Whether you’re a commercial fisherman, a processor, a charter boat operator, or you just fish for enjoyment, you know that groundfish seasons, fishing areas and harvest levels on the West Coast aren’t what they used to be. The main reason is that we are required to rebuild fish stocks that have been designated as “overfished,” including species like canary and yelloweye rockfish, bocaccio, and cowcod. No matter the reason for low population levels, we give up our ability to harvest healthy stocks in order to stay within the rebuilding plan requirements.
I think everyone would agree that maintaining a sustainable fishery is important. However, most people involved in fisheries also think that there needs to be a reasonable balance between rebuilding depleted stocks and having access to species that are flourishing. Unfortunately, the law and the court decisions on the West Coast that have interpreted the law don’t allow that balance to be struck. The result is lost harvest opportunities and foregone economic benefits for our coastal communities. What we need is flexibility in the law to make reasoned choices, to be able to give a little here and take a little there so that we keep biologically productive fisheries without putting people out of work.
And that’s why coming to the Keep Fishermen Fishing rally in Washington, D.C., on March 21st is something more West Coast fishermen need to consider. There will be plenty of people in attendance from the East Coast and the Gulf of Mexico but we need to have our voices heard too. A cross-country trip isn’t easy but this is one where you can bring the family, tour the cherry blossoms and the museums, and show your kids how democracy in action works. Most important, you will be letting our Congressional representatives know that we, too, have concerns about how our fisheries will be managed.
Submitted by Rod Moore, executive director of the West Coast Seafood Processors Association in Portland, Ore. You can check out the WCSPA on Facebook at Facebook.com/WCSPA or its website at WCSPA.com. For more info about the rally, visit keepfishermenfishing.com.