Monday, July 26, 2010

No ban for Southern New England lobstering

In an earlier post I mentioned a proposal to the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission by its lobster science committee to ban lobstering in Southern New England (i.e. south of Cape Cod) for 5 years to allow the fishery to recover.  Not surprisingly, that proposal has been rejected.  An alternative motion proposing that the commission "consider" either a 75% cut in allowable landings, or a 50% cut, or no cut at all, was approved.  Well hey, thats a nice clear path forward now, isnt it?

These events continue to highlight the tremendous complexity and difficulty of successfully managing modern fisheries.  Its easy to blame the committee for being indecisive, but the truth is that when you're faced with making decisions about someone's livelihood, and they start using phrases like "The moratorium was the bullet in a gun that was pointed to our head," and "A poison pill has been put in front of us", then making decisions purely on the science isn't so easy.  This, then, is annoying to the scientists who work hard to provide the best evidence possible to help make good decisions, only to see their data dismissed or disregarded because of more anthropocentric considerations.  Throw in a healthy dose of regulatory red tape and the poor managers just can't win.

I guess its one of those situations where when everyone is miserable, you probably made the best decision, but it may well mean the slow death of a long-troubled fishery (no matter how rosy picture the fishers want to portray).  One day I expect to look back at this post and fondly remember when we had a lobster fishery south of Cape Cod.  On that day, the shifting baseline strikes again.

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