, Gloucester, MA

February 28, 2013

My View: Unified effort needed to back fleet

My View
Carmine Gorga

---- — It is good that our former mayor, the much concerned John Bell, is ready to petition President Obama to issue an executive order to save the Northeast fisheries industry.

It is good that the sharp mind of former Congressman Barney Frank is so soon coming out of retirement to help the Northeast fisheries industry.

Yes, if we save our local fishing fleet from the last draconian cuts in their allocations decreed by NOAA, we are going to save the family fishing fleet all up and down the Northeast coast. And the family fishing fleet does not operate in a vacuum. Being a primary economic activity, fishing generates enough wealth and income to sustain many businesses on land. The family fishing fleet creates jobs and income for machine shops and paint stores and bread makers and ice makers.

The local fisheries industry does not want a gift from the nation. The local fisheries industry is desperately offering to give a gift to the nation. While all other industries seem to request one form or another of assistance to the tune of $250,000 for the creation of a single job, the fisheries industry is offering to create jobs at zero cost to the taxpayer. Is that clear?

The fisheries industry is not asking for money to create jobs. It is asking for the removal of rules and regulations that are destroying jobs. The destruction of the family fishing fleet will only add burdens to the national taxpayer.

The president is to be made aware of this dysfunction between his words “jobs, jobs, jobs” and the actions of some of the agencies in his administration. But perhaps that will not be sufficient. If the president sees the request to stop NOAA now as a request of a few individuals, it is likely that he will justify his neglect of the needs of the fisheries industry as a personal preference to work for the welfare of the nation as a whole.

We, all of us — or nearly all of us — in the communities of the Northeast will have to show support for the work of John Bell and Barney Frank. We have to demonstrate to President Obama that John Bell and Barney Frank are representing the will of our communities as a whole. And that implies that we have to convince the triad of bureaucrats, economists, and ecologists who have formed an unholy alliance to destroy the family fishing fleet that they are simply misguided in their beliefs and their actions.

Reluctantly, one has to conclude that ecologists working within national foundations are tainted by the acceptance of oil money. It is a fact of life. Follow the money. Why would so much oil money flood these national foundations? The only reason one can find is that oil corporations want to explore the oceans for oil deposits and do not want a bunch of unruly fishermen to interfere with their operations with their silly boats.

National foundations have made it clear that, if fishermen there should be, they have to be well-behaved members of well-organized and supervised “sectors.” And if boats there have to be to catch fish, boats have to be few and large.

Do you notice the dysfunction between the claims of these national foundations and the consequences of their actions on the welfare of the oceans? Don’t large vessels do larger damage to the oceans than a bunch of small vessels?

Our economists also have to be presented with the facts. They believe in the benefits of privatization of the oceans. But the sectors are not private enterprises; they are small corporate entities. It is the individual family owning a vessel that is a private entrepreneur.

And then economists have to be made aware of another dysfunction in their belief set. They are experts in private and public goods. The family fishing fleet has for millennia operated in the field of the commons. Economists know nothing of the commons.

Ultimately, bureaucrats, economists, and ecologists will not come to the defense of the family fishing fleet until our friend the literati and priests and rabbis and ministers are ready to take the defense of the family fishing fleet. They are the conscience of the community. They have to speak with one voice if they want to save the community.

Only then will President Obama be likely to intervene and with one magic act of the pen will dispel the plight of the family fishing fleet.

Carmine Gorga, a former Fulbright scholar, president of The Somist Institute. He is the author of numerous publications in economic theory and policy, including the forthcoming “What is at stake: Recovery in six months or ten years.”