Saturday, July 15, 2017

No Fish Today

The fishing industry in Connecticut in under assault from foreign fish imports. Owner of wholesale fish in Stonington/East Haven Mike Gambardella writes, somewhat frantically, that consumers don’t realize that the import seafood market is at 96 percent: “Our fishermen are throwing wild-caught healthy, chemical free, dead fish overboard daily.”

The regulatory apparatus in the United States is simply crushing local fishing industries: “We’re going out of business in Stonington, Connecticut, one of the oldest commercial fishing ports in the nation, dating from the 1600s.”

The data used by federal regulators to limit catches in New England is unreliable. A reduction of the fluke catch that took place in January continues to create havoc. In 2017, New England fishermen were ordered to reduce their catch by 30 percent over the previous year; another 16 percent cut is planned in 2018. The January order also calls for a 34 percent reduction in the commercial quota for black sea bass, “another species becoming more abundant in New England waters,” according to a story in The Day.

Cuts so severe, said associate director of the fisheries division of the state Department of Energy and Environmental Protection Mark Alexander last January, would have a dramatic impact on the fishing industry in New England: “It is a pretty significant reduction for Connecticut. I can’t see how it won’t affect a lot of them. There’s high abundance and low quotas, and that just leads to discards and resentment,” Alexander said.

 “It’s going to put us out of business,” said Stonington fisherman Robert Guzzo, vice president of the Southern New England Fishermen and Lobstermen’s Association. “I’ve never seen so many fish in the ocean. The fish are out there, but the science and the regulators haven’t caught up with what’s actually out there.”

Connecticut Senators  Dick Blumenthal and Chris Murphy, as well as U.S. Representative Joe Courtney, wrote to Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross last January. Blumenthal also confronted Ross during his nomination hearing “The system is broken ... from an environmental and economic standpoint, and it’s costing jobs, and it is preventing the United States from using its fish stocks and instead has resulted in importing, which destroys livelihoods and economic well-being in the New England states,” Blumenthal told Ross, who commiserated with New England fishermen.

David Goethel’s experience is typical: “The federal government is destroying Mr. Goethel’s industry through overregulation and forcing ground-fishermen like himself to pay $700 per day to have authorities monitor them on their boats. Even the government estimates these additional costs would put 60% of the industry out of business. Cause of Action Institute is helping Mr. Goethel fight back through the courts to save his livelihood.”

The monitors are there to enforce catch-restrictions, and they are compelling fishermen to throw overboard daily the bounty of the sea, “wild-caught healthy, chemical free, dead fish,” in Gambardella words. The position of the federal government appears to be this: never mind that the amount of fish discarded is itself indisputable proof that federal data is outdated – even destructive regulations are, never-the-less, regulations that must be observed at all costs. One can only imagine the ferocity that would greet a federal order that required car owners to assume the cost involved in placing a cop in every car to monitor the speed limits of drivers. 

Former U.S. Representative Rob Simmons, now First Selectman of Stonington, has joined the struggle to remove deadly federal regulations from New England fishermen. Other members of Connecticut’s U.S. Congressional delegation, many of them now busying themselves seeking to impeach Trump, have done little but console Gambardella and others with the usual political bromides: “It takes time… be patient… we’re working on it…” Tough to be patient while the patient lies at death’s door on the gurney, and all the doctors appear to be conspiring to euthanize it.

On July 27, at the La Grua Center, 32 Water Street, Stonington Connecticut, just prior to Stonington’s Blessing of the Fleet, Simmons and Meghan Lapp will “lead an interactive discussion with representatives from our local fishing community. During this event, we will learn about the challenges facing one of America’s oldest commercial industries” and what can be done to help preserve one of the oldest industries in Connecticut from the withering hand of excessive regulation.

It's time to save the fleet, before it disappears beneath wave upon wave of destructive regulations. Once sunk to the bottom of the sea, New England's fleet cannot be raised up again.

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