To the New England Fisheries Management Council,
Loss of fleet diversity equates to loss of access for the common man that affects not only myself as a fisherman but also my family whom depend on me to make a living, that being just the tip of the ice berg as far as I am concerned.
My community, the State of Maine as well as the whole New England region, has been and will continue to be negatively and nearly irreversibly impacted by not taking actions now to protect fleet diversity as well as right of access. In Eastern Maine it became commercially unviable many years ago to ground fish and the rest of the State has been just barely hanging on. Because of this and other factors the right of historic access for has already been severely curtailed.
Much of our historic access was taken away through arbitrary qualifying periods and now I think without proper action we will lose even more. If or when we ever see a big reversal in the trends of the fish stocks and they are teaming in our local waters are local people going to gain access to stocks to not just employ people but also share in in this bounty of fresh local protein with their communities?
In my community as in many others especially in Midcoast and Eastern Maine fishing in all of its different forms is more than just a job, it's our livelihood. It's how and why we exist, fishing is the engine that drives this area probably more than any other. This is why we have to protect access for all would be participants.
I see consolidation as a problem because it will put the owner/operator ( especially small boats) at an even bigger disadvantage. I believe that we must find a balance that fits the needs of the many not just the few whom can take the time and the money to be well represented in these affairs.
I cannot personally attend these meetings because of fishing commitments but I hope you will consider my letter and testimonies I expect that you will hear from others as reason enough to proceed down a fair and just path. I also belong to two ground fish sectors (Northeast Coastal Communities and Maine Coast Community Sectors), which represent me when i'm unable to speak for myself. I believe that there is and should be a place for both large and small vessels alike to work and prosper. A18 deals with these urgent problems and must be dealt with as quickly as possible.
A range of actions can be implemented to address these problems. I recommend that the Council explore the following potential solutions in order to achieve the goals: Section 4.5 Inshore / Offshore Ares, Section 4.1 Limit the Holdings of PSC, Section 4.4 Data Confidentiality, I would consider these things as being a good starting point.
I think another round of fleet visioning could help to uncover some other potential avenues to better this industry. One thing I feel is that every vessel operator should have enough ownership in a vessel and permit to promote a better sense of stewardship for the resource within the industry, this has worked well in other fisheries. I know this would be controversial but i'm simply suggesting ways to strengthen the industry in the future, which would be to everyones benefit.
Sincerely, Tad Miller