Commerce Secretary nominee should champion policies that rebuild fish stocks and strengthen coastal economies

Last week, President Obama nominated John Bryson, a former energy company CEO, to be the next Secretary of Commerce.  According to the Boston Globe, Bryson has a long history of business leadership, having spent nearly two decades as chairman and CEO of Edison International, a major electric utility. He is also a director of Boeing and Walt Disney and an adviser to a large private-equity firm in New York.

Why should this matter to Talking Fish readers? The Department of Commerce houses NOAA, so the Secretary of Commerce plays a significant role in creating and enforcing federal fisheries policy and all ocean matters.  While President Obama’s announcement of the nomination emphasized Bryson’s business expertise, he was also co-founder of the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC). That heritage may be controversial among fishermen and a few politicians in New England, but we think it reflects a perfect blend to guide the nation forward in obtaining full economic benefits from our marine resources without compromising the ocean’s ability to sustain these benefits.

President Obama talks with current Secretary of Commerce Gary Locke and the Secretary-designate, John Bryson (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

The Marine Fish Conservation Network (MFCN), an alliance of groups working for healthy oceans and productive fisheries to which many Talking Fish contributors belong, perhaps said it best on Tuesday when they wrote in reaction to the nomination:

“The health of US fisheries is central to our quality of life. Fisheries provide millions of Americans with food, jobs and recreation. We are at a crossroads for the recovery of many US fish populations, and the next Secretary will need to follow through to secure a prosperous fishing future. That will mean resisting political pressure from some quarters.

As the Secretary-designate considers his goals, any decision to prioritize the nation’s economic wellbeing must lead him to focus on fisheries. Rebuilding US fisheries has the potential to increase dockside value by $2.2 billion annually, generate an additional $31 billion in sales, and support 500,000 new jobs.”

Conservation Law Foundation supports this statement – and as a project of CLF, Talking Fish does as well. As we have previously reported, current fishery management policy in New England is finally starting to meet necessary conservation objectives for the first time in 40 years, a crucial step to maintaining healthy fisheries and coastal economies. To continue this success, we must support catch limits based on sound science. Bryson’s environmental roots do not guarantee that he will champion these same principles as Secretary of Commerce, but we trust that when critics pound on his door with various grievances, he will remember that a strong economy requires healthy resources in order to truly thrive.


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