GloucesterTimes.com, Gloucester, MA

Opinion

December 14, 2012

5-point plan for fishing disaster relief

I’d like to get the conversation started about how the fisheries economic disaster relief should be invested. Over the past few months, since the disaster was declared by the U.S. Department of Commerce, many ideas have been circulated. We’ve boiled down our ideas into a 5-point plan that I’d like to share today.

The first point in the plan for mitigating the fisheries economic disaster is direct aid to fishermen. There must be some component of the federal assistance that goes straight to the fishermen who’ve been harmed by the regulations that have led to the economic disaster declaration. What the aid is, and how it should be structured, should be driven by the fishermen themselves. We will look to the Gloucester Fisheries Commission to assist in obtaining input from fishermen on how to best deliver direct aid to the fishermen.

The second point is money for unfunded NOAA mandates. There are many expensive mandates placed on fishermen. The observer program where an individual goes out on the fishing boat to keep an eye on the catch is one example. Fishermen are expected to pick up this expense and what they end up doing to cover this cost is to perhaps go out with one less crew member, which can make the trip more dangerous than needed.

Porpoise pingers are another example of a NOAA mandate. Porpoise pingers are important — they are a device placed on nets that “ping,” which alerts a porpoise to swim away from the net. This program is very effective in protecting the porpoises and if viewed as a partnership between the fishermen, the regulators and environmentalists, there should be recognition that the cost should be shared.

The third point in the plan for mitigating the fisheries economic disaster is a significant increase in collaborative fisheries research. The underpinning of this type of research is that the scientists and the fishermen work together in scientific observation and inquiry. Fishermen are great observers of what is going on in the oceans. A few years ago, the codfish stock was thought of as “abundant” and only two years later, it was thought of as vanished.

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