Daily Fishing and Outdoor Report
Wednesday, December 29, 2010;
It’s dark out and the side streets are hideously slicked over. Also, Rte. 72 westbound from the Parkway down to Rte 9 has lethal ice
zones, mainly the lane where people are pulling out from plazas and onto 72. Drive
out in the fast lane. It’s the driest.
I was watching the huge cranes working to ease the snow weight off the roofs of Staples and Michael’s. They’ll be open tomorrow, per the workers.
I did tons of digging snow today to clear my backyard jewelry-making work area. The odd thing was the way I bundled up like that
little brother from “Christmas Story.” I layered for a nuclear winter. No
sooner did I begin digging than I hd to start shedding layers. I ended up in
short sleeves. I kid you not. I know skiers understand the concept. The sun was
beating down and reflecting off the snow. The warmth of the dazzling sun mixed
with the strain of moving a ton of snow had me soaking wet, even in just that
Went to see “True Grit.” It was pretty good movie but not blazingly so. Too many stretches and, uh, long shots. Jeff Bridges was
expectedly very good (he’s a top actor). Damon was only so-so. Hailee Steinfeld
was real good. Language was absurdly improbable – and often undecipherable due
to archaic-speak and the speed of dialogue delivery. Just plain weak ending. Coen
brothers can do better. (By the by, hibernating rattlesnakes can’t be persuaded
to move as quickly as depicted. What’s more, they’re not only slow to strike
when exiting hibernacula but usually have no venom in their fangs, delivering
something called a dry bite.)
Op-Ed By DICK ALLEN - Dec 29, 2010 - Dick Allen is a former commercial fisherman and was a member of the New England Fishery Management Council from 1986 to 1995. He is now a fishery
consultant whose clients include the Environmental Defense Fund. He lives in Westerly, R.I.
As a commercial fisherman who has advocated catch
shares since 1990, I share with New Bedford a strong interest in evaluating the performance of the
catch-share program that went into effect for the New England groundfish fishery on May 1.
Two issues are troubling to me. The first is the
allocation of quota within groundfish sectors. The second is the apparent
inability of the sectors to capture the benefits of high annual catch limits
for abundant stocks like Georges Bank haddock Ñ so-called 'underfishing.'
What I find missing in my discussions with
fishermen and in the news is the role of sectors, which were intended to manage
their allocations in the best interests of their fishermen members.
Neither the New England Fishery Management Council
nor the National Marine Fisheries Service made allocations of fish to
individual fishermen. Allocations were made to sector organizations based on
the catch history of the permits held by each member. Responsibility for
allocating quota to individuals, or figuring out some other way to fish the
quota, was given to the sector organizations.
Presumably, sector members had a vote on how to
divide up the sector allocation. If there is widespread dissatisfaction,
fishermen have the power to change that.
Fishermen have been asking for more say in
management from the beginning of federal management in 1977. Amendment 16
turned over responsibility for many management decisions to fishermen as sector
members. Sectors can request exemptions from regulations that were previously
necessary to control the catch, now controlled by annual quotas held and
managed by the sectors.
Critics rightfully point to underfishing of
abundant stocks of Georges Bank haddock and Gulf of Maine redfish. Because of these large stocks, the amount of fish
available to the groundfish fleet in 2010 is more than 21Ú2 times that caught
by the fleet in 2009.
Only three stocks have annual catch limits that
are lower than 2009 landings. Two of those are within 5 percent of 2009
landings. With this much fish available, groundfish sectors could spread the
fish around equitably and increase total landings and revenue. If that isn't
happening, sector members and sector leadership can figure out how to make it
Sectors should be able to use their aggregate
quota and cooperative structure to catch more of the abundant stocks while
avoiding depleted stocks. The scallop fleet faced the same problem until the
School for Marine Science and Technology and cooperating fishermen developed a
program that lets the fleet catch additional millions of dollars' worth of
scallops while staying within their yellowtail allocation. That example should
be used by the groundfish fleet.
Massachusetts has 128 limited-access groundfish permits on boats over 60 feet,
boats that can access the abundant offshore stocks. New Bedford is the listed home port to 82 of those boats. Since 2006, NMFS
data show less than 40 New Bedford boats of any size used at least one groundfish day at sea. Given
the quantity of fish available under the annual catch limits, and the
technology available to fish selectively on abundant stocks while avoiding
scarce stocks, the inability of sectors to improve utilization of available
stocks is puzzling.
Members of the NEFMC who voted in favor of
Amendment 16, including all state officials on the council, based their
decision on more than 25 years of experience with management plans that were
criticized continually by the groundfish industry. When Congress mandated catch
limits for 2010, the specter of fishery-wide closures that faced the groundfish
industry in the late 1970s hung over the council.
There is no doubt in my mind that catch shares
will keep the fleet fishing throughout the year. I am certain that the fleet
would otherwise have been shut down as fishermen raced to catch their share of
a competitive quota. And the waste that accompanies trip limits would have
Some fishermen had permits with low catch history
during the qualifying years, and their sector contributions reflected that
catch history. When the sectors decided to distribute quotas in proportion to
sector contributions, those fishermen had hard decisions to make whether to
fish their low quotas or lease them out.
Fishermen with low allocations of days-at-sea
would have had the same choice to make if the allowable days-at-sea were cut
further to protect depleted stocks. That trend is clearly evident in the
dramatic decline in the number of boats actually using groundfish days-at-sea
over the past 14 years.
The sector system is brand new and needs
improvement. Some of the complaints, such as allocations within the sectors,
can be fixed by the sectors. Others will take the combined efforts of everyone
in the fishery management system.
Despite all the criticism, I haven't heard anyone
suggest a fishery management program that can provide the same degree of
flexibility to fishermen while conserving fish stocks.