'Saving New England Fisheries' to air on NH Public Television

Sunday News Correspondent
May 14. 2016 5:54PM
David Goethel is one of the fishermen featured in "Saving New England Fisheries," which is airing Thursday night on New Hampshire Public Television. (KIMBERLEY HAAS/SUNDAY NEWS CORRESPONDENT)

PORTSMOUTH - The documentary "Saving New England Fisheries" was premiered during a screening on Friday night at the Sheraton in Portsmouth.

The hourlong special, created for New Hampshire Public Television, is hosted by Willem Lange. It traces the history of groundfishing in the Gulf of Maine, and balances the work scientists are doing to conserve natural resources against the need for commercial fishermen to make a living from the ocean.

One of the fishermen featured in the film is David Goethel, owner of the 44-foot fishing trawler Ellen Diane out of Hampton. Goethel is suing the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration over its at-sea monitoring program in federal court. He said that he has had to pay for in-person monitors since March, at the cost of approximately $700 per trip.

The government used to cover that cost.

During a panel discussion after the screening, Goethel said officials often try to overcomplicate things.

"People really need to think on a much larger scale about what we need from fisheries management," Goethel said.

Robin Alden, of Penobscot East Resource Center in Stonington, Maine, agreed and said the current management system is "far too inflexible."

Mark Grant, of NOAA fisheries, took the other side and said it isn't as simple as counting how many fish there are, and restricting catch sizes based upon that number.

"You don't just want to go out there and count how many fish you think there are now, but you also have to think, 'Well, if I have this many fish, how many is that going to breed, and how much will those fish grow between this year and next year? And then how many of those might get caught? How many of those might die naturally?'" Grant said.

Erik Chapman, of New Hampshire Sea Grant, who helped produce the documentary, said fishing is an economic driver, and a historic part of the way of life for those who live in the Gulf of Maine. He and his small crew spent a year filming both sides of the story, and crew members were even at a meeting held by Sen. Kelly Ayotte, R-NH, in September where Goethel and other fishermen called NOAA regulations "crazy."

Things in the room got tense as NOAA Regional Administrator John Bullard fought back, telling Goethel he doesn't have a clue about what motivates him and his team.

"The fact that you think we lie for a living, I think that says more about your credibility than it says about ours," Bullard said.

Goethel responded by saying, "Well, let's have it out right now... I think you lie for a living. Bureaucrats in general, in government, not just NOAA, across the board..."

"Bureaucrats in general?" Bullard interrupted.

"Yes, they do not tell the American public the truth a lot of times," Goethel replied, and referred to at-sea monitoring. "You say you don't have the money to pay for a service. I believe that's a lie. I think you have the money. You've got a $30 million budget. Maybe you have to fire some of your employees, just like hundreds and hundreds of fishermen have been fired."

Chapman said even though the exchange was included in the documentary, producers tried hard not to highlight the bickering between fishermen and officials that has taken place in recent years.

"The goal is to get people to think, to get people to understand some more about the issues at play, and think maybe about moving in a positive direction, and then maybe helping us all move in that direction," Chapman said.

The documentary will air on PBS on Thursday at 9 p.m.

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