Gloucester Daily Times, July 19, 2010, MY VIEW
Here we go again.
Another fisheries commission, the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission, seems to be following the example of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's fisheries service and, rather than taking the hard road of managing fish, is taking the easy road of controlling the fishermen.
This is a proven easy road, indeed, because no one seems to care about the plight of the fishermen. The national press does not report events concerning the fishermen, and without the watchdog barking most politicians are inclined to believe that the house is safe.
Certainly, President Obama has not yet responded to a series of pleas directed at him, and meetings of influential and representative members of the national congressional delegation with the Secretary of Commerce and the head of the supervisory agency, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) have proven utterly fruitless.
Serious miscarriage of justice within NOAA and NMFS, discovered not by an interested party but by an impartial Inspector General for the Department of Commerce, the department within which NOAA sits, does not raise the dander of anyone.
The reasons are many, but the most important is this. Finally led by a scientist, Dr. Jane Lubchenco, NOAA is reputed to have science at its side. All its decisions are taken on the basis of voluminous reams of statistics and complex mathematical models. Who, in today's world, would ever dare to challenge the dictates of science?
Well, I do. And I have done it for years. Not as a capricious and arbitrary action, but on the firm demonstration that the numbers are faulty and the science is antiquated.
That the numbers are faulty is gradually being accepted as a fact, and not as an opinion. Trawlgate is a monument to the inability of scientists to mimic the actions of fishermen.
Faulty survey data pile up on top of faulty and spotty survey data by the open admission of NMFS. And whatever data are actually handed to NMFS by the fishermen are so vast and so badly organized that they are lost — yes, lost — and it is taking at least two years for reviewing and ideally fixing the problem of disappearing numbers.
In the meantime, NMFS has the internal fortitude to throw fishermen out of work because their numbers dictate a particular allocation of quotas allowable to be fished by the admittedly wronged fishermen. Since NOAA does not have the numbers, some fishermen obtain a fat zilch of a quota. A family is not fed on missing numbers.
The fundamental reason for the shortcomings of NOAA and NMFS does not lie with a faulty application of science, but with the application of a wrong and antiquated science. NOAA and NMFS do not follow the dictates of the best and highest science of the day.
Their complex mathematical models are meaningless because they are linear, species by species models. NOAA and NMFS have not incorporated into their decision making process the dictates of the predator/prey model of fisheries management. Mathematics, biology, physics, statistics, history, and computer science I have continually cited to prove the validity of the predator/prey model of fisheries management is completely disregarded by NOAA and NMFS. Again, why?
The answer can be found, not in any scientific treatise, but in Kafka. NOAA and NMFS do not follow the dictates of predator/prey fisheries management because those dictates are not included into the empowering act under which they operate and have to respect, the Magnuson-Stevens Act. The answer lies, not in logic, but in a vicious circle.
As of now, ASMFC seems to prefer bringing to the table of discussion the easy alternative of preventing fishermen from fishing for lobsters for five years. Will the lobstermen take it? Or will they immediately sue ASMFC in a court of law asking for a preventive injunction against any such an unwarranted action? Indeed, will the lobstermen join the suit launched by the groundfishermen against NOAA and NMFS?
The legal action is necessary for immediate relief. However, in the long run, only political action will save the day. Please, sign the petition to President Obama to Stop NOAA Now (http://www.thepetitionsite.com/29/a-petition-to-stop-noaa-now) and the petition to the U.S. Congress to Amend the Magnuson-Stevens Act (http://www.thepetitionsite.com/takeaction/241380953).
The petition to amend the Magnuson Act makes two requests. One is to include in an amended Act the dictates of the predator/prey model; the other is for NOAA and MNFS to leave the little guys alone and go after the true culprits, the supranational, often heavily subsidized, corporations that too often are indeed responsible for overfishing the oceans.
At the end of their present course, there is only one unavoidable result: The end of the small, independent fishing fleet, with the accompanying end of age-old fishing communities, and fishing infrastructures.
But hope springs eternal. In the end, NOAA, NMFS, and ASMFC will do what you decide they should do. Ours is indeed a democracy.
Carmine Gorga, Ph.D., is a Gloucester resident and president of Polis-tics Inc. His latest book is titled "The Economic Process: An Instantaneous Non-Newtonian Picture."