- BOSTON (AP) -- A century ago the great fishermen of New England made
their living pulling thousand-pound halibut from the sea.
- But in the late 1800s, the halibut all
but disappeared from the Atlantic, so fishermen moved on to haddock. Then
the haddock became scarce and the less-valuable cod became the fish of
- Today, with cod fishing banned or restricted
in much of New England, many fishermen are reduced to landing spiny dogfish.
- The problem isn't limited to New England.
According to researchers who met this week at the Woods Hole Oceanographic
Institution, fisheries across the world are on the verge of collapse.
- Scientists say they have the information
and know-how to help preserve and restore fish populations. But they say
lawmakers with the power to change the ways of the fishing industry lack
the political will to take action.
- Ransom S. Myers, a professor of ocean
studies at Dalhousie University in Nova Scotia, has studied the populations
of more than 700 species of fish worldwide. He said fish populations are
becoming extinct around the world.
- Myers and another fisheries scientist,
Daniel Pauly of the University of British Columbia, told the symposium
that regulations that limit fishing species-by-species create a domino
effect where one species is devastated and fishermen move on to the next.
- He said the only real way to allow the
most decimated fish to recover is to create refuges in the ocean -- similar
to land-based wildlife refuges -- where no fishing is allowed.
- Scientists said because fishing is only
a small fraction of the economy in the United States, management falls
into the hands of the few lawmakers whose districts include fishing, and
other lawmakers are usually happy to go along with their wishes.
- "We really know plenty about how
to manage the fisheries better," said Andy Solow, director of the
marine policy center at Woods Hole. "What's missing is the political
will to manage them right."
- Solow advocates setting up a system that
would set a quota of fish allowed to be caught. The catch would be divided
among existing fishermen, and those fishermen could either continue fishing
up to that quota, or sell their allowable catch to the highest bidder.
- Such is already in place in South Africa
with great success, he said.
- "We've got to choose whether were
going to use these fisheries as a way to keep small fishermen in business
or whether were going treat it like an economic resource and find the most
efficient way to get a sustainable catch," he said.
- Fishermen and politicians often oppose
limits on fishing, which was illustrated last week at a hearing of the
New England Fisheries Management Council. The topic was how to preserve
the dwindling cod fishery in the Gulf of Maine.
- Hundreds of fishermen showed up to oppose
- Richard Burgess, the chairman of the
Gulf of Maine Fishermen's Alliance, said fishermen don't believe scientists'
doomsday predictions. Burgess said fisherman are finding that cod in the
gulf are abundant.
- Rep. John F. Tierney and representatives
of Massachusetts' senators, Edward M. Kennedy and John Kerry, all urged
council members to wait until there is more scientific research before
deciding on restrictions.
- "People's livelihoods are seriously
in jeopardy," Tierney said.