Fleet Diversity Amendment Looks to Advance – We Need Your Support

By Brett Tolley, NAMA’s community organizer

They say the definition of insanity is repeating the same mistake over and over again and expecting different results. So imagine our frustration when fisheries policies aim to consolidate the fishing fleet into one that consists only of large or industrial scale operations. Did we not learn anything from agriculture or the banking and financial institutions? Or housing? Do we have to repeat the same mistake on the water? (Read fishermen’s testimony on consolidation)

Aside from repeating past mistakes, this approach fails to recognize the ocean is made of many different ecosystems that if we are to fish them, we need to make sure we are fishing them at the right scale so not to compromise their unique characteristics. (View a position paper signed onto by scientists from throughout New England)
That’s in part why we have taken the issue of fleet diversity so seriously. In New England not only are the small and mid-scale fishermen the cornerstones of the fishing industry they are critical to ensuring the scale of fishing operations here are diverse enough to not undermine the health of the marine ecosystem.  It’s worth noting, that it just happens that the small and medium scale fishing operations also happen to provide more jobs, have less impact to the ecosystem, and ensure a more local and secure source of seafood. 

Right now small and mid-scale fishermen face a dramatic consolidation squeeze and for many family fishermen (including crew!), access to fishing rights is now unaffordable and these fishermen are facing the same decision family farmers did a few decades ago: do you scale up or sell out? Selling out is slowly becoming the option of choice with small and medium scale operations as it is becoming more attractive to lease their quota out than actually fish. And according to a National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) report the groundfish fleet lost 458 crew positions in the last year.

Hear Fisherman BG Brown discuss his personal experience 
Recognizing some of these issues, the New England Fisheries Management Council (NEFMC) voted in June to proceed with an Amendment to address fleet diversity and excessive consolidation in the Groundfish fleet.
NAMA weighed in, urging NEFMC to take action, with a PETITION signed widely by fishermen, food activists, restaurant owners, fish market owners, environmental advocates and community members. Folks agree that fleet consolidation is squeezing out family fishermen only to be replaced by larger industrial-scale fisheries. They also agree this flies in the face of managers’ own goals and objectives, which include protecting fleet diversity and preventing excessive consolidation.
In order to lesson the squeeze and level the playing field we are calling on managers to prioritize THREE things: 1) foster a fishery that is affordable to independent fishermen, 2) enable a fishery where active fishing is more attractive than leasing and 3) incentivize a fishery that is more diverse.

The Council’s motion to advance fleet diversity protections is a critical step forward but we need more support. We anticipate strong resistance from those who stand to benefit from a highly consolidated fleet where family fishermen are left in the wake. Recently a lawsuit led by the cities of Gloucester and New Bedford, calling attention to the consolidation issue and challenging the legality of the new management system, failed after a judge’s ruling in early July. (Read more here)
We’re calling on folks who believe that Who Fishes Matters to join us, heed the advice of New England’s family fishermen, and hold our fishery decision makers accountable to their own standards, goals and objectives. Advancing the fleet diversity amendment gives us the opportunity to level the playing field, prevent a homogenous fleet that isn’t sensitive to the scales of the marine environment and secure a future for small and mid-scale family fishermen.

Sign our pledge.