Gloucester Daily Times
July 9, 2008
Last Nov. 21, the Times published a story headlined, "Yearlong federal probe roils the waterfront.”
Five days later, Capt. Paul Cohan felt free to detail the deepest reason for the state of disturbance that prevails on the waterfront in Gloucester and New Bedford. Capt. Cohan, a highly respected member of the fishing community, pointed out that the investigation was being conducted with tactics that showed no respect for the constitutional rights of fishermen.
Such tactics included "Armed local, state, federal, and military agents rifling through your personal possessions with no warrants, no probable cause, no justification except your profession."
On April 16, another highly respected fisherman, Sam Frontiero, in a letter to the Times, added to the long list of indignities to which fishermen are subjected daily: They are monitored when they go to work; they are monitored when they come back from work; they are monitored where and while they are at work; they have to buy expensive permits to go to work; for certain species of fish, they are allowed to work only 40 days a year and they can land only a few hundred pounds of fish per day; if they land more, they are subjected to heavy fines and the danger of losing their licenses; hence, they throw fish overboard - all the while, they "see the starving kids all over the world."
There's more, he noted: "While driving around, you may be pulled over to be detained for hours after your long day to have your papers checked out and have the car fleeced for any part of what brings you your income.”
Fishermen are being treated like criminals because at times they are caught working without carrying with them cumbersome and conflicting letters of authorization; and because at times they land a few pounds of fish above draconian limits. This is fish that is already dead and they are required to toss it overboard, rather than even donating it to charities as they have innumerable times proposed.
These allegations deserve the widest possible formal investigation. The investigation ought to be swift and thorough, since the law enforced affects the livelihood of many local fishing communities. And if the allegations turn out to be true, the outcome of the investigation ought to be drastic.
It might not be sufficient to mend the misguided tactics of our law enforcement officers, however. Law enforcement tactics are open to interpretation. Since they are enforcing a misguided law, the federal Magnuson-Stevens fishery law, there is only one ultimate solution to this intolerable state of affairs. It is the law itself that must be amended - or done away with.
The law stands on an untrue and unjustifiable premise. The premise is that overfishing is done by the fishermen. While this tall tale has been thrust upon the fishing community because of the weak political standing of its easily divided victims, reams of science and statistics prove otherwise. They prove that overfishing is done by the natural predators of fish.
This dynamic becomes incontrovertible as soon as one stops sponsoring the wrong conception of a fixed linear and pyramidal food chain. The reality is that the line changes over time, and the predators of today become the prey of tomorrow.
To the very least, the Magnuson-Stevens fishery law must be amended to incorporate this simple verity: Overfishing is done by the natural predators of fish. When this simple verity is incorporated into the structure of the law, 90 percent of today's draconian measures will appear for what they are: unnecessary and counterproductive.
The predator/prey model is not anyone's theory; it is a standard understanding in all respectable scientific circles today. It is not the large bottom fish that are the prey of herring and mackerel; rather, it is the larvae of bottom fish when they go up toward light and food-the plankton-that exist at the very top of the water column. And once they grow up, the codlings need to go back to their habitat to reproduce and savor better food than plankton.
It is when their offspring go up and down the water column that bottom fish become a feast for the midwater predators: herring and mackerel.
This is not a theory, but proven fact. Codlings were found when stomachs of herring and mackerel were opened up for inspection.
All this is not simply elementary any longer. All this is proved history. Not simply ancient history that is buried in volumes of statistics. Just now that some herring and mackerel are being caught again in New England waters, as they used to be in the past, the stocks of bottom fish are rebounding at an accelerating rate.
There are reams of science that prove the existence of these natural cycles. The first predator-prey model was developed for fish caught in the Adriatic Sea by Lotke, a mathematician, working in collaboration with Volterra, a biologist, about a century ago.
As one of the direct consequences of that first discovery, the complex chaos theory that has unfurled in mathematics and geometry during the last couple of generations has revolutionized most of our stale linear thinking processes. At the very core of that theory, the predator/pray model has been proven to affect all living creatures.
Have we not read in Science that even the lemmings are subject to the same dynamics?
And yet, administrators of the Magnuson-Stevens fishery law and environmentalists, of all people, show no evidence of recognizing that herring and mackerel are the predators of bottom fish. In their unholy catering to (or is it dominance of?) federal administrators of that law, they have built a solid barrier to understanding. To admit the existence of the predator/pray model would be tantamount to admitting that all the unconscionable hardship imposed upon the fishing community in the past has been all unnecessary.
No. That is not all. To cover their past mistakes, vociferous members of that unholy alliance now have the gall to call for greater restrictions on the catch of herring and mackerel.
To follow their recommendations is to condemn local fishing communities to a state of perpetual crisis -in a perpetual state of fear of enforcement of misguided rules and regulations.
Carmine Gorga is president of Polis-tics, Inc.