US fishermen take over Capitol Hill in mass protest Published: 25 February, 2010
THOUSANDS of fishermen from across the United States converged on the capital Washington yesterday in a mass protest over the way the industry is being treated.
The US fishing industry is more diverse than its European counterparts and the rally on Capitol Hill included anglers, charter boat owners, marine businesses and even party boat businesses as well as deep sea fishermen from Alaska to Florida.
The main purpose of the protest, called “United We Fish”, was against the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration, (NOAA) which enforces the intensely disliked Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act.
This act, which has come in for the same vehement criticism as the Common Fisheries Policy in Britain, has brought in new annual catch limits for various species and closed off some areas vessels with the aim of stopping over fishing. Restrictions on catching red snapper is a major issue, which the NOAA says is in danger of being overfished. The industry says that has hit often isolated communities where fishing is the only major economic activity and this has cost many jobs as fishing businesses close.
The protest rally also drew local politicians from both East and West Coast fishing ports One of them, the Mayor of Gloucester Massachusetts, said there was so much cod in the sea that fishermen could almost walk on it. A number of US senators and congressmen have already introduced legislation to try to get changes in the fishery conservation act, so that measures to rebuild stocks are over a longer period.
However, the federal authorities are unrepentant, saying that the restrictions are science based and designed to protect vulnerable fish.A federal official defended the law, saying it imposes science-based, annual catch limits to protect vulnerable fish.