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.

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.

G.J. Fitzgerald

Bar Harbor 

Maybe Santa can persuade LePage to restore murals 

Dear Santa,

Please help our illustrious governor to see the folly of his having the labor murals hidden away from the public. Please help him remember that the murals depicted people working, creating better working conditions so that people could work in businesses without undue suffering or work loss.

These people actually supported the right to work — the right to work safely and fairly, with, of all things, businesses, so that breadwinners could actually go to work and not die an early death from poor working conditions, which could place the welfare of surviving families somewhere between the street and the state.

The murals are about the history of labor. It isn’t any different history if they are shown in the Department of Labor or a history museum, except that they are particularly about labor.

What is business without labor? What is labor without safe, prospering business? What is business without a good name? By taking the murals down, Gov. LePage inadvertently made everyone aware of them and their important themes.

So I would like to see them restored to where they were, where they never bothered anyone or any business before and where they would cease being a national embarrassment to our state (and might even become a tourist attraction or destination).

It may be LePage’s right to have them removed just as it was Scrooge’s right to say, “Bah, humbug.” But only when Scrooge realized his mistake did it truly make Christmas real.

So please, Santa, forgive our governor his little insane prank and have him give the people’s murals back to the Department of Labor and Maine.

Paula Callahan


Argument for higher taxes amounts to endorsing theft 

Mort Mather of Wells argues that those with higher incomes should be subject to higher rates of income tax (“Any reason not to hike taxes on the rich?” Dec. 18).

Such an increase, he argues, would not be unfair since even with it they could surely get by.

I personally find the argument a little offensive. If some neighbor of mine had more money than he needed, and I had less than I needed, would I be justified in stealing it from him? Would I be justified in lobbying my representatives to pass laws that would transfer some of that money to me? Would such lobbying not be a form of theft (albeit a little more indirect)?

I have to wonder why we are discussing lowering ourselves to the level of Willy Sutton, who when asked why he robbed banks replied: “Because that’s where the money is.”

William Vaughan Jr.

Chebeague Island 

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