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Note: The following paper was submitted by Zeke Grader to the Center for Sea Changes July 26-27 Washington DC workshop, where Grader was an invited participant, on the issue of separating fishery conservation and allocation decisions. Legislation has been introduced in the Congress to carry out recommendations of the two ocean commissions, both specific to fishery management, such as HR 4706, or on broader ocean policy such as HR 4900, and a comprehensive oceans bill may soon be introduced by U.S. Senator Barbara Boxer and others. This paper is re-printed here to foster discussion within the fishing industry regarding changes and what forms they should take for the nations fisheries and oceans.
The discussion surrounding the nations failure to prevent overfishing is not unlike that now taking place on the intelligence failures that led up to the events of 9/11. For fisheries we have two reports one by the Pew Oceans Commission and the other by the U.S. Commission on Ocean Policy (USCOP) with extensive findings and recommendations. In mid-July, the National Commission on Terrorism Attacks Upon the United States (9/11 Commission) released its report detailing U.S. intelligence failures, accompanied with recommendations for improving intelligence gathering and sharing. In the case of both the oceans commissions and the 9/11 Commission there is a heavy reliance on structural fixes.
Certainly structural fixes will help us to better manage fisheries and intelligence, but in both instances the failures could have been avoided without structural changes had there been foresight and competent leadership. Certainly structural changes in themselves are no guarantee against failure in the future.
One of the key structural fixes being proposed for intelligence is to place the nations intelligence gathering services under a single person an intelligence Czar - directly answerable to the President. Creating an intelligence czar, however, does not assure there will not be future failures if there is not good, on-the-ground intelligence gathering, if the Czar is not competent, or if the President ignores the advice or manipulates the data.
Likewise, future fishery collapses will not be prevented by simply separating conservation from allocation decisions, recommended by both oceans commissions, if the fishery data that decisions are based on is poor or incomplete, if the science is censored or altered, or if political influence simply takes place at a higher level in government. Indeed, several recent instances of the National Marine Fisheries Service censoring the science do not bode well for fishery management decisions, whether or not conservation decisions are separated from allocation decisions.
This is not to say that some structural changes may not help - whether it be to improve the nations intelligence or its management of fisheries - but the causes of the problems are complex and there is no one simple solution.
The roots of this nations overfishing problem stem from far more than just avarice, i.e., those with economic interests in fisheries influencing the government management entities that determine how much fish can be caught. Nor can it be said that it is simply avarice and ignorance together, although that is certainly a deadly combination that has led to numerous fishery collapses. To better understand the problem and devise solutions, and comprehend the limitations on structural solutions, it is useful to briefly review the history of federal fishery management.
Without going into great detail, it should be remembered federal management of fisheries is relatively new, dating to the passage of the Fishery Conservation & Management Act (FCMA) in 1976. The FCMA extended the nations control over fisheries from the then 12 mile limit to 200 miles offshore -- phasing out foreign fishing as many in the domestic fisheries had been calling for -- and asserted federal control over this vast area outside states waters. Now the nation did not suddenly have an epiphany on the 200th anniversary of independence and decide to do something good for Americas oldest industry. Discussions had been ongoing at least since the late 1940s about broadening the nations claim over fisheries to include more area offshore to stop foreign fishing fleets operating along our coasts and taking our fish. In 1945, after all, President Truman declared the resources of the seabed of the U.S. continental shelf to belong to the nation, laying stake to vast offshore oil reserves.
U.S. fishing interests, mainly in New England and the North Pacific, sought to extend the nations claim to seabed resources to the fish resources above, becoming increasingly impatient with those seeking a resolution of the growing conflict, between coastal nations and distant water fleets, through an international agreement. Iceland, as well as a number of Latin American nations had already taken unilateral action, long before the U.S. acted against foreign fleets fishing off its shores.
Remember, at that time, the U.S. position on extended jurisdiction was conflicted. The State Department, Defense Department, merchant shipping and the U.S. tuna fleet all opposed extended jurisdiction. During the 1960s the U.S. heavily invested in its own foreign fisheries through loan guarantees to a new fleet of domestic super-seiners fishing tuna in the Western Pacific as well as offshore Central and South America and later the African continent. Thus, while there was increasing clamor to get rid of the Soviet and Eastern Bloc, Japanese and Spanish fleets operating off U.S. shores, the U.S. Government was picking up the fines being paid by U.S. tuna seiners seized offshore South America where nations were exerting claims of extended fishery jurisdiction.
In 1969, frustrated and with little progress on any form of international agreement, either through the United Nations or any bilateral or multilateral treaty, the first bill to establish a 200-mile fishing zone (roughly the width of the Continental Shelf) was introduced in the Congress by Representative Don Clausen (R-CA). Debate on the issue continued through early 1976 when Congress passed HR 200, the Fishery Conservation & Management Act, finally establishing a 200-mile fishery zone (Fishery Conservation Zone or FCZ). That bills passage was by no means a sure thing, and it took fishing interests convincing another California Congressman, Robert Leggett (D-CA), who then chaired the House Fisheries Subcommittee, to give Gerry Studds (D-MA) bill a hearing and let it pass out. In the Senate, Warren Magnuson (D-WA), secured passage of the legislation in that body over the objections of such colleagues as Alan Cranston (D-CA).
Although, in hindsight, it appears passage of extended fisheries jurisdiction legislation was just a matter of time, it probably didnt hurt that the tuna industry was embroiled in its own battle regarding the take of porpoise and did not muster as strong an opposition to extended jurisdiction as it might otherwise have.
The FCMA was, like most major legislation, a compromise born of its times. One of the compromises made (a kind of nod to the State Department and the internationalists in Congress) was to allow foreign fleets to continue operating in the FCZ under Governing International Fishing Agreements, or GIFAs (for obvious reasons these were not called treaties). The foreign fleets, under a GIFA, would be allowed to continue to operate until the U.S. had the capacity to fully utilize the fisheries of the FCZ. The U.S. program of building up its fleet Americanization was done primarily through existing federal loan and loan guarantee programs and the Capital Construction Fund (CCF), and began in earnest as members of Congress, the National Marine Fisheries Service and the fishing industry pushed to take advantage of what they perceived to be the large untapped fishery resources of the FCZ (along with the fish then being caught by the foreign fleets). The sooner we built up our fleet, the sooner those foreign fleets would be gone, was the sentiment.
Against this backdrop, as reported by USCOP, was the notion stemming from the Stratton Commission that world fish landings could be expanded nearly 10-fold over catch levels at the time, and much of that would occur in the U.S. FCZ - the largest fishery zone of any nation. The notion of vastly expanded fish catches was shared by most of the scientists at the time. Sure there had been the collapse of the Atlantic halibut fishery in the 19th century, there had been the collapse of the California sardine fishery in the early 1950s and the decline of that states salmon fishery (e.g., the extinction of the once-abundant San Joaquin spring-run chinook from the operation of the Central Valley Project that led to the closure of the west coasts first non-native fishery, the San Francisco Bay/Delta salmon net fishery), the Alaska salmon fishery was in decline at the time and Perus anchovy fishery collapsed earlier in the decade. Nevertheless, there was a prevailing national optimism for an expanded U.S. fishing industry a fishery renaissance. In hindsight, the exuberance of the 1970s appears irrational; nonetheless that was the optimism shared by fishermen, politicians and scientists alike.
Second the FCMA, as we know, did not simply extend jurisdiction, but established a hybrid form of federal management for this vast expanse of ocean waters, creating eight regional fishery councils with federal, state and public members, including commercial and recreational fishing interests, that vested regulatory authority in an agency just six years old and with no regulatory experience.
Third, the nation went about developing this vast new area on the cheap. The build-up of the fleet, primarily newer and larger trawlers and some longliners, was not done through direct subsidies but rather by providing government loans or loan guarantees and, in the case of the CCF, through tax deferments. This subsidization occurred at considerably less cost than the subsidies the nation provided agriculture or even industries such as timber (e.g., U.S.- financed logging roads in national forests), but succeeded in a short time in building a fleet capable of harvesting all the fish of the FCZ and more. The foreign fleets were gone by the mid-1980s.
Some federal funds were also provided to help market the increased catch of the domestic fishery by diverting a portion of the Saltonstall-Kennedy Act fishery development monies, derived from fish imports, and paying for fish promotion campaigns and the operations of regional fishery development councils. By the 1990s S-K funds for fish promotion were gone, as NMFS began using them to pick up existing agency programs and fund aquaculture research and development projects.
The real problem with the national frugality toward its fisheries, however, was the failure of Congress, and every administration from Gerald Ford to George W. Bush, to make available funds adequate to conduct the research and stock assessments to provide the necessary data to determine the status of the fish populations of the FCZ (renamed by President Reagan as the Exclusive Economic Zone or EEZ). This most basic of information was needed to determine what level of catch these stocks could sustain. Had the stock assessments occurred prior to the fleet buildup, fleet capacity could have been sized to the resource. Instead, the fleet build-up occurred before knowing, or in disregard of, what the stocks could sustain.
Having a fleet with a catch capacity far exceeding what the stocks could sustain created the pressure on regional councils and NMFS to allow more fishing than should have occurred. As the nation had done with irrigated agriculture in the west, the government promised more than it could deliver, leaving those who built on these promises wanting and clamoring for a resource that wasnt there.
Making matters worse, there were no funds in many instances for the routine stock assessments on which to base seasonal or annual catch limits. Thus there was a fleet too large for the stocks, desperate to pay off vessel mortgages, including the loans made or guaranteed by the government, exacerbated often by fishery managers lacking current stock information, or any data they could have confidence in, to set catch limits. The boccacio collapse might have been avoided had there been an annual stock assessment of the full range of the fish, instead of tri-annual stock assessments covering only a portion of the resources range.
Understanding this history is useful in looking for solutions now since, as should be evident, the problem was not simply the result of the avarice of some individuals in the fishing industry sitting on regional councils, but a collective national failure. The descent of U.S. fisheries, from renaissance to ruin, is not simply the result of avarice, but of exuberance, inexperience (at the council and NMFS levels) and willful ignorance.
The eight regional fishery management councils have received the brunt of the blame for the collapse and/or overfishing of the nations fisheries. The Pew Commission was particularly harsh, although it was hardly original to the Commission, in questioning the placing of publicly-owned national resources under the very control of those who were to benefit from them. There is no doubt the regional fishery council system has been abused by some council members for their own financial benefit, or the benefit of those they represent, at the expense of either the fish or other fishing interests, or both. On the other hand, the regional councils may, to paraphrase Churchill, be a very bad form of resources management, but far better than any of the alternatives.
As bad as the regional councils may appear, they are far superior to the way the nation manages most of its other publicly-held resources, from water, oil and gas, minerals, national forests and grazing lands. In these latter instances there is nowhere near the openness nor transparency that exists at the regional fishery councils. Consider, for example, the fixed bidding that has occurred for timber in national forests, or the sweetheart leases given to cattlemen grazing on public lands. The regional councils do, at least, provide a mostly public process in their decision making, and fishery decisions -- whether they be on catch levels or allocation -- are transparent until they reach the NMFS or Secretarial level.
They also provide a forum for public comment, but most important provide a mechanism for those who spend their lives on the water -- the fishermen -- to share their knowledge, experience and observations with the scientists and those making management decisions. This type of interaction between those on the water with scientists and managers can only act to improve our understanding and management of the resources. Though often times messy, it is far preferable to having managers or scientists making decisions in isolation.
This is not to say the councils do not need improving. The 1986 amendments in the FCMA reauthorization of that year required council members to be knowledgeable or have experience in the commercial or recreational fisheries they were managing, and the amendments required, too, a balance of interests, at least between commercial and recreational interests on the councils. The 1986 amendments were neither intended, nor did they in fact, preclude other public membership. The 1986 amendments were aimed at the dabbling dilettantes, those political appointees with little knowledge of fisheries that had been appointed during the previous decade, as well as the lack of a balance of interests on some of the regional councils at that time.
The 1986 amendments were intended to give fishermen a voice on the councils, to be able to ask the questions, offer the experience, that is not always afforded those on the other side of the table constrained by comment time limits and relegated to a long list of public speakers where little differentiation is made between those with extensive experience in the fisheries and those with none. The 1986 amendments were never intended to make the public seats on the regional councils the exclusive domain of commercial and recreational fishing interests for the purpose of divvying up the catch.
It is important to remember that at the time of the 1986 amendments there were no marine conservation groups active or in existence that are around today (it was the National Wildlife Federation that worked with the Pacific Coast Federation of Fishermens Associations on much of the 1986 language, later championed by California Representatives Doug Bosco and Leon Panetta). Nor was there much interest on the part of the general public. Subsequent amendments, through the Sustainable Fishery Act provisions of 1996, have also tightened up the conflict-of-interest provisions, although they can and should be strengthened further. The problem with strengthening amendments to the Magnuson-Stevens Act regarding council membership, however, has been the failure of NMFS or the Secretary to adhere to the law. In a number of instances Commerce has simply the flaunted the language in the Magnuson-Stevens Act, such as what occurred with the 2003 round of appointments to the Pacific Council.
Indeed, much of the blame for regional council failures can be placed squarely on NMFS and Commerce. The agency is the de facto appointing entity for public members to the regional councils. It provides the council budgets, it provides legal counsel (the councils are allowed but have never had independent legal counsel), and it provides much of the science for the councils. NMFS has a member on each of the councils and can overrule council decisions. NMFS seldom overrules councils, however, nor does it have to since it has considerable influence over the council decision making process. In those instances where regional councils acted to allow overfishing of stocks, NMFS could have overruled the councils and either sent the plans or amendments back or developed their own, but chose not to.
It is disingenuous therefore for NMFS (or some of its former employees) to blame regional councils for allowing overfishing when NMFS, through the Secretary, could have prevented it (assuming, of course, there was data sufficient to indicate overfishing would, or was, occurring). Indeed, NMFS has had no problem overruling a council when the ox of one of the Secretarys cronies was gored. Consider, for example, NMFS overruling of the Pacific Council in the early 1990s following a Pacific whiting allocation decision. Factory trawl interests with close ties to the Secretary and his former law firm were able to get the Secretary to overrule the council and allocate more of the resource to the factory trawlers. NMFS has played a Pontius Pilate role through Republican and Democratic administrations alike and it shares as much responsibility as the Congress and the administrations, past and present, for our nations fishery failures.
Institutionally, the regional councils and their management can be improved upon, but it should not be forgotten they provide an invaluable mechanism allowing public participation in the fishery management process, greater transparency than most other government decision-making and a forum for fishermen and scientists to share information. Council reform ultimately depends on the willingness and political will of NMFS to implement it and cannot occur if the agency refuses to follow the law, using the regional councils as a foil for agency failure.
A recurring hypothesis put forward by Dr. Andy Rosenberg, which has attracted numerous adherents and has been incorporated in the recommendations of both ocean commissions hardly surprising since he was a member of the U.S. Commission and testified extensively before the Pew Commission is that overfishing has occurred because the regional councils are deciding both total allowable catch levels and then allocating that catch among the various fishery interests. His solution is to separate the conservation, i.e., decisions on total allowable catch, from decisions on the allocation of that catch. Some group of scientists would make the decision on what could be taken no conflict there, theyre scientists and they know best and then the messy decision about who gets what would be left up to the regional councils and those sordid, conflicted bodies that include smelly fishermen.
The problem is this theory does not conform readily to the facts. Some of the regional councils did allow overfishing, even when they had clear evidence before them that catch levels they were setting would result in overfishing or, later, risked or delayed stock rebuilding. In other instances, the councils were faced with uncertain data and selected the most rosy of forecasts that ultimately resulted in overfishing or thwarting stock rebuilding. However, there have also been instances where councils adopted fishery management plans (FMPs), or amendments thereto, consistent with sustainable fishing. For instance, according to USCOPs report, the North Pacific Council, with the largest and most valuable of the nations fisheries, has not permitted overfishing of stocks under its jurisdiction -- true, that council had internal mechanisms in place separating the decision making process, but it was still making both decisions.
The Pacific Council, which for years had only three management plans -- anchovy, salmon, and groundfish -- did not allow overfishing of anchovy (now part of its coastal pelagics plan with sardine and squid) or salmon. In fact, for salmon, it adopted early on a weak stock management plan, basing regulations on the health of the weakest runs. The Pacific Council hardly deserves kudos for its salmon management, however, since it seemed the state fishery managers on that body were more inclined to protect the interests of hydropower, timber and irrigated agriculture than look out for salmon fishermen. Thus the Pacific salmon fishery nearly collapsed (many salmon runs are listed to this day under the Endangered Species Act, left lingering by NMFS with no recovery plans in sight) due to in-river losses attributable to over-drafting of streams, over-cutting and over-grazing of watersheds, and over-development of rivers. The Pacific Councils silence regarding what was happening in-river to salmon habitat was deafening, and while it did not allow overfishing per se, its silence nearly destroyed the ocean fishery. Its failure to speak out early on behalf of the fish was unforgivable.
At the same time the Pacific Council was adopting weak stock management for salmon, it adopted a management scheme for groundfish based mainly on the health of the most prevalent and abundant stocks. This scenario may have been hatched in December 1976 when a prominent fishery scientist and head of the Councils Scientific & Statistical Committee (SSC) suggested that in fisheries involving a stock complex it would be necessary to set catch limits, for the purpose of achieving optimum yield based on the most abundant species, while overfishing others.
Thus blaming the overfishing that later occurred on the fact of regional councils having responsibility for both recommending catch limits (conservation) and then dividing that catch up among the participants (allocation) seems a little simplistic, if not engaging in outright historical revisionism. After all, many of the scientists at the time optimistically forecasted large increases in catches from untapped resources of the FCZ, confident enough not to call for additional research or assessments to verify such projections, and then said it was okay to overfish some stocks in order to optimize the catch of others. Who were the councils to believe?
This is all not to say that separating decisions on conservation from allocation may not be justified, but to blame every past failure on this dual decision making by the councils is a little far fetched in light of all the facts. Indeed, an equally plausible hypothesis can be posited that fishery management decisions by councils worsen in direct proportion to the number of U.S. Senators from a region.
The two biggest problems inherent with separating conservation decisions from allocation are: 1) determining who the scientific body will be that is capable of making such decisions and, as important, demonstrating their competence in making such decisions; and 2) ensuring there is a sharing of information between scientists and fishermen, i.e., that the scientists are not isolated from fishermen and the knowledge and observations they possess, but insulated rather from political pressures to compromise their findings.
The situation here is not unlike the concern raised regarding the recommendation of the 9/11 Commission to create a single head of the nations intelligence services directly under the President (the Intelligence Czar), and the potential loss of competition between the intelligence gathering services. Competition among the agencies can help to maintain their edge, prevent them from becoming complacent and, perhaps, better assure all the data will come forward with less chance of it being manipulated. Thus care must be taken here that there not be the group think or failure of imagination that plagued U.S. intelligence gathering, among those charged with gathering fishery information and making decisions based on that information in establishing catch levels.
HR 4706, the Fisheries Management Reform Act of 2004, introduced in late June by Congressman Rahall and others, appears to be a reasonably tailored response to some of the fishery recommendations made in the Pew and U.S. Ocean Commissions reports. The Rahall bill attempts to separate the conservation and allocation decision making in a reasonable manner in the spirit of the Commissions reports while still allowing the interaction between scientists and fishermen. Moreover, it addresses some of the most serious conflict-of-interest problems without either eliminating the regional council system or the participation of fishermen on those councils. It also provides explicit language aimed at broader public participation on the councils.
The solutions provided for in the Rahall bill are consistent with those of the two oceans commissions and should provide for improved fishery management, assuming the bill is implemented if passed. The problem is the legislation may not go far enough, if indeed statutory language can be brought to bear on some very real and vexing problems facing U.S. fisheries management.
The Rahall bill provides a mechanism for separating conservation and allocation at the regional council level. The councils, however, are only advisory. The ultimate decisions on how many fish will be caught and who will get to catch them rests with NMFS and the Secretary. NMFS names the scientists, it names the lawyers, it provides the funds, and that means it can have, as already noted, considerable influence over the councils, or more insidiously over council staff, including the same independent science panels charged with making decisions on how much can be caught. Interference by the current federal administration with science, or at least the science it doesnt like, has been staggering, and earlier this year elicited a written protest by the Union of Concerned Scientists. NMFS has not been immune from this interference. As examples, it has continually sat on or refused to issue biological opinions for the protection of ESA-listed fish stocks and attempted to censor one of its scientists (who subsequently was forced to seek refuge in the whistle-blower law) who wrote a report critical of the actions of another federal agency that resulted in a massive Klamath River fish kill. In another instance, NMFS ignored the recommendations of its own independent scientific review team when it moved to reclassify hatchery fish as equivalent to wild fish for ESA listing purposes, forcing them to publish their criticisms independently and ultimately forcing most of them off the review team.
So much attention has been focused on influence at the very lowest rungs of the decision making process, at the regional councils, yet no one is examining the corrosive influence of politically motivated interference with the science at the top.
The same can be said for the conflict-of-interest provisions in the Rahall bill. Yes, they are an improvement over current law, addressing potential conflicts-of-interest public members of the councils may have. The bill does not, however, address the conflict-of-interest that has occurred on some fish councils involving state fishery directors. Moreover, it does not address a significant conflict-of-interest currently within the fishery agency itself.
Since the eight regional councils began developing fishery management recommendations in 1977, there are undoubtedly instances where an individual council member, or members, voted their pecuniary interest (or that of those they represent) to the detriment of fish stocks. There are many more instances where individuals voted (including votes on the North Pacific and Western Pacific councils) for their fishery, or that of those they represented, larger allocations than they would have otherwise been awarded -- to the detriment of other fishery interests. That problem has to be addressed. The Rahall bill does so.
For state fishery managers, there is no similar scrutiny for conflict-of-interest, however. State fishery agency representatives on the Pacific Council frequently sided with hydropower, agriculture, and timber interests close to their state administrations to the detriment of fish stocks. On the Gulf Council, no one should look for a state fishery representative from either Louisiana or Texas siding with fishermen against the oil industry, even where that industry may be destroying vast amounts of coastal wetland habitat. As more emphasis is placed on the protection of fish habitat and as fisheries move toward ecosystem management, the conflicts of some state fishery directors, and the administrations they represent, has to be addressed.
We cannot ask for one set of standards for public members and then allow a lower standard for public officials. After all, when a state fishery director votes the position of a state administration adverse to fish conservation, is that state director not also voting his or her pecuniary interest? What is the difference between a fishermans vote to get more quota for himself and a state fishery director angling to keep their job or get a promotion through their vote. When a conflict arises, is it only fishermen whom we demand recuse themselves?
An even larger threat to fish conservation from conflicts-of-interest exists in at least two instances under the current federal administration. In one instance, the NMFS Northwest Regional Director is a former Bonneville Power Authority (BPA) official. Currently there exists a significant conflict between BPA, the major hydropower dam operator on the Columbia River, and the protection and recovery of that river systems salmon stocks. The BPA is proposing to eliminate summer spills from the dams needed for salmon migration. The summer spill program was one of the compromises arrived at by the federal administration to protect the fish in lieu of removing the four lower Snake River dams. Now BPA wants to get out from under that fish protection and NMFS Northwest, not surprisingly, has given BPA its blessing. PCFFA had to go to court to overturn this decision, which was recently ruled arbitrary and capricious.
The second instance involves the administration hiring a former timber industry lawyer-lobbyist to act as the NOAA attorney representing the agency on salmon habitat issues. This was the same attorney who helped devise the plan, championed by the Pacific Legal Foundation, to count hatchery salmon for the purpose of removing threatened or endangered salmon stocks from under the protection of the Endangered Species Act. NMFS put up virtually no defense to the challenge brought by developers to remove federal protection for ESA-listed salmon stocks, and now has bought into Pacific Legal Foundations hatchery fish ESA inclusion policy, with potentially disastrous results for wild salmon. Where is the outrage among the marine conservation groups, the outrage from the ocean commissions, over such a blatant and egregious conflict of interest here?
The Pew and U.S. Oceans Commission both conducted a thorough review of the nations ocean policy and management of its ocean resources, including fisheries. Some of the fishery recommendations are now included in Mr. Rahalls bill, HR 4706. Like the 9/11 Commission report, also the product of extensive research, discussion and thought, the oceans commissions recommendations focus on structural changes within government. All of these reports were successful in the sense they maintained collegiality and a bi-partisan spirit helping to improve the chances their recommendations will be implemented. Maintaining collegiality and bi-partisanship, however, means that some things do not get said or otherwise lack the emphasis they truly demand.
In addition to a good decision making process, well-managed fisheries likewise demand solid research and timely stock assessments. That requires money. To put our fisheries on a solid base means not just improving the decision making, but having good data upon which to base those decisions. That, ultimately, will require the establishment of a trust fund for fisheries, much the same as was established for construction of our highways. The need for a trust fund will be particularly critical in the coming years as Congress slashes federal programs to bring the spiraling deficit of the past few years under control. Legislation to create such a trust fund should be considered next and should be the emphasis of those working for implementation of the ocean commission reports. Just as with the nations intelligence capabilities, paltry budgets, as well as failed leadership, have contributed to fishery failures. Well-funded data gathering capabilities are an essential component for good intelligence and good fishery management.
Efforts on the part of the oceans commissioners, the marine conservation groups, scientists, and commercial and recreational fishing associations to move toward implementing the commission recommendations are laudable. We should, we need to, work to improve the management of our fisheries; for commercial fishermen and those who financially depend on commercial and recreational fishing it is of critical economic importance that fish stocks be conserved and fisheries well-managed. But there should be no illusions. The commission reports only went so far. The fact is, all of the commission reports can be adopted into law, but it wont save the oceans and wont save the fisheries unless there is the leadership, the political will in place from the highest levels of government to the local sewage district. Structural fixes are not a substitute for failed leadership.
Given the interference of the present administration with science, the censoring of scientists, the hiring of individuals hostile to fish protection or the maintenance of fisheries and who flaunt the law, there is little to be hopeful of. Given the attitudes of many in Congress, insisting, for example, on peer-reviewing the science that goes into ESA listings, decrying junk science while promoting the teaching of creationism in our schools, or the anti-tax rhetoric that is rampant while federal programs, including essential fish research, go wanting, is disheartening. That is why it is important to move forward with what was said, and not said, in the ocean commission reports.
William F. Zeke Grader, Jr., is the Executive Director of the Pacific Coast Federation of Fishermens Associations (PCFFA), the west coasts largest organization of commercial fishermen and fishing families. PCFFA can be reached at Southwest Regional Office: PO Box 29370, San Francisco, CA 94129-0370 USA, (415)561-5080; Northwest Regional Office: PO Box 11170, Eugene, OR 97440-3370, (541)689-2000. PCFFAs email address is: firstname.lastname@example.org and its web site is at: www.pcffa.org.
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