In New England the issue of fisheries management is a serious topic as it involves serious questions of science, economics, healthy ecosystems, an iconic part of New England’s culture and the very real issue of many people’s livelihoods. Still, the public debate around fishing and fisheries management in New England can often be a lot like arguing baseball — the home team is usually deemed more virtuous than the rest of the league and many facts, figures, data and theories are promoted to defend that assertion. These debates can happen between any combination of folks with an opinion or a perceived stake in the issue – trawlers and gillnetters, one port versus another, one state versus another, commercial fishermen and recreational fishermen, fishermen and regulators, and fishermen and conservationists, among others. While baseball rivalries can be pretty heated, the overwhelmingly vast majority of fans are able to understand that, after all, it’s just a baseball game. Most times.
The thing is, fishermen, regulators or conservationists involved in fisheries issues in regions outside of here often consider the debate and behavior in New England to be much more contentious. For some reason we seem to treat each other more rudely and with such a lack of civility that it is noted across the country. The public debate and political hyperbole over the implementation of the most recent groundfish management plan is a clear example. Despite years of hard work and robust debate by the New England Fishery Management Council and a near unanimous vote to approve the “sectors” plan (final vote 16-1) for managing species like cod, haddock and flounder, the current public debate resembles a fist fight over the results of last year’s World Series. Working the refs, rallying the crowd and harassing the other team’s fans has become a larger part of the story than the game, as it were.
So, when federal Commerce Secretary Gary Locke issued a plain, legal, factual and well reasoned response to deny Gov. Patrick’s request to raise the catch limits through “emergency action” we felt the Secretary deserved an honest “thank you.” CLF and nine other conservation groups sent him a letter saying so. Thank you Secretary Locke. We think you made an important, rational and sober decision that will help move New England forward.