A bill in Congress, introduced before the disastrous Gulf oil spill, could go a long way toward improving America’s coastal environment and fishing communities nationwide—and the jobs they support– according to an opinion piece written by Lee Crockett of the Pew Environmental Group and Zeke Grader, executive director of the Pacific Coast Federation of Fishermen’s Associations. Passage of the bill would be exactly what’s need to help hard-hit fishing communities around the Gulf, they argue.
The bill, introduced with bipartisan support in the House last March, and in June in the Senate, would fund new jobs for fishermen, promote the restoration of fisheries and overfished fish populations, and revitalize working waterfronts.
Crockett and Grader say that the bill would aid coastal regions by creating new cooperative research opportunities for fishermen to work with fishery scientists gathering vital information about the health of marine ecosystems, and would allow fishermen to receive payment for using their own boats to reduce marine debris and restore habitats. This would benefit both fishermen and fish alike.
The authors site as an example a cooperative research program in New England administered by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). In the program, begun more than 10 years ago, scientists and universities work with fishermen to help develop local jobs and promote healthy fish populations. The project has provided over $50 million for local research funding the development of eco-friendly yet commercially practical fishing gear, and collection of biological data on fish populations, as well as local research involving more than 700 commercial fishing vessel owners and 100 ocean-linked businesses in New England.
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