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The dominant narrative in fisheries management assumes that market-based strategies alone will save the ocean and the fish. This has led to the adoption of Catch Shares and similar neo-liberal policies designed to privatize the right to fish, keeping out small and medium scale fishing operations with the smallest ecological footprints. The rationale used is that fewer "more efficient" players are easier to manage and the attrition in the industry caused by such policies will make sure those who are left fishing have a stake in the ocean and therefore will be better stewards.
Get Big or Get Out
It's disturbing to see that these policies mirror those that turned farms into food production machines with grave ecological, social, health, food access and economic consequences. Now fishing is being turned into a highly extractive industry with similar consequences that agribusiness had on farming. Aquabusiness, as we call it, is forcing fishermen to get big or get out.
Privatization Does Not Equal Stewardship
But the reality is that each time policy decisions have forced a sector of our society to get-big-or-get-out it has failed at its core mission. Privatization, consolidation and concentration of our financial, healthcare, education, housing and land- based food production systems have universally failed.
Yet similar policies are being pushed on the water aiming to replace community based fishermen with operations that, using an antiquated definition of "efficiency" with significant economic, social, and environmental consequences.
A new narrative exists; one that embodies lessons learned from land and highlights the social, environmental, economic and food system benefits of small and medium scale, community based fishermen.
Carving a place for community-based fishermen with new ideas at the policy table has always been part of NAMA's work. In 2008 we began a strategic effort to focus on broadening the base of support for community based fishermen, with a particular focus on reaching out to food system organizations and advocates.
Wave of Momentum
We are engaged in food system conversations locally, regionally, nationally and internationally; have created new business models -- such as Community Supported Fisheries (CSFs) that are thriving; mobilized unprecedented, diverse voices in favor of viable policies that highlight the multiple values of small and medium scale fishing operations; and, isolated policies and operations that compromise our collective values.
Networking for a Sea of Change
During the 2014 Fish Locally Collaborative Assembly, the 60+ participants from North America, Europe, and Latin America developed a new narrative to achieve our ultimate objective: to stop the neo-liberal policies and antiquated market strategies that are compromising our ecological goals, privatizing our ocean commons, and undermining economic resiliency of coastal communities, particularly small and medium scale, independent fishermen.
With the process of reauthorization of the Fish Bill (traditionally known as the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act) afoot and likely speeding up in 2015-2016, we will expand and build on the current communications work to advance this new narrative. We will focus on highlighting the economic, social and ecological sustainability of small and medium-sized fishermen and their communities, and their contribution to healthy and just food systems. We will bring new voices and new perspectives into the conversation, and use a variety of tactics and tools to do so.
Here are a few other policy collaborations taking place:
- Fleet Diversity: New England implemented Catch Share policy for its groundfish management plan in 2010. Immediately fishing communities saw a rapid consolidation of boats and access rights into fewer hands, squeezing out the fishing businesses with the smallest ecological footprint, and exerting fishing pressure on some fish stocks exceeding what the ecosystem could handle - leaving inshore dependent fishermen without fish to catch. Community based fishermen and allies took to the fisheries Council to address these problems and offer solutions. Read more.
- Fish Bill: The reauthorization of the US fisheries legislation, traditionally known at the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act (we call the Fish Bill), is currently underway and is a prime opportunity to bring this new narrative to light. Allies within the Fish Locally Collaborative developed a sign-on letter to congress and will be looking to create additional action opportunities in the upcoming year. Read more.
- Lifting Ban on Locally Caught Seafood: As a result of years of planning, organizing, and collaboration, much of it led by members of the Fish Locally Collaborative, on May 12 2012 Boston Mayor Thomas Menino lifted an antiquated ban on the sale of seafood at the farmers’ markets in Boston. For the first time in 70 years, local fishermen were permitted to sell their catch directly on public property in Boston, including farmers markets. Read more.