Relief should include research

By

April Forristall, SeafoodSource.com assistant editor

Published on
January 21, 2014

Last week, U.S. Sen. Jeanne Shaheen, D-N.H., announced that the USD 1 trillion (EUR 737.3 billion) omnibus spending bill includes USD 75 million (EUR 55.3 million) in fisheries disaster relief.

Different ways have been proposed on how the money should be spent, such as direct aid to fishermen, direct aid to shore fed infrastructure, covering costs of at-sea monitoring and new collaborative research money.

“Whatever disaster aid relief money we can get, we hope to use it as a bridge to kind of bide our time until the fish stocks do recover. Guys who might be under pressure to sell their permits and stop fishing immediately … might be able to reconsider,” Josh Weirsma, manager for New Hampshire’s two groundfishing sectors, told New Hampshire newspaper Union Leader.

While it’s all well and good to provide funds to out of work fishermen —especially if it will prevent them from switching careers — it definitely should not be the only way the funds are allocated.

A representative for Sen. Kelly Ayotte, R-N.H., said the senator opposes federal catch share limits that are “devastating the state’s fishing community.” But it’s not the quotas — some fishermen say that there isn’t even enough cod to meet the shrinking catch limits.

What the disaster money also needs to pay for are long-term solutions for both the fishermen and the industry. What about an industry survey of seafood buyers combined with research to determine alternate species to replace the fisheries that are in danger?
Some New England cod producers are switching to dogfish, but say there is little to no market in the U.S. for the fish, which has the reputation of a “trash fish,” so most of the supply is exported to Asia and Europe.

Funds could be used to develop a marketing scheme to change the perception of such fish and educate U.S. buyers how dogfish and other alternate species can be utilized.

Hopefully the decision on how to distribute the funds will be given the time and thought it really deserves. It’s textbook “if you give a man a fish, if you teach a man to fish…” logic.

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