What Really Matters – NAMA Newsletter August 2011

These days it seems everyone is telling us what should matter to us. One ad tells us “where you book [our travels] matters” and another that “taste matters.” For us right now, knowing you support our work really matters. In fact, your support and that of our new partners and collaborators really mattered last week when the work to stop consolidation and concentration of fishing power cleared a major hurdle. Although we try to keep you abreast of our work through these newsletters and action alerts, to stay on top of what matters to us, I invite you to “like” us on Facebook so we can keep you up to date on happenings, events and news as they happen. You can also follow our new blog. There is so much going on that matters to us – and we hope to you – in between these newsletters and we don’t want you to miss any of it.

So what matters to us? Almost three years ago here at NAMA we started saying who fishes matters, scale matters, and where, when and how we fish matters. Believe it or not, this line of thinking has been met with quite a bit of resistance because for decades we’ve been told that all that really matters are the formulas that tell us how many of single species of fish we can kill. Well, if you ask me if our goal is saving the ocean and not just human appetites it really matters that the formulas determining how much fish we can catch include the impact on the whole ecosystem, our communities, our economy and our food system. Today’s formulas don’t address these issues that really matter. It’s time for a paradigm shift – and your participation will matter.

Our Who Fishes Matters slogan turned into a full fledged campaign last year leading to some interesting opportunities for policy transformation [link to the council piece of the newsletter] that recognizes the need for fleet diversity and a stop to rapid consolidation of our fishing fleet for the sake of our ocean, our marine economies, our coastal communities and our local food systems. It’s been exciting to see the broad base support for this campaign. We saw our expanded network’s influence at work recently when just last week [link to wherever we have the council update from last week’s decision].

This expanded network includes farm worker organizations working for healthy farming communities that are producing good local food for us; food sovereignty activists working to ensure our right to food is preserved and not taken over by Wall Street and the commodities market; chefs who are beginning to switch from using lists that tell them what to cook to using their principles that move them to source their seafood locally; local economy advocates that see the ecological and social value of community based fishing operations; and, consumers who are getting a new taste for seafood by joining the growing movement of community supported fisheries (CSF) around the country. It was so heartening to see the list of those who signed our latest pledge for fleet diversity include so many folks who identified themselves as local food advocates.

Recently I had a chance to attend the annual conference of the Business Alliance for Local Living Economies (BALLE), which was pretty much a mosaic of all these segments of our society. It was refreshing and reassuring to see how well Who Fishes Matters message resonated with the BALLE networks. Interestingly, the theme for this year’s BALLE conference was Place Matters. You can read more about my BALLE experience by visiting our blog.

All of these are feeding the spirits of coastal fishing communities who despite what the media tells us aren’t fighting to catch the last fish, but fighting to tell us that we need to make sure regulations don’t drive our fisheries down the same path they led our farms. They’ve been trying to tell us that there are other choices besides scaling up or selling out to the likes of agribusiness. But the advertising and political machines of the industrial food production have manipulated the process telling us that the only thing that matters is getting cheap seafood regardless of all the costs.

It’s time to speak up and tell policy makers what really matters to you. Tell them we’ve learned enough bad lessons and we’re not going to let another part of our social fabric, economic system and environment be torn into shreds all so that Wall Street can control yet another part of our lives – this time our ocean. Learn more about our campaign by visiting our Who Fishes Matters blog and liking us on Facebook. You can also upload your own video on why you think Who Fishes Matters by clicking on this link. Or sign our pledge that we’ll take to the fisheries policy makers so they can hear you even if you can’t be there.

I know all this sounds like we are also telling you what should matter to you. Well, we are. But we are not in it to sell tickets or book hotel rooms or get you to buy our product. We’re just asking you to buck the system that pretends to tell us what’s right and wrong and instead think for yourself, reflect back on the lessons learned over the past few years and draw your own conclusions. We’re pretty confident you’ll end up agreeing with us that pushing decimal points around in fisheries management formulas only takes us so far and ultimately what will really matter is who is in the wheelhouse, where they choose to fish, what kind of ethics they bring to their fishing operation, and how many generations ahead they are thinking about when they set their gear. So, yes… ultimately who fishes matters a lot.