Out like a lamb
Wednesday,29 February,2012 13:18:52
Today I’m preparing to head north to Rockport, Maine, for the Maine Fishermen's Forum. As is often the case for this show, I'll be driving through a late-winter snow storm, and quite possibly coming home in one. As usual in Maine, March is coming in like a lion.
But worse than the weather forecast is the outlook for fishermen in New England. Yesterday, we found that we will lose another senior member of Congress who has also been an advocate for fishermen and fishing communities.
Sen. Olympia Snowe (R-Maine) announced that she will not seek re-election this year, citing out-of-control political partisanship in Washington. Rep. Barney Frank (D-Mass.) stated late last year that he will be retiring from Congress.
These announcements have sparked excitement in some quarters, from folks eager to fill those long-occupied seats. But for many constituents, the loss of a senior member of Congress is worrisome.
New blood can be invigorating, but it also requires a breaking in period. And I’m not sure how much time the New England fleet has to invest in new relationships before its back is broken. Much of the fleet has been brought to its knees already.
My hope is that, come November, Americans’ weariness of Beltway infighting will ring louder than political partisanship and we can finally get to some of the people's work.
Get your sweet shrimp now!
Tuesday,21 February,2012 12:14:19
The Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission group that regulates the northern shrimp fleet voted Wednesday to shut down fishing for the season.
It’s been a rough year for northern New England’s shrimpers, most of whom are also suffering in their other fishery — Northeast groundfish.
Limited quotas in the groundfish trawl fleet, especially since the implementation of catch share management in 2010, have spiked participation in the winter shrimp fishery, which is open access.
Some shrimpers are curious to see what the fishery would look like under limited access. This year, efforts to manage the fleet to stay under the TAC were awkward at best. Trawlers were allowed to go out on Monday, Wednesday and Friday from sunup to 3 p.m. For most boats, that's enough time to get in three or maybe four tows.
The cost of operating a boat for a day is about equivalent to two tows, so if your third tow is a dud, then you've only broken even for the day. Luckily, the winter has been mild, so the fleet has not had to risk bad weather in order to make a day’s fishing.
In recent weeks, the fleet has been cut back to a 1 p.m. close of day, leaving about six hours to fish. No doubt the commission was trying to give trawlers time on the water without risking a TAC blowout. But there's got to be a better way than shorter days in which to make any kind of profit.
And when tight restrictions still lead to an early shutdown, fishermen have to wonder if that’s because there are more shrimp in the water than the management models are predicting. It's a question many of the same fishermen have regarding the recent dreary cod assessment.
In cases like these, sometimes it’s best to distract ourselves with bright, shiny objects. So I will leave you with some hot new products from the Miami Boat Show!
Furuno’s new NavNet TZTouch integrates your onboard system with your smartphone or tablet with a revolutionary multitouch interface.
Flir’s new M-618CS is the most advanced member of the M-series of thermal night vision systems. It combines long-range thermal night vision with a color zoom camera and gyro- stabilization. High resolution, extended range, active gyro-stabilization, and 10x optical zoom.
Government time, government money
Friday,17 February,2012 13:33:10
Among the top things that make me cringe is seeing any government pour resources into a project for the sake of PR or remove public access to resources that provide valuable wages, especially in remote parts of the country.
Today I heard about a meeting that will take place this evening in Port Lavaca, Texas, between commercial oystermen and representatives from the U.S. Coast Guard and Texas Parks and Wildlife.
The reason for the meeting is an attempt to discover why state and federal authorities showed up in droves on the opening day of the state's oyster season — a season that has been delayed by three months because of a lengthy red tide outbreak.
Reports on the scene were of more state and Coast Guard skiffs than fishermen had ever witnessed in decades of work in the local commercial fishing industry. Some fishermen reported that state game wardens boarded boats repeatedly and forced them to dump oysters of legal size. Some speculate, based on the agents' interest in personal documents, that they hoped to catch illegal workers and perhaps make a show of nabbing undocumented residents.
Meanwhile, in Alaska, a federal judge asked NMFS to review the environmental and socioeconomic effects of western Aleutians Atka mackerel and Pacific cod fishing closures as quickly as possible. NMFS' response is that it will take 23 months to do a complete assessment and they could not perform a review before next June.
The fishing closures are an attempt to protect a small subset of the western substock of Steller sea lions, though there is no widely accepted theory as to the cause of the stock’s decline. However, each year of closures costs the fishing community USD 80 million in revenue.
I understand that local and federal governments are called upon to manage increasingly vast responsibilities. But I am tired of seeing fishing communities take the hit to make someone else feel better about their day or look better in the public eye. It’s time we took stock of what we value in this country. A press release versus a living wage based on actual work and a legitimate product. I think the choice is pretty easy.
Tuesday,7 February,2012 12:33:21
This week, Alaska fishery managers proved once again why the region has such an excellent reputation for fishery management.
Halibut fishermen face another severe cut to their quotas this year, and within a week of the International Pacific Halibut Commission’s announcement, the North Pacific Fishery Management Council is addressing the fleetwide concern about halibut bycatch and discards in other fisheries.
The commercial halibut fleet is of course also concerned about the effects of the guided sport industry exceeding the guideline harvest level year over year.
The economic effects of a second round of deep quota cuts (Southeast fishermen will be allowed to catch 27 percent of what they harvested in 2007) remains to be seen. However, the outlook for Pacific halibut stocks stands its best chance of improving if the managers and the industry as a whole are willing to examine and address a variety of impacts on the fishery.