, Gloucester, MA


March 14, 2013

Letter: Mr. Bullard, don't shut down our fishermen

To the editor:

This is an open letter to NOAA Northeast administrator John Bullard.

Long before you were born, in February 1806, Meriwether Lewis and William Clark, of the Lewis and Clark Expedition, wrote an entry in a journal about fishing. You will recall that President Thomas Jefferson funded their daunting enterprise in hopes of finding a waterway passage to the Pacific.

While exploring the mouth of the Columbia River and trading with the Clatsop Indians, Lewis notes how the expedition feasted on fish: “Toward the end of February, the eulachon, or candlefish, began to run in immense numbers.

The Clatsop netted them and sold them to the expedition, after showing them how to prepare the fish. Each eulachon was about seven inches long; that Clatsop method was to string them together on a wooden spit and roast them. From then until they left, the captains bought all the eulachon they could afford.” Meriwether Lewis then made a sketch of the eulachon and entered it in his journal.

So you see John, around 150 years before you were born, Native American Indians and courageous explorers were involved in matters concerning fish and fishing. The Indians netted them and sold them to Lewis and Clark as American history unfolded. So John, all the decisions you make about fish and fishermen are inextricably linked to the most thrilling and dangerous undertaking in the history of this country you and I live in. And you will either extend that extraordinary American legacy in honor or disgrace.

John, unlike Captain Lewis and Captain Clark and their men, you don’t face hostile Indians, don’t traverse raging rivers, don’t hunt buffalo, elk or deer so you can have dinner. Lewis describes his condition at one point in the Expedition as follows: “Much exhausted by the heat of the day the roughness of the road the want of water.” John, you are merely a pampered bureaucrat sitting at a desk in an air-conditioned office presuming to have the wisdom to determine the fate of fishermen who are 10 times more like Meriwether Lewis and William Clark than you.

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