The Four Ws

Oct 27, 2021 | Over the Bar

By John Pappalardo

My brother was in town for a visit and when we sat down at the kitchen table for a cup of coffee he asked me how things are going. I gave him the usual superficial stuff until he stopped me and said he meant it in a deeper way:

What’s going on for people in the fishing industry? Not the day to day, nuts and bolts I mentioned by rote: What’s the big-picture, broad-stroke look?

After a long sip, I found myself answering with a surprising little ditty that popped up seemingly out of nowhere. It was built on four W’s:

Windmills, whales, warming water.

In each case, it sure as hell looks like major changes are in the works, and each example reveals a lot about how different people react to change: Fight it? Accept it? Obstruct it? Channel it? Maybe even find ways to change the change?

Some thumbnail thoughts emerged:

Windmills: Offshore wind is happening, period. Our role now is to make sure developers and permitting agencies understand how these wind farms will impact our historic effort, build that understanding into rules and regulations that govern development, and provide opportunities and compensation to fishermen. There is going to be a lot of money circulating around these circulating turbines. We need to make sure a good chunk swirls to the industry most affected.

Just one example: Wind developers should be required to set aside millions per year to pay captains and crew on commercial vessels to host surveys of stocks and habitat, improving our science and regulations, getting fishermen into wheelhouses where they are without peer, supporting fed research teams. Some hiring has already begun; it should be multiplied.

Ideas like this, rather than jousting Don Quixote style, are where we should be focused.

Whales: We need to support people on the water who truly understand what goes on out there, who already have sacrificed big time to help protect whales and will continue to do so.

That means using them to get to best solutions, whatever they are, innovations that actually work and accomplish our goals.

That means engaging in the public process, sitting at the table through long and frustrating meetings of venues like the Take Reduction Team, among others.

That means participating in science and research to identify best ways to protect two endangered mammal species – right whales, and fishermen.

Extinction of either is not necessary, and not an option.

Warming waters: There can be no more serious argument, it’s happening and probably faster than we ever expected. So now what?

Good fishermen are nimble and creative, adapting to changing conditions as they always have. Maybe lobsters are deeper. Maybe black sea bass is a great new target. Maybe codfish aren’t altogether gone but instead farther east. Maybe halibut are making a comeback. Fishermen know, and will continue to hunt.

Our role is to help the management process keep pace and adapt to evolving ecosystems and living patterns, making rules that make sense for today and tomorrow, not yesterday. That’s in good part why we are putting so much emphasis on what the feds call “EBFM,”

Ecosystem Based Fisheries Management, a much more holistic way to think about the ocean and its resources. I’m chair of the EBFM committee for the New England Fisheries Management Council, and I intend to move this new concept as far and well as I can.

So it’s always good drinking a cup of coffee with my brother, but this one in particular clarified a lot of my thinking. Thanks, bro, stop by anytime.


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