We Need Comprehensive Fisheries Legislation – The Fish Bill

I come from a long line of fishermen spanning three generations and although I am retired, I remain committed to the fishing industry, and will continue to do so, which is the reason I stay involved in politics .

Back in the late 1970s I was appointed as chairman of The North Atlantic Task Force by than Governor Mike Dukakis .We brought the Canadians to Court for unfair exports of fresh fish  into the USA ,we won the case.

Back in the early 1960s before the 200 mile limit, I fished alongside Russian factory ships who raped our fisheries using small mesh nets.

In 1977 we got relief when Senators Warren Magnuson and Gerry Studds penned the nations first fisheries management plan and ushered in the 200 mile limit. The Magnuson Act was the worlds first fisheries management plan that used biological targets to manage the fisheries. However, the 200- limit was a mixed blessing as NOAA under wrote low interest loans and encouraged a massive boat building campaign while we kept the foreign boats out of our waters. We undermined those efforts by building up our fleet.

Things went well for a while, but by the late 1980s the economic landscape began to change. Fish began to dwindle ,fishermen sold out, shore side businesses struggled or went out of business.

NOAA tried to undo the damage with a boat buyback program but who is right and who is wrong? The fishermen or NOAA?!

By NOAA own admission ,nearly all of our fish stocks are in trouble despite decades of restrictions and sacrifices by our fishermen. Last year the day boat fleet that catch fish in the Gulf of Maine took a huge hit with drastic cuts.

This year, similar draconian cuts are going to gut our offshore fleet who fish on Georges Bank. NOAA just announced a 67% cut on Georges Bank. Fishermen simply will not be able to survive.

As sophisticated and well – funded the fisheries management process has been over 35 years, it has sadly failed.

As a result, 2016 will go down in history as the year that Gloucester 400-year legacy went down the tubes.

The cod fish that proudly hangs at the state house as a symbol of prosperity, can now take its place alongside the bull whip and horse and buggy at the Smithsonian.


The solution is federal fisheries legislation. Farmers have a farm bill. Fishermen need a Fish Bill.  What is  fair is fair.

The drastic cuts that our fishermen have incurred over the last two years are driving even the hardiest fishermen out of business.

Without fish, fish houses can not survive. We all know Economics 101 and domino effect of lost revenue. Waterfront properties will become liabilities instead of assets and our tax base will evaporate. Are we going to sit back and watch what we know will happen and then react? The crystal ball is right in front of us. NOAA has shown us our future.


So what are we going to do about it? Are we going to be proactive and do something before the bleeding starts?

I propose a New England delegation be formed to craft legislation that will address both short and long term problems.

Short -term financial fixes that were administered by the state last year are appreciated, but as one fishermen said, the $32,500 helped, but he needs that 4 times a year or he will not survive. He can not make money if He can not fish. However , with most fisheries struggling, it is safe to say that money spent on developing fisheries that fishermen can not catch is a useless proposition.

Today ,the SK program has come to resemble white -collar welfare for universities. I know this first hand. Last year I sat on a panel in Saint Petersburg, Florida that reviewed SK proposals. While it is true that some grants yield dividends, most are giveaways. It is time to stop wasting these precious resources and use the money for a stability and recovery program. Revenue generated from import tariffs on seafood should be used to fund a Federal Fisheries Bill.

The bottom line is that we have an existing funding mechanism without having to create new taxes.

In summary, the fisheries as we know them are gone and everyone in this room will be long gone before they come back. We need a multi-year program to address a multi -year problem. We have funding in place. Are we going to stick our heads in the sand?  The choice is ours.

As Americans, are we going to pretend nothing is wrong ? Or are we going to grab the helm like a gutsy sailor and steer a course for a safe harbor? As Americas oldest fishing port, Gloucester should lead the way. The future is ours to design. Lets design The Fish Bill.

Sam Parisi, proud to have been a Fisherman.