F R O M   T H E   C R O W E ’ S   N E S T


Fishing Trips Together

The looming disaster for New England ground fishermen was batted about at yet another bi-monthly New England Fisheries Management Council meeting in April. Management waved, though didn’t necessarily understand, the computer printouts the scientists had handed them.

Fishermen offered visual and sonar evidence of the fish
those printouts said were not there. For observers at the meeting it was pretty obvious that NMFS and the NEFMC are now in re-runs. The April 24-26 show was a repeat of the last three shows, with only heightened degree adjectives and barely muffled expletives spliced in. All illustrating the reality that New England commercial fishing is in crisis mode.

It is in crisis mode because management has failed to do what they have been both assigned and paid to do for 30 years. Entire careers in the governments employ have begun and retired in trying to fix the fisheries “problem”.

At the same time fishermen have done what management told them was their end of the responsibility for making the fix work. Their efforts have been rewarded with bankruptcy and unemployment.

Some of what management is saying may be true. If it were all correct we would not be on Amendment 17 and facing the worst news about the resource in 40 years. The fishermen did what management said they had to do, so who’s to blame here?
Fishermen have evidence of fish in the water and screwups in the stock assessments. Management has a range of data that point to declines in the stocks and a deadline over their heads. Management is not going away and fishermen shouldn’t.

In an effort to better understand what each does, Maine lobstermen and whale entanglement specialists met in Woods Hole. Scientists showed lobstermen what they do in laboratories and in untangling whales caught in various gear types. Lobstermen showed scientists how they fish, the gear they use, how gear behaves in the water, and what would and would not entangle a whale.

Both sides came away knowing more about what the other knows and what each didn’t know. The result has been mutual respect, and a better prospect for a real solution for lobstermen, scientists and the whales. Maybe its time for ground fishermen and fisheries management scientists to go on a few fishing trips together.