A few months back, the nation’s “fisheries political stew” got mentioned. We promised more news and since that post, much has happened. In fact, things have come to a boil.
Recent developments will have profound impacts on the local seafood industry in the short and long terms… There’s much to discuss…
We’d like to break up this broad topic into several blogs. The blogs that will follow can be jargon heavy and laden with acronyms. To keep all these ingredients in this stew straight, there’s a Fisheries Acronym/Jargon List that’s a “work-in-progress.” Check it out here.
So, how did the Groundfish industry in New England become an official “Economic Disaster”?…
Let’s begin with Dr. Jane Lubchenco, the person who orchestrated the policy changes which exasperated the local fishing industry’s disarray…
On Dec. 12th, 2012 the head of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), Dr. Jane Lubchenco, announced her resignation effective Feb. 28th 2013.
Dr. Lubchenco’s tenure at NOAA has been marked by controversy. Particularly, her role in the guidance of the National Fisheries Marine Service (NMFS)—a NOAA agency responsible for determining our nation’s fishery policies.
In local waters, Dr. Lubchenco’s policy initiatives’ (notably, Amendment 16—Catch Shares, regulations of Gulf of Maine (GOM) groundfish implemented in May 2010) have significantly challenged the smaller, local-day-boat fleet’s livelihood and seriously jeopardized their future viability with her “fleet consolidation” policy efforts.
Her policy interpretations of the Magnuson-Stevens Act for most in the fishing industry can be summed up by one word: controversial… For some legal eagles attuned to the nuances of legislative interpretation, illegal.
Back in 2011, at Faneuil Hall in Boston, a special Senate Sub-Committee Hearing convened so Dr. Lubchenco could answer questions about her leadership of NMFS’s fishery policies including excessively aggressive, enforcement-allegations towards local fishermen. A full day of hearings was scheduled.
In the morning Dr. Lubchenco answered a handful of questions, to some evasively… When then US Senator Scott Brown asked, “What does it take to get fired from NOAA?”… One can only imagine the sound of crickets filling the silence awaiting her response… (More about the Smartwood Reports and NMFS excessive actions in another Blog…)
Around noon-time, Dr. Lubchenco dismissed herself from further questioning at the congressional hearing. Her reason for leaving, she had an appointment with the Boston Globe’s editors… Eye-brow’s were raised. “Contempt of Congress” charges were murmured. But like most of NMFS actions, there’s been no substantive repercussions for her or NMFS policy actions.
Under Dr. Lubchenco’s leadership, her actions at a congressional sub-hearing, along with her questionable policy initiatives, and selective media appearances spinning blatant lies, is it any wonder why our nation’s fisheries are in such disarray.
When she held a leadership role at the Environmental Defense Fund, Dr. Lubchenco was noted for her contributions to the “‘Oceans of Abundance” paper that “concluded” by 2040, the Ocean’s would only have Jellyfish left. Since then, the paper’s “conclusions” were further peer-reviewed, and decisively dismissed as “junk science.”
With her appointment to NOAA’s top spot in 2009, Dr. Lubchenco implemented and oversaw sweeping changes to Gulf of Maine’s (GOM) ground-fishery regulations. The most notable change has been the New England Fisheries Management Council’s (NEFMC) implementation of “Catch Shares”—Amendment 16—for the May 2010 fishing season.
Amendment 16 is far-reaching in the “who, how, and where” various-sized boats can fish and how they get regulated. The “zero-by-catch” regulations are about the only positive element of this sweeping reform to federal fishing regulations that began in May 2010. However, among many other things, Amendment 16 blurred the line where day-boats vs. trip-boat sized vessels can fish. The unexpected consequences of this has led many fishermen to believe why there’s such dramatic reductions in fish stock assessments in the GOM for fishing season 2013.
In 2013, Amendment 16′s reach will have much further implications to local boats’ overhead costs. On-board NMFS monitors will soon have to be paid for by the local fleet. In other words, commercial fishing vessels will have to pay the cost to have a federally-mandated fish catch monitor on-board. So far, this has been subsidized by NMFS. Big boats can absorb the cost better. For day boats, the added burden of the monitors’ overhead is crippling.
Ultimately, what size boat gets to fish where-and-when has had a profound effect on fish stock health and the day-boat fleet’s economic livelihood. Coupled with paying for an on-board monitor, the day-boat fleets’ viability is grim.
In Dr. Lubchenco’s resignation announcement from NOAA, and in turn the NMFS, she cited “achievements.” The achievements she mentions are truly Orwellian when compared to her policy initiatives end-results.
Under her policy initiatives, Dr. Lubchenco claims she left the local fleets “more profitable”… If things are “more profitable” because of “consolidation”, why have the Northeast Fisheries been declared an Economic Disaster by Congress?
Under Dr. Lubchenco’s “initiatives,” the day boat-fleet in Gloucester has shrunk by 50%. Future reductions in the day-boat fleet are expected. The day-boat fleet is being driven to extinction by the policies of Dr. Lubchenco’s “fleet consolidation” efforts of Amendment 16 and draconian reductions to quota for groundfish species for the fishing year starting May 2013.
Here at CAFC, we hope Dr. Lubchenco’s successor is more responsive to the local-fleet/day-boat fishermen’s concerns. Preserving the local fishing fleet’s financial impact in the local community and the role it plays in our region’s economy and cultural heritage is spelled out in the Magnuson-Stevens Act. Also spelled out in the Magnuson-Stevens Act is the need to properly maintain our nation’s fisheries health. Under Dr. Lubchenco’s tenure, there’s significant concerns with how our nation’s fisheries’ laws have been misinterpreted and poorly implemented.
CAFC hopes NOAA’s next leader understands the ultimate importance of keeping local fisheries harmonious with nature instead of the cacophony Dr. Lubchenco policies have scored…