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From the column....

A good fisheries crisis is hard to find


"With this level of "commitment" to solving ocean problems, is it any wonder that the involved ENGOs are more than willing to pump up any of those problems that come along or come to mind to the greatest extent that they can? And with what seems to be virtually unlimited access to geese that are far more capable of laying golden eggs than the average barnyard fowl, is it any wonder that the programs that these people inflict on the rest of us seem so completely out of touch with the working world? They want those geese to keep on laying, they know that saving "oceans in crisis," regardless of how real the crises actually were, has worked admirably up until know, so why should they stop?"

Fishery Management Transparency and Accountability Act (H.R.2753)


"Each regional management council will make available on the Internet website of the Council a live broadcast of each meeting of the Council, of the science and statistical committee of the Council, and of the Council coordination committee' and  'complete audio, complete video if the meeting was in person or by video conference, and a complete transcript of each such meeting' within 30 days of the meeting and maintain it there for three years."

Saving Fishing Jobs Act of 2011 - what's there to argue about?


"Of course, the price of seafood in the U.S. being controlled by imports, there's only so much money to be made from every domestically harvested fish. With some of that money being funneled off by billion-dollar foundations and the people and organizations that they are subsidizing, it's easy to see fisherman after fisherman "owing his (or her) soul to the company store." And, according to Packard's consultants, that's exactly where the foundations, the ENGOs and the temporary bureaucrats want them. Otherwise, why would Packard have allowed the report to see the light of day?"




When it comes to the NOAA law enforcement acandal, "we're sorry" doesn't cut it.


"So how much do you think the in-house attitude towards fishermen has changed at NOAA/NMFS? Using a Titanic analogy, something that I try to do at least once a year and that’s become increasingly easy of late, we’ve heard the captain and first mate telling us that they are shifting crew from job to job, messing with the paperwork that keeps everything running about the way it has been, and giving new fake books to the orchestra, but their ship is still unsinkable. They would be telling us this on April 16, 1912. (the Titanic sank on April 15.)"

Black helicopters over Boston?


"Whether this is evidence of a conspiracy or not, it’s obvious that the people in charge at Saltwater Sportsman want their readers to believe that there’s neither cooperation nor coordination involved in the national drive to implement catch shares. By the use of black helicopter imagery and demeaning descriptions of people who recognize what’s really happening, they’re trying to manipulate their readers into writing off people who recognize the extent of the push by mega-foundations, ENGOs and federal agencies working together to “revolutionize” fishery management. These organizations want, and are still campaigning for, this in spite of the fact that our most credible fisheries scientists agree that this year, for the very time, we’ll be free of overfishing in U.S. waters. (I have to add that we’ve gotten here with catch share management in place for a meaningful time in less than 5% of our fisheries.)"

Is this the future of fishing?


"What’s the probability of a federal agency becoming involved in an attempt to wrest control of a public resource-based industry away from the communities that have built up around it since colonial times - an industry with a Congressionally mandated role in the management of the resources it depends on - and turn it over to private “charitable” foundations and the business entities they are linked to? If your answer is “pretty low,” give some serious consideration to the following."

Just do it!


"We have a Congress with Members who are almost overwhelmingly ignorant of fish and of fishing. They aren’t going to learn anything – at least anything that you are going to want them to learn – from either the leadership of NOAA/NMFS or from ENGOs that have bloated their treasuries and their leaders’ salaries by selling out to the highest agenda-driven foundation bidder. Their education depends on you, and on anyone else who you can convince. If they don’t start to get federal legislation right when it comes to fishing, you’ll have nobody to blame but yourself."

Dead turtles in the Gulf – another NOAA shell game?


"As is becoming increasingly evident, it’s well past the time when the powers that be in the Department of Commerce, in the Obama Administration and in Congress should give serious consideration to the real-world implications of having someone with such a profound bias against fishermen and fishing as Ms. Lubchenco so obviously does at the helm of the NOAA. After decades of demonstrating that they are world leaders in the conservation of species after species, our fishermen deserve more from Washington than a target painted on their collective backs."

Who needs research? We're going to have catch shares


"That certainly puts the NOAA/NMFS leadership’s decision to cut the research budgets so severely, otherwise an action that is really difficult to understand coming from a supposedly science-based agency, in a different light. Could it be as simple as 'better research equals better data equals better fishing, and that’s going to make it a lot harder to sell an imminent crisis, so we at NOAA/NMFS don’t want anything to do with that?'"

The agency that brought us Trawlgate now presents Investigate, the next in the series


Is it a stretch to suppose that much of this was due to the demonization of fishermen by the media? How this took place, what was - and is - behind it, and how else it has affected and is affecting NOAA/NMFS in carrying out its mission regarding fishermen and fishing is every bit as deserving of oversight investigation by Congress as the dysfunction endemic in the NOAA/NMFS Offices of Law Enforcement and General Council for Enforcement and Litigation. In general that wouldn’t be the case, but the leadership at NOAA in the Obama Administration, the close ties of those leaders to the foundation/ENGO world that has so successfully persecuted so many people connected with harvesting fish for fun or profit, takes this beyond the realm of the “general.”

Even now the Boston Globe just doesn’t get it


The editorial finished up with the words “while the industry is all too willing to risk permanent harm to scallop stocks - and its own livelihood - the council must be steadfast in protecting the region’s marine resources.” That fits perfectly with the condescending attitude towards fishermen espoused by the elitists who run the multi-billion dollar foundations behind so much of the current – and unnecessary – suffering in the commercial fishing industry; the attitude that they’re there to protect us from ourselves.

But it’s dead wrong.

The Times They Are a-Changin'


The management climate has become so repressive that recreational and commercial fishermen are finally banding together to focus their combined political clout on the unnecessary inflexibility that is driving an untold number of fishing businesses into bankruptacy.
It's time to stop Magnuson from being a weapon used against fishing communities


Thanks to the last two Magnuson reauthorizations, and to what it’s impossible for me to see as anything other than the “let’s get rid of as many fishermen as we can” vibrations emanating from NOAA/NMFS headquarters, science, no matter how limited, rules and the experience, judgment and concern for the human impacts have become completely irrelevant.
The Consultative Group on Biological Diversity


There’s something distinctly unsettling about the fact that the Consultative Group on Biological Diversity, an organization that USAID (with no apparent domestic authority or mission) established and is still participating in and supporting, has as an objective the implementation of the recommendations of the Pew Oceans Commission and the National Oceans Commission.
While NMFS employs good citizens, that isn't the point


How many jobs is it worth, how many lives should be disrupted, to get to an arbitrary population level a day or a week or a month sooner? Dr. Lubchenco had an opportunity to use the space normally given to Dr. Balsiger to address these serious issues. But the official comment from NOAA that day focused on such banalities as hanging works by local artists in the new office building the taxpayers just bought for them.
On dogfish it's NMFS that's not seeing the whole picture


Associated Press reporter Jay Lindsay was witness to yet another fishing trip gone to the dogs (spiny dogfish, that is). However, I found one part of his article particularly troubling. Mr. Lindsay wrote “federal regulators say though fishermen see dogfish everywhere, ‘they're not seeing the whole picture,’ said Maggie Mooney-Seus, a National Marine Fisheries Service spokeswoman.” When I read that, a number of terms came to mind. Among the nicest were “condescending” and “ill-informed.” 
Acrockalypse Now


The title Aquacalypse Now is particularly apt for this, Dr. Pauly’s most recent venture into it’s-the-fishermen’s-fault ocean alarmism. What he writes is identical in feel to the phantasmagorical world of Colonel Kurtz in the movie (minus the fog/mist/smoke, the tiger and the pyrotechnics, of course). But, not wanting to be outdone by anyone in the field of new word coinage, I’d like to offer my own humble effort - Acrockalypse Now.

What do they really want?


The people running the National Marine Fisheries Service are hell bent on “fixing” the New England groundfish fishery regardless of the impact that their “fix” is going to have on the tens of thousands of people who directly or indirectly depend on it.

Contact Your Representatives


No one can present your perspective on fisheries issues to the people representing you in Washington with anywhere near the effectiveness that you can. But that’s only if they know who you are, where you live and what you do. It’s your job to see that they do.

Hillborn - Worm: Not a Human Interest Story


One of the most important points in Rebuilding Global Fisheries is that managing fisheries as we have been doing it in the United States has been and will continue to be effective. We don’t need a revolution in fisheries management to get to sustainable fisheries because in fishery after fishery we are either there or well on the way and the mega-foundations that are pouring money into “reforming” how we do it would do well to find something really useful to do with their dollars.



If fishermen really make a difference to those who are influencing or formulating government fisheries policy, why wasn’t there a crash program at NOAA/NMFS, perhaps utilizing some of those tens of millions of dollars that the people at Pew spend so eagerly on pushing their agenda, to figure out how all of those fishermen with time on their hands and boats at their docks could catch and sell some of that 130,000 metric tons of groundfish that went uncaught and unsold last year?

Law enforcement


Our system of justice is predicated on the assumption that people are innocent until proven guilty. Evidently Jon Sutinen's (University of Rhode Island) and Dennis King’s (University of Maryland) isn’t. In the report on their research on the New England Groundfish Fishery that they published in the journal Marine Policy in April of this year (Rational noncompliance and the liquidation of Northeast groundfish resources), Professors Sutinen and King demonstrated that the academic world they inhabit isn’t constrained by such silliness.

All hands on the stacked deck


The Environmental Defense website describes the panel (that authored Oceans of Abundance) as “an independent, bipartisan working group of 23 current and former federal and state elected officials, cabinet officers, scientists and administrators.” With at least 13 members connected to OFCT (including all but four of the scientists), with another two professionally wed to catch shares as a solution to ocean problems, and with previous OFCT initiatives that weren’t what they were presented as (see The Oil Slick at the end of the Fishnet “A New Management Paradigm” at http://www.fishnet-usa.com/new_paradigm.html), that “independent” is a little hard to swallow. Get the feeling that we’re dealing with a stacked deck here?

Beyond our scope


Suppose Mr. Woodard (author of Saving the Fishbanks in New Republic) wrote that most US fisheries are in good shape and getting better (inarguably they are), and that the problems are in the rest of the world? As having a populace that the news media have convinced live in increasingly crime-ridden neighborhoods (they don’t) demonstrates, local crises are the ones that sell. And what are the odds that anyone in Oceana’s world is going to write a check or support legislation to “save” fish in the waters off Somalia or in the Antarctic. Accurate or not, what the US public takes to heart must be a lot closer to home than that.

Now is time for broad national effort


How do we achieve a national seafood harvesting consensus? Conceptually it’s easy. Industry leaders would get together and hammer one out; one that’s easy-to-understand and based on common sense and noncontroversial principles. Practically, it’s not going to be that simple. It’s going to require some people to stifle some animosity, it’s going to require people in some fisheries that are doing ok to adopt a longer term outlook based on the fact that next year isn’t next week, and it’s going to require everyone to realize that we’re all in it together, and act accordingly.

The numbers don’t lie


So a hundred thousand tons or so of fish worth maybe $50 million are going uncaught (of the coast of New England). But if they were caught, where would the evidence of a “fisheries crisis” be? A hundred thousand tons would get the Atlantic landings right up to the 57 year average, and that would sure cut into the old doom and gloom by the professional hand wringers, wouldn’t it?

Same-old, same-old getting old for groundfish


Groundfish landings are at 17% of their 1980 levels. What about the groundfish stocks? Are they down? Some stocks are higher than they were back then, some are lower, and some are at about the same level. Charts on pages 2-861 and 2-862 of the “Ecosystem Considerations” section of the GARM III report (available via the Northeast Fisheries Science Center website) show that in the spring and autumn trawl surveys, the stratified average weights per tow of “all GARM stocks” have in recent years been very close to what they were in the 1980s. So, with as many fish out there today as there were in 1980, or for the sake of argument, even with 50% as many, where’s the justification for landings reduced by 80%? Or by another 6% over the next two years?

Phil Ruhle, true believer


Not too long after the Magnuson Act, and the bureaucracy it mandated, became the overriding factor in fisheries, it became apparent that to be successful, fishermen were going to have to make attending meetings a part of their job. As daunting as that was, as time- and money-consuming, as frustrating and off-putting, Phil Ruhle believed it and he lived it. But while doing so he remained a fishermen’s fisherman. With his son Phil Jr. he ran Seabreeze and they caught fish. And he also found – or perhaps made is the better word - the time and the energy to develop gear that, in the overhyped vocabulary in overuse today, was actually eco-friendly.

For the record


And, Saints be praised, Gloucester Times reporter Richard Gaines also spared a few words for what Pew, Our Favorite Charitable Trust has done and is doing in fisheries, detailing the role of two of its “activist-scientists” in beating the anti-trawling drums, and then recognizing that “Pew is associated with public information campaigns against fishing and fish consumption.” Of course their over-the-top pronouncements on the effects of trawling on bottom habitat will continue to play a conspicuous role in the Stellwagen dialogue.

Fishing for efficiency


If the “conservation neutrality” can be maintained, why shouldn’t fishermen be allowed to fish more gear, to land more fish on each trip, to transfer catch at sea or to do anything else to get around the inefficiencies that our managers have been using to control fishing for decades? The regulations could be modified to allow this, and they could be effectively enforced. All it would take would be a decision by the powers-that-be in Silver Springs to do it, and then the necessary administrative follow-up to get it done. If the mechanisms don’t exist to streamline what have become extremely onerous administrative requirements during an emergency of this proportion, then let’s go to Congress and get them created.

Balancing act


Accepting the words of the trustworthy and right-thinking "conservationists” as I always strive to do, I was expecting to see complete and utter domination of every Council by commercial fishermen or their representatives. Going back to 1990, of the 110 to 114 total voting Council members, from 27% (‘01) to 33% (‘97 and ‘98) were classified by NMFS as “commercial” and from 18% (‘95 and ’96) to 25% (’03, ’05 to ’07) as “recreational.”

Flotsam and jetsom


The Monterey Bay Aquarium people, like Greenpeace, have determined they can carry out their fisheries agenda by going directly to the consumers. One of their vehicles for doing this is the “Seafood Watch” program, aimed at alerting consumers to “problems” with potential purchases. They had cautioned consumers to avoid scallops from the Mid-Atlantic because “the population in the region “is currently being overfished,” and monkfish because its “high demand has encouraged heavy fishing and populations have become overfished off the U.S. Atlantic coast.” It took me about two minutes to confirm that neither domestic monkfish nor sea scallops were classified as overfished. Sea scallops haven’t been “overfished” since 2001, overfishing hasn’t happened since 2006, and with the stock being managed as a unit throughout its range, there's no way that the status of a particular area can be considered on its own. The status of monkfish was changed as the result of a new assessment last summer.

Keep it in the family


Then there’s the still simmering mid-water trawling issue. Again, the assumption is that the general public can differentiate between mid-water trawling and any other kind of commercial harvesting, or in fact even cares that any differences exist. You think? At the end of the day, it’s most likely that people are going to be left with bad tastes in their mouths “because of trawling.” After six months, how many of them are going to differentiate between mid-water and bottom trawling? After another six months, between trawling and tub trawling? Or purse seining? Specifics will be forgotten but the anti-commercial fishing taste is going to stick with them, because so many people are working hard to make sure that it does.

Sector apprehensions


I get the idea that a lot of folks wouldn’t be considering this form of management except for the fact they’re mostly convinced that it’s going to happen regardless of how they, or most industry members, feel about it, and they want to be ready when it does. I probably don’t need to tell you that isn’t exactly my kind of management. According to Merriam-Webster, a stampede is “a wild headlong rush or flight of frightened animals.” Replace animals with fishermen and you’ll maybe appreciate where I’m coming from. A lot of folks in the groundfish fishery are frightened about what the next iteration of Days At Sea management is going to do to them, and – based on what’s gone on before – they should be. The next groundfish shoe is going to fall next year, and it’s going to fall heavily. But you’ve heard of frying pans and fires, right?

Why be left out? Believe it!


In spite of an overwhelming amount of information to the contrary, the public perception is increasingly that our fisheries are collectively on their way to hell in a hand basket, and they’re on that journey because of commercial fishing. Stocks are increasing, effort is declining and gear is becoming more selective, yet the anti-fishing efforts of the anti-fishing activists haven’t abated a bit.And why is that? Because the anti-fishing community’s very own availability entrepreneurs, are masters at manipulating the content of public discourse. And, of course, because they have really deep pockets as well.

Take things into account


In their wisdom the Members of Congress back in the ‘70s allowed for a significant amount of informed judgment to be applied to the management system. They knew that the scientists didn’t have all of the answers (and I’d be willing to bet that back then they knew that the scientists wouldn’t have them all at any point in the foreseeable future, either). Accordingly, they didn’t make fisheries management the exclusive turf of the scientists, but legislated participation by governmental representatives and members of the public as well. Unfortunately, since then Congress’ intentions have been subverted by the antis.

Top down management


So why are our elected officials “protecting” three species that they have no jurisdiction over, need no protection anyway, and are at no risk from commercial harvesters? I’d like to think that it’s because they’re acting on grossly inadequate information, and that they are under the impression that commercial harvesting is posing an immediate threat to the stocks. That being the case, they are each sorely in need of some tuning up at the staff level.

The search for research dollars


Pew gives tens of millions of dollars a year to organizations to ostensibly make the oceans better for fish to swim in and fishermen to fish in. As an example of this largesse, of the ten organizations listed as members of The Herring Alliance – that’s the group that’s out to save the Gulf of Maine (or the North Atlantic, the world, or the universe; I sometimes get who’s being saved from what by those Pew dollars confused) from the depredations of the big boat bad guys - on its website, eight are funded by Pew. Seven of them have received over $120 million from Pew. Even counting inflation, that’s an awful lot of dollars. How much of that has been spent by the recipient organizations on research to improve assessments or reduce bycatch or increase efficiency, in fact on anything of a positive – for the fishermen or for the fisheries managers – nature? We already have a pretty good idea of how much is spent on demonizing and marginalizing the fishermen because we’re struggling to live with the results.

 Improving the best available science


Cooperative research is under-funded in the NMFS budget, and the cost of chartering commercial boats and staffing them with researchers and their equipment is high. So I’m urging you to devote some serious effort to lobbying both NMFS and your representatives in Washington to pump up the cooperative research budget. From the industry side, participating in the organization and administration of these programs chews up a lot of hours, but it’s your fishery and you should be involved. It’s more than worth it, because it makes the “best available” information much better, and it turns “anecdotal observations” into useable data. It’s the best mechanism available to show what’s really going on in the fisheries.

 Take stock of assessment meetings in person


What’s the take-home message for the industry? When it comes to stock assessments of fisheries you are in, be there. Be there in person, if you’re able. Or have someone there for you. But make sure that he or she knows the fishery, and knows how it interacts with other fisheries, because what might appear to be changes related to the health of the stocks could be due to a totally unrelated factor (the decline in monkfish bycatch in the sea scallop fishery was one that came up in Woods Hole). But if you aren’t an assessment scientist, or if you doubt that you will understand everything that will be going on at the assessment, also have someone there who does. To as large an extent as possible, the involved industry reps should be there as a part of the process, but getting to that point won’t be easy.

 An amateur economic strategy


Could you imagine an elected official, one at any level, therefore arguing that the agriculture industry or the automobile industry or the furniture industry should be shut down? That amateurs spent so much more to produce goods, and that their expenditures per pound or per vehicle or per end table were therefore so much more valuable to the economy, that they should be the sole producers of those goods?

 Be your own Hercules


It’s not much of a stretch to compare the challenges faced by Hercules with those that the commercial fishing industry is facing. And like Hercules, one of our most important challenges involves significant amounts of bovine manure, though he had to deal with the actual stuff while ours is of a much more symbolic nature. Ours, which comes to light in technical journals, in trade publications, on television and in the press, is in the form of overblown, inaccurate, sensationalized and one-sided misrepresentations of what’s going on in the oceans, presenting commercial fishermen as uncaring vandals and commercial fishing as the scourge of the seas.

 Battle royale is a waste of resources


I’ll bet dollars to donuts that no thought’s been given to including any discussion of the strides that have been made in bycatch reduction, though mentioning it here might serve as a gentle reminder to those well-funded folks on the “charitable” side of the fence. Fishermen don’t like bycatch. It doesn’t generate income, it puts extra wear and tear on the gear, it takes time and energy to deal with and it kills critters needlessly. From a number of viewpoints, it’s anathema to responsible fishermen. But will any of this be in what is eventually splashed all over the NY Times, the Washington Post or any of the other publications willing to print any anti-fishing propaganda that comes their way? As radio’s Bob Elliot and Ray Goulding used to say, “don’t hang by your thumbs.” 

And there go the bay scallops


Predictably, Dr. Myers and crew discount any impacts on the bay scallop stocks other than shark fishing. Just as predictably, Science, which seems of late to be in the business of reporting on any anti-fishing research that comes down the pike, published his and his colleagues’ research. And, needless to say, the reporters and producers responsible for the culture of crisis permeating our print and broadcast media did their customary Chicken Little bit as well.

Fringe Science


Predictions of imminent doom always seem to be based upon rehashing of statistics generated by others; either landings or survey data, both of which are notoriously imprecise. Thus, when Dalhousie University researchers Ransom Myers and Boris Worm, with a little help from Our Favorite Charitable Trust (hereafter to be known as OFCT), decided to demonstrate that almost all of the marlin and tuna and swordfish had become casualties of rapacious fishermen, they didn’t do it by going out and counting marlin and tuna and swordfish, they did it by “analyzing” landings of marlin and tuna and swordfish by commercial longliners.

Look before you license


We need to know if licensing makes a difference, if experience is a valid substitute for formal training and licensing, if our fishermen are getting as much as they can get from the safety technology available, if management mandates force fishermen to work under adverse conditions against their better judgment, if the age/experience of the captain and crew matters, and dozens of other things. Let’s look very carefully before we start leaping. We owe it to the memories of the crews of the Lady of Grace, the Lady Luck and every other fisherman who’s been lost at sea to get it right.

Here we go again…


The range of the groups Mr. Brogan writes about seems to be much more narrow than he would apparently have his readers believe. The big guys are all dipping into the same barrel of cash, as are many of the smaller ones. The commercial fishing groups can be tied to the folks that keep that barrel filled, and many of the rest see that the MFCN agenda, which is opposed by most fishermen, might accordingly have some pay-offs down the road for them.

Putting the industry on ice


Short term pain for long term gain? Not likely. In fact, it sounds like short term pain for oblivion. When the fluke, which are already here in record numbers, or the cod or haddock or rockfish “come back,” who’s going to be there to catch them, what are they going to catch them from, and what are they going to do with them after they’re caught? Perhaps some of those well-intentioned ENGOs have the answers. I sure don’t.

Pardon my observation


This isn’t about an ex-observer and a fisherman. It’s about the NOAA/NMFS relationship with fishermen. Or about where that relationship is heading. The agency’s attitude is becoming increasingly adversarial; that it’s there to protect the fish – and the turtles and the dolphin and the manatees and the whales - from the fishermen. Where does that leave us when it comes to having advocates, or even friends, in the administration in Washington, and don’t you think you should be doing something about it?

‘Astroturf’ NGOs are the real enemy


Recreational fishermen, commercial fishermen and all of the consumers who enjoy locally produced seafood are the real “grass roots,” not front people for agenda-driven multi-billion dollar foundations. We are the ones with the true commitment to sustainable harvesting, because we demand that our children and their children and their children’s children have fishing as a part of their life, and that’s how we have to sell ourselves.

Facts? We don’t need no stinkin’ facts


She didn’t portray groundfish as “thriving,” or anything close. I couldn’t find any facts that she had mishandled. The size of the boat she owns is about as relevant to anything she wrote as Mr. Fleming’s hat size. And not just big boat guys to want to eliminate red tape or believe that the lack of management flexibility is destroying fishing communities. If the CLF had supportable arguments, why didn’t Mr. Fleming state them rather than accusing Maggie of misrepresentation and trying to paint her with a pejorative “big boat” brush? I couldn’t think of a more effective strategy to make her seem unreasonable and to turn small boat fishermen against her. Is that what it takes for the CLF to sell it’s vision?

This mess we’re in is no fluke


We’ve got fishermen who did what they were supposed to; toed the line, participated in the system, fished “sustainably” and followed the rules. And the fish responded accordingly. What’s their reward? Apparently, if NMFS has it’s SFA mandated way, an almost complete shutdown of the fishery and the financial devastation of the people and businesses depending on it. And similar scenarios are surely in the pipeline for other “recovering” fisheries. How did we get into this mess? Quite simply, by a handful of foundation-funded NGOs – and, I’m afraid, some complicit fishermen – convincing Congress that inflexibility was the Holy Grail of fisheries management because it would remove any trace of judgment from the management process.

Time to cut fishing communities some slack


In the long term, does the rebuilding time matter? Not a bit, but a shorter rebuilding period might mean the critical level of fishing necessary to prevent the transformation of a fishing port into another condominimized tourist magnet can’t be maintained. It’s impossible to believe that anyone valuing the contributions of fishing to the character of our coastlines and the health of the public would be unwilling to extend rebuilding for a few years to avoid the irreversible loss of a unique and valuable community. 

Following Hammer’s lead


When it came to HMS matters, to say Nelson Beideman was persistent would be a vast understatement. He went through proposed regulations until he understood them completely. Then he explained them to Blue Water’s board. Then he hammered a consensus out of them, and considering the varying personalities and business interests that he was dealing with, that could seem almost miraculous. But when he took his marching orders, he knew he had a majority of the Board behind him.

Rationalizing the irrational


Would you believe that the government is supporting such public relations efforts as the Take Me Fishing program? Bureaucrats who, in the name of conservation, are working assiduously to destroy large parts of our commercial fishing industry, our fishing communities and consumers’ rights to fresh, locally produced seafood couldn’t be working to increase the number of folks who fish and boat for recreation, could they? That would be like a government-sponsored ad campaign promoting driving farther and faster in bigger cars. Well, if you do a little bureaucratic veil piercing, you find that the Take Me Fishing program was created by the Recreational Boating and Fishing Foundation, which is funded by the Sport Fish Restoration and Boating Trust Fund with Wallop-Breaux (W-B) bucks.

Flexibility in fisheries management


How about if the reduction in fishing effort doesn’t compensate for the natural population decline and falling recruitment due to habitat degradation? It gets reduced again next year, and the following year, and the year after that…. And with a mandatory 10 year rebuilding period, with no flexibility in the system, and with no one in the system who can see through the statistics, what’s going to be left of the fishery?

Who needs science?


Menhaden are the only domestic source of omega 3 fish oil, a dietary supplement that has been proven to fix much of what ails most of us (though in my book, getting omega 3 from consuming fish, not a supplement, is the best way to do it). But why should that stand in the way of restrictive actions supported by a compelling lack of knowledge and a bit of (Pew supported researcher Daniel) Pauly’s attitude? He’s got it right. Who needs science? Bring on the superstars, keep on flushing and save the bay.

It’s not just fishing!


It looks like a handful of “protected” species that are increasing in numbers each year are annually consuming some 3 million metric tons of commercially and recreationally important species, or the species that they eat, off the U.S. East coast. In 2004 the commercial landings of all species of finfish and shellfish from the Atlantic coastal states were 750 thousand metric tons.

An homage to Michael Crichton


Pew SeaWeb has a website. On it is an “Ocean Citations” section containing “Selected Science Publications on Ocean Issues” (note the emphasis on science). In contains 483 citations for publications dealing with fishing impacts, 96 with coastal development and 43 with oil pollution. I’d venture that having ten times as many articles listed dealing with fishing impacts than for oil pollution and five times as many as those dealing with coastal development is going to have an effect on anyone who looks at those pages. What message is he or she going to draw from that regarding what’s “endangering” the oceans?

We must recognize all factors in our fisheries


For at least a decade we’ve been living with the fall-out of a large segment of the environmentalist community’s fixation on fishing as the source of most of our fisheries- and ocean-related problems. Millions of foundation dollars are spent each year on research “proving” that it’s all about fishing, and on subsequently peddling that research to a largely uninformed public (ten years ago could anyone have imagined that “leading scientists” would be holding press conferences to announce publication of the latest “fishing is evil” article?). Aside from the obvious and painful impacts on commercial fishermen, dependent businesses and coastal communities, this myopia is effectively drawing attention away from other, and equally or more significant, human activities.

Here’s to BMS – the bureaucrat monitoring system


With required Bureaucratic Monitoring Systems, we would know whether a bureaucrat on “sick time” was at home, at the doctors, in a hospital or on the golf course. We would know when a bureaucrat had exceeded the permissible time in the employee lounge or out of the building for lunch. With vital signs monitoring, we would know whether a stationary bureaucrat was at the desk working, nodding off or taking a nap. A bureaucrat would be hard pressed to pass off three days spent on a beach in Bermuda as a family emergency. Were a bureaucrat anywhere but home at 3:00 am on a weeknight, there’s a good chance he or she was engaged in some illegal or immoral activity, with all but guaranteed negative effects on job performance.

Towards a rational oceans policy


Unless fishing effort shifts back to primitive and inefficient technologies, harvesting the fish and shellfish  that are found on or near the bottom is going to have an impact on that bottom. We can, and we are, working constantly  to reduce that impact, but we’re not going to get away from it without regressing to hand harvesting methods in use centuries ago. With the world’s population at seven billion and rising, this isn’t going to happen. Isn’t it time we started working towards a public policy that accepts this while still protecting the areas that need to be protected?

Pew’s views mar documentary


PBS recently aired “Gutted,” documenting the agony of a Scottish fishing family being forced to deliver their boat to a scrap yard in Denmark.It started out as an unvarnished look at a tragic upheaval in the life of the West family. But, unfortunately, PBS trivialized this tragedy with their own editorial comments and an “afterword” by Pew Oceans Commission chairman Leon Panetta that turned it into just another anti-fishing rant. By his words, Mr. Panetta seemed anything but an expert on commercial fishing. This is hard to fathom, considering the time he’s invested in chairing the $5.5 million dollar commission, but he displayed a seeming lack of knowledge of or familiarity with fishing – either elsewhere or in his California backyard.



So I’m going to make a suggestion. Whenever you see a doom and gloom headline about fishing, don’t just assume that it’s another bit of research carried out by an independent researcher. Do some rudimentary research (for an easy how-to, Google “Myers Worm Pew” or “Union of Concerned Scientists Pew”) and see what connections you come up with. We’re living in a world of advocacy science, and in such a world knowing who’s signing the checks is critical.