Congressional hearings regarding the fourth 10-year review of commercial fishing’s landmark Magnuson-Stevens Act begins in the nation’s capital today.
And it obviously comes at a critical time for the industry — especially in Gloucester and across New England, where the groundfishery is in a state of federally recognized “economic disaster” and facing an even more dire crisis May 1, when limits on Gulf of Maine cod and other stocks are being cut by up to 77 percent.
So, you’d like to think that New England will be well represented at these hearings, right?
Wrong. The only scheduled New England witness scheduled to speak before the House Natural Resources Committee, where Malden Congressman and U.S. Senate candidate Ed Markey is the ranking Democrat, is John Pappalardo of the Cape Cod Hook Fishermen’s Association. And that’s a shameful affront not only to rank-and-file fishermen in Gloucester and beyond, but at slap at our fishing communities, as well.
Pappalardo was the head of the New England Fishery Management Council — and policy chief with the Cape Cod fishing group — when his council rammed through NOAA’s poorly planned and ill-conceived catch share management system that, by virtually all counts, has played a key role in producing the current crisis. And you might also recall that, in the initial allocations, Pappalardo’s hook fishermen got a built-in boost in allocation above other sectors, setting the stage for them to lease more quota, sit back, and reel in the cash without even having to go to sea. He is, in effect, a walking, breathing symbol of catch shares, and the corrupt conflicts of interests that surround them.
It’s no surprise that Markey apparently sees him as the voice of the fishing industry as this supposed Senate candidate sees it. Markey, after all, stands against adding any flexibility to Magnuson at all. And that’s a scary thought for fishermen and for lawmakers like John Tierney, who has worked hard to bring about the reforms and new Magnuson flexibility the industry needs.
Let’s hope Markey recognizes that Pappalardo hardly represents today’s fishermen — the ones who, thanks in part to Pappalardo himself, are facing the disaster the now confronts them — and solicits more testimony from those on fishing’s front lines.
It would be shame if these hearings proved to be a sham from the start.