"Anger over what was happening with the mismanagement of our offshore fisheries motivated me to get involved as an advocate. Drastic cuts were made to many quotas based on what fishery managers referred to as “fatally flawed data”. This created dangerous derby fisheries that encouraged us to catch as much as possible before the quotas were met, and seasons closed. It became extremely wasteful when some fish were illegal while others living in similar areas could be kept. We were required to discarded tons of dead and dying fish. During the final days of a snapper season, another fisherman fell off their boat in rough weather. That father of a baby girl was trying to make some money to support his family before the season closed. He died a horrible death alone in the cold water on a dark winter night. His body was never found. They had been fishing within a few miles of us that trip. The missing fisherman could easily have been somebody from our boat. I never wanted to fish again in these unsafe and wasteful conditions. This was the final push needed to start giving public comments at fishery meetings offering common-sense solutions that would stop the derby fisheries. Those comments explained how managing quotas with appropriate possession limits would let us target fish with high limits while keeping most of what we caught with lower limits. This simple solution would allow us to harvest a dependable supply of sustainable seafood safely and responsibly for consumers. It was extremely frustrating to see my pleas for help fall on deaf ears. Even the environmental groups at those meetings did not seem to care. A justifiable anger was fueled and evident at first. I started looking into why things were happening the way they were. Everything pointed to a plan for privatizing our fisheries and consolidating control of them so a few global corporations could own our public resources. Not what I was expecting to learn. It quickly became clear that being angry was not going to help anything. Calmly explaining the problems while offering logical solutions people could understand and support was a much better approach. This life lesson could be summed up as ignorance breeds anger just as gentleness is born of wisdom."
Anger is a great motivator for doing something outside of our comfort zone. Most of us don't want to subject ourselves to the scrutiny of speaking out publicly about controversial issues. We really need to feel passionate about an issue to get involved. That anger and passion can give us the courage to speak publicly or do an interview. It can even help make the point at first. To be successful over time requires a calmer demeanor backed by logical arguments. Doing some research can be infuriating and informative at the same time. It can be difficult to find the right balance of explaining problems without being too harsh while being optimistic about possible solutions. Seeing lives destroyed and lost unnecessarily made achieving that balance all the more difficult.
Congress made changes to the Magnuson-Stevens Act that dictates how our fisheries are managed. One of the changes was to set hard deadlines for rebuilding mismanaged stocks. Fishery managers testified before Congress that the data they were using was often "fatally flawed". This did not inspire confidence in the management process. It seemed obvious that reduced quotas should be accompanied by reduced possession limits to avoid extended closures and excessive discards. Research revealed a plan to use something called Catch Shares for managing quotas. This would give permit holders a share of quotas we would own and could catch those fish whenever we wanted. Being able to work when conditions were right for us was enticing. The problem is that seafood in public waters are public resources owned by all of us. Privatizing public resources this way has a history of consolidating control as corporations buy up all the shares when fishermen retire. Some countries have lost all rights to harvest certain species living in their waters since corporate interests have bought up all available Catch Shares. Despite the fact that most fishermen who could have received Catch Shares would have hit the lottery, the vast majority of us do not want to sell out future fishermen or our fellow Americans. The good news is we have stopped efforts to implement several different Catch Shares schemes in our fishery and most quotas are now being managed responsibly with appropriate possession limits that keep seasons open.