Keep fishermen fishing

Thousands of people reportedly stood in line for hours in the rain to procure tickets to hear President Obama speak here in Portland, Maine, Thursday afternoon about the recently passed health care legislation. However, the region’s fishermen would likely be more interested to hear the president declare his commitment to improving the health of the groundfish industry.

The catch share management era begins for Northeast groundfishermen on May 1 — May Day (or is that mayday?).

Fishermen aren’t optimistic many harvesters will survive fishing in sectors (groups of harvesters fishing on their collective catch quotas), thanks to allocations that reportedly are a third to one-half lower than last year’s catch. And days-at-sea fishing restrictions are even harsher for those opting for the so-called common pool.

Concerns over the new management system and the inflexibility of Magnuson-Stevens Act stock rebuilding requirements are among the issues that drove commercial, recreational, charter and party boat fishermen to gather in unprecedented numbers for the United We Fish rally held in February in Washington, D.C.

They called for Congress to pass House and Senate bills designed to fix Magnuson. And they delivered a message — via the rally and a Web-based petition that garnered almost 5,000 signatures — to Congress’ current occupants: I fish and I vote.

Now rally organizers are moving forward. They announced last week that they’ve formed a national organization called Keep Fishermen Fishing and Working! Its main goals, they say, are to “keep fishing, keep working and keep fishing-dependent businesses thriving.”

One of the group’s first orders of business is to hold mini-rallies in Florida, Maryland, North Carolina, South Carolina, New Jersey, Georgia and Texas. The goal, the group says, is to demonstrate to elected officials how Magnuson has been transformed into a tool that is being used against fishermen in those states. You can learn more about the group at the Keep Fishermen Fishing and Working Web site.

Keep fishing — and keep the faith.

Thank you for your time.
Linc Bedrosian
Senior Editor, National Fisherman



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