Herring Fishermen Told To Go Back To Ireland By Herring Campaigners
Traveling to Fairhaven Massachusetts to speak at the Public comment meeting for Herring Amendment 5 of the Herring Management plan on Monday my thoughts were all about what I would say and how nervous I was to speak in public again. The meeting put on by David Pierce and Lori Steele was the 4th of 8 scheduled and being held next door to our nation's number one fish port was an important one. Fairhaven is just down the road from Cape Cod which has long been the center of the Sea Herring Campaign and I expected to hear a lot of angry rhetoric and calls for crushing regulation for the herring boats from many of the speakers. It was not going to be an easy crowd.
In many ways I do not blame the fishermen for their anger, fear and confusion about what is going on with the ocean eco-system. The ocean has never been so warm this past decade and there is strong evidence that we are enduring some very plankton poor years. The herring that normally would be on the surface all summer eating plankton stay on the bottom of the ocean eating anything that is small enough to fit in their mouths (baby cod, haddock, and even their eggs) herring can be voracious eaters and studies have shown will cause population decline in ground fish stocks when their numbers are higher than the forage in the eco-system will support.
Change is a scary thing and when people become fearful they cast about in the hope of finding someone or something to blame. Two very popular scapegoats on Cape Cod is the large population of seals and the ten or so mid-water boats that fish for herring. A Sea Herring campaign financed by 400 or so of the wealthiest families in America and administered by the Pew Trusts regularly provides support, money, fresh accusations, and anything else needed to pillory and disparage the mid-water herring fishermen of New England.
The job of herring campaign organizer is a very high paying position (records show around 170k per year plus a nice expense account). With lucrative wages like that it is small wonder they have managed to ride right past mountains of facts and data that refute their accusations, anecdotal stories and slander of the industry. They gather together concerned citizens that genuinely care about the environment and just want to help in any way possible and tell them stories about how wonderful things were and how terribly it all went wrong due to an evil group of "Industrial trawlers," that must be causing it all. They dismiss data from observation that they insisted was necessary and cost the tax payers tens of millions of dollars to collect and collate because it does not support the agenda of their cult of belief.
That mid water herring has the cleanest by-catch ratio in New England (see chart at bottom of article) and a documented history of avoiding marine mammals and other fishes is never considered by them. For some reason it is just unbelievable that mid-water trawl for herring in New England could be as clean, responsible, and sustainable as so many other mid-water fisheries in the world which feed more people with less waste of target species (generally around 99 percent of the catch.) Fishermen feed the world and mid-water fishermen do the heavy lifting selling fish to poor peoples that would starve without it. None of these facts mean anything to the Herring Campaigners. They are paid to publish propaganda and preach prejudice, bigotry and now apparently hatred.
At the meeting I attended in Gloucester anti-herring commenters made enough remarks about getting the "Foreign boats out," that it prompted former Gloucester City Councilman Vito Calomo to ask if there were still foreign vessels fishing in US waters as he had heard that they have been gone from US waters for the last twenty years. The owner of the boats I work for Peter Mullen is an American citizen with a proud Irish heritage of hard work, honesty, and putting every cent he had back into his fishing business. A US citizen whose father was a US citizen it couldn't have felt good to hear that.
In Fairhaven it was worse. One of the commenters said that not only should the foreign boats be banned but that the herring fishermen should be sent back to Ireland. Some folks in the audience even applauded. Nobody from the PEW or CHOIR campaign groups has disavowed these statements even though they organized the hatred. Their silent approval speaks volumes about where this message comes from.
The comment didn't really hit home right away I was nervous and about to speak on behalf of our poorest customers. We sell fish to some very poor people. In Nigeria 2 out of 5 children are starving and I wanted the council to consider the fact that when they needlessly restrict the herring fishery or create inefficiency in it they cause the price of fish to rise in places where people don't have enough money and food to feed their children. I wanted that to bother them some before they sign another, "Death by a thousand cuts piece of regulation," on behalf of an agenda set by wealthy people, campaigners, donation fishermen and sport pole guys whose customers are so rich they can afford to eat the most expensive fish in the world (bluefin tuna). Fish that are so biologically difficult to produce that each pound of flesh costs enough herring to feed a village for a week. I wish I could have spoken better for them or that someone else would care enough to. Where is Governor Patrick on this?
That it had been said I should be sent back to Ireland didn't hit home until Owen from Norpel asked me what I was going to do when they send me back to Ireland. Since I am not even from there, have never seen the place and have no family there it was a valid question. I was born here..... It made me think about all of the other people who have experienced the exact same thing and how they must have felt. Perhaps it is appropriate that I came to speak for the people nobody cares about. That I feel like I failed them is tempered by the fact that I probably never had a chance. Hatred, bigotry, and prejudice are alive and well in this world and some days the preachers of those faiths are just too strong.
I am proud of my industry and the people I work for. We have spent millions of dollars and a lot of hard work to put out the highest quality fish and eliminate all possible waste due to spoilage or handling. Our herring and mackerel are often refrigerated to 29 degrees in one hour. Since they never start to rot it gives them a long shelf life in bait sheds in Maine and little markets in Africa where a load of rotten fish could cost children's lives. We worked hard to build the efficiency that makes our detractors so angry. Our clean emissions engines are so fuel efficient that we can afford to look for fish burning very little fuel and be extremely selective about setting out the net. The secret to our clean, responsible and sustainable fishing methods.
JJ Engineer Western Venture
Some source articles-
I may add more later...