Thursday, September 06, 2007

Hard Times for Commercial Fishermen

The assertions in this story, out of Rhode Island, about how hard it is to make a living as a small-scale commercial fishermen are amazing:

During the last six months, Harvey's 95- foot boat, the Ing Toffer II, consumed $130,000 in fuel, and $40,000 worth of ice. Five years ago, Harvey claims that fuel costs for the entire year were around $100,000. And ice cost half of what it costs now. "In five years, the cost of doing business has doubled," Harvey said. ...

Livernois put his boat up for sale last week. When he listed his boat with a broker in Point Judith, four other fishing vessels from the same marina had been listed for sale during the same week.

point judith draggers

Harvey and Livernois both claim that the terrorist attack in New York on 9/11 started the decimation of the New England fishing industry. Livernois said his insurance went from $28,000 a year to $50,000 almost overnight.

Harvey said he was recently paid $3,500 for a 20,000- pound catch of whiting- barely 17-cents a pound. The cost of fuel for the trip was more than $3,000, and the ice was $1,600. "I lost money. The crew didn't get paid," Harvey said. ...

He cited a sticker that he must have on his boat that says, "I am a fishing vessel," as an example of one of the "ridiculous" charges imposed on fishermen. "I have a 95- foot boat with a huge net rolled up on the stern, and a crew working on the decks, and they make me pay $35 for a decal to identify me as a fishing vessel....

Harvey also said that National Marine Fishery regulations have cut back the number of days a year he can fish. Five years ago, he could go out for 88 days. Now, he is only allowed 48 days. "Next year they'll cut us back another 20 percent," Harvey said. ...

According to government regulations, he is allowed to catch 10,000 pounds of fish in ten days. However, he must stay out for ten days before he can bring the catch in to market. If he catches the limit in two days, he is not permitted to come home to sell it and save on expenses.

I would be more confident in the veracity of the assertions if the reporter had talked to someone from the National Marine Fisheries Service, for example (and not referred to it as "National Marine Fishery"); and I would be more confident if the reporter hadn't also asserted in a subsequent paragraph that:

... Harvey said environmental organizations are constantly lobbying for more regulations to restrict fishing. He went on to say that organizations like the Conservation Law Foundation and Audubon Society regularly sue the National Marine Fisheries for allegedly not protecting our natural resources...

without trying to determine if it's true.

Nevertheless it's sobering.



Blogger Sam said...

It's going to be hard to envision Point Judith without a commercial fishing fleet, but sure as rain it will happen one day. Perhaps a few will remain, but I can see grants needed to scrap old fishing boats to haul them to the dump, as they're currently doing in Los Angeles. In many cases the boats are so leveraged to the bank the owner simply walks off the boat and never looks back.

What caused it? The fishermen definitely caused their own problems by overfishing. The Great and Georges banks were depleted by both domestic and foreign factory ships as well. High diesel, insurance, cheap foreign seafood, and cheap dock prices also conspired as well.

There is a little bit of evidence that NMFS regulations might have actually put boats and crews at risk, and Paul Hogarth of NMFS is sensitive to the issue. One such regulation required scallopers off Nantucket certain "days at sea" and without any flexibility, the fleet was forced to work in gale winds, sub-zero temperatures, and 15-foot seas; several deaths resulted.

National Fisherman is a great resources for "real" stories and they do try to balance things such as by publishing updates from NMFS Director Hogarth. the story is one where he and his agency get sued, yet Congress has his hands tied at the same time. Therefore, any "win-win" situations are very rare.

Depressing subject ...

10:58 AM  

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