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July 8, 2014

Our view: Lawmakers must heed call for Magnuson reform

Don Vitale has a question — and a point:

“How many businesses could survive an 80 percent reduction in the amount of things they can produce and sell?”

The commercial fisherman raised the question last week at a “listening session” hosted by Congressman John Tierney at Gloucester’s City Hall.

The only possible response would be none — no business could survive such a government-initiated calamity.

Yet, that’s precisely what the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, emboldened by the current Magnuson-Stevens Act, expect today’s fishermen and fishing businesses to do. The question asked by Vitale should ring in the ears of every federal lawmaker facing a vote on reauthorization of the fisheries-regulating laws.

Without significant Magnuson-Stevens reforms, fishermen will be forced to somehow stay afloat through those NOAA limit cuts. Fishing communities on the North Shore and on both coasts will continue to face the same “economic disaster” they face today — with the federal government forced to shell out more and more disaster aid packages like the one promised earlier this year, which remains in the works.

The harsh reality raised so simply yet eloquently by Vitale and other fishermen and industry supporters who spoke Tuesday did not come as a surprise to Tierney, who has sought to address the problems confronting fishermen in recent years. And it should not have come as any revelation to visiting Congressman Peter DeFazio, D-Ore. DeFazio, a ranking Democrat on the House’s Natural Resources Committee, recognized the commonality in the issues facing fishermen and the industry on both coasts.

“I guess I’m surprised at how much we have in common with our problems with (fisheries) management,” DeFazio said after the session. “We have the same questions about the stock assessments, people not being able to fish on a plentiful species because of extraordinary restrictions. We need some breakthrough with the way we manage it. It’s obviously a bicoastal problem.”

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