Cleaning up our act

By

Jessica Hathaway

Published on
June 11, 2012

I was thrilled to get the official word this week that Sen. Charles Schumer (D-NY) has paved the way for the Senate to hold hearings on reforming the Magnuson-Stevens Act in the fall. ??

“What the fishermen here have been telling me for many years is that the law is inflexible, based on questionable science, and doesn’t take into account the economic implications of severe quota limits of existing fish stock,” Schumer told Newsday.??

What Schumer understands that many do not is that commercial fishermen do not want to take more than a sustainable catch. The idea behind getting some flexibility in the 10-year rebuilding mandate is simply to keep fishermen afloat until they can get reliable data.??

Stock depletion is not always the result of fishing (or overfishing). Therefore, the default solution to rebuilding stocks should not be to further restrict fishing. Cod quotas have been low for two decades, and yet the cod are not flourishing. Logic, therefore, tells us the problem with cod is not fishing alone.

??It’s an understandable knee-jerk reaction to blame low stocks on fishermen and just keep hammering them until the stocks rebuild. But we now know enough about runoff, dead zones, coastal development, climate change and ocean acidification to expand our horizons in search of solutions. If beating down fishermen doesn’t work to bring back the fish, then we’re putting people out of business with no perceivable benefit.??

Giving fishermen and fishery managers some flexibility is one step toward improving management of the industry. And it might just give us a window into fish behavior with better data. Win-win.


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