Fleet Diversity Equals Fairness

By Farmer Stephen Bartlett, guest blogger 
US Food Sovereignty Alliance
Ag Missions
Davenport, NY

Note: This letter was addressed to New England fisheries decision-makers regarding Amendment 18 to the groundfish plan. We encourage everyone to join Stephen by submitting your own comments in support of fleet diversity. Click here to learn how.

To the New England Fisheries Management Council,

I oppose the no-action alternative option under A18 because it would lead to a loss of diversity in the fleet. This is a problem for many reasons but the most obvious one is fairness and equality of opportunity. People lose their jobs when unfair restrictions or an uneven playing field is imposed in their area of livelihood. Fishing should be a job that is done profitably by as many small scale fisherfolk as possible.

Loss of fleet diversity affects me because “loss of fleet diversity” is really a code for exclusion and concentration of the industry into fewer hands. Such economic inequality impacts on everyone. I have faith that organized small scale fisherfolk have the knowledge and motivation to protect their fisheries and not overfish them. Having the industry concentrated into fewer hands actually threatens rather than protects fisheries. As someone who loves to eat fish, this is also a threat to me and my family. Will my grandchildren have healthy, wild fish to eat? Possibly not if the industry continues to favor the large scale over the small scale, and massive overfishing continues.

Solutions for the Council to explore should include: mechanisms to keep offshore boats offshore, quota set-aside programs, incentives for owner-operator fishermen, policies that ensure quota is fished by actual fishermen and not used solely as an investment tool, dis-incentives for fishermen who lease out 100% of their quota, leasing and permit trading rules that prevent consolidation into the larger fishing operations, and accumulation caps somewhere between 2-5%.

Stephen Bartlett

Davenport, NY

Thank you Stephen for sharing your comments. We encourage everyone who, like Stephen, believes fleet diversity can help bring more fairness into the fishery, to submit your own comments as part of a public comment period that ends March 1. Click HERE for help on e-mailing comments. Every comment counts!