Obama Set to Kill Off Maine Fishing Industry to Save Already Abundant Porpoise Population
It’s an Obama world.
Maine fisherman say catching a porpoise in their nets is like hitting a deer with your car. There are an estimated 89,700 porpoises thriving in the area. But Barack Obama will force local fishermen to shut down during the crucial fall months to save these animals.
In this July 25, 2005 file photo, a porpoise leaps out of the water holding a fish while feeding in the Indian River in Titusville, Fla. Federal regulators say far too many porpoises in the Gulf of Maine are drowning in fishing gear, specifically gillnets, which triggered a provision in federal law that will close down a busy fishing ground in the Gulf of Maine to gillnets for two months this year, starting in October. (AP /Phil Sandlin, File)
Fisherman Lou Williams sees plenty of harbor porpoises, usually swimming in small pods well away from his boat, unlike the herds of lookalike dolphins that get close enough to ride his vessel’s wake.
A place Williams doesn’t see many porpoises is his nets.
“It’s a rare occasion,” said Williams, 55, who fishes out of Gloucester. “I don’t think more than a couple this year.”
But federal regulators say far too many porpoises in the Gulf of Maine are drowning in fishing gear, specifically the stationary nets that Williams and other fishermen use, called gillnets.
The estimated fatalities are so high, they triggered a provision in federal rules that will close a busy fishing ground that extends from Gloucester to southern Maine to gillnets for two months annually, starting this Oct. 1.
Some say the fishermen bear much of the blame for the closure. The porpoise can be avoided by equipping the nets with so-called pingers, which make periodic beeps that drive the porpoises away. All gillnetters are supposed to have working pingers at the corners of each of the nets they string together, but federal regulators said fishermen who use the affected area had only a 41 percent compliance rate.
“The industry has done itself a great disfavor, at least this segment of the industry, by not going up full bore … with compliance,” said David Pierce, a member of New England Fishery Management Council.
Fishermen are trying to maintain functioning pingers, but it’s difficult to tell when the devices break down, said Mike Russo, a fisherman who spoke at a council meeting last week. The closure was coming at a terrible time for an industry struggling to survive various new restrictions, he added.
The shutdown will affect $4 million in annual revenues for an already struggling fishing industry.
The Republic reported:
Williams said everyone he knows has functioning pingers, and questioned whether there would truly be dire consequences if one or two don’t work on several strings of nets.
He also questioned the need to shut down a crucial fishing area to help a robust population of porpoise, comparing it to penalizing a driver for hitting a deer.
Williams said he lands about 50 percent of his annual catch of bottom-dwelling groundfish during October and November, when the shutdown is scheduled. According to federal numbers, fishermen pulled in about $4 million in revenues during that period over the past two years.
The loss is huge in an industry that’s fighting for its future as it faces significant cuts in key stocks such as cod in the Gulf of Maine and yellowtail flounder in Georges Bank. There’s also no obvious end to the annual closure to protect porpoise, since the requirement to reduce accidental porpoise deaths down to 70 per year looks a long way off. The team of regulators, fisherman and environmentalists that devised the closure could conceivably decide there are better alternatives to shutting down the area, but they don’t meet until this fall.