GloucesterTimes.com, Gloucester, MA

September 10, 2013

Letter: Report shows flaws in NOAA, Pew stands


Gloucester Daily Times

---- — To the editor:

I have heard it so many times, that I call it the Pew Mantra.

What is the evidence that organization’s environmentalists offer to prove that family fishing vessels engage in overfishing? What are the “facts” on which they build their case? Well, this is what they tell us: At each passing, bottom trawlers scrape the floor of the ocean and, just like clear-cutting forests, make a desert out of it.

Sounds so convincing doesn’t it?

It sounds so convincing that it has been taken seriously in high and low places, in the national media and in the Halls of Congress, let alone in daily kibitzing. In fact, the Pew Mantra sounds so convincing that it has empowered the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) to drastically curb the operations of family fishing vessels.

On the sheer force of the Pew Mantra, we are witnessing the destruction of the family fishing fleet! And now comes an authoritative study that stands the Pew Mantra on its head.

This study, by the National Research Council, says: “Bottom trawls are a globally used fishing gear that physically disturb the seabed and kill non-target organisms, including those that are food for the targeted fish species. There are indications that ensuing changes to the benthic invertebrate community may increase the availability of food and promote growth and even fisheries yield of target fish species.”

Could the study be any clearer? Even this council of our National Academies of Science has pronounced itself against the validity of another plank used by NOAA to clobber the fishermen.

As reported, this study “finds that current stock rebuilding plans, which are based on eliminating overfishing within a specified time period, are not flexible enough to account for uncertainties in scientific data and environmental factors that are outside the control of fishermen and fisheries managers. It concludes that basing rebuilding on a timeline diminishes consideration for the socioeconomic impacts of the rebuilding plans.”

What are the lessons we can draw from this? When are we going to stand up and be counted? When will we tell President Obama, with a unified voice, “Mr. President, stop NOAA now.”

In a related case, Council President Jackie Hardy has characteristically hit the nail on the head. She has said that “The DPA (Designated Port Area and its mandates) is interfering with the rights of others to make a living.” (the Times, Friday, Sept. 6). So does NOAA.

In the same case, Councilor Greg Verga has reached the same conclusion. In response to the appeal of Scott Memhard, the owner of Cape Pond Ice, for relief from DPA rules that are threatening the survival of his business, Councilor Verga stated: “I’m not going to waiver on it anymore. It’s something we need to do instead of telling people, ‘Suffer, you’re on your own.’”

Overfishing — whenever it does occur in reality, and not in the imagination of bureaucratic statisticians — is not done by the family fishing fleet. It is done by the operations of large national and international corporations, then completed by the revolving feast of the natural predators/prey relationships.

NOAA knows precisely what it can do. Since we import more than 90 percent of the fish we consume, NOAA can recommend a cut in imports from the nations responsible for overfishing. NOAA is legally empowered to do so by the High Seas Driftnet Fishing Moratorium Protection Act and the Lacey Act: See, http://www.nmfs.noaa.gov/ia/iuu/iuu_overview.html.

There are also plenty of things you can do to remedy the intolerable conditions to which fishermen have long been subjected.

The least is to flood the Halls of Congress and the Oval Office with signatures on these two petitions which have already been signed by people all over the world, with many adding heart-wrenching comments: http://www.thepetitionsite.com/takeaction/241380953 and http://www.thepetitionsite.com/29/a-petition-to-stop-noaa-now.

CARMINE GORGA

Middle Street, Gloucester