USA: Fishing industry and government on a colliding course?

18 Mar 2010
5,000 fishermen and representatives of the fishing industry United States rallied in front of Capitol Hill

5,000 fishermen and representatives of the fishing industry United States rallied in front of Capitol Hill

On 24 February 2010 a “United We Fish” Rally took place in Washington DC, reports Menakhem Ben-Yami.

This was an unprecedented historic event where some 5,000 fishermen and representatives of the fishing industry from all over the United States rallied in front of Capitol Hill to protest against what Nils Stolpe, one of the organisers of the rally, called “the anti-fishing weapon that federal fisheries management has been turned into”. 

They complained against “the Big Lie that fishermen shouldn’t be involved in managing their own fisheries”, and against the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act, with a fixed 10-year mandatory stock rebuilding requirement and the drop-dead date of 2010 to stop all overfishing for all fisheries. They called for this law to be re-adjusted and demanded from the federal fisheries service (NOAA/NMFS) “honest science, flexibility to manage disparate fisheries and total transparency in all decision-making”.

Some speakers at the rally claimed that federal regulators have lost the trust — and, therefore, the cooperation — of the fishing community with draconian restrictions on fishing. According to Bob Fisher of a Florida fishermen’s association, there is not enough science for NOAA to ban fishing in so many areas, and Congress needs to open up the scientific research grants to more academics and others not tied to NOAA in any way.

The new NMFS chief, Eric Schwaab, who attended the event, issued a statement supporting the last reauthorisation of the Magnuson Act and its “science-based annual catch limits to end overfishing on all stocks”. Recognising “the sacrifices being made today by the men and women in the commercial and recreational fishing industries”, he insisted that the protested Act carries significant long-term economic and environmental benefits. This was disappointing from the fishermen’s point of view,

However, a group of over 20 US Senators and Congressmen committed themselves at the really to the reviewing of the Magnuson-Stevens Act.

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