This is a matter of survival for an honorable and noble profession in New Hampshire. New Hampshire fishermen who, many of them have this in their families, they have fished the waters, they believe firmly in sustaining the stocks because it’s part of their livelihood and yet they have not been given the opportunity to even transition. –NH Senator Kelly Ayotte addressing NOAA Northeast Regional Administrator John Bullard
New Hampshire Senator Kelly Ayotte (r) expressed the frustration felt by many New England fishers and fisher families in a Senate Commerce Subcommittee meeting yesterday. She said that “NOAA is directed to sustain both fishing stocks and fishing communities,” and she asked NOAA Northeast Regional Administrator John Bullard what actions he was going to take to sustain New Hampshire’s fishing industry.
As the exchange continued between Ayotte and Bullard, Ayotte made it clear she really wanted to better understand–in the face of NOAA’s dual mission to sustain both fish stocks and fishing communities–why interim measures to assist fishers had not been once again implemented as they had two years ago.
While citing legal reasons first, Bullard quickly came around to what to him and many fisheries biologists is the simple truth of the matter:
From a biological standpoint, the cuts needed to be made.
What is the answer amidst dwindling biomass and disappearing working waterfronts?
Bullard suggested the answer is twofold. Direct relief to fishers in the form of disaster assistance is necessary, he said, but so are more innovative solutions. “As I’ve met with fishermen,” he said, “they say the answer is ‘we know how to catch fish.'” Developing markets and fair market prices for underutilized and under appreciated species–species that are currently being harvested at well below what the stock can withstand in terms of fishing pressure–is part of the solution.
Bullard emphasized however that the overarching answer is still re-building the stocks, and, as he and others have argued for some time now, that simply cannot be done without a drastic reduction in fishing mortality.
In her closing remarks before the Subcommittee, Ayotte said she did not agree with Bullard’s assessment that legally-speaking NOAA could not put interim measures in place again. She also made it clear she was concerned the fisheries data NOAA is using to make its determinations is disputed. But, in the end, she returned to where she had begun–with the very personal plight of fishers and fisher communities.
My final point would be, if we do need to give flexibility under the Magnusun-Stevens Act to make sure that there is a path that is more sensible, that we can also sustain the stocks but not put people immediately out of business like that–we’ve got to do that.