It is the responsibility of every elected representative to recognize that they not only represent the constituents of their district, but that every decision they make also impacts every other citizen in Rhode Island. That said, if I were an elected rep today, I would call upon my fellow members of the Rhode Island General Assembly to convene an emergency session and issue emergency injunctive relief for the Rhode Island fishing industry.
Why? Because I just witnessed the quintessential dog and pony show – representatives from Washington came to Pt. Judith today for a “listening session with stakeholders and members of the public concerned with challenges facing the fishing industry.” The officials in attendance included Senators Reed and Whitehouse and members of their staff, as well as "John K. Bullard, who was recently appointed to head the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s (NOAA) Northeast Regional Office of the National Marine Fisheries Service, and Bill Karp, who was recently named Science and Research Director for NOAA’s Northeast Fisheries Science Center.”
Arrayed as a panel, these officials mustered all possible gravity of demeanor to suggest they could hear the pleas from the beleaguered men and women of the R.I. fishing fleet, and that solutions would be forthcoming. But the solution they seem most focused on providing is financial assistance to those who are going out of business, rather than taking immediate action to prevent them from going out of business in the first place.
How so? Concerning the amount of groundfish our fleet is allowed to take, we listened to the fisherman explain how the science used by the Federal Government to impose catch limits on these fish is fatally flawed, that the government’s research vessel uses inappropriate ground tackle and tows at the incorrect speed to collect these fish at all. Then they use their predictably low catch to suggest the stock of these fish is dangerously depleted. Resolving this one simple issue – putting the correct equipment on the research vessel and towing at the correct speed – would prove the fisherman are correct, that there are plenty of these particular species to harvest.
In response to this complaint, these government officials had the nerve to admit they’ve heard this it repeatedly from fisherman up and down the Northeast coast, and further that they would take this information back to Washington and synthesize a grand solution. “Nothing prompt,” mind you, “this will take one or two or more years.” Meanwhile, the existing limits are strangling our fishermen’s ability to work, so much so that many are hanging by a thread, and this at a time when much of our fleet has already gone under.
If there ever was an instance when the state should intervene, this is it. In the absence of prompt action from the feds, the state should push back on these regulations that are demonstrably flawed – if not unconstitutional – and that are strangling our fishing fleet. The General Assembly should intervene to let our fishermen to do what they do best, catch fish! Because it’s clear that Washington is not listening with an ear to solve their dilemma. Instead, Washington seems intent upon a completely different agenda – to place as many hard-working Americans as possible on assistance. Our fisherman don’t want bailouts, they want to work!
Members of the Rhode Island General Assembly, I beg you to convene an emergency session. Work with state agencies that are willing to break ranks with the feds and do the right thing: Take immediate steps to grant injunctive relief to our fisherman from these restrictions born of flawed data collection. And if the federal government takes umbrage and threatens retaliation, so be it. Rhode Island needs to stand up for Rhode Islanders. If we do so, then many states will follow suit. We must break the strangldhold Washington has upon our nation, especially when that stranglehold – a bureaucratic quagmire that swallows up the feedback and pleas from desperate constituents and makes it disappear – is plain for all with open eyes to see. Show the hard-working citizens of Rhode Island you have the courage to restore the meaning of our motto, Hope.
With Liberty, Dean Fachon, Candidate District 30 House Rep.