Friday, August 27, 2010

New Bedford Fishing Industry Targets Obama on Martha’s Vineyard – End “Catch-Share” Regulations

Port of New Bedford, Fishing Main Industry of the MA 4th Congressional District - hindered by regulations image working

New Bedford Massachusetts is known for its Fishing Fleet, one of the nation’s largest fleets, and the largest employers in the 4th Congressional District. NECN (New England Cable News)reported that several New Bedford based fishing boats headed out to Martha’s Vineyard, where the President is vacationing to protest the “Catch-Share” Rules put into effect in May 2010 by NOAA’s “Office of Sustainable Fisheries” .

Catch-Shares limit the number of fish by species to be taken in any given season, and was instituted in Congress in 2006 under the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation Management Authorization Act of 2006 by the 109th Congress, Barney Frank, the 4th Congressional District Representative, representing the City of New Bedford, argued that local fisheries have a “stake in the shares”. However the Bill, originally instituted in the house and sponsored by retiring 10th District Congressmen Bill Delahunt (D), was based on science, some argue, that is not specifically sound.

The initial legislation was pushed by environmentalist concerned about the population of the oceans fish, and “shares” were designed to be sold, by the government to businesses, allowing for a type of “currency” which could be sold, the “share” is essentially the number of fish one can legally catch by species as enacted by Congress. In other words, the government also regulates the fishing industry.

The question is who is standing up for the small business owners, those fleets that sail out of New Bedford and Gloucester in Massachusetts to the Crabbers of Alaska? Ironically, the same individuals who implemented the bill in the first placed are now asking to relax the rules in order to allow for a little relief. Senator’s John Kerry (D) and newly elected Senator Scott Brown (R) were joined by several Congressional Representatives, including Delahunt, Frank, Tierney and McGovern in the request to add flexibility to the rules n several areas (Gloucester Times. Perhaps they should have thought about possible changes in scientific data and allowed for flexibility when writing the original legislation. (Brown excluded)

Brown, in the same Gloucester Times article states the areas high unemployment as reason for relaxing the rules. Once a “fleet” has met its catch limit, they are essentially “grounded” for the remainder of the season, to allow for the fish to repopulate.

How important is the fishing industry to the United States? The Top 10 U.S. Seaports, by Tonnage (most recent date 2006 are by order of most fish caught:

1. Dutch Harbor-Unalaska, AK: 911.3
2. Intracoastal City, LA: 400.7
3. Reedville, VA: 372.5
4. Kodiak, AK: 332.8
5. Empire-Venice, LA: 285.7
6. Pascagoula-Moss Point, MS: 212.1
7. New Bedford, MA: 169.9
8. Los Angeles, CA: 164.5
9. Astoria, OR: 164.1
10. Gloucester, MA: 148.4

By Value the top port is New Bedford, MA
, making the industry critical to the 4th district and the Commonwealth of Massachusetts.

Massachusetts ranks 3rd worldwide, behind first place China, and second place Japan.

Although highly unlikely that Obama will hear the pleas of the Captains of the Fishing Industry while out on Golf Course, it is also highly unlikely he would or could do anything about the plight of the fishing industry as those purse strings are controlled by members of the House and Senate(i.e. Congress) This coupled with the fact that Obama’s preference is to appoint academic experts to look at a given situation for months prior to coming to any conclusion, if there is one, would make that request futile (the Gulf Oil Spill comes to mind).

Congress and the Senate combined with the help of Obama since 2008 have regulated and added more formerly self-directed businesses to government control than any in history. From health care, to student loans (government interest rates on student loans are at 10% plus - where the banks were at prime and no longer allowed to issue student loans), to the auto industry, to mortgages and that list includes the now suffering fishing industry. (As nothing has been done to repeal or de-regulate any aspect of this industry under the 109th or the 110th congress.)

What are the fishermen and fleets out of New England, Alaska, Louisiana and other top ports to do? Vote for those who would be most likely to deregulate and hope the 111th Congress will reverse the most egregious of ACTS passed into law which have done nothing more than add to the nations economic woes.

The port of Gloucester was brought to national attention by the film “Perfect Storm” in 2000, a film which highlights the intense dangers of the fishing industry.

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