The Northeast Region’s Vision for the Future of the Groundfish Fleet: A Comprehensive Report
For nearly 30 years, the Northeast’s commercial fishing industry has been locked in a highly contentious debate over how to best manage the region’s depleted groundfish stocks (cod, haddock, flounder, and other species that dwell near the sea floor). The dispute generally involves four groups: fishermen, scientists, managers, and environmentalists. Previous conflicts and continuing misperceptions between these groups have led to a deep well of distrust that has proved exceedingly difficult to overcome.
This social crisis on land has prolonged the ecological crisis at sea, as action needed to rebuild fish stocks is stalled by prolonged court battles and politically motivated indecision. Most experts close to the conflict agree that before fish stocks recover, these groups must first reach consensus on the direction and goals of management.
To that end, the Fleet Visioning Project engaged diverse stakeholders from throughout the Northeast region to develop a vision for the future of the groundfish fleet. The project had two primary goals. The first goal was to develop a community and consensus-based vision that would guide resource managers as they make difficult decisions to end overfishing while maintaining maximum sustainable harvest. The second primary goal sought to build bridges across the often divergent stakeholder groups in order to decrease conflict in favor of a collaborative approach to managing the Northeast fishery.
The Fleet Visioning Project accomplished both goals. Utilizing the Collaborative Change Approach, the project engaged a diversity of participants in visioning and conflict resolution. In the end, 250 individuals responded to a survey that asked, 1) If anything were possible, what is your vision for the future of the groundfishing fleet?, 2) Why is the future of the groundfishing fleet important to you?, and 3) How can your vision of the groundfishing fleet be most effectively implemented, and what might you do to help? Sixty-five survey respondents participated at area workshops that enabled new conversations between diverse stakeholders that ultimately led to the region’s vision for the future.
This report contains a comprehensive review of the process, participation, the outcomes, and implications for future management.