COMMERCIAL FISHING POLICY NEWS
Today’s Catch is devoted to the commercial fishing industry, the marine ecosystems it depends on, and the catch shares and catch quota policies being put in place to protect both. As fisheries collapse commercial fishermen, particularly draggers, get blamed for damage to ocean floor ecosystems. The fishermen blame the science behind the policies and we try to represent both on this page.
Give a Man a Fish or Teach a Man to Fish? Sept. 2015
“I've never met a tree hugger I liked and more than likely won't. Humans are more important than the piping plover and the one eyed green snail.”
This heartfelt offering was penned by the owner of a fleet of party boats that specialize in catching the tastiest fish in the ocean: deep, cold-water species from the North Atlantic like cod, haddock and halibut. These two sentences came from a 372-word diatribe posted on the company’s website. They illustrate well for NBN how self-interests and a little willful ignorance can push a person to view their own livelihood as more important than the resources that livelihood depends on: also known as sawing the limb you stand on. (See video above.) It’s a problem common to a lot of industries today, and it’s one we find particularly unfortunate when it’s applied to something so dear to our hearts as fishing and marine ecosystems. But before we tee-off on this author any further, a little back-story is in order.
First of all, NBN has gone fishing on the above-mentioned author’s boats more than a few times, and compared to his competition, this guy has it going on. It’s hard to imagine the pure joy NBN experienced hauling in five-to seven-pound cod or haddock, one after another, in mid-fall knowing the freezer will be stocked with same for months to come. (Oddly enough, the human resources department at NBN is considerably less joyful about this.) In short, when the author of the two-sentence stretch of italicized ignorance above puts us onto fish, NBN just wants to hug him, even if it won’t be returned.
Now, let’s add a little more background. Fishing on these boats is like going hunting in New York’s Catskill mountains with three dozen Italians from Brooklyn. For the most part they are kill-crazy SOBs. One of the most thrilling—and disturbing—fishing trips NBN ever went on was described on the website referenced above as a 12-hour “absolute massacre” . When we weren’t hauling in cod, haddock and pollack, we were untangling our lines from those of the nearest New Hampshirite, standing elbow to elbow around the perimeter of the boat. The “massacre” got so bloody, sharks started circling the boat and ripping the fish from our hooks as they were hauled to the surface, giving our undersized rods and reels a thrill ride in the process. The sharks got so plentiful some maniac with a pistol started walking around the boat shooting them. A porbeagel shark, which is quite edible, got close enough to the boat that two mates were able gaff it and haul it onboard. This animal was six feet long and seriously pissed when it was brought over the gunnels and into a crowded fishing boat. Yeah, it was a wild fishing trip.
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2010 Commercial Fishing Policy News Archive
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So how does NBN reconcile the looming urge for another fishing trip on a boat owned by a fellow who hates the conservation philosophies what we so passionately embrace? Read the whole post on this fellow’s website and it becomes clearer. This fellow’s business had just been screwed by a government decision likely to cut his income by 30 percent during the height of the fall fishing season. In that decision the National Marine Fisheries Service division ruled that recreational cod and haddock fishing will be suspended for six months, many of them prime fishing months. At the same time, the captain says in his post, “we all know there are plenty of haddock out there.”
NBN is not so sure about that boat captain’s haddock assessment, but let’s take a look at another very important fishing issue before the same government decision makers: opening Cashes Ledge to commercial fishing trawlers. Cashes Ledge is where this fleet captain took us for the “absolute massacre.” The fishing is great on Cashes because it’s been closed for the past 12 years to bottom trawlers, a particularly destructive commercial fishing technique which scrapes the ocean floor for fish using multi-ton nets.
The bottom trawlers are a roughly 100-year-old fishing industry made possible through the evolution of power boats. It became extremely profitable with the invention of fish finders and other electronics in the late 1960s. Before trawlers, fishing in places like Cashes Ledge and other insanely abundant areas of the Gulf Of Maine, was done largely by hook-and-line. As the video and countless studies all indicate, trawling is the marine equivalent of cutting rainforests for cattle farms and mountaintop mining for coal.
The precipitous decline in the world’s bottom-fish stocks, like those found in the Gulf of Maine, follow pretty closely the proliferation of bottom trawling boats, and more recently and severely, the fish-finder technology.
What pisses NBN off is no industry is hurt more by bottom trawlers than that which the boat captain excoriated above depends on: recreational fishing. If Cashes Ledge remains closed to trawlers and if further conservation efforts restricting the trawling industry throughout the Gulf of Maine were enacted, this guy’s business would increase exponentially. Yet he doesn’t even mention it in his post. It’s hard to gauge why this fellow hates the whole concept of conservation when he is so dependent on it for a living, but he is certainly not alone. Increasingly, conservation as a concept is being blamed for hurting businesses instead of the reasons for which we need such conservation: poorly-regulated business.
When people see contradictory regulatory actions—like opening Cashes Ledge to bottom trawling while shutting down the cod and haddock season to hook-and-line—they can get downright hostile at conservationists. At the same time we have a nation-wide push to get the economy back on its feet, so anything that might reduce employment—like conservation—doesn’t get much sympathy. It also doesn’t help the creditability of the whole concept of conservation, as a very disturbing study recently demonstrated.
But when this boat captain tees-off on those enforcing conservation without so much as a mention of the industry that’s producing the need for it—the bottom trawlers—he is hurting his own cause. He dare not oppose the bottom trawlers because he rubs elbows with these folks on a daily basis. They are his people, so to speak. Moreover, these days it’s becoming politically incorrect for anti-conservation folks—think Tea Party Patriots and the vast majority of this captains’ customers—to back anything government does in the name of conservation. Hey, you’re killing jobs, right? It doesn’t matter what jobs.
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It’s much easier to blame the messenger in these matters than to go after the real enemy, particularly when that enemy shares so many of your values in other areas of life. Thus, ignorance is becoming integral to the conservative movement in this country. Conservation is being lumped in with so many other “moral” issues when it’s more of a common sense issue: you don’t saw off the limb you stand on. But the bulk of American industry is built on wasteful industries which must die if those who come after us are to survive. And as the recent elections showed all too clearly those wasteful industries are not going to die without a fight. A very dirty fight.