As New England’s groundfish fleets wait for bad news this week about their quotas for the coming fishing year, I am also wondering if a federal fishery disaster declaration will result in any aid from the federal government.
The best chance of it was lost when all non-Sandy-related funding was stripped from the House relief bill, including funding for three fishery disasters.
As Drew E. Minkiewicz and Shaun M. Gehan illustrate in their Washington Lookout column in our March issue, the prospects for representation of fishermen on Capitol Hill look fairly grim as we usher in the 113th Congress.
Fishermen have lost Sens. Olympia Snowe (R-Maine), Scott Brown (R-Mass.) and the late Daniel Inouye (D-Hawaii) and are likely to lose John Kerry (D-Mass.) to the president’s cabinet.
On the House side, we said goodbye to representatives from a wide swath of the country, including Barney Frank (D-Mass.) and Allen West (R-Fla.) .
Tomorrow I will join some fishing industry representatives from Alaska and Washington state in meetings with Maine’s Sen. Susan Collins and Rep. Chellie Pingree to discuss Pebble Mine and what the implications of such a project could have on local and national fishing communities.
My hope is to spread the word that wild fisheries need to be protected across this country, whether that’s keeping a mine out of the headwaters of the world’s largest wild sockeye run or offering fishermen and small fishing towns a leg up in bridging the gap between disaster and recovery.
The problems we face as an industry now have very little to do with effort vs. abundance because we are managing our stocks with great care in this country. Our next hurdle is to overcome the dearth of data, so we can approach the looming problems of climate, access and gear modification.
If we hope to have an industry even 20 years from now, we have to start protecting it now, from habitat to infrastructure.