by Sam Murfitt
©Photo by Sam Murfitt
Tina Jackson is a mate on the FV Tina Marie and the FV Slacker out of Point Judith Rhode Island. She is president of the American Alliance of Fishermen and Their Communities.
Groundfish fleet or scallop fleet, I have to say that consolidation is one of our major, major concerns within the industry. Obviously, consolidation means job loss and this country cannot afford any more job loss, on any level, especially in major industries such as the fishing industry. We have a massive overabundance of fish out there and we're not allowed to harvest it. If we do harvest it, we're only allowed to bring in half of what we take in, and we have to throw the rest over dead.
Everything that's being promoted about conservation is really not about conservation. How does one go about trying to get your senator, congressmen, state representatives and state senators that these big green groups reached. These groups are promoting this consolidation and saying its a necessary evil because there are too few fish and too many fisherman. That’s actually completely opposite of what’s going in the industry.
Whether it’s herring, scallops, lobsters, or ground fish, it boggles the mind how these stock assessment people, who call themselves Americans, can sit behind a computer model, and say that their assessments are true and accurate when in fact they’re as faulty as the day is long. They’ve admitted that their science was bad with the old boat, the (Albatross V), and even with this new boat they are catching more fish, but they’re still running a gear type that isn’t designed to run with the horsepower that these big boats have.
So therefore they’re towing at say 3.2 knots, or at 3.6 knots for groundfish trawler surveys when they need to be towing at 2.5 at maximum. So they’re actually just skipping over all the fish. Their net has collapsed at that point. They pretend to know what they’re doing, and admit that their science is faulty to a certain extent. Yet, they refuse to go back and look at those stock assessments and say: “Well, we were wrong. We need to get real-time information on this, and use the fisherman.” I know a lot of guys and girls would gladly take scientific people aboard at certain times of the year, when certain stocks are migrating inshore and give them the best real-time data. Data that could be implemented immediately for valid, up to date stock assessments.
This administration is all about jobs, jobs, jobs, yet we’ve got these government regulators telling us that consolidation is necessary. For every one person that works on the water there is an average of 6.6 land jobs attached to that job. When you take a look at putting catch shares into place for every single fishery in the country, with a consolidation factor of up to 75 percent for each of those fisheries, you’re talking hundreds, thousands of jobs. And that to me is unacceptable. Especially when we have a massive overabundance of fish, we’re not overfishing in this country. Our stocks are not depleted, many are rebuilt.
Fish are like other animals, some reproduce faster than others—an elephant takes 18 months for gestation period, and the human takes nine, fish are the same. Certain stocks reproduce quickly, such as striper, sea bass, and squid. Whales and dolphins also have very long gestation periods. Fish lay billions of eggs at one time, even if one percent of those survive, you’re still talking potentially millions of fish.
If this administration is all about jobs, then damn it, our jobs need to count too, especially considering we’re food producers. Putting this into the hands of a few corporate people who won’t even be on their own boats, but will be running the show is wrong. They'll have captains forced to go out in severe weather just to catch their quota.
In the surf clam industry, which is now just about totally privatized, there is one man in this country. Danny Cohen, owns 70 percent of the surf clam industry. The loss of life has gone up over 1000 percent, just in the time that he’s owned it. Now you’re playing with people’s lives, not just their livelihoods.