Mitchell Testifies Before Congress to ‘Amplify the Voice of the Fishermen’
Mayor Jon Mitchell testified before the U.S. House Committee on Natural Resources Subcommittee on Water, Power and Oceans on Tuesday to advocate for changes to the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act. The Magnuson-Stevens Act is subject to reauthorization every 10 years, and Congress is currently considering its reauthorization.
Mitchell brought the perspective of being mayor of the nation's top fishing port, and has seen firsthand how the statute is constricting fishing in New Bedford, and overall, under this federal guideline. He testified on how he thinks the Magnuson-Stevens Act can be amended to allow fishermen to catch more fish.
"I think there are certain tweaks to the statute that can go a long way to enable fishermen, especially on the groundfish side, to catch what's called 'optimum yield,'" Mitchell told WBSM News. "That's all the fish that are out there for them to catch, but they can't catch because they reached their quota on depleted fish stocks that force them to shut down fishing altogether."
"I think there are ways that the statute can be amended, to continue to preserve fish stocks while allowing fishermen to optimize the amount of fish you can catch," he said.
Mitchell also says the Magnuson-Stevens Act's 10-year rebuilding period for depleted fish stocks is "unrealistic" and "not based on any real science."
"Nature doesn't generally adhere to round-number deadlines like that," he said "So the 10-year rebuilding period has resulted, effectively, in closures of healthy fish stocks, and has left fish that should otherwise be caught out in the ocean still."
Mitchell also called for Congress to reconsider the Antiquities Act that allowed for the creation of the Northeast Canyons and Seamount Monument off the coast of Cape Cod that is also restricting fishermen from New Bedford.
"I submitted testimony several months ago to the same committee about how the Antiquities Act was used to set aside an area of ocean off of Cape Cod that hurt fishermen unnecessarily," he said. "I think as Congress takes up the reauthorization of the Magnuson-Stevens Act... it needs to take a look also at the Antiquities Act. If the government wishes to close off certain areas of the ocean, they have to demonstrate they have a very good reason for that."
In his position as mayor, Mitchell says he tries to "amplify the voice of the fishermen."
"The fishermen know the law, they abide by the law, and they have a tough job," he said. "What we're trying to do is level the playing field so they can continue to put food on their family table, and send their kids to college and otherwise live a good life."
"That's really what we're after here, is fairness."