The Pew Environment Group released today the results of a public opinion survey conducted with voters in Maine and Massachusetts, which showed that voters overwhelmingly support a new management system for the groundfish (cod, flounder, haddock) that have been a cornerstone of New England's economy for centuries.
The poll, conducted by City Square Associates, Inc., a research and consulting firm in Cambridge, Massachusetts, addressed voter attitudes toward overfishing as well as major changes the New England Fishery Management Council is considering that will improve sustainable management of these important fish populations. The council will vote on these changes during its meeting in Portland, Maine, June 22-25, 2009.
The key findings make a strong case for the public's desire for change in this storied fishery.
1. Voters overwhelmingly support a new management system
66 percent of voters in Maine and Massachusetts favor “a new management system . . . that sets specific annual catch limits . . . based on what the best available science says is necessary to restore fish populations.”
2. Voters know and care about New England's shrinking fish stocks
Over three-quarters of those polled were aware of overfishing problems in New England, and of those, nine out of ten think something needs to be done to solve it.
3. People want fish for their children and grandchildren
Voters support a new management system principally as a function of their desire that future generations be able “to enjoy delicious and healthful native wild fish.”
4. Wastefulness of current management system changes minds
The fact that fishermen in New England are forced by current regulations to throw hundreds of pounds of fish overboard dead each year instead of bringing them to market moves public opinion: 44 percent of opposed and undecided voters said learning this made them more supportive of the new approach to fisheries management.
5. Voters embrace the ideas of community-based cooperatives and basic fairness
The flexibility that sectors (community-based, fishermen-run cooperatives) offer resonates strongly with voters. A majority of those polled say that the latitude given to the cooperatives by the new plan makes them more inclined to favor it. And they agree that what is fair is fair: both sector and non-sector vessels should have the same basic rules apply.
“It is clear that, when it comes to this issue, people are motivated by a deeply-held concern about their families and the future,” said Chris Schiavone, president of City Square Associates. “Voters are convinced that, by rebuilding the populations of threatened species, it will be possible for future generations to enjoy delicious and healthful native wild fish.”
The Fishery Management Council will also be considering various alternatives that will endeavor to hold those vessels not in sectors to the same standards as sectors – a concept a majority of voters embraced as basic fairness. “Universal standards for firm catch limits and monitoring for the entire fleet are the only way to create a fair fishery and ensure that sectors succeed,” added Peter Baker, New England Fisheries Campaign Manager for Pew Environment Group.