Fishermen Change the Rules
Pictured above is Chatham fisherman Jim Nash, F/V Ann Marie with staff member and Georges Bank Fixed Gear Sector manager, Claire Fitz-Gerald.
Fishermen worked together for nearly a year to help change a misguided rule.
The local commercial fishing fleet has transitioned away from groundfishing in recent years out of necessity. These groundfish stocks, such as cod, are depleted and so in order to make a living fishermen have changed their focus to more abundant stocks like skates, monkfish and dogfish.
Due to a one-size-fits-all federal regulation, the skate fleet is required to carry groundfish at-sea monitors even though they do not target, or catch, groundfish in their gillnets.
In February of this year, the government announced that fishermen would be required to pay for groundfish at-sea monitors in 2016. The Cape Cod fleet saw this as an opportunity to use their on-the-water experience to help shape a new policy.
The fleet worked hard for the year to build awareness and encourage the government to recognize the differences between the groundfish fishery and the skate fishery, which operates on very low profit margins and could not shoulder the cost of misallocated at-sea monitoring.
Cape fishermen traveled to Portland, Maine to present their testimony to New England Fishery Management Council members. Their contributions made an impact. The council, of which CEO John Papplardo is a member, voted to modify the rules so that fishermen targeting skates would no longer be required to carry groundfish monitors.
Now, the hope is that the remaining limited monitoring funds can be stretched out to support vessels that do target and land groundfish longer than anticipated. In addition, the exemption will allow skate boats to stay in business. That’s teamwork!