GloucesterTimes.com, Gloucester, MA

April 24, 2013

Letter: Fishermen deserve the chance to earn a living


Gloucester Daily Times

---- — To the editor:

I’m writing because I’m tired of the misinformation I hear and read in coffee shops, on websites and in newspapers.

Even our local newspaper had an online ad from the PEW Foundation saying we destroy the ocean floor.

Most but not all that is false. The vast majority of the ocean bottom we fish is sand and mud and while it is true that our nets disturb this bottom, it is also true that currents erase our footprint.

Have you ever walked in sand on a windy day, turn around to see that your footprints have been swept away? Currents do that. The same currents that erase the footprint of fisherman on the ocean bottom.

It is true that there are people in our industry that cheat and don’t obey the rules. Every industry has them —doctors, lawyers, financial institutions — but, in our industry as in all the other, the overwhelming majority are good, honest, hardworking people.

Still, we are portrayed in these PR campaigns as uncaring, money hungry, environment rapists. Nothing could be further from the truth.

We see groundfish (cod, haddock, pollock, etc.) on our fish scopes and we tow our nets through them. That’s what we do for a living — catch fish. But there are times that what we see are small, under sized fish. We don’t catch them due to the size of the opening in our nets (6 ½ inches, a regulation that is good), and these fish escape unharmed an we go away this is our future we don’t want to harm it. Would you yours?

We have a regional council that regulates what we can and cannot do. Most of the regulations that have been put in place have been good, but now, when you go to meetings, fisherman are outnumbered by special interest groups with their own hidden agendas, most under the guise of environmentalism.

Since we were put on Earth, the big have eaten the small. We cannot win against these special interest groups, they have too much money. Some of it comes from honest hardworking people who believe the misinformation given to them. The rest follow the money trail and, if you can unravel the shell game, you’ll see the agenda.

During my years of fishing, I have seen many fluctuations in fish populations. Fishing is not the only reason for this but it is the only one that can be regulated. Predatation, food supply, water temperature are but a few.

As humans we can protect ourselves, grow our own food and control the temperature we live in, fish cannot. They have to react to these changes, so they move. In the past few months we’ve seen an abundance of fish in an area they have never been in before.

NOAA has a ship that does stock assessments, but it goes to the same places every cruise, and when fish have moved, the ship finds nothing which leads to false science and less fish allocations for us.

I watch the news and see how hard it is for many of my fellow countrymen and women to find work. I see the stories and know the pain. In past times, I have felt this, too. It’s terrible not to be able to take care of your loved ones they way you want.

In our case, however, the work is there but because of flawed science and unwarranted over regulations, we are not being allowed to work. Many of our elected officials are trying to help (the Times, Friday, April 5) and I am asking for your help, too. The power of the people can move mountains.

Beginning May 1, we are faced with reductions as high as 77%, depending on the species, in what we catch. Although some reductions are necessary, one this large will virtually end our industry.

I’m finishing my 46th year in this industry. My career is ending, and I write this in hopes someone might listen so the younger people still here might have a future I see bright one if they are allowed to pursue it. That’s all people want — the right to go to work.

If allowed to, I’m sure they will treat the industry and environment with the respect it deserves. I know I’ve had the privilege of working with some of the best men a man could know — men who strive to be the best they can at what they do take care of their families and contribute to their community.

This is what a fisherman is — and I’m damned proud to be part of it.

RICK BEAL

Gloucester