Fisheries Aid Equity

Courtesy NOAA Photo Library

Courtesy NOAA Photo Library

This past week NOAA Fisheries’ Northeast Regional Office sponsored a presentation for the New England commercial fisheries by the Small Business Association (SBA) and the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) on their programs that can support the “fishing industry.” NOAA Fisheries rightly believes that parts of the northeast fishing industry are experiencing tough economic times. Part of government’s job is to help provide support for its citizens. I am concerned that this effort has bypassed that part of the “fishing industry” that provides the biggest bang for the buck. Yes, the recreational fishing industry.

So, here is the deal and don’t get me wrong. I am not saying that NOAA Fisheries should not do this kind of assistance. What I am saying is that they should not simply forget about another substantial user group. The government does serve all the citizens.

Last week, both the SBA and USDA explained to members of the commercial fishing industry how some of their loan programs work. It also explained how applicants can determine if they are eligible for any of the low-interest loan programs offered by either of the two federal agencies. The SBA has some very attractive loan programs. They also have a refinancing options that could take fishermen out of high cost loans and replace them with loans backed by the SBA. The USDA has Value Added Producer grant program that some segments of the industry might qualify for. But why can’t the recreational industry participate as well? There certainly are businesses in the party/charter fleet that have experienced the down turn just the same as those in the commercial fleet. There are also plenty of shore side businesses that also have been impacted, such as tackle shops, marinas and fishing boat dealers. Last time I checked all these folks are tax paying US citizens and they deserve the same support that the “fishing industry” gets.

Maybe the reason that all the attention is focused on the commercial fishing industry is that they have been screaming at their Congressional delegation and there is nothing pols like less than being bothered by their constituents. So, they in turn beat on the NOAA Fisheries bureaucracy to fix the problem. Whadda system! It is simply the squeaky wheel and maybe the recreational fishing industry in New England needs to be a little squeakier. That would be a good start. But believe me, I understand that for whatever reason, the jobs produced by the recreational fishing industry seem to be less valuable in the eyes of the politicians than those of the commercial fishing industry. Maybe, they are just not as visible.

I have written on this subject before and will likely do it again. Recreational fishing produces more jobs and has a bigger impact than commercial fishing for finfish. If politicians are truly interested in promoting jobs, jobs, jobs, then why don’t they support the recreational fishing industry? It is a mystery to me. One way to start to change all of that is to have recreational fishermen and their organizational representatives begin to darken the doors of the Congressional delegates in DC or in their home states when they are doing in district work.

Perhaps if recreational interests make enough noise, then there will be inclusion of programs to benefit the recreational fishing industry as well. We have to stop sitting back and watching. Fisheries management is a contact sport. Like the Pats, we can come back from a first half deficit!


View the Powerpoints from the meeting here.


"Rip" Cunningham, who owned, published and edited Salt Water Sportsman for 32 years, is also an accomplished writer and photographer. Cunningham has received several awards from the Outdoor Writers Association of America. His work has appeared in such magazines as Field and Stream, Rod and Reel, Gray's Sporting Journal, Australian Boating and the Boston Globe Magazine. Among his many accomplishments, Rip was recognized as the Conservationist of the Year from both the International Game Fish Association, the Coastal Conservation Association of Massachusetts, The Billfish Foundation and Federation of Fly Fishers. "I've earned a living from fishing, and I believe strongly that people with an interest in a given area should give something back,” he says. “It's rewarding every single day." Cunningham received his MBA from Babson College in Wellesley, MA and his BA from Rollins College in Winter Park, FL. He has two grown children and four grand children and lives with his wife and hunting dogs in Dover, MA and Yarmouth, ME. When he's not fishing or working through the items on his wife's "honey-do" list, Cunningham does some hunting and skiing.

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