Bot­tom trawler fish­er­men cel­e­brate con­ser­va­tion re­bound

Antelope Valley Press - - Second Front -

WARRENTON, Ore. (AP) — A rare en­vi­ron­men­tal suc­cess story is un­fold­ing in waters off the U.S. West Coast.

Af­ter years of fear and un­cer­tainty, bot­tom trawler fish­er­men — those who use nets to scoop up rock­fish, bo­cac­cio, sole, Pa­cific Ocean perch and other deep-dwelling fish — are mak­ing a come­back here, rein­vent­ing them­selves as a sus­tain­able in­dus­try less than two decades af­ter au­thor­i­ties closed huge stretches of the Pa­cific Ocean be­cause of the species’ de­ple­tion.

The ban dev­as­tated fish­er­men, but on Jan. 1, reg­u­la­tors will re­open an area roughly three times the size of Rhode Is­land off Ore­gon and Cal­i­for­nia to ground­fish bot­tom trawl­ing — all with the ap­proval of en­vi­ron­men­tal groups that were once the in­dus­try’s big­gest foes. The two sides col­lab­o­rated on a long-term plan that will con­tinue to re­sus­ci­tate the ground­fish in­dus­try while per­ma­nently pro­tect­ing thou­sands of square miles of reefs and co­ral beds that ben­e­fit the over­fished species.

Now, the fish­er­men who see their liveli­hood re­turn­ing must solve an­other piece of the puz­zle: drum­ming up con­sumer de­mand for fish that haven’t been in gro­cery stores or on menus for a gen­er­a­tion.

“It’s re­ally a con­ser­va­tion home run,” said Shems Jud, re­gional di­rec­tor for the En­vi­ron­men­tal De­fense Fund’s ocean pro­gram. “The re­cov­ery is decades ahead of sched­ule. It’s the big­gest en­vi­ron­men­tal story that no one knows about.”

The process also net­ted a win for con­ser­va­tion­ists con­cerned about the fu­ture of ex­treme deep­wa­ter habi­tats where bot­tom trawlers cur­rently don’t go. A tract of ocean the size of New Mex­ico with waters up to 2.1 miles deep will be off-lim­its to bot­tom-trawl­ing to pro­tect deep-sea corals and sponges just now be­ing dis­cov­ered.

“Not all fish­er­men are rap­ers of the en­vi­ron­ment. When you hear the word ‘trawler,’ very of­ten that’s as­so­ci­ated with de­struc­tion of the sea and pil­lag­ing,” said Kevin Dunn, whose trawler Iron Lady was fea­tured in a Whole Foods tele­vi­sion com­mer­cial about sus­tain­able fish­ing.

As­so­ci­ated Press

In this Dec. 11 photo, Kevin Dunn, a trawler who fishes for ground­fish, stands next to his boat as he speaks on the phone with a fish pro­ces­sor at the docks in Warrenton, Ore­gon.

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