Commercial and recreational fishermen
will unite to protest regulations
By SUSAN WEST
and recreational fishermen, two groups often at odds with each other
when it comes to fisheries management, plan to march together on Feb.
24 in Washington, D.C.
under the slogan United We Fish, commercial and recreational fishermen,
affiliated businesses, and coastal community leaders will gather on the
steps of the Capitol from noon to 3 p.m. to protest what they describe
as the unforgiving collapse of coastal cultures and economies taking
place under U.S. fisheries policy.
hope to convince Congress to take another look at the Magnuson-Stevens
Fishery Conservation and Management Act, the legislation that sets the
framework for management decisions made by National Marine Fisheries
Service (NMFS) and its eight regional councils.
is a collective agreement in fishing communities around the country
that Magnuson is fatally flawed and broken and needs to be
fixed,” said Jim Donofrio, executive director of the Recreational
Fishing Alliance, a national group instrumental in organizing the
Magnuson Act established the 200-mile territorial boundary for U.S.
authority over fishing in 1976 and pushed most foreign boats
offshore. Passage of the act came on the heels of
reports that recommended policies to boost the competitive edge of the
U.S. fishing fleet, and ushered in a short-lived era of aggressive
by the early 1990s, the pendulum had shifted. The oceans were
longer viewed as an infinite source of food for the world’s
population, and the federal government started to focus on scaling back
commercial fishing with stricter regulations.
recently, recreational fishermen also have felt the sting of more
said recent closures of the amberjack, black sea bass, and red snapper
fisheries are hitting recreational fishermen and charter-boat captains
closures keep coming and even when a fishery is rebuilt to a
sustainable level, people still aren’t allowed to fish
anymore,” he said.
fisherman Jeff Oden said the survival of small fishing ports like his
hometown of Hatteras are on the line. He estimates that the
working out of Hatteras village has declined by more than two-thirds
since the early 1990s.
just keeps growing fatter and more rigid. They’re not
interested in upholding their responsibility to fishing
communities,” Oden said.
directs federal regulators to minimize harmful social and economic
impacts on fishing communities as much as possible, but that directive
has been largely overshadowed by the conservation goals set forth in
federal councils’ response to our concerns is that Magnuson
leaves them no choice other than implementing rules that are ruining
our communities,” said Oden.
of the February protest hope that the event will line up more
Congressional support for balancing conservation goals with the needs
of fishing communities.
that would allow regulators some leeway to lessen the negative economic
impacts of management measures has languished in Congress ever since
2007 when U.S. Rep. Walter Jones (R-NC) introduced the original
Flexibility in Rebuilding American Fisheries Act.
do not understand why this government would require rebuilding of a
fish stock in 10 years even when that causes widespread economic
dislocation, when if given a few more years, the fish stock could be
rebuilt with minimal economic hardship to fishermen,” Jones said
at the time.
is one of 25 cosponsors of a 2009 version of the bill introduced by
U.S. Rep. Frank Pallone (D-NJ) last March that allows managers to
extend rebuilding beyond 10 years for species on the path to recovery
so that economic dislocation could be averted.
legislation (S 1255) introduced in the Senate by Charles Schumer (D-NY)
last year has not gained much traction and hasn’t won the backing
of Senator Kay Hagan or Richard Burr from North Carolina.
McKeon, president of the North Carolina Fisheries Association, a
commercial fishing trade group, said passage of the flexibility act
would be a huge step in the right direction.
McKeon also said other improvements to Magnuson are needed, including
clarification of the standards for the science used in fisheries
now Magnuson only directs the use of the best available science and
that simply doesn’t cut it,” McKeon said.
regulators acknowledge the problems with the science used in management.
management in the South Atlantic suffers from a chronic, yet
well-documented lack of basic data which hampers scientists’
abilities to evaluate exploited populations and managers’
abilities to develop, and ensure accountability with, management
measures,” South Atlantic Council chairman Duane Harris told a
Congressional subcommittee last fall.
added that a lack of solid data is likely to result in stricter
regulations even for healthy fish stocks to account for scientific
his organization will meet next week to discuss organizing
transportation for members who plan to attend the rally.
I’m hearing, I expect a large commercial fishing presence in Washington
that day,” he said.
said organizers hope to see as many as 5,000 fishermen at the protest.