July 05, 2017    

Put Massachusetts First

A Good Diehl for Fishing

Our ports are the richest in the country based on what is landed on our docks.  Unfortunately, recent setbacks threaten the future of our fleets. Massachusetts fishermen will finally have a friend in the United States Senate when Geoff Diehl is elected.  Communities from New Bedford to Scituate to Gloucester will be revived.

Massachusetts was built on a thriving and healthy fishing industry, steered not only by fishermen, but also by the vital on-shore dockworkers, fish processors, and net manufacturers, just to name a few. This industry, seen by many as the backbone of our state, has been steadily declining over the past 30 years due to increased regulations, burdensome taxation, and vilification from environmental groups.

Over the past year, the MA fishing industry has faced especially tough challenges as a result of grounded fleets, stalled permits in the city of New Bedford, and tough regulations.  As our next U.S. Senator, Geoff is dedicated to fighting for the rights of local fishermen. In order to do this, Diehl plans to actively work with NOAA and local legislators to retain the New Bedford permits, bring common sense to monitoring, and work to repeal the monument status that has been placed on many of our most indispensable fishing areas.  Unlike Senator Warren, Geoff understands the critical role that the fishing industry plays in our state’s economy, and is unwilling to allow this industry to be forced out of business.

Repeal the Northeast Canyons and Seamounts Marine National Monument Status

In 2016 President Obama created the Northeast Canyons and Seamounts Marine National Monument which encompasses almost 5,000 square miles of ocean. This act banned commercial fishing from the area, and has forced fishermen across New England to face a plummeting decrease in stock availability. The crowding of these fishermen into limited allocated fishing areas has not produced positive results. In fact, it has had the opposite effect: forcing an entire industry to share limited fishing space.  Not only does this increase competition without an increase in resources, it also is in direct conflict with the original goal of marine life preservation.

As the next Senator, Diehl will work to repeal the area’s monument status. In conjunction with this repeal, Diehl will find common ground with NOAA and the administration to supplement ocean conservation with policies that work to protect marine life without unduly harming the fishing industry. This includes reviewing the lifespan of lobster, groundfish, and finfish permits, daily catch requirements and guidelines, and enacting accountability measures to ensure compliance.

Keep Fishing Licenses in New Bedford

Presently New Bedford fishermen have been dealing with a forced grounding of the Sector 9 (or IX) groundfishing vessels. This action was put in place after a prominent local fisherman, Carlos Rafael, was rightfully convicted of violating federal fishing regulations. His business consisted of 40 vessels whose permits can now be relocated out of the state, leaving over 300 people out of work and devastating the city of New Bedford’s economy. Diehl understands that keeping these permits in New Bedford and expediting the transfer to ready licenses is critical for maintaining the livelihood of those individuals, and for ensuring the survival of the fishing industry now and in the future.

The New Bedford fishing fleet brings in $369 million in seafood every year, and MA fishermen supported over 83,000 jobs statewide as of 2009.  The average age of Massachusetts fishermen is 59, and fewer young men are stepping up to replace them as they age into retirement. This is partially due to the high cost associated with complying to the ever-growing restrictions and regulations placed on commercial fleets. One federal scalloping permit alone has been estimated to be worth almost $5.5 million.

As a way to encourage replenishment of the space, Diehl supports the auctioning of Rafael’s 44 vessels, which are worth a combined $2.2 million, to Massachusetts fishermen. Diehl will proactively work with federal authorities to advocate that the permits stay in New Bedford.

Reduce Regulatory Burden

The decline of the fishing industry in Massachusetts is largely due to burdensome regulations placed on fishermen in the name of ocean conservation and the preservation of marine life.  Once elected, Diehl is determined to find a balance between the necessary protections to ensure ocean preservation, and continuing to support the growth of a healthy marine industry across the state. Many of the harmful policies in place are in an attempt to prevent overfishing.  However, the number of American fish species classified as “overfished” are at an all-time low as of this year.  Contrary to much of the popular rhetoric, members of the fishing industry are some of the staunchest supporters of ocean preservation policy. Fishermen rely on a healthy and well-populated ocean in order to maintain their livelihoods, and practices such as disregarding size and daily catch restrictions, are not in their own best interest.

Diehl supports maintaining guidelines for the preservation of endangered species, but also supports the amendment of many policies that regulate overly populated fish, such as black sea bass, in ways that are unnecessary for the species to continue thriving. Similarly, Diehl understands the threat that the ever-growing seal population poses to the natural environment, and will work to mitigate the dangers currently posed by seals to fish life, recreational boaters, and the fishing community.

The case of Carlos Rafael demonstrates that fishermen can break the rules, and by doing so can harm an entire industry. In conjunction with the reinstatement of fishing licenses in New Bedford, Diehl supports the creation of new policies to ensure that fishermen stay within the legal confines of their industry. This includes improvement of training for dockside monitors who inspect daily catches and allowing spot checks. (Fishermen should not have to pay for these dockside monitors.)  The New Bedford fishing sector has been criticized for its failure to keep members under their quotas and accurate count daily intake, and Diehl believes these changes will mitigate that risk.

A more transparent monitoring system will also benefit charter boats, who are faced with incredibly restrictive guidelines that limit the number of charter boats allowed in one area. These guidelines also overestimate the negative effects of a catch and release policy, assuming that almost 15% of fish caught and released are killed. To correct this, Diehl believes that transparent GPS and catch-count monitoring will result in the correction of this misconception, along with an increase in charter boats allowed in each sector. This will allow for sustainable resource management without unduly harming the charter industry.

Diehl opposes at-sea government monitors that are paid to act as onboard watch dogs. These monitors are an egregious example of government overreach and a crippling cost to the fishermen: the cost of paying these monitors can add around $700 per day to the cost of fishing. These prohibitive costs further raise the cost of entry for new fishermen, and make it increasingly challenging for current fishermen to survive. Once elected, Diehl will prioritize working with the New England Fishery Management Council, NOAA representatives, and the administration to ensure the preservation of a healthy ocean, healthy marine life, and an accessible and thriving fishing industry.