A few nights ago I found a documentary on public television about the Gloucester fishing business. The story portrayed several of the members of the communitie’s fishing families, who have struggled in recent years as catches have declined, and the federal government has had to step in.
In the late 1970s, a law was passed that forced foreign factory ships out at least 200 miles from shore. This was an attempt to regain the stocks that had plunged after these huge ships vacuumed all life from parts of the sea.
Afterwards, the federal government began loaning out easy money, to get American fisherman to build bigger boats and pursue the same area themselves. As the fleet grew and grew, the catch began to decline, and then it was again time to do something.
The Conservation Law Foundation sued the Marine Fisheries Division for not doing anything to help the groundfish stocks. A judge ruled that there would be a 50% reduction in fishing days. Gloucester’s Mayor swung into action. In the film you see this powerful and unflinching public servant, making speeches, getting Ted Kennedy to come and make a speech, and working valiantly to save the fishermen’s livelihoods. Rarely has a politician done so much so selflessly, and it was really a poignant thing to see.
The mayor and the advocates prevailed and the judge changed the ruling to only 20% less days at sea. Still, over the years since the fish stocks have still gone down, and many fishermen have given up the pursuit.