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Regulators Slash New England Fishing, Jobs

Fisherman in New England are reeling from yesterday’s decision by the federal bureaucracy. Consumers will be reeling, too.

The New England Fisheries Management Council (NEFMC) is slashing catch limits drastically. The interagency group claims this will save the fish for the future, others say the new limits don’t help anybody.

Here’s the leading edge of the impact:

Chris Chadwick, who fishes off Gloucester and Marblehead, Mass., said reducing the cod quotas hurts his family. “All  I’m trying to do is support my family. Reducing the quotas reduces my  child’s ability to go to college,” said Chadwick, who said his family  has been fishing since 1860. “What job out there today is going to  support my family?”

There are a “slew of reductions” to fishing. The most drastic are a 77 percent slashing of Gulf of Maine cod and a 61 percent slam to Georges Bank cod. In total, officials say the rules will knife one-third of the value of the groundfish take, but David Goethel, a dissenting council member, thinks they are dreaming. He thinks it will be much worse.

These cuts to people’s livelihood come from legislation called the Magnuson-Stevens Act. The law was first enacted in 1976 and then amended in 1996 and 2006. Let’s have a big round of applause for Jerry Ford, Bill Clinton, and George Bush.

Here’s a small sample of the burdensome NEFMC rules and legalese that fishermen like Goethel have been facing for decades:

The Northeast Multispecies FMP [Fisheries Management Plan] was implemented in 1986 to reduce fishing mortality of heavily fished groundfish stocks and to promote rebuilding to sustainable biomass levels. The groundfish complex has been managed by seasonal and year-round area closures (no fishing in certain areas), gear restrictions (specified mesh size, number of nets/hooks, etc.), minimum fish size limits, trip limits (limiting fishermen to a certain poundage of fish per trip), limited access (limiting the number of participants in the fishery) and restrictions on the number of days a vessel is allowed to fish for groundfish each year (days-at-sea).

Tell me this isn’t crazy — and fishing couldn’t be much better managed (for the sake of the economy and the environment) in private hands rather rather than run by the bureaucracy.

In addition to the devastation of the job losses over the next three years (starting May 1st), there are a number of other implications:

1) The healthy protein and fats from fish will be more expensive — adding insult to injury for all the families connected to fishing in the region as well as consumers across the country. Leave it to government to drive up prices for food.

2) Is this really necessary? And why such draconian cuts so suddenly? Of course, no one wants to overfish in a way that ruins the future. But, in fact, the science behind this decision may well be bogus:

Fishermen have consistently disputed the accuracy of the fish science driving  the cuts, which indicates that stocks are in bad shape. Maine fisherman Jim Odlin, a former council member, pointed to an analysis that shows for about  the last decade, the industry has generally fished at or below levels recommended by science.

An added slap in the face is that the questionable limits on cod eliminate fishing for more abundant groundfish. Cod swim among the more plentiful haddock and pollock. If you can’t fish for cod, you can’t fish for their cohorts.

3) One local Congresswoman (Chellie Pingree, D-ME-1) is outraged — not at a failed bureaucracy that is in the process of destroying the fishing business in the Northeast  — but at a Congress not yet willing to dole out more money in transfer payments:

“There is no question that these catch limits are going to be  devastating to fishermen in Maine. This is why a fisheries disaster was  declared last year and it just makes it even more outrageous that  Congress has refused to approve disaster funding for the fishermen who  are being hit hard by these cuts.”

Great, the bureaucracy creates a problem and then soaks taxpayers to help the victims they’ve created.  That’s the phony compassion of the perpetrator who  hides his crime by paying off the victims with their own (and their friends’) cash.

And perhaps many in the fishing industry won’t be able to resist the lure of working for the bureacracy:

Some fishermen said Wednesday that they won’t fish under the new limits because it would be unprofitable. Robert Dunne of Gloucester said he will look for a new job and try to learn new skills.

“I want a state job. A government job,” he said. “We have to adapt.”

And, We the People, have to pay? No, Mr. Dunne, we have to get the government technocrats off people’s backs — for the dignity and availability of a man’s or a woman’s hard work, for the sake of the economy, and for the sake of — frankly — good fish at good prices.

Not incidentally, the two states most heavily affected, Maine and Massachusetts, were big Obama supporters. The states outpolled the national average in running to Obama’s side by an added 5% and 10%, respectively.

The direct link between a vote for Mr. Obama and this fishing decision is this.  Both provide the same twisted view of civil government. Regulators should have control and know best, right? Where’s Obama now, New England? Any buyer’s remorse?

And fishermen, be very afraid of those regulators. In fact, let’s rename Cape Cod to Cape Fear.  You know, truth in labeling and all that.