Despite challenges of 2022, feeling hopeful about 2023

January 04, 2023
Heather Munro Mann

For many reasons, 2022 was a difficult year for commercial fishermen and seafood processors.

Changes in ocean conditions resulted in many stocks showing up on the West Coast in areas and amounts that were different than in the recent past – for example, small sablefish were practically everywhere on the West Coast.  At the same time, some stocks like Bering Sea snow crab have virtually disappeared in the north Pacific resulting in closed fishing seasons. 

Gas prices were through the roof and when your vessel holds hundreds of thousands of gallons of diesel, the cost of fishing certainly increases. 

We are still transitioning out of a world health pandemic and unfortunately, even the vaccinated have found themselves contracting Covid-19.  The pandemic has impacted the human resource side of regulators and it seems all state and federal rule-making processes have struggled to keep up with the workload, which results in delays to implementing fishery management improvements. 

A disastrous Magnuson Act reauthorization was vetted in Washington, DC which brought about a lot of misinformation and public maligning of hard-working American fishermen. 

And of course, the unbridled rush to privatize and industrialize our ocean with thousands of offshore wind turbines nationwide has many fearful for the future of commercial fishing and the ocean environment. 

And yet, there are still reasons to celebrate and embrace 2023 for US food providers- commercial fishermen and seafood processors! 

While the federal management Councils are meeting in person again, there continues to be virtual access to these processes, ensuring transparency and stakeholder involvement – even from the wheelhouse of a fishing boat.  More fishermen are partnering with regulators to share their knowledge and experience on changing ocean conditions in real time. 

Innovations to fishing gear and fishing strategies continue to take place as fishermen wrestle with the best ways to harvest the lowest carbon footprint protein- seafood. 

Electronic monitoring has proven to be a robust monitoring tool and if we can keep the expenses down, EM will continue to expand as a logical alternative to human observers. 

The public is continuing to get engaged on sustainable fisheries and recognizing the importance of protecting the ocean environment from the potential negative impacts of offshore energy development. Those who hope to detract from the nation’s commercial fishermen are learning that facts and science really do matter more than misinformation and emotional rhetoric. 

Is everything perfect? Of course not. Is the environment changing in ways we cannot predict or plan for? Definitely. Can common sense and science win the day? Absolutely. When we work together for common goals anything is possible. 

As Alfred Lord Tennyson said, “ring out the false and ring in the true.”  Here’s to great things in 2023!