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Momentum builds for United We Fish March Meetings set up with lawmakers
By Richard Gaines
Staff Writer
Under duress from intensifying fishing restrictions, and facing a new national policy that would essentially privatize the historically public ocean fisheries, commercial and recreational fishermen from ports on three coasts are preparing to braid themselves together later this month in a mass appeal for congressional relief.
What is billed as the United We Fish March on Washington is expected to draw 2,000 to 3,000 fishermen, primarily from Atlantic ports, as well as a contingent from Gulf ports and a sprinkling from the West Coast, organizers say.
They will travel by train, plane, many buses and private vehicles and meet at noon Wednesday, Feb. 24, on the steps of the U.S. Capitol for three hours of speeches about a cause that has never before been pushed in such numbers at the heart of the federal government.
Before and afterward, as an integral part of a carefully planned event, the visitor-advocates are also scheduling meetings with senators and congressmen to lobby for action on the primary vehicles for addressing their grievances — bills to substitute some flexibility for the hard deadlines for the rebuilding of weakened stocks.
Mayor Carolyn Kirk has been invited to speak.
"We're the home port, the example of overbearing regulations," Kirk said.
Among the 19 co-sponsors of the Flexibility in Rebuilding American Fisheries Act — filed originally by Congressman Frank Pallone Jr., D-N.J., are Massachusetts Congressmen Barney Frank and John Tierney, who represent New Bedford and Gloucester, co-capitals of Ocean Nation.
The matching Senate bill is sponsored by Sen. Charles Schumer, D-N.Y.
For their deviation from environmental correctness, all co-sponsors face political repercussions.
But Frank last year provided a pithy explanation for his commitment to the movement to write explicit reasons for flexibility into the 2006 rewrite of the Magnuson-Stevens Act that was influenced by the powerful ENGOs — environmental non-governmental organizations — spearheaded by the Pew Environment Group.
"Whether fish recover in seven, nine or 11 years, doesn't seem to me to be a moral issue," Frank said in an interview with the Times last month. "To them," he added, meaning Pew and its allies, "it seems to be."
Fishermen tend to views Pew and the other high-profile ENGOs as mortal enemies. And Pew especially has a long track record of subsidizing or financing studies that seem to reach conclusions that fishing is intrinsically harmful.
"The repeated patterns of overfishing, bycatch mortality, and habitat damage are so transparent," reported one such document issued by the Pew Oceans Commission in 2002, "that additional science adds only incrementally to further documentation of immediate effect. Although it is always possible to find exceptions to these patterns, the weight of evidence overwhelmingly indicates that the unintended consequences of fishing on marine ecosystems are severe, dramatic, and in some cases irreversible."
One member of the commission was Jane Lubchenco, who was appointed by President Obama last spring to head the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. In that role, she has undertaken a high-pressure effort to convert the fisheries to a new regulatory system based on catch shares, which divide a total allowable catch for each species in each fishery into fishermen's landings rights that are negotiable and can be traded or sold.
Congress has not studied this system; yet, it is in place in about 20 percent of American fisheries, it is set to take effect in New England on May 1, and it has transformed broadly competitive fishing industries everywhere into systems with a small number of much larger players — with a loss of fishermen's jobs and small-boat businesses.
Lubchenco last year was reported by her press office to believe that a "sizable fraction" of groundfishing boats need to be removed from the waters.
Trading immediate jobs for a later simplified consolidated system has engendered worry among the commercial fleets, as well as the recreational fisheries which, for now, are not part of the catch share planning.
The gathering and meetings at the Capitol will unfold in the shadow of a dark moment for Lubchenco's agency.
Last week, she announced a series of stopgap responses to a chilling report by the U.S. Department of Commerce Inspector General that confirmed persistent fishing industry reports of rogue behavior by the unsupervised criminal investigators of NOAA law enforcement.
IG Todd Zinser found autonomous officers treating fishermen as if they were criminals when failing to adhere to the strict letter of a nearly impossibly complex morass of written regulation.
Citing trampled dignities and rights and excessive penalties, the mistreatment was widespread, especially along the East Coast which is policed from offices in Gloucester.
"Change the word 'Massachusetts' to 'North Carolina,' and there's no difference," said Jimmy Ruhle, a Wanchese, N.C., fisherman and the president of the Commercial Fishermen of America.
Congressman Walter B. Jones, R-N.C., who represents the Outer Banks, said the IG's report marked a breakthrough for the fishermen at just the right time.
"I could have asked the angels to play their trumpets. This is the crack in the door that validates the fishermen," Jones said in a telephone interview with the Times yesterday. "I met with the IG to thank him. This was the smoking gun we could never find."
Jones said he intended to seek oversight hearings by the House Natural Resources Committee. Meanwhile, Tierney, who represents Gloucester, has announced that the Oversight and Domestic Reform subcommittee will hold parallel hearings, possibly in Gloucester.
Bill Donovan, publisher of The New Jersey Angler, wrote in the February issue that "February 24th, 2010, just might be the most important day in sportfishing history."
Along with Congressmen Pallone, Frank, Tierney and Jones, co-sponsors of the flexible fisheries reform bill include John Adler, D-N.J.; Henry Brown, Jr., R-S.C.; Ginny Brown-Waite, R-Fla.; Patrick Kennedy, D-R.I.,;Frank LoBiondo, R-N.J.; Mike McIntyre, D-N.C.,; Michael Michaud, D-Maine; Solomon Ortiz, D-Texas; Rob Andrews, D-N.J.; Timothy Bishop, D-N.Y.; Allen Boyd, D-Fla.; Joe Courtney, D-Conn.; Peter King, R-N.Y.; Rob Wittman, R-Virginia; Jo Bonner, R-Ala.; John Mica, R-Fla.; Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, R-Fla.,; Carol Shea-Porter, D-N.H.; Clifford Stearns, R-Fla.; Donna Christensen, D-Virgin Islands; Gus Bilirakis, R-Fla.; Ander Crenshaw, R-Fla.; and U.S. Sen. George LeMieux, R-Fla.
Richard Gaines can be reached at 978-283-7000, x3464, or via e-mail at [email protected].
 

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"One member of the commission was Jane Lubchenco, who was appointed by President Obama last spring to head the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. In that role, she has undertaken a high-pressure effort to convert the fisheries to a new regulatory system based on catch shares, which divide a total allowable catch for each species in each fishery into fishermen's landings rights that are negotiable and can be traded or sold."

I am talking recreational fishing - yep that mean you who thinks this is only a hobby.

There it is folks, plain and unfiltered, your days of being free to go fish are already over, - they ( Obama & Lubchenko) are working on the details right now. It's their fish - their rules their enforcement capability and they do not care if your unhappy about it.

In other words, for example, if you want to go catch some Fluke, your going to have to PAY THE GOVERNMENT for the fish. They ( Ocean Fish) are already considered government property - which has to be the worst grab I have witnessed as a Sportfisherman. They did it to Commercial guys and they are going to do it to us.

Better gas up your cars because the buses are almost filled. We need anyone remotely concerned about their freedom to fish, to stand by our side.

I have never felt so violated by my government. Who the heck are they working for?? not me....

Captn Joe Sullivan
 

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Nils,

sorry about the soapbox, but I feel like I have one under me, wait till these recreational folks find out they have to buy their fish before they leave the dock. Kinda takes the fun away from it.

I am glad to see our cause gaining momentum.

Thank you for the update, and I look forward to seeing and standing with you in Washington.

Captn Joe
 

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No need to apologize Captn Joe. There are a lot of recreational fisherman out there that are NOT getting it! Some feel that it is not their battle which it actually is, and it doesn't effect them. The other group thinks it is a hopeless cause to fight big government? Well if you are sitting on your azz doing nothing about this issue you are correct.
Please Get Off Your Azz and Join Us!

We need to be united to be heard!:thumbsup:
 
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