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Motion For Emergency Plan?

The New England Fisheries Management council met recently in Portland to deal with three important issues. General category scallops, ground fish management plans and of course herring. “Of course”, because herring is the mother of the Gulf of Maine fish resource.

The importance of the discussions and the decisions to be handed down that day was most directly measured by the turnout of fishermen. Fishermen from Eastport, Maine to Martha’s Vineyard , Massachusetts, filled the ballroom in which the meetings were held.

After the council decided on a plan that will cut many small boats out of the general category scallop fleet, and then passed on any immediate action for an alternative ground fish plan, and then shrugged on how to get anything like accountability into the herring fishery, the majority of the attendees emptied the room disappointed.

Out in the halls fishermen described the council as dysfunctional, in denial, in a rut, a corporate tool. One council member expressed concerns about conflict of interest.

The council says it does not have the time or the resources (money) to develop what the Maine legislature has called for in a joint resolution- area management for the ground fishery. The council passed on dealing with observer coverage, basically by claiming they didn’t know how to do it.

These issues did not spring out of nowhere that morning- what have they been doing? Large numbers of highly visible individuals, including Senator Olympia Snowe, have been calling for observer coverage in the industrial herring fleet.

It’s true that the pressure is on for the council to produce solutions for mortality and sustainability. It is further facing a deadline of 2009, a lawsuit and the NMFS threat to take over with an emergency plan. Why is that?

The council needs something, money and time may help, but there are many who think that may not be enough. The threat of a NMFS emergency plan begins to look like an option as a council solution gets project further into the future.