The Pacific Coast Federation of Fishermen's Association released a statement this morning in response to the gathering of commercial and recreational fishermen in Washington, D.C., yesterday. Association president (and NF Highliner) Dave Bitts said the true problem in fishery management is not the Magnuson-Stevens Act but flawed policies that fail to properly fund fishery science, as well as the privatization of public fish resources.
Regardless of the specific reason many fishermen arrived at Capitol Hill yesterday, the result was a large crowd of American workers showing their strength in numbers and getting in front of federal policymakers.
The thrust of the message was that the Magnuson Act should allow for some flexibility with the 10-year rebuilding guideline, considering some fisheries (like Northeast cod) have made adjustments to quotas based on NOAA surveys only to have the data from the survey invalidated three years later.
Fishermen are caught between a rock and a hard place by being forced to rely on flawed science to set their quotas and the unscientific 10-year rebuilding requirement that stands as a standard no matter how bad the science turns out to be.
“We can’t have a one-size-fits-all approach to fisheries management that isn’t based on sound science,” said Sen. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.).
What can fishermen do in cases such as these? If we want to preserve an industry as old as the country itself and small working waterfront towns up and down our coasts, we have to work on both ends of this equation.
Give fisheries in dire straits some flexibility to rebuild, especially in cases of clear good faith effort on the part of the fleet, and work to improve (read: fund) fishery science.