December 24, 2012

Letters to the Editor: Many fishermen support closed areas

I want to thank the Portland Press Herald for running the story "Feds urged to open five zones now closed to groundfishing" (Dec. 16). The groundfish industry is indeed facing unprecedented adversity, but I want to clarify that not all fishermen believe closed areas are a failed experiment.

click image to enlarge

A fresh catch of groundfish awaits auction at the Portland Fish Pier in 2011. The Gulf of Maine and small-boat fishermen need the protections offered by closing some areas to fishing, a reader says.

2011 File Photo / Gordon Chibroski

The New England groundfish fishery has been declared a disaster due to the unanticipated decline of fish stocks despite fishermen adhering to management regulations. Though the opinions regarding the impact of closed areas protecting fish vary highly, assuming that closed areas don't work because fish stocks have not rebounded oversimplifies a complicated system.

Any fisherman can tell you that things are changing on the water. Species from southern regions and predator species are present in higher abundance, forage species are being depleted, ocean water is warming and impacts of chemicals and hormones in the water are widely unknown.

These changes represent additional risks to fish stocks, yet, in the face of economic disaster, there is a push to open up the only places that may be protecting a declining resource.

Fishermen who actually fish around closed areas have seen a benefit of increased catch rates along the edges and older fish (which are crucial to rebuilding the resource) in higher abundance. Opening up the closed areas may provide a short-term benefit for some fishermen, but what will be the long-term impacts?

Despite some loud voices clamoring for access, many of Maine's fishermen would prefer to see these areas stay closed, even with decreasing allocations. While this may not hold true for Georges Bank, the Gulf of Maine needs these protections, and the small-boat fishermen who live and work in Maine are asking the New England Fishery Management Council to leave them in place.

Ben Martens

executive director, Maine Coast Fishermen's Association


It's the time to learn about others' holiday traditions 

I noticed the menorah and Christmas tree in downtown Portland the other day and came to realize just how much I had heard the debate on how people should be able to publicly celebrate the holidays.

Whether it be a person being accosted for saying "Happy Holidays," the Bureau of Motor Vehicles having to take down a Christmas tree because of a complaint or entire towns just throwing up their arms and not celebrating anymore at all, it seems that all of it is negative and nobody is seeing the positive.

I heard Rush Limbaugh speaking on the subject the other day blatantly belittling Kwanzaa because he didn't feel as though it merited being on the same level as Christmas. Conversely, many liberal thinkers are too scared to offend, so they never utter any specifics about the "holidays."

It seems as though there might be ways to celebrate the various holidays that occur at this time of year without offending anybody; maybe everyone should relax.

If we spent as much energy on learning about each other as we do bickering about such non-threatening things, we might get on the same page.

When I hang up the phone with my Jewish friends at this time of year, I say "Happy Hanukkah," and they will generally reply, "Merry Christmas" to me. I've also said "Merry Christmas" to people and been replied to "Happy Hanukkah." I never took that response as aggressive; rather, it taught me a little bit about that person.

Maybe, when the customer at the BMV complains about the tree, they should be provided the opportunity to add decor as well. And maybe we can realize that there is enough bitterness and segregation in our communities that it need not be forced into our few moments of joy and peace.

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