GUEST OP-ED: Fishing crisis in New Hampshire

New Hampshire once had a vibrant commercial fishing industry distributed along our short, rocky coast. Commercial fishing is now in serious trouble in New Hampshire and indeed throughout New England and around the country. You have probably been told that this is the fault of greedy fishermen. Not true.

Our fishing industry is in danger of collapsing because of imperious government intrusions. The problem has gotten much worse with the election of President Obama and the appointment of Dr. Jane Lubchenco as the head of NOAA. Dr. Lubchenco is an environmentalist zealot, a former big-wig with the Environmental Defense Fund. Effectively, Obama has given EDF control of the government agency that oversees the national fisheries.

The most pressing aspect of the problem is the amount of fish that the fishermen are allowed to catch. The Magnuson-Stevens Act (MSA), the governing law on fisheries, requires that the catch allocations be “reasonably calculated to promote conservation.” The government – Dr. Lubchenco – decides how much will be allocated. Dr. Lubchenco has drastically reduced the allocations since she took over. The science hasn’t changed, just the allocations. The allocations could easily be 30% higher and still comply with MSA.

Consider Captain Jay Driscoll of the fishing vessel Karen Lyn. Jay fishes out of Rye Harbor, a picture-postcard-perfect New England scene. If you have taken the popular and pleasant drive along the coast on Route 1A, you may have seen Jay’s boat. He has so little catch allocation this year that he doesn’t get out often. In 2009 he caught 160,000 pounds of cod; in 2010 his allocation was reduced to 68,000 pounds.

Gulf of Maine cod is no longer considered overfished. While this does not mean the catch allocation should be increased, it certainly argues against reducing the allocation.

Another aspect is the overbearing, Orwellian, regulations that the fishermen work under. Call two days in advance for permission to fish, check in with a government monitor before leaving the dock, carry a government observer, make sure the Vessel Monitoring System (VMS) is operating so that Big Brother knows exactly where the boat is at every minute, check in with a government monitor at the dock when returning (do not go to the dock if the monitor is not yet present), and finally any fish caught can be sold.

Can you imagine the time and money wasted in this micromanaged absurdity? It gets worse. Jay was told he was required to take a government observer with him on a trip. He suggested that the observer bring safety equipment as Jay’s boat wasn’t equipped for an extra passenger. He was ordered to drop a member from his crew to make room for the observer.

Jay told his crew member, “I’m sorry, you can’t work today. The government is paying someone to watch me, and I can’t bring you both.”

I met Jay at a NOAA outreach meeting, a meeting where fishermen were to get answers to their complaints from NOAA personnel. Picture a group of 20-somethings, the ignorance and arrogance of the still immature, lecturing grizzled fishermen. As the meeting broke up, Jay turned to the moderator and said, “I feel like a criminal. What is it that you want of us?”

Captain Driscoll does not want to be rescued, he does not want a handout. He is a New Hampshire Man, independent, resolute, and proud. He just wants an even break.

In the past, the New Hampshire Congressional delegation has been tepid in their support of our fishermen; satisfied to support the Massachusetts delegation while Blustering Barney and Kamera-ready Kerry do the heavy lifting. We now have a new delegation. Let your Congressman and your Senators know of your interest and ask them to make New Hampshire’s will known.

Mike Johnson is a concerned citizen, a small government conservative, and a resident of Kensington. He can be reached at

Author: Mike Johnson

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