Friday, 21 June 2013

Fishing in Massachusetts, Coal-mining in West Virginia

Ed Markey, the climate activists' putative hero, is running for the Senate seat vacated by the new Secretary of State John Kerry. People always think Massachusetts people are strong environmentalists. Even Republican governors William Weld and Mitt Romney (as governors) enjoyed respect from environmental quarters.

Is it really true that the people of Massachusetts are so much more environmentally enlightened than the rest of us? Recently, Massachusetts Attorney General Martha Coakley (remember her? It was her race to lose to replace Ted Kennedy, and sure enough, she lost it to Scott Brown) sued the National Marine Fisheries Service over severe reductions in catch limits for cod, haddock and flounder, because they failed to recover as much as had been hoped.

Why do you think that the stocks did not recover? Could it be that the fishermen-dominated forecasts made by the regional fisheries council might have been overoptimistic? No, it couldn't be that. It is just an invidious and "callous disregard for the well-being of New England fishermen" that will lead to the "extinction of an industry that for more than a century has been a part of the commercial and social fabric of New England...."

According to Coakley, the new limits are based on "shaky science" and "fail to consider economic impacts on fishermen." Shaky science -- sounds like the climate deniers from the hills of West Virginia. Is this just Coakley, never the sharpest knife in the drawer? Well, John Tierney (D-MA) says "NOAA has pushed through this regulation and put our historic fishing industry at risk." Democratic governor Deval Patrick supports Coakley's suit. It was Tierney and Barney Frank, remember, who called for NOAA Administrator Jane Lubchenko's resignation because she sought to lower catch limits. Of course Tierney and Frank know more about fish stocks than Lubchenko, an accomplished oceanography professor.

And Ed Markey, the environmental savior running for Senate? Earlier this year, Congressman Markey lobbied hard to get NOAA to allow fishermen to carry over unused quota from 2012 to 2013. Why didn't fishermen catch as much in 2012? Perhaps there weren't enough fish left to chase. Undaunted, Markey lauded "[t]hese steps will soften the current economic blow for Massachusetts fishermen, but we still have a great deal of work to do if we want to help our fishing communities survive."

This questioning of the science, this political attacking of anyone who threatens your marginal industry, looks a lot like climate deniers from coal regions. But you can understand sort of understand, in a cynical way, why politicians from West Virginia line up against climate change. There really isn't a lot else going on economically in West Virginia. But why does the Massachusetts delegation always go to bat so hard for their fishing industry, an industry that has long past fished itself into oblivion?


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