How many of us have watched the sunlight rise up against the dark black ground each and every morning while on the water? A turned head whether hunched over working on deck or bleary-eye in the wheelhouse or when leaving the dock, I don't know of one fishermen who does not embrace the all so golden glow rising up along the eastern horizon. It is more than words for fishermen who are going about their day as it is an inert feeling within our body.... our soul which is just so lost with those within fishery management these days. For those who heard the charade going on this past Wednesday at the Joint MAFMC/ASMFC Meeting in Alexandria Virginia, those words were all so evident.
Fishermen you're nothing...Know that....
Let it wash over, seep into, infect and destroy you.
Fishermen who did make the long trek to a meeting held south of our nations capitol, walked in guarded but optimistic. A number of long hours afterward, they left dispirited, bitter and wondered if there is anything they can now humanely do at this point to make a difference in trying to protect their livelihood from those on the other side of the regulatory table.
Could the words of even William Shakespeare strike the cord of reasonableness, and tug at the heartstring of those who would ultimately raise their hand and decide the fate of all so many who look out into the distance each and every morning while on the water? Don't they embrace the internal meaning of the golden glow that strikes at our very heart?
Yesterday I received two calls from industry people from the Garden State that changed my thoughts on what I was going to write on the following day. One call came early in the morning...the other after 1030 at night.
"Are you up?"
I was, somewhat distracted in reading my book, and maybe it was just the right time of the day for one to vent and the other to just listen....but as I said previously, fishermen do more than listen, they can feel the words resonate through their own body especially as the tone of those very words become the pain in losing your livelihood. The reality in what you love to do is now being taken away by those beholden to data and statistical models.
Doesn't anyone around the regulatory table understand why we show up to these public fishery meetings, listen to the academic discussions over collection, along with the power point presentations on data and extrapolation that calls into question whether fishery regulators in this day and age believe that their is the human side to this story...the fisherman's side of what is going on in the ocean? Don't they know that fishermen also understand the meaning of sustainability for both fish and those who harvest fish from the sea?
The give and take by those representing each coastal state interest go on and on with the tone growing more heated with those who sit around the table as the audience start to watch Mickey's big and little hand rotate around the clock. Quiet thoughts distract, stomachs growl....tempers grow short...and the blood pressure continues to rise, all this while sitting on a comfortable chair in the air conditioned grand ballroom of the Westin. Am I in the audience just a prop as this real life drama unfolds before me?
One wonders during this time about ones comfort...for whom, and on which side of the regulatory table is it comfortable for?
The words from the other side of the table continue to insult and wear on the patience of those who traveled to and had to sit through and wait for their few moments to express what this regulatory decision will mean to them...their families and those who enjoy the harvesting of fish.
"We are going to turn to the audience...only two people though.....and keep your comments short...one to two minutes at most or I will buzz you...keep it short!"
"Who are you there to serve"...and as much, "I'M AS MAD AS HELL, AND I'M NOT GOING TO TAKE THIS ANYMORE!" one should shout out. Do we need a Khrushchev visual in front of the regulators in the taking off of ones shoe and banging it on the table to make these words sink in that much deeper to those who now control what we can do while on the water? "Wake up," this is about what happens to all so many mens and women's lives on what we are talking about!
Wait...wait... and before we go any further, hasn't anyone even discussed what the senior senator from the once Empire State wrote about - to the Secretary or Commerce? Does his message about highly questionable collected fishery data, written upon the official letterhead of the US Senate, hold any meaning or carry any "weight" in changing the mind of those about to raise their hands? Didn't they not only comprehend, but read between the lines in what the most powerful senator from the opposition party wrote?
One continued to listen through the utter shock and awe of a fishery management individual calling for the closure of the fishery in the last two months of the year.
"Hey, what am I supposed to put into the my kids stockings for Christmas while you still mindlessly collect your paycheck from the taxpayers from your state?"
Then the 46th Mayor from the fishing port of New Bedford, now wearing his R.A. hat, raised his hand in support of this motion going forward for those gathered around the regulatory table. Fishermen in the audience wondered what was now playing out......how could this be, and was this planned from the very start? Wasn't his hearing aid turned on when he went about directly listening to the concerns from those in the industry during his latest "warm and fuzzy" outreach tour a few weeks ago?"
Debate ensued and the next number counted was by those raising their hands for this outrageous motion. Each state was called on the carpet to vote...Yea...Nay, Abstain....Null?
Who was now not being reasonable when it settled out after the first vote? A vote over giving fishermen.....nothing to catch?
Let's try this again....and let's split the difference then. Difference from what....10 to 5, based upon what two highly motivated APAIS individuals who seemed to be pulled in a tractor-like beam, in fact "92.5% of BSB A+B1 fish counted to come up with the powerball numbers," to the lighthouse off the most easterly point on Fantasy Island. Wasn't anyone in the bunker watching and paying attention in the once Empire State on what these two highly motivated collection people were doing each and every day during this time? Weren't there a number of other shoreline ports and fishing docks around Long Island and within the confines of the Big Apple to show up, ask questions and make measurements in order to get a true random sampling of fishing harvest and effort by the fishing public?
"Half of nothing is good enough for now..." as some would say around the regulatory table. But, would those at the same table previously feasting on a 2000 calorie a day diet now relish having 1000 calories to now feed upon? Would they survive? Wasn't that what happened when the number of fish that can be counted on one's hand was then approved for the last two months of the calendar?
The thoughts and the livelihood of those industry people who traveled from New Jersey and the DELMARVA region could only be speculated on at that very instant. Please pinch me and tell me that this Is for real? How can anyone now enjoy the golden glow along the eastern horizon during November and December?
Can one question anyone's optimism at this time? What do we do, and how do we do it going forward when those on the other side of the regulatory table have for years talked about dealing with the "short term pain for long term gain?" Didn't the benchmark assessment numbers workout in our favor when they just recently counted the fish in the sea?
It was well past 1130 last night with the reality of once again facing off against the elements and setting sail once again as he now looked at his vessel.....and who knows with the "for how long" can this continue as there are those who have another agenda in mind...for the lack of a better expression here. This can be answered quickly since it cannot continue because there will be empty docks and the eventual erecting of shorefront condos to fill its place along the waterline in their place due to what essentially comes down to a little or no-catch of anything policy, continues.
"Little or no-catch regulations".....really?
Haven't we seen and experienced this first hand in the legendary shoreline communities in New England and Mid-Atlantic region? Yes the same shoreline communities that shaped the America spirit and it's people..."our people" who went from one generation to the next over the centuries, up until now. Families and friends coming together because of the ability to go fishing and make a living from the harvesting of the bounty of fish off our coast....or so we thought as the Service just put out their latest "attaboy news release" on the shape of fish stocks in the US.
But these are words now lost by those who sit in front of their computers plugging in highly questionable collected data and then manipulating their pie charts, histograms and bias laden statistical models. Regulatory language is now controlled by the terms and strict definition of "risk averse"....:"uncertainty"....and the restraining of harvest to not overfish. But in reality, are we really "over fishing" anymore...or is this some regulatory language that has no connection to the people who go out to sea to harvest fish?
Their is little joy in seeing the sun coming up this morning for those fishing on the water these days. The few crumbs falling off the regulatory table will eventually lead to fishermen fishing less - if at all, and those who once enjoyed making their living on the water, going off and working in other endeavors for the rest of their lives.
Fishermen love telling tales from the past of great catches and wonderful moments during a trip, along with those days where you questioned yourself in making a days catch....but we did have the ability to catch fish, enjoying and making a living from doing so.
How many families still proudly point to pictures hanging on the walls of their home or photo albums of themselves with past and future generations standing next to their vessels or alongside big catches of fish. Glowing smiles from ear to ear...just like the embracing warmth emanating from the sun shining along the horizon.
This is what drove many to invest their lives in making a living from catching fish and those who enjoy going fishing throughout the season and over the years. But who knows for how long, and one wonders on how many sunrises fishermen will see while on the water with the decisions being made by those who sit on the other side of the regulatory table.