishermen cannot afford the costs of this imposition (estimated at $710 per day) and they will be "restructured" right out of the industry.

Read the full story at South Coast Today >>

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