A Rare Opportunity to Change How Fisheries are Regulated

 by Sean Sullivan NAMA’s Marketing, Outreach and Development Associate

Russia is famously described as a mystery wrapped in a conundrum. The New England Fisheries Management Council process and meetings could well be described the same way. Ordinary logic flies out the window at council meetings. Vast numbers of fish are discarded dead overboard in the name of saving fish. Fishermen are watched like criminals, penalized like landed peasantry, treated routinely with disrespect when they summon the courage to speak. It can be a pretty grim environment. And to be fair, even those who oppose our work find the process tedious, confusing and unfulfilling. You rarely see people walking out of council and comittee meetings happy.

Some of this misery is captured in a recent report from NOAA, “New England Fishery Management Review”. The report finds faults across the board in how the NEFMC works, how the agencies responsible for the science, oversight and enforcement fail to work together, how fishermen are excluded from the process and of course, as we’ve been saying for years – the Council operates without any kind of vision or strategic plan.

Well, there may be an opportunity to change much of how the council conducts it’s business. NOAA has promised to enact many of the reforms recommended in the report, including creating a shared stakeholder vision, improving collaboration between agencies and fishermen and increasing the inclusiveness of the process itself.

NOAA will be accepting comments on the report and the recommendations in the report until this Friday May 27, 2011.

Thus comes a rare opportunity for seafood lovers, local food activists, seafood dealers, CSF folks, fishermen, shoreside service providers – ANYONE who cares about healthy oceans to speak up and tell NOAA to reform the process.

We’ve created a page that explains a bit about the report and gives you a number of ways to speak out on this subject. It will only take a few minutes of your time. I’ve been called naively optimistic (among other less flattering things!) but I beleive if we can reform the process and create an effective shared vision New England can and SHOULD have the best fishery in the world, one that provides jobs, seafood, and maintains a healthy ocean.

So, please take a few minutes and tell NOAA what you think.