Protecting Ocean Ecosystems
New England’s listening session on the National Ocean Policy was this week – how did fishing factor into the conversation?
On Monday, June 27th, the National Ocean Council (NOC) held a listening session in Exeter, NH for New Englanders to learn about and comment on the NOC’s Strategic Action Plans to achieve the nine priority objectives of the National Ocean Policy (NOP). Panels of speakers from diverse backgrounds and organizations, including the NOC, discussed the strategic action plans. However, it was a listening session, and many panelists urged their intent not to lecture, but to listen. During the section devoted to public comments, the topic of fisheries and fishermen came up time and time again. Here is a brief overview of how fisheries were incorporated into the conversation through the public commentary (for a full recap of the public’s key points on all issues, click here):
- Representatives of non-profits, marine research organizations, and Gulf of Maine interest groups mentioned the necessity of utilizing the knowledge of our fishermen and the New England Fishery Management Council (NEFMC) as a valuable source of information for Coastal and Marine Spatial Planning (CMSP);
- Representatives of non-profits and marine research organizations, along with the Marine Fisheries Division of the New Hampshire Fish and Game Department, proposed the integration of fisheries management into Ecosystem-Based Management (EBM);
- The NH Marine Fisheries Division and the sole fishing community representative present demanded that NEFMC members receive a voting seat on the NOC to ensure that their interests are included and their expertise can be utilized, noting their lack of representation on the 18 member council as well as on the listening sessions’ panel of speakers; and
- It was noted several times that there needs to be better communication and collaboration between government entities and diverse stakeholders, as called for in the NOP. The fact that this listening session was planned for the same date as a University of New Hampshire workshop on fisheries science and management was given as a prime example of a lack of communication and a major oversight (this scheduling conflict was given as the reason why no fishermen were present at the listening session).
In addition to the commentary on fisheries and fishermen, CLF’s Sean Cosgrove was first to highlight the need to recognize the Gulf of Maine as a nationally significant water body in the NOP and various action plans. He urged specific recognition to be written into the policy – an idea that was reiterated throughout the public comments. (Watch the video here) The drafting of the nine strategic action plans will continue through the summer and full draft versions are predicted to be completed by early fall. The National Ocean Policy provides a great opportunity for fishermen and all ocean users to be engaged. Find out more on the National Ocean Council webpage.