Marking a major shift in the public debate over the groundfish fishery in New England, 108 fishermen from the five coastal New England states — representing all sizes of operations and 178 boats — have submitted a letter to their Members of Congress saying that a vocal minority in the industry has for too long dominated the debate over Sector management. This letter says that, in fact, there are many fishermen that want their members of Congress to support stability, profitability and flexibility for their fishery, rather than a return to the “chaos” of the previous management approach.
“A few voices calling for the overturn of the entire Sector system have been amplified in the media, and we understand that our elected officials are trying to respond to their constituents’ concerns,” the groups wrote in a letter addressed to “New England’s Senators and Congressmen.”
“Unfortunately,” the letter states, this has led to a series of increasingly dangerous proposals that truly put the future of our businesses and fisheries at risk. Perhaps too many of us in the active industry have been too busy making the new system work to consistently weigh in. This letter is our attempt to rectify that situation.”
The letter was signed by 108 fishermen affiliated with the Associated Fisheries of Maine; Cape Cod Commercial Hook Fishermen’s Association; Midcoast Fishermen’s Association; Northeast Seafood Coalition; and Rhode Island Commercial Fishermen’s Association.
The writers point to “several crucial facts” that “have been largely ignored in this public dialogue,” including:
- “In 2010, our fishery faced mandated harvest reductions on several key stocks in order to meet rebuilding goals and comply with the provisions in the Magnuson-Stevens Act. These reductions were required regardless of what management system was in place at the time.”
- “While some individual businesses have unfortunately experienced hardship, there was no management alternative that could have avoided this. In fact, the alternative which remains available to the entire fishery in the so-called common pool (a 50% reduction in DAS with impossibly low trip limits) has proven so unpopular it now accounts for less than one percent of the fishery.”
The letter goes on to say: “We believe that, rather than rhetoric, our fishery needs New England’s elected leaders to promote stability, profitability and flexibility.”
Finally, these 108 fishermen from the 5 major New England fishermen organizations call for maintaining sectors rather than returning to a “failed days-at-sea program;” increasing “opportunities to target robust stocks” and reducing “operational costs of management;” and “funding for improving and increasing the frequency of stock assessments to support effective management.”
The fishermen have made their support of the new management plan clear: Sectors are here to stay and it is time to move beyond the rhetoric and get down to the important work of and implement the needed improvements to the system. Staying the course with sectors is the best option to provide the industry with the stability, profitability and flexibility they desire.
Other Coverage of the Groundfish Fishermen Letter
SeafoodNews.com (reprinted with permission)