Science & Environment
3:04 pm
Fri July 19, 2013

What We Agree On: Healthy Oceans, Sustainable Fisheries

Thanks to those who've taken our Long Haul poll. You've reminded us that, for all our differences, we agree on some fundamental issues in fisheries.

We're so used to focusing on conflicts and controversies in the fishing industry - fishermen criticizing scientists, overlapping recreational and commercial fisheries competing for access to limited fish, NOAA being sued by both the state and environmental groups. But when we asked you what was important to you as New England's fishermen try to chart a path forward, the level of agreement was notable.

  • Fifty seven of you responded to our survey. It's a small, and by no means scientific, sample. But it was a diverse group. Commercial and recreational fishermen, fishery regulators, policymakers or advocates, and those who said they didn't fall into our categories, all responded in about equal measure. Half of all respondents said they are seafood consumers. 
  • Healthy ocean ecosystems earned top ranking from 61% of respondents. A whopping 89% put ocean health somewhere in the top three spots.
  • Sustainably harvested seafood was the runner-up, with 47% of respondents giving it a second-place ranking. Again, the majority of respondents - 72% - counted sustainable seafood among the top three.
  • 93% of respondents said they are somewhat to very concerned about the future of New England's fisheries.

Many of you left us thoughtful comments about both your concerns, and what gives you hope for the future of fisheries. J Nestler articulated the loss we face collectively if New England's fisheries fail:

It's deeply troubling that we have a wooden cod hanging in the Massachusetts state house, a fish that is now for the most part commercially extinct.

The challenge is to translate our shared desire for healthy ocean ecosystems and sustainable seafood into an action plan. Some say an important step is creating a vision statement that articulates our shared values and makes them an explicit part of the management framework.

The Mid-Atlantic Fishery Management Council has done just that. Council chairman Rick Robbins says that the visioning process took enormous resources and would have been difficult if that region were dealing with the kind of crisis that New England's groundfishermen are facing. Still, there may be lessons we could learn from the Mid-Atlantic Council's experience, and there are groups - like the Northwest Atlantic Maritime Alliance - who are working to craft a vision for New England's fisheries.

We'll explore those efforts on the next Living Lab on The Point - Monday, July 22nd, at 9am. We hope you'll join us.