FROM THE CROWE’S NEST
Too Big Must Fail
The long running assault on the small independent New England fishing business was held at bay at the September New England Fisheries Management Council meeting in Newport, RI. Corporate fleet reps on the council made their pitch for consolidation. Corporate fleet lawyers dragged out their arguments. Big fleet owners stepped up to the plate to explain why small businessmen should be forced to take their boats out of the water so that the corporate fleet could be even more profitable.
That it didn’t work this time is stunning, but not as stunning as the fact that it has worked so many times in the past. So well that only 75 of the 346 boats in the scallop fleet are owner operated.
But stunning it was. Enough so to send some of the big guys storming out of the meeting looking like they felt screwed by a democratic process that didn’t let them win every time. Not to mention that they didn’t get their money’s worth.
The vote to block consolidation this time around was a product of the efforts of hundreds vs. a small handful. Fishermen, many politicians from several states and communities, community members, fisheries organizations, shoreside businesses, scientists, environmentalists, lawyers, average informed citizens and others all came together to support a challenge to the status quo.
While the effort showed that small operators can go up against the heavily capitalized power brokers, it also revealed a very unlevel playing field. The big players simply come up with more money for the next assault. The small operators have to organize and mobilize hundreds of supporters to defend their rights to access.
However, this is not the first time a lumbering behemoth, face to the ground, devouring everything in it’s path has become oblivious to what is going on around it. The fishermen displaced by the behemoth, and those collaterally damaged or threatened by it, have said they have had enough.
Increasingly powerful industrialized fishing will kill the owner operator fleet, access rights, and the communities and families that depend on the resource. As the public becomes aware of the corporate owners plans for the public’s resource it will be a force.
Too big must fail. Communities, democracy, and most of all natural resources demand it.