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September 19, 2003

A Joint Letter

Governor Mitt Romney
Office of the Governor
Room 360
Boston, MA 02133

VIA FACSIMILE (617) 727-9725

September 19, 2003

Dear Governor Romney:

We are grateful you launched the Ocean Management Initiative and created the Ocean Management Task Force. Recreational and commercial fishermen have long sought action on threats to our way of life and business. Non-point source pollution, dam removals, coastal and ocean development projects, and wetlands and estuary restoration count amongst our greatest concerns. We are hopeful the Task Force will identify areas where existing law and regulations are not adequately addressing threats to marine fisheries resources.

Representatives of the commercial and recreational fishing communities attended the Task Force meeting held on July 30 and 31st. Both communities agree that an inordinate amount of the presentations and scenarios presented focused on fisheries issues rather than the issues identified above. Some of the presenters were representatives of organizations who have positions on fishery management that the fishing community finds troubling. Most disconcerting during these presentations was the lack of proper context explaining the bevy of local, state, federal, and international law and treaties that govern how fisheries and the marine environment are managed.

The ongoing implementation of the Atlantic Coastal Act (ACA) and the Sustainable Fisheries Act (SFA) are primarily responsible for how we manage fisheries in the waters of Massachusetts. These laws mandate the rebuilding of fish populations and caring for the marine environment. These laws are rigid and often cause significant economic harm to the fishing communities in order to achieve the mandate of restoring and protecting marine natural resources in a short timeframe.

As a result of the ACA and SFA, conservation-minded management plans have been adopted or are in the process of being developed. Fisheries and fish habitat are and will continue to recover under these laws. We do not believe it is necessary for the Task Force to focus its attention on fisheries management.

We are concerned that based on the presentations and the ensuing discussions, members of the Task Force could reasonably assume that fishery management should be their primary concern.

In order for the Task Force to better focus on areas where law and regulatory oversight of harmful activities is lacking, we ask that recognized experts in fisheries management and the areas of concern we identified be given the opportunity to give presentations to the Task Force so that members of the Task Force who lack experience in fishery management can develop a better understanding of existing fishery management measures.. Furthermore, while the Task Force includes four participants from environmental organizations, it is difficult for only one member from the fixed-gear commercial fishing industry to present the expert perspectives of all commercial interests. There is no expert, for example, from the mobile gear fishing sectors, which represent a substantial economic component of the commercial fisheries in the state. At least four commercial fishing representatives would be needed to provide adequate technical breadth for the Task Force to fairly address commercial fisheries management issues.

Commercial and recreational fishing each make a major contribution to the economy and quality of life in Massachusetts. Commercial fishing and related businesses in Massachusetts employs up to 20,000 people and produces more than $1 billion in economic activity annually, with almost $300 million last year in ex-vessel commercial fresh seafood landings. Commercial fisheries support an extensive industrial infrastructure including fish buyers/processors, offloading/maintenance facilities, gear and equipment suppliers, transportation including exporting and much more. 615,300 people enjoy recreational fishing in Massachusetts every year, which in turn creates over 8,000 jobs, and generates over $888 million in economic activity. Recreational fishermen drive an industry of boat builders, fishing tackle manufacturers, party and charter boat businesses, bait and tackle retailers, marinas, and many other businesses in fishing communities.

In addition to being an integral part of our centuries-old coastal heritage, fishing in Massachusetts contributes substantially to the state’s tax base, provides seafood for those who do not fish, supports numerous educational and research institutions, provides recreational opportunities for families, and bolsters the state’s tourism industry, attracting visitors and new markets for Massachusetts products from around the world.

We ask that your office intercede on our behalf and assure that our concerns are addressed. The Ocean Management Initiative and the Task Force offers an excellent opportunity to address old and emerging threats. We look forward to working with your administration and the Task Force to assure that Massachusetts continues to be a good steward of our marine resources.

Thank you for your consideration.

Sincerely,

David Bergeron, Executive Director
Massachusetts Fisheries Partnership

Michael Doebley,
Deputy Director of Government Affairs
Recreational Fishing Alliance

cc:   Susan F. Tierney

Representative Susan Gifford
 Representative Anthony J. Verga
Senator Robert O'Leary
Senator Bruce Tarr
Senator Edward M. Kennedy
Senator John Kerry
Congressman Michael E. Capuano
Congressman William Delahunt
Congressman Barney Frank
Congressman Stephen F. Lynch
Congressman Edward J. Markey
Congressman James McGovern
Congressman Marty Meehan
Congressman Richard E. Neal
Congressman John Olver
Congressman John F. Tierney

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