Not everyone in New Bedford, Massachusetts was busy debating fishing rules this month. Some of them were reveling in the legacy of New Bedford's last great resource hunt, whaling.
It was the annual Moby Dick marathon at the whaling museum, where 170 people read aloud the entire text of Moby Dick. No, I'm not kidding, the read the whole thing out loud, it took just over 24 hours. This year marked the 13th undertaking of the leviathan task. Massachusetts Congressman Barney Frank read chapter 3, nice going Mr. Frank.
The rise and fall of whaling was New Bedford's last big boom and bust, and fishing has done some of that. But unlike whaling, fishing should last forever if done right.
There's more than a little bit of Melville in the current New England groundfish debacle, but it's more Bartleby than Moby Dick. Like Bartleby, when directed to end overfishing to save themselves, New England's cod fishermen respond with the enduring "I would prefer not to." Sadly, unless they come around, New England's fishermen will suffer Bartleby's ultimate fate.
And Barney Frank seems determined to help the fishermen avoid saving themselves, carrying their self-defeating messages for them in the halls of Congress.