As one of the younger guys in my fleet, I might have the best vantage point to see where fishery management is headed. I’m 33 years old, and I captain the F/V Janet E out of Half Moon Bay, CA. I fish salmon and Dungeness crab. I’ve owned and operated my boat for 5 years, and I run it like a business. I’m married, with 2 young kids. I was recently honored to have been elected president of the Small Boat Commercial Salmon Fishermen’s Association, my local marketing association. As you might be able to tell, I have a serious stake in the long-term sustainability of the fishery.
They say that wisdom comes with age, but I believe that insight depends on where you’re standing. And from where I’m standing, as a young captain looking forward to a long career on the water, I see bad weather.
I’ve never fished at a time when the Magnuson-Stevens Act didn’t play some role in regulating what or how I fished. At times, that can be rough. But I also recognize that these management decisions protect the long-term sustainability and profitability of the fisheries.
The Pacific Fishery Management Council (in my case) makes these decisions by processing as much scientific data as it can get ahold of. The whole point is to let the science guide the management decisions, to make sure that I can keep fishing, keep providing for my family, and one day achieve “old dude” status in the fleet.
There is a bill in Congress that would roll back that reliance on science, and let politics get in the way of fishery decision-making. This same bill gives the regional councils enormous leeway to extend rebuilding timelines for depleted stocks, and cuts in to other environmental protections in the Act that in turn protect fish. Fishermen actually fought long and hard to get those protections in the last time Magnuson-Stevens was reauthorized in 2006. All of this serves short-term profits, rather than long-term fishing opportunity.
In California, we’re dealing with the drought’s effects on salmon. We’re seeing low numbers in the rivers, and that seems to be playing out on the ocean. Through the Magnuson-Stevens process, the Council gave us a pretty significant reduction in fishing days this year.
As much as I hate to think that I can’t fish as much as I would like this year, it would be much worse to hear that I’ll never fish salmon again. We should be acting now to protect fishing in the future, not rolling back the protections that we already have in place.
My career and family’s livelihood depend on thinking about fishing fifty years into the future, not five.
Don Marshall, F/V Janet E