The big picture on bluefin
Three years ago, then-NMFS chief Bill Hogarth proposed a fishing moratorium for the Eastern Atlantic bluefin at a meeting of the International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tunas.
Obviously and regrettably, he did not have enough support to push the ban through. However, what he did have was an understanding of U.S. fisheries and the state of global fisheries on the whole.
A lot of people in the industry grumbled about some of Hogarth's maneuvers. But with him as the leader of the U.S. fishing industry's regulating agency, fishermen at least had a fishing advocate who was working toward making things right for the industry, from stocks to docks.
Now fishermen are contending with NOAA director Jane Lubchenco, whose every action in office seems to leave her constituents reeling.
This week, Lubchenco is attending the annual ICCAT meeting, and her comments seem to bypass the big picture: "When there is uncertainty in science we believe that it is important to err on the side of caution. We believe that it is appropriate therefore to seek lower TACs for bluefin tuna for both sides of the Atlantic."
Only someone who does not grasp that Western Atlantic fishermen have been following the precautionary principle and fishing legally under strict quotas in an effort to preserve their stock would suggest that the solution to saving bluefin is to reduce quotas on both sides of the Atlantic.
Only someone who doesn't know Mediterranean countries historically overfish their quota with no regard for bluefin's longevity would imagine that quota reductions could possibly be a long-term solution to the problem of illegal fishing.
I'm not sure where the uncertainty in the science may be. I don't believe we can deny that the bluefin's decline in the Eastern Atlantic is a persisting problem. U.S. fishermen have accepted restrictions with the hope that preservation on one side of the ocean could save the stock as a whole. But we cannot go it alone in a global fishery. What we need is enforcement of quotas on the other side of the ocean.
In the meantime, it would be nice to reward the fishermen-stewards of the resource on this side of the Atlantic with an incremental bump in their quota following an unprecedented season on the U.S. and Canadian east coasts.
While a U.S. delegation of senators and representatives (from both sides of the aisle) seeks to "pursue a modest, yet scientifically justifiable increase in the total allowable catch of western Atlantic bluefin tuna," fishermen continue to suffer under the direction of a leader apparently disinterested in the past, present and future of a great American industry.
Thank you for your time.
Editor in Chief, National Fisherman
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