New England fishermen, frustrated by how hard it is to catch a boatful off the once-abundant New England coast, are pointing fingers at those clearly responsible for dwindling fish populations: A-list celebrities. According to one source quoted in the article published Monday in South Coast Today, “I don’t think they’re [that’s the celebrities] cognizant of the harm that they’re actually causing.” Hollywood’s got some nerve.
The article focuses on my group, Oceana, as well as the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), citing our opposition to provisions Rep. Frank proposed as part of the reauthorized Magnuson-Stevens Act (MSA) that would weaken the government’s ability to rebuild threatened fish populations. The new MSA, which passed a few weeks ago, enables local administrators to set more scientifically appropriate catch limits and targets to start rebuilding the long list of collapsed or nearly collapsed fish species in New England and around the country.
I wish Oceana and NRDC (with help from Ted Danson and Leonardo DiCaprio, of course) could claim all the credit for defeating Rep. Frank’s proposal, but the truth is a wide range of groups stood up to oppose these new measures. This included other environmental groups as well as groups like the Marine Fish Conservation Network — a group that includes commercial fishermen and fishing groups in its membership. The other thing we and the people who voted for the law had going for us was common sense — the sensible response to collapsing fisheries is clearly not to be even more permissive in fishery management.
George Darcy, an assistant regional administrator for sustainable fisheries at the National Marine Fisheries Service, a branch of the National Oceanic & Atmospheric Administration, was quoted in the article saying, “the efforts by celebrities to draw attention to the issue of over-fishing has resulted in more widespread awareness by the public. Instead of receiving letters only from coastal areas like Massachusetts and Maine, [I] now get notes about groundfish conservation from people in Iowa.”
The ironic thing is, environmental groups, celebrities, and people in Iowa want the same thing the fishermen want: for there to be enough fish out there for them to earn a good living and feed the world. We (along with most major scientists) just disagree on whether we should start fixing the problem now or wait another 10 years before we start. Time isn’t on our side.