Fishing interests in New England have convinced politicians to launch a new war on science and common sense. They want to keep catching fish faster than they can reproduce.
New England's war on science might be dismissed as simple regional protectionism if it didn't include Senators Kennedy, Kerry, Snowe, Collins, Reed, Whitehouse and Shaheen. That's not just a few fishermen throwing elbows. Or is it?
With this list of Democrats and Republicans involved, it's interesting to note that New England's war on science is not a partisan issue. And a quick look at the record shows this war isn't new. The Seattle Times reported on this during Kerry's presidential campaign as a conflict between Kerry's good environmental record and efforts by the region's politicians to protect some small fishing fleets with some surprising political clout.
The science involved in this dispute has been reviewed, and reviewed, and reviewed. These reviews include one by the National Academy of Sciences in 1998, a series of reviews by a specially appointed team, including one in 2002, and one in 2008, and a review by the Inspector General's office in the Department of Commerce, designed to answer questions raisedby New England senators. In fact, this science may be some of the most intensely scrutinized science on earth. And every time it's been judged to be sound. So the science is beyond dispute. Why the problem? Because the science is inconvenient in saying that fishermen are killing too many fish.
In case you're a glutton for punishment (like me) in reading the history of the overfishing follies, check out this brief history of how we got into this colossal mess from the Conservation Law Foundation.
We know how the overfishing story ends, and it's not good. For just one painful example, we can look at Newfoundland and the collapsed cod fishery that still hasn't recovered 17 years later.
The Gloucester Times, that bastion of common sense, even goes so far as to put quotation marks around the word "overfishing." The science behind overfishing is simple, straighforward, and widely accepted, but in Gloucester there are still doubts. They're probably still buying subprime mortgages in Gloucester too.
Elsewhere, e.g. Alaska, the fishing industry is thriving under the federal law that requires fishing according to science-based limits. Here's a press release from an industry association in Alaska praising managers for following scientific advice and cutting fishing limits. So what's wrong in New England? New England fishermen are the victims of their own success. They've successfully fought responsible managment for so long that it's become a heritage. Whatever happened to Yankee thrift?