by Michael dEstries
Categories: Causes, People.

fishing.jpgIn a day and age where sushi restaurants are expected to be an endangered species by 2048, several New England fisherman have expressed distaste at celebrities working against their efforts to ‘bend’ some fishing restrictions on the commercial seafood industry.

In an attempt to add exceptions to the Magnuson-Stevens Act’s requirement that over-fished stocks be rebuilt within 10 years, the three congressmen behind the bill (Reps. Barney Frank, D-Mass, Richard Pombo, R-Calif, and Don Young, R-Alaska) were met with stiff resistance from groups such as Oceana and the National Resource Defense Council. From the article,

Both environmental organizations argued on their Web sites that the Pombo-Frank bill would have weakened efforts to rebuild over-fished stocks. And in 2004, both organizations filed complaints against the federal government, citing concerns about bycatch as well as inadequate protection of certain types of fish. The Natural Resources Defense Council asserted that current regulations didn’t do enough to protect against the over-fishing of some North Atlantic species, while Oceana raised concerns about habitat protection.”

The Pombo-Frank bill was intended to provide additional flexibility in setting fishing limits if the law imposed “excessive hardships on fishing communities”. Many fishermen, and the cities they lived in, supported the bill and attempted to prove such hardships existed.

Celebrities such as Robert Redford, Leonardo DiCaprio, Ted Danson, Pierce Brosnan, Kelsey Grammer, and singer James Taylor all donated money to the organizations and promoted their efforts to protect the oceans. In an effort to present an objective view of the debate, most fishermen wish they had such notable people on their side as well. Mr. Kendall said, it would be nice if a celebrity took on the cause of local fishermen. “It’s unfortunate that we can’t get someone from that notable group — the celebrity group,” he said, to say that fishermen are “not rapists of the ocean. They’re farmers of the sea.’”

An interesting debate and one where you cannot argue in favor of one or the other unless you’ve talked personally to both sides. On one hand, our oceans are very much in trouble and over-fishing is only growing worse. On the other hand, the livelihood of many families up and down the East coast is in jeopardy of collapsing. Is there room for compromise? I’m curious to hear your comments on this one.

For some perspective, visit a commentary over on Grist from a member of Oceana and then check out the full article South Coast Today.

About Michael dEstries

Michael has been blogging since 2005 on issues such as sustainability, renewable energy, philanthropy, and healthy living. He regularly contributes to a slew of publications, as well as consulting with companies looking to make an impact using the web and social media. He lives in Ithaca, NY with his family on an apple farm.

View all posts by Michael dEstries →
  • Andrea

    I think the long-term health of our oceans and the wildlife they support is more important than the profits fishermen make in the short-term. Part of the reason why so many fisheries are in crisis is because politians don’t see very far into the future and want votes from fishing communities in the short term. So I applaud the groups and the celebs for speaking out. In order to avoid economic hardships in fishing areas, I think more governments should consider more license buy-back programs (also known as license retirement programs). The Canadian and American governments have done this for a number of fisheries and should do it for even more. In these programs, the government buys back fishing licenses from fishermen, compensating them for lost revenue resulting from fishery closures. It is a win-win situation for all involved. Local governments in fishing communities should also realize that fishing likely won’t be a profitable occupation in future decades and work to diversify the economy now, rather than later.