Active fisher involvement is healthy for the industry, said Assistant Administrator for Fisheries Eric Schwaab. (Photo: NOAA)
Fishers rally in Washington over fishing concerns
Monday, March 01, 2010, 09:30 (GMT + 9)
Several thousand protesters from the commercial fishing industry and beyond rallied outside Capitol Hill in Washington to voice their concerns over future fishing opportunities.
"This is about our legal access to fisheries. We all need to fight for it, because some of the interests out there don't care how or why you fish, they just want to get you off the water," Managing Director of the Recreational Fishing Alliance Jim Hutchinson said.
Eric Schwaab, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s (NOAA) assistant administrator for fisheries, attended the rally and stated his interest in listening to protesters’ concerns. He emphasised his stance that a successful fishery management programme depends on active involvement by commercial and recreational fishers along with other interested stakeholders.
“Marine fish and fisheries have been vital to the prosperity of this nation’s coastal communities for hundreds of years. Today, however, more than 20 per cent of the nation’s fish stocks are overfished and need to be rebuilt to larger, healthier populations so that they can produce their full economic potential for fishermen, coastal communities and the nation,” he said.
In 2006, Congress reauthorized and strengthened the Magnuson-Stevens Act to help protect wild fish stocks - a reauthorization that was groundbreaking in various ways, including the required use of science-based annual catch limits to end overfishing on all stocks. Ending overfishing, he explained to the crowd, is the first step to allowing a fish stock population to recover such that it can be fished sustainably for the long term.
“I recognize and appreciate the sacrifices being made today by the men and women in the commercial and recreational fishing industries […] These sacrifices have the potential to result in significant long-term economic benefits to fishing communities and the nation as well as benefits to the overall ocean ecosystems,” Schwaab assured.
“Recognizing the sacrifices being made to transition to more sustainable fishing, NOAA and Congress has made a commitment of USD 18.6 million to assist in the transition to sectors in the Northeast groundfish industry,” he told.
Schwaab recounted how the rebuilding of some stocks has already led to important successes and significant economic benefits for fishers, coastal communities and the nation: the species include the sea scallop, monkfish, bluefish and Gulf of Mexico king mackerel fisheries. The dockside value revenues in the sea scallop industry have swollen from USD 84.7 million in 1994, when the stock was overfished, to USD 370 million in 2008.
The Atlantic coast’s healthy bluefish stocks offer consistent, dependable fishing opportunities for shore and party and charter boat anglers and the related economic benefits of sportfishing to a wide range of businesses, the assistant administrator pointed out.
“We estimate that once the nation rebuilds all fisheries, which we are on a track to do and required to do by law, the dockside value of our commercial fisheries would go from USD 4.1 billion to USD 6.3 billion annually, a 54 per cent increase,” he encouraged.
- Status of fish stocks improved: NOAA
By Natalia Real
Photo Courtesy of FIS Member National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration NOAA/NMFS