This week marks the beginning of what promises to be a long process toward reauthorizing the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act, which expires at the end of the 2013 fiscal year.
Already, we have seen infighting between Massachusetts lawmakers Reps. Ed Markey and John Tierney.
Markey mistakenly believes Magnuson is flexible enough because it allows fishing fleets and communities to be eligible for disaster declarations (this eligibility is of course no guarantee of actual aid, as we've seen for fisheries across the country during this time of excruciating political retardation).
And as far as the Northeast groundfish fleet is concerned, fishermen don't want or need simple handouts (though I am sure they would not be cast aside). What these fleets need is a hope that when the stocks decide the conditions are right to thrive again, the fishing infrastructure will be there to service the industry.
The primary problem in New England is that codfish are not responding to the 10-year rebuilding timeline, despite the fact that fishermen have been catching them under increasingly restrictive management for the last two decades (to the point of strangulation for most small boat owners).
Even some who praised catch limits for the 2006 reauthorization, like Cape Cod Hook Fishermen's Association CEO John Pappalardo, now concede that they are an ineffective tool without annual stock assessments.
But the process of reauthorizing Magnuson will also attempt to incorporate the concerns and challenges of fisheries across the country. As House Natural Resources Committee Chairman Doc Hastings (R-Wash.) said yesterday during his opening statement:
"The Secretary of Commerce declared seven fisheries disasters in 2012 and several more have been requested. New England is facing severe cuts in the quotas for important fisheries. The Gulf of Mexico is facing severely restrictive fishing seasons for recreational fishermen. The Pacific Northwest is seeing management and data collection costs growing with an ever increasing burden falling on fishermen. All of these fisheries and all of these regions need economic stability."
Put on your seatbelts, folks. It's going to be a bumpy ride.