Fishermen could use a little extra under the tree – Steve Urbon

I have never seen former New Bedford Mayor John Bullard look so downcast as he did last Thursday at the special meeting of the New England Fisheries Management council in Wakefield. Bullard, who now heads NOAA fisheries in the Northeast, was trying to break the news gently that what the council is about to do with quota allocations wasn’t going to be easy. Someone in the room full of 150 people, mostly fishermen and their families, had asked him to “do the right thing” when it comes to issuing allocations. “Doing the right thing is going to be very, very hard,” Bullard said repeatedly speaking slowly in a low voice. He didn’t get specific, but everyone in the room knew what he meant: This wasn’t going to be pretty. Peter Shelley, senior attorney for the Conservation Law Foundation, made it clear what he and other environmentalist groups were expecting from the council: “You all swore an oath to uphold the Magnuson-Stevens Act,” he reminded them darkly before sitting back down to a chorus of boos and hisses. Shelley apparently didn’t have it in him to acknowledge what the fishermen were telling the council: After following the council’s draconian rules for years in order to rebuild the fishery, they were being repaid by being forced out of business.

Year after year, fishermen are asked to follow rules that boggle the mind and empty the treasury. Any reporter covering fisheries management will tell you it is one of the most impenetrable briar patches of science, politics and bureaucracy that can be imagined. Read More