June 25, 2011

Letters to the editor, June 25, 2011
Consolidation hurts Maine fishermen

According to a recent report by the Northwest Atlantic Marine Alliance, our New England fishing fleet is consolidating in one direction: away from the small-scale fishery and toward the large-scale industrialized fishery.

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A fishing boat passes Ram Island Ledge Light entering Portland Harbor. New rules harm independent fishermen, a reader says.

2009 Press Herald file

Consolidation does not reduce the amount of fish caught, but will change the face of who does the fishing. At present, little to no protections exist that ensure who fishes will remain diverse -- nor are there any measures to prevent monopolization of limited rights to fish.

The fishermen of New England have much in common with our small family farmers. However, voices reaching from the sea sometimes sound more distant than those of land-based neighboring farmers.

Recent changes occurring in the Northeast fishery have brought about a dramatic transition in who is participating in the fishery. The issues are not simple, but as conscientious community members we can begin by listening to, and supporting, the voices of family fishermen who are watching their livelihoods disappear.

Currently in New England three corporate entities control nearly 40 percent of one fish stock.

Those of us concerned with the security of our food systems fear uncontrolled consolidation in the fishing industry -- the result of which will include the degradation of our resources, and the loss of the independent small-boat fishermen. The loss of these boats will have a domino effect on shore-side businesses.

Decisions made by the New England Fishery Management Council impact not only fishermen but also those who live, work, and eat in communities everywhere. We must raise our voices in support of the small-scale family fishermen and ask the NEFMC to ensure that protections exist to foster a diverse fishery.

Ultimately, maintaining a diverse fleet is one of NEFMC's own objectives. To learn more, visit www.namanet.org and see the report titled "Maintain Fleet Diversity in the New England Groundfish Fishery."

Monique A. Coombs

Lobsters on the Fly

Orr's Island

Readers paying attention to Sens. Collins, Snowe

Sen. Susan Collins doesn't like the executive branch proposing that businesses, their officers and directors, bidding for governmental contracts, have to disclose their political campaign expenditures.

She asserts that this requirement will infringe on their First Amendment right, now that the "bribery" and "extortion" of elected officials, as Sen. John McCain once described it, via campaign financing has been qualified as a form of "free speech" by our Supreme Court.

This regulation will, in effect, discourage businesses and their executives from competitive bidding if they have to disclose how they distribute their contributions to support legislation favorable to their interests.

What Collins neglects to mention in her May 23 commentary is that this "speech" is what likely led to the proposal in the first place.

We can agree with Collins that "whether a contractor agrees or disagrees with the political views of an administration should be irrelevant to the (bidding) process."

What is relevant is the conflict of interest for the persons with the authority to award these contracts. This conflict of interest does not seem to occur to Collins and other elected office holders who don't think that the free speech in the form of money that they are awash with does not influence their judgment.

It's not the prospective contractors who need to worry about the scrutiny given to their past campaign contributions. It is elected officials like Collins who need to be concerned about the transparent impropriety of their actions when awarding contracts to their captains and chiefs who fuel their campaign money machines.

Many such contracts between our federal government and private business have led to much harm being done at great cost -- and sometimes fatal cost -- to our people and tragically, to other people internationally.

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