Thursday, February 25, 2010

A fishermen's Tea Party

Yesterday a crowd of mostly East Coast commercial, charter and sport fishermen marched on Washington, D.C., to voice their general discontent.

Here's an AP story on the event, which didn't seem to garner a great deal of media attention. That's not surprising, given the many rallies the capital sees.

You know, I wonder if anybody ever marches on Washington who's actually happy about something.

Anyway, the fishermen's march did hook the attention of Eric Schwaab, our new National Marine Fisheries Service chief, who issued the following:

February 24, 2010

Statement by Eric Schwaab, NOAA Assistant Administrator for Fisheries, on Today's "United We Fish" Rally at Capitol Hill

I am here today to listen to those who have come to rally Congress. I know the key to any successful fishery management program is active involvement by commercial and recreational fishermen as well as 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 percent 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.

In 2006, Congress reauthorized and strengthened the Magnuson-Stevens Act to meet that important goal. This reauthorization was groundbreaking in many respects, including the requirement that we use science-based annual catch limits to end overfishing on all stocks. Ending overfishing is the first step to allowing a fish stock population to rebuild to a level where the stock 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 to end overfishing and rebuild marine fish stocks as required by Magnuson. 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. Recognizing the sacrifices being made to transition to more sustainable fishing, NOAA and Congress has made a commitment of $18.6 million to assist in the transition to sectors in the Northeast groundfish industry.

Rebuilding stocks has already led to important successes and significant economic benefits for fishermen, coastal communities and the nation. Some examples are the sea scallop, monkfish, bluefish and Gulf of Mexico king mackerel fisheries. The dockside value revenues in the sea scallop industry have increased from $84.7 million in 1994 when the stock was overfished to $370 million in 2008. The healthy bluefish stocks on the Atlantic coast provide consistent, reliable fishing opportunities for shore and party and charter boat anglers and the related economic benefits of sportfishing to a wide variety of shore businesses.

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 $4.1 billion to $6.3 billion annually, a 54 percent increase. Rebuilding recreational fisheries will help improve the economies of our nation's coastal communities; saltwater angling generated $82 billion in sales and supported more than 500,000 jobs annually in NOAA's most recent report.

I understand the criticism of the 10-year rebuilding timeframes in Magnuson. However, I believe Magnuson already contains the flexibility we need for rebuilding stocks by allowing certain exceptions based on biology and other issues. Balancing rebuilding for the long-term health of coastal communities with the immediate economic effects remains a challenge for everyone involved in implementing the act's mandate to end overfishing and rebuild stocks.

Although I've only been in my job as head of NOAA's Fisheries Service for a little more than a week, I am familiar with fishing communities, their proud traditions, and the challenges we face in keeping them vibrant for future generations. I am interested in hearing the concerns of everyone involved, and I look forward to a cooperative and productive relationship.


Anonymous said...

Uhh, let's see, the common refrain at the NPFMC and IPHC is that recreational salt water anglers are a nuissance, pests, locusts out to destroy the immense economic values generated by commercial fisheries.

USA - commercial fishing ex-vessel values at $6.3 billion, while USA recreational salt water anglers generated $82 billion in sales.

About right, a less than one to ten value in economic output when contrasting commercial and recreational fishing sectors, while the amounts used in pounds would be reversed - more than 10 times poundage harvested in commercial fisheries to that of sport fisheries.

Can we get a case study of the various economic contributions through commercial and recreational uses of this resource in the Halibut fishery?

Or can we just be content to stay in stasis with a jury rigged GHL standard not based on comprehensive economic analysis?

Let's see, another way to put this in perspective is to say that the 50% increase in the USA commercial ex-vessel values is equivalent to the margin of error in estimates of the USA recreational salt water angler sales.

Anonymous said...

Probably not worth getting into this with you, but might as well put in my two cents. Interesting that he compared ex-vessel to actual sales numbers for commercial vs. recreational. I’ve seen this a lot and think it a bit disingenuous. The more comparable numbers may be perhaps the $70 billion spent by Americans on fish products and the $20.1 billion received by US companies from exports. This doesn't even include all the support industries which is really the only thing counted for the recreational number, because it doesn’t actually produce anything tangible for comparison.

How much of the $82 billion in sales for the recreational numbers were sent back to where the gear was made? Mostly imports? I admit I don’t know. What was the actual economic revenue that remained in the US? 500,000 jobs is a big number but includes everything from fishing guides to hotel clerks. In total in 2008 in the US there were only 35,600 fishers and fishing vessel operators. This doesn’t seem very large in comparison, but then add the number of fish processors, shippers, salesmen, restaurant workers, ship builders, dry dock workers, fuel dock operators, gear manufacturers, etc… and the number swells considerably, I doubt anyone has a really good estimate, at least I’ve not seen one. Wesley there’s a good project for you.

I still feel this country can only be strong if it continues to produce tangible items and is in control of its own food supply. Commercial fishing remains one of the few industries in this nation that actually makes something you can hold in your hands, touch, taste, smell.... Basing a nation’s future entirely on information technology and service industries seems to be a bit short-sided, but appears to be where we are headed.

Recreation is important and there should be room at the table for everyone, but at the end of the day what are you going to eat off that table and where does it come from?

Anonymous said...

Thank you for saying that. Ex vessel is not the only value in commercial fisheries. They support the community around them