Congressional hearings regarding the fourth 10-year review of commercial fishing’s landmark Magnuson-Stevens Act began in the nation’s capital last week.
The hearings come at a critical time for the industry — especially across New England, where the groundfishery is a federally recognized “economic disaster” and faces an even more dire crisis May 1, when limits on Gulf of Maine cod and other stocks will be cut by up to 77 percent.
So we wonder why the only scheduled New England witness scheduled to speak before the House Natural Resources Committee, where Malden Congressman and U.S. Senate candidate Ed Markey is the ranking Democrat, is John Pappalardo of the Cape Cod Hook Fishermen’s Association. That’s an affront to rank-and-file fishermen and our fishing communities.
Pappalardo was the head of the New England Fishery Management Council — and policy chief with the Cape Cod fishing group — when his council rammed through NOAA’s poorly planned and ill-conceived catch share management system that has played a key role in producing the current crisis. In the initial allocations, Pappalardo’s hook fishermen got a built-in boost in allocation above other sectors, setting the stage for them to lease more quota, sit back and reel in the cash without even having to go to sea. He is, in effect, a walking, breathing symbol of catch shares and the corrupt conflicts of interests that surround them.
Let’s hope Markey recognizes that Pappalardo hardly represents today’s fishermen and solicits more testimony from those on fishing’s front lines.