Hundreds of fishermen rallied today in Washington, D.C. to voice frustration over fishing regulations. We understand that many fishermen are frustrated, often for good reason. Even though some fisheries have rebounded, in many places preventing overfishing has meant shrinking fishing seasons or even implementing closures, approaches that have serious economic impacts and limit access.
However, the focus should not be on gutting the law. Instead we need to use the flexibility in the law and innovative management approaches to address the challenges we face. For example, NOAA is using this flexibility to address the looming crisis with Gulf of Maine cod, using the law’s emergency provisions to allow higher levels of fishing while open scientific questions are investigated further. Many sides have come together to propose a solution that we hope will protect both the fish and the fishermen.
We can't go back to overfishing, but we can use ideas available under existing law to rebuild fisheries and give fishermen the flexibility to improve both fish populations and profits. While many speakers at today’s rally pushed various bills that would impose top-down mandates from Washington, we believe fishery management is best decided at the council level where fishermen can directly influence how the resource they depend on is managed.