U.S. should step up and not stop fishing
What course of action would you take if you were a politician helping to run a country with a record near?$6 billion deficit in its seafood trade?
Would you encourage the fishing industry to go flat?out to land all the fish that can be caught in a sustainable way, or would you ? like US congressman Hefley ?introduce a hare?brained scheme to ban the main fishing method of trawling across large swathes of sea?
Sad to say, the United States is now to consider taking the second course of action at the behest of a congressman representing a land?locked state!
Foreign fishermen and fish wholesalers eyeing the lucrative US seafood market surely can't believe their luck that the US is conspiring to sabotage its own fishing industry from within in this way.
Brazil got the message when it recently found itself in financial difficulties due to its growing fish imports contributing to a threat to the national economy. It called on the fishing industry to get stuck in and catch for itself the fish then being imported at great national cost.
But the US reaction to its position in seafood is bizarre. With the value of seafood imports into the USA from Canada up 14 per cent, Thailand 19 per cent, Taiwan 12 per cent and Chile 16 per cent, it is exploring a ban on the trawl if it disturbs seabed life.
So, at a time when US seafood exports have slipped 17 per cent in one year to just over $2.1 billion, a major threat is being heaped on an industry which provides vital jobs and healthy food for the good of the nation.
We agree that some forms of trawling can chum up the seabed, but this can even be beneficial in some cases as it can uncover foods for fish and other marine life to eat.
If congressman Hefley had read an article published in New Scientist a few years back he might have saved everybody getting wound up over this issue. M. J. Kaiser and JW. Horwood presented fishing effort data which showed that: "in a pristine environment, the first ever passage of a fishing gear will proportionately have the greatest effect on the community within its path, whether considered in terms of individuals captured or killed. Thereafter, successive passages of the trawl will cause proportionately fewer changes. Moreover, the first ever tow may have occurred years or decades ago.
Therefore, it seems that congressman Hefley's great grandfather would have had to introduce the bill to make it effective!
Tows are passed on down the generations of fishermen, so some sections of a specific area can be heavily fished while ? just yards away whole areas will be as pristine as congressman Hefley desires.
Work is being carried out to lessen the impact of fishing gear on the seabed and one of the fruits of this research under Europe's Reduce program is highlighted in the Product News section of FNI this month (see Page 3 1)
A footrope roller has been developed which allows a trawl to go over, rather than through, the seabed.
But why bully and threaten an industry, rather than take a pragmatic course to minimise any problems? In fact, the whole thing sounds like it has been put up by scientists desperate to justify public funding for their pet research projects.
This is an extremist bill which must to fought off at all costs.
If congressman Hefley wants a pristine environment, he may as well live on the moon. For this type of legislation is certainly asking for it! We hope congressman Hefley's bill sinks fast.
Figures from Seafood Market Analyst's US Seafood Market Forecast Reports prepared by Seafood Market Analyst, PO Box 564, Narragansett, RI, 02882, USA.