Jul 6, 2007

Maine Fisheries & Community Based Resource Management : Can ecologically sensitive foxes really guard the marine henhouse?

Maine's mainstream marine conservation organizations have teamed up with several commercial fishing organizations to garner themselves collectively more than two million dollars to promote out what could be either an ecological and sociological triumph or a disaster.

The plan would put decisionmaking about exploitation of the NW Gulf of Maine's cod, haddock, pollock and other groundfish largely into the hands of committees made up of fishermen from Maine coastal communities.

Called Community Based Resource Management, the concept has its supporters and detractors.

But look what these folks below were just given to promote this:

Island Institute $396,328 Purpose
Penobscot East Resource Center $563,000 Purpose
The Ocean Conservancy $769,000 Purpose
Gulf of Maine Research Institute $467,000

Will they earn their pay?
Island Institute failed in its effort "This grant will focus on gaining approval by the New England Fishery Management Council (NEFMC) of an alternative to amend the Multispecies Fishery Management Plan."

Penobscot East's cash, too, fruitlessly sought "adoption of a plan by the New England Fishery Management Council for implementation of an area-based pilot project in the Downeast area of the Gulf of Maine"

For in June, the NEFMC said NO to the II's and PE's proposals. So there's $959,328.00 down the drain with nothing to show for it. Though one assumes some splendid private conferences at the finest of resorts, replete with catered chow, took place. Doubtless a few Individual Retirement Accounts got plumped up, and some handsome salaries paid out. But as far as CBFM goes, the New England Fishery Management won't even be looking at it before 2009, and no action could take place before 2012. It is safe to assume that the 2 million bucks will have petered out long before then, though the requisite coffee table book or two will have been published.

One thing is certain:
unless these insular groups opens up to the broader community, CBRM is doomed to be as much a waste of time and money as the recent Maine Bay Management Initiative and the Task Force on Maine Aquaculture

So what IS Community-Based Fisheries Management?

You could try the explanation by Penobscot East. But I don't think you'll come out of it much the wiser. (manage cod like clams? huh?) So here's my take at it:

It's the benign version of the fox-guarding-the-chick-coop scenario.

In this case, the concept is of having ecologically sensitive foxes (local groundfish committees) guard the chicken coops (marine fish habitats), with the farm owner (Uncle Sam) stopping in from time to time and making sure the inventory shrinkage (commercial fishing) is within reasonable bounds and is not damaging the chicken coop (habitat) or its feed troughs (prey species) and drinking tanks (water quality.)

The idea loosely parallels the lobster fishing zone council concept, which set up local decisionmaking bodies at regional and community levels along the Maine coast in the 1990s. The groundfish area management committees (AMCs) would be established in those same towns and cities. But this time, each holder of a groundfishing license will have to choose which Gulf of Maine fishing grounds they ply their trade in.

But there are as many differences as similarities between lobsterfishing and groundfishing, ecologically, technologically and economically. So the articles, lectures, reports, websites and other literature on Community-Based Fisheries Management that these groups listed above are presently offering up for public consumption are big on rationales and broad concepts, but vague on details.

Stay Tuned...


Anonymous said...

Referring to commercial fishermen as "foxes" is smarmy and condescending. I would urge you to check out the Cape Cod Commercial Hook Fisherman's association for an example of a community-based management applied to groundfish.

Ron said...

Foxes guarding the henhouse is a common phrase for saying the regulated sometimes have too much say over the regulators. Its a phrase that CCCHFA - one of my favorite groups - uses itself to describe how herring and groundfish decisions are arrived at.

Hook fisheries like that practiced by members of Cape Cod Commercial Hook Fishermen's Association, harpoon fisheries for swords and tuna, and purse seines and stop seines for herring are the only way back to sustainable New England fisheries. We aren't going to drag our way to a revived groundfishery. We aren't going to longline our way out of overfishing swordfish, or pair trawl our way into herring sustainability.

CCCHFA is also part of CHOIR - the Coalition for Atlantic Herring's Orderly Informed and Responsible Long term Development - a great group of people.

Unknown said...

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Human Resource Management