Fishermen make last-ditch plea to feds over harbor closure date
September 23, 2012 -- Members of the regional fishing industry have made a last-ditch effort to negotiate with the National Marine Fisheries Service about a closure scheduled to begin Oct. 1, that some New Hampshire fishermen say will be the “death knell” for the industry.
Local fishermen and advocacy groups have been pleading with NMFS for months to move the closure — designed to protect harbor porpoises — to be moved to February and March instead, when more harbor porpoises have historically been taken and the economic impact on the industry would not be as severe.
Instead, the closure is planned for October/November, which local ground fishermen say is one of their busiest times.
Regional fishermen and representatives from the Northeast Seafood Coalition met with John Bullard, the new regional director for NMFS, in Gloucester, Mass., on Friday.
Bullard said he does not expect any easy decisions for fishermen and the agency anytime in the near future.
“If this one isn't an easy decision, I don't know what one is going to be,” Vito Giacalone, policy director with the Northeast Seafood Coalition, said.
He said the consensus position sent to NMFS, and supported by 12 members of the regional Congressional delegation, was an opportunity to show the industry that NMFS and the fishermen can work together.
“You should be looking at every way possible to help these fishermen survive,” Glenn Delaney of the Northeast Seafood Coalition said.
Josh Weirsma, sector manager for the New Hampshire fishing industry, expressed frustration after Friday's meeting.
“We presented a proposal that would be just as biologically protective of harbor porpoise, but for whatever reason, they've made up their mind that this October/November closure is necessary to punish the industry for this perceived noncompliance,” Weirsma said.
Read the full story at the New Hampshire Union Leader