Machiavellian Fisheries Management
The following is a letter that appeared in the National Fisherman in May of 1985 as a paid advertisement ($5,200). (They refused to print it otherwise). (Note- Stuff you see enclosed in double straight brackets [[ like this]] have been added since the original ad appeared for clarity's sake.)

*****Start of Letter******



Note-the term "political" as used in this letter is intended in the Machiavellian sense (the ruthless domination of one will or interest over another), rather than in the traditional American Interpretation (democracy, political parties, compromise, accommodation, etc.) .

The Fisheries Management and Conservation Act (FMCA) as administered by the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS), gives absolutely no REAL consideration to small owner/operated boats in the industry. The obvious intention of NMFS is to drive out all small operators to economic extinction and end up with a relatively few large fleets.

The Surf Clam Plan of 1977 as implemented by the Mid-Atlantic Council is a good example. The Plan calls for a limited work week limited to specific hours (currently six hours per week) on specific days chosen three months in advance - from strict options available from NMFS. The days and hours available were only those that suited processor or enforcement convenience. Additionally a limited entry scheme was put into effect. Supposedly no new boats were to be allowed in (there were exceptions - all to large interests).

Despite the strong objections of many small operators in the industry the Plan was implemented. Following are some of the objections:

The plan obviously had as one goal to reconcentrate the economic control of the industry to the large processors by driving the small interests either out of the industry altogether or subjecting (actually returning) them to the control of the large processors and fleet owners. To that extent the Plan has been admirably successful.

While there were MANY more objections, these suffice to demonstrate our disgust for the Surf Clam Plan. All of what was said, and more, has come to pass. Additionally, since implementation of the Plan, the violation rate has been estimated to exceed 75% of the participants, indicating a widespread genuinely perceived gross unfairness of the plan and/or immature, excessively zealous enforcement.

[[The limited work week scheme was changed several years after this written, to a "quota" type system. As one might surmise, it was a system clearly designed once again to benefit the largest interests and again concentrate power to the largest processors. (So what else is new?) ]]


The New England Fishery Council, under strong pressure from large interests in Rhode Island and NMFS, proposed a Lobster Management Plan. When NJ lobstermen and New Jersey Farm Bureau (NJFB) became aware of the implications of the proposed plan, they objected strongly. The Plan, as proposed, would virtually devastate, if not destroy altogether, the inshore industry in NJ. The NJ lobstermen believe, with good reason, they work on a different lobster population than New England.

Historically the inshore lobster fishery in NJ has consisted of smaller lobsters, particularly in Monmouth County, than are landed in New England. The plan, based on "scientific evidence", would eliminate nearly all NJ fishermen from the fishery. When it became obvious the plan would be birthed, the NJ Legislature enacted a state law that would allow the NJ lobstermen three years, each year increasing the minimum size until it matched the minimum federal size, allowing the lobstermen a reasonable time to adjust to the plan. A delegation of NJ lobstermen went to Washington and met with Wm. Gordon and John Bryne of NMFS and asked for a reasonable accommodation in the plan. After all, the NJ fishery accounts for less than 2% of the total landings on the East Coast. The result has been incredibly harsh enforcement.

Only a sample. Helicopters, infrared cameras, videotape, undercover agents, the US Coast Guard vessels, and more have been employed to stamp out the lobster menace in New Jersey. If any "violator" is so presumptuous as to ask for a court hearing, he is told the minimum fine the Administrative Law Judge will consider is $7,500 per offense and a man is unquestionably judged guilty before he even goes in.


The Scallop Management Plan does not allow landings of more than 35 meats to the pound, based on "Scientific Evidence". Any vessels landing smaller scallop meats would be subject to seizure of the trip and liable for fines.

Boats would come in, and if any small meats were found, the entire trip would be seized. The catch would be sold and NMFS would take the money. There would be occasions when the trop was landed, packed, put in the cooler, and the crew of the boat all gone, AND THEN NMFS would then go in the cooler, confiscate the trip and collect the check. All without any representative of the boat (captain, crew, owner, agent, etc.) present.

One boat, about to be sold(as many before her have been forced to do, causing an inordinate number of questionable sinkings when sales weren't possible) because the size limit made it possible for her to continue, had her trip seized ($6,800) and was additionally fined $1,500.

Consider the absurdity of permitting 3.5" shell size scallops to be landed in the shell that will yield 50-90 meats per/lb. Further shell-size scallops that will yield 30 meats/lb. in April will yield 50+ meats in October (part if the natural cycle, ambient conditions, food, etc.)


Virtually all the Management Plans are purported to be rooted in "scientific evidence" and "optimum sustainable yield" (OSY). A closer look will reveal most, if not all, to be based on fallacy and/or political motivations or simply untrue. Scientific facts are proven by experiments where ALL conditions affecting the experiment are known, then carefully observing the interaction of those conditions and studying the results carefully. In a wildlife-type (fisheries, deer, bears, ducks, etc.) situation, a "statistical model" is built, with ALL conditions known to affect the model known from the beginning. The results are studied and remedial actions, if necessary, are recommended.

On land it is relatively easy to document the all the conditions (weather, predators, food, cover, etc.) by observation. In the ocean it is virtually impossible. The ocean is so incalculably complex that the largest computers in the world tied together couldn't even begin to model it. An endless list of conditions (local and global weather, temperature, currents, the varying chemical composition of the water itself, plankton, food, predators, pollution, etc. aren't even a start) all interacting make the job of even identifying conditions insurmountable.

[[ Any time you hear a fisheries "expert"/scientist talk of the need to build a "model", you know he's lying. Well, technically he's not really Lying (there probably is a need for a model, but when he intentionally gives the impression a model can be built, that's a lie in my book. The bastards do that a lot too. Telling technical truths to convey a lie.]]

Consider the job of predicting the weather with all conditions known and observable, several magnitudes easier than even a small section of the ocean. Throughout the whole world satellites, massive amounts of manpower and computer time are assigned full time to the job of telling us what the weather will be like tomorrow. The Weather Service cannot guarantee any prediction even for a few days, much less a month from now. NMFS has FIVE-YEAR PLANS predicting production (which they control), stock sizes, etc.

[[Anyone who has read any history of communist governments in the USSR is familiar with the "Five Year Plan Concept"]]

A few typical examples or "scientific evidence":


A [[ LITERALLY]] all-encompassing subjective term coined by fishery mangers to justify management plans. It is presumed to include biological factors, jobs [[ but not on deck]] , prices [[ but not to the men on deck]] , yield per recruit [[ see "brain washing" and Orwell's 1984 for a definition]] , boats [[ less is better]] , men [[ but not fishermen]] , processors [[ their welfare is paramount. Do you wonder why?]] , consumers [[ ask any housewife what has happened to the price of seafood since the implementation of the FMCA]] , and just about anything else [[ they can think up to rationalize their actions]] . The REAL definition of OSY is that it means any goddam thing the interest with the most political influence wants it to mean. When considering "scientific evidence", it's useful to keep a few things in mind: