This was published on Monday, Jun. 03, 1974 - Failing Fleets
They gather each morning at dawn, waiting to see if the boats coming in are empty or full. Crewmen, captains, shipowners, processors and union representatives huddle in the gloom on fishing piers all along the New England seacoast. Like generations of fishermen before them, many of these weather-lined men work grueling twelve-hour shifts in biting winds and high seas for days on end. Unlike their predecessors, however, they are catching fewer fish every year?which is one reason that U.S. fish prices are rising so fast.
In the 1960s, New England fishermen harvested some 700 million lbs. of cod, flounder and haddock annually. Last year they netted only 375 million lbs. Some fish appear to be nearing extinction: the New England haddock catch has shriveled since 1960 from 112 million lbs. to only 7 million lbs.
"It was the Russians that did it," complains a mariner in Gloucester, Mass. "They came here with their 'vacuum ships' and cleaned up." Not only the Soviet Union, but also Japan, East Germany, Poland, Iceland, Spain and other nations have been sending their big and in some cases government-subsidized fleets to the rich grounds beyond America's twelve-mile limit. Using modern stern trawlers and factory ships that can process and then freeze while still at sea, these fleets have been able to stay for months at a stretch where the fishing is good.
200 Mile Limit. By contrast, New England fishermen are not subsidized, and their ships are small and antiquated. They must carry ice in their holds to keep the catch fresh and must return to port every seven days lest the fish rot. Some imported frozen fish from Canada costs much less than fresh domestic fish caught in the same New England waters. As a result, two-thirds of the fish eaten in the U.S. last year was imported.
To bail out the domestic fleet, Senator Warren Magnuson of Washington and Congressman Gerry Studds of Massachusetts have co-authored a bill that would extend U.S. fishing waters from the present twelve miles to 200 miles. But, fearing that foreign nations would reciprocate with 200-mile limits of their own, the State and Defense departments as well as some U.S. tuna fishermen on the West Coast and shrimpers on the Gulf Coast oppose the bill, and so it is not expected to pass. New England fishermen stand a better chance of getting help from the U.N.-sponsored Law of the Sea Conference, which will open June 20 in Caracas. Control of ocean resources, including fish, will be high on the agenda. But even those who predict the eventual enactment of a badly needed treaty providing for conservation in ocean management concede that implementing such a treaty will require at least a decade.
Taking a look back over thirty years in American Fishery Management or should I say 'MISMANAGEMENT', and now trying to use this approach to save those within the industry...But does this make sense when:
Because modern fishing equipment is immensely expensive, the stakes are high. With big money on the line, the fishing industry has curried political favor. As a result, modern fishing factories like Tyson's are subsidized by federal and state governments. Tyson's company has received more than $65 million in low-interest loans from the federal government, to help build 10 of these super-trawlers. According to Jeffrey St. Clair, the Seattle-based factory-trawler fleet has received $200 million in federal subsidies.
Some background on Don Tyson and the corporations who are invested in commercial fishing and the benefits they receive:
Don Tyson, the Arkansas chicken magnate and supporter of Bill Clinton, has gone into the fishing business in a big way. Commercial fishing can be very profitable if conducted on a grand scale. In 1992, Tyson bought the Arctic-Alaska Fisheries Company, and three other fishing companies. They operate a fleet of industrial super-trawlers that each cost $40 million to build and reach the length of a football field.
The problem with implementing a program that subsidizes commercial fishermen NOT TO FISH, is that the multi-billion dollar corporate behemoths such as Tyson Food, Del Monte and others would receive the most dollar benefits from such a program. Since these coporations have so much money invested into the commercial fishing industry, they would also being paid the biggest dollars NOT TO FISH.
So where does that leave the small independent commercial fishermen?
No where, because ideas such as this have been floated in the past, and that the best 'payoff' for a 'no fishing program' for commercial fishermen that we have seen, was the multi-million dollar groundfish permit and vessel buyout.
Has this permit buyout help improve the recovery of our cod stocks over the last five years? Think about that...........
I doubt monetary payoffs to stop fishermen from fishing will get any further then the talking stages. There are few within government who would support another taxpayer assisted 'handout' to a small group of businessman (especially a program where the big corporations would see most of the money), and it is highly doubtful that the American public itself would support another 'tax' placed upon them for the purpose of 'benefiting' commercial fishermen not to fish.
It reminds me of the story about husband and wife getting a divorce and going before a judge to decide how much the wife will get in monthly spousal and child support payments.
The judge renders a monetary monthly dollar decision, and the husband immediately upon hearing the figure jumps up and loudly states, 'I can't afford that! How am I going to support myself! How am I going to eat'!
The judge without even looking at the husband tells him point blank, 'do what everyone else has to do when they need more money........get another job'!
Sad but true.....
EC NEWELL MAN><