Here in Tacoma, Wash., we’re on the last day of the National Working Waterfronts and Waterways Symposium. Our agenda today is to set some goals for the National Working Waterfront Network, as has been the tradition for this symposium, which meets every three years and is in its third go-round.
I’ll admit, I’m a bit out of my comfort zone here. I’m used to spending time with fishermen and the people who supply the fishing industry. That’s the sweet spot for me. This week I’ve been surrounded by folks from Sea Grant, port and city managers, politicians and their staff, academics, federal workers, and a few representatives from nonprofit associations who keep coastal living in their scopes.
These are the people who are steering working waterfront planning in this country on the federal and local levels.
At this morning’s introduction, conference chair Nicole Faghin, coastal management specialist with Washington Sea Grant, made an excellent observation. “It’s an intimate connection that we’re trying to make… bringing the water to the people.”
We don’t have to bring the people to the water. People are already drawn to the water. The difficult task is to manage access in an equitable way.
As a representative of the commercial fishing industry, I have held to my mantra that the fishing industry is primarily concerned with maintaining access and infrastructure through down cycles in local fish stocks.
The magazine’s advocacy approach is keeping fishing fleets afloat as stocks rebuild and as we improve our management techniques to keep fishermen fishing.
In a session yesterday on the National Working Waterfronts Policy, Keith Rizzardi, chairman of the Marine Fisheries Advisory Committee, said, “If the fish disappear, you have nothing.”
That’s true. But that’s neither the beginning nor the end of the story. If the fishermen disappear, you’ve got nothing. If the fish houses disappear, you have nothing. If the ice houses and boatyards disappear, you’ve got nothing.
We need all of these elements to preserve the fishing industry and working waterfronts as they’ve been defined for the last 400 years.
What I can say to our readers is that your basic needs are recognized here. The folks who are steering this ship want you to be around for the next 400 years and beyond. Whether we get there is a question we’ll have to answer a few years at a time.