Below is a response to some recent Gloucester Times articles criticizing seafoodnews.com
BY JOHN SACKTON
On Saturday, our publication was mentioned on the pages of the Gloucester Times as having been "under the wing of EDF", a characterization to which we highly object. I appreciate Editor Ray Lamont’s willingness to allow a response.
The editorial highlighted a story we wrote suggesting groundfish landings in the first week under the new fishing rules were actually higher than during the same period in 2009.
There were two main points: one was that our story was wrong. Our initial story did have some mistakes that were corrected. But the thrust of the story is correct, and remains so today.
The second point said our news service, the mostly widely read paid seafood industry daily news in North America, has supported through stories and editorials the benefits of catch shares. Absolutely correct. We have a strong editorial point of view, and part of that viewpoint is that catch shares can lead to economic prosperity for the seafood industry.
So why take offense? We are happy to stand up for our editorial views; and as a daily news service, we sometimes do make mistakes, and immediately correct and acknowledge them.
The problem at the Gloucester Times is tarring us with a conspiracy theory where those who support catch shares are automatically working for environmentalists and cannot have independent views.
Lets deal straight up with the accusation that Seafoodnews.com had been “under EDF’s extensive wing” because of a small consulting contract.
This is blatant nonsense. EDF asked us for a small consulting contract to provide our views of catch shares, and some written comments. The Times should realize that some one who has a 30 year career in the seafood industry and is recognized as a leading market expert throughout North America is unlikely to be defined by a single small consulting contract.
As I have told Richard Gaines, I have worked for hundreds of companies, harvester and processor associations, government agencies, over the past ten to fifteen years - and if I could not write about subjects I have been engaged on, I could not write a word. I don’t see the Times saying that because I worked for Gorton’s, I must be representing the interests of its Japanese parent company, Nippon Suisan.
This is simply guilt by association rather than a discussion of views.
In our publication, we take strong editorial stands, and I have a history of supporting catch shares that goes back years - well before EDF even knew what a catch share was. Further for years I have been critical of New England fishery management compared to other areas of the country, and have consistently argued that hard catch limits are essential for the recovery of New England fisheries.
What the Times misses with these accusations is that in New England catch shares must be implemented in a way that recognizes community interests and that preserves the diversity of the fleet.
Where was the Gloucester Times comment on our editorial about 600 vessels being disenfranchised in New England due to the way allocations have been made for catch shares?
300 out of 800 active boats in New England landed between 1 lb and 5000 lbs. of groundfish for the entire year in 2007. This means their net revenue in the best case might be around $3000 per year from groundfish. How is a boat earning $3000 per year on groundfish surviving? It is certainly not a groundfish boat. And if that boat leased days at sea rather than bought a permit with catch history, it could get a ridiculously low allocation. When the Gloucester times quotes these boat owners, they must investigate their situation further. By claiming that everyone who supports catch shares is “under the wing of EDF” the Times avoids getting into the more important questions about how to build a successful entrepreneurial fishery. I doubt they would argue the old system was successful.
80% of New England groundfish is landed by the 200 or so largest vessels over 75 feet, and very few of these larger vessels, I think about 7 or 8, are actually home ported in Gloucester. The problem with catch shares is the threat to disenfranchise the small boat fleet, an allocation issue the council did not address.
Finally, back to the original story. The Times says that I was also mistaken because Gloucester auction results are not timely. But the New Bedford, Boston, and Portland auctions do report on a non-delayed basis. Stripping out Gloucester, the region landed 51,000 more pounds of groundfish (excluding scallops, monktail etc.) from Monday May 3rd through Friday May 7th. I found this significant, because to me it suggested, and offshore captains confirmed, that they were able to get better trips under the new system. And I considered this news. The story actually started with calls from offshore captains reporting on their trips.
Did EDF pick up this story? Why wouldn’t they. I encourage organizations whether industry or environmentalists, to reprint certain stories of interest because I believe it builds up our paid subscriber base.
Lets make an agreement to look at the facts together. I will make a prediction: that at the end of the 2010 fishing year total groundfish landings in New England will be higher than in the 2009 fishing year. The reasons are first, the pollock choke point is being resolved. And second, total ACE’s while below the 2009 TAC’s, are higher than 2009 landings. By catching a higher percentage of the ACE’s, total landings in the region may very well increase. I believe entrepreneurial fishermen take a dollar when they have an opportunity. Keeping track together of actual landings over time, certainly for more than a week, will help tell the tale.