So, less than 24 hours before today's dawn of the of the new groundfishing season, the benevolent National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration boldly announced Monday it would try to ease fishermen's pain by allow mid-sized vessels to use new gear designed to limit the bycatch of yellowtail flounder.
That might sound like a good thing, as fishermen out of Gloucester and other New England ports confront what truly looms as a crisis year.
Yet let's never forget that NOAA and its parent U.S. Department of Commerce have not only refused to grant the very realistic economic disaster declaration sought by Gov. Deval Patrick and backed by U.S. Sen John Kerry and others. Commerce officials, following true to the form of NOAA administrator Jane Lubchenco, haven't even shown the respect or decency to respond to the requests.
And let's especially not forget the most shameless slap in the face to fishermen and their backers, inside and outside Congress and state houses around New England and beyond. That's the fact that this fishery "crisis" — supposedly in cod, yellowtail and now even sturgeon, a fish that's suddenly been declared an endangered species without NOAA undertaking a single trawl study or other stock assessment — is an economic disaster that's been created by NOAA from the start.
That's right, folks. Our own federal government — led, of course, by a president who continues to stress his purported push for "jobs, jobs, jobs" — is the single driving force in the absolute decimation of fishermen's and other waterfront jobs, and the hits those policies have wreaked on fishing communities such as Gloucester, New Bedford and so many others.
The truth is, there remain dire questions about the research that led to the latest cod and yellowtail numbers, and the endangered species protections accorded the ancient sturgeon without a single stock assessment reiterates what many have long realized — that NOAA is willing to regulate based on pure science fiction if it brings the result Lubchenco and her corporately-backed nonprofit groups want.
As this new fishing year dawns, lawmakers should be put on renewed notice that time is running out for this once proud industry. If they don't oust Lubchenco and reverse this government-fueled economic disaster, time should also be running out for them as elections draw near.
There's been more than enough talk, more than enough letters flying back and forth between Commerce and the halls of Congress. Our fishermen need decisive action now. Neither they — nor we — will forget.