I admit I had the wind knocked out of my sails late last week when I read that President Obama has opted to dismiss out of hand Alaska Rep. Don Young’s Magnuson-Stevens reauthorization draft, reportedly based on the advice of his staff.

Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) was one of many bipartisan speakers at the 2012 D.C. rally to reform Magnuson. Jessica Hathaway photoAfter the industry mustered support for the bill that could possibly be a Hail Mary pass for the Northeast groundfish fleet, I was excited to see it get widespread support (though Senate approval was uncertain), because that means more people understand the inordinate amount of pain under which New England fishing ports and fleets are operating right now (not to mention the forecast for harbors all along the Eastern Seaboard).

According the White House statement, the objection is to “arbitrary and unnecessary requirements that would harm the environment and the economy.” The problem is that as management now stands, arbitrary and unnecessary requirements are harming the economy and the industry, and quite possibly the environment, too.

What all those opposed to Young’s bill say is that there’s already flexibility in the Magnuson Act. And yet, the powers that be in the Northeast refuse to use that flexibility, and there is no way to hold them accountable for that choice.

So our fleets are caught in the middle, and those who wield the power to change the future have nothing to lose from the collapse of our infrastructure.

The fishermen stand to lose everything. And the public stands to lose access to healthy, local fish when the small-boat fleet gives out after a 95 percent cut in quota.

It looks more and more like we will have to lose it to know the value of what we’ve lost. And then what?

What we will get if we keep tightening the vise on our small-boat fleet is the little guys selling out the the big guys and total ownership of the resource by a handful of large corporations. If what we want is to establish and maintain sustainability in fisheries, it seems to me that the last thing we want to do is put the entirety of the ownership of fisheries in the hands of powerful corporations who have the legal prowess to write their own rules.

If you agree, please contact your representatives and tell them you want to help save small-boat fleets across the country by passing H.R. 1335.

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Jessica Hathaway is the former editor in chief of National Fisherman.

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