What is Pete’s View?

Pete’s View is a commentary on issues related to commercial fishing in Key West and the Florida Keys, and represents nothing more than my own opinion. I am not a scientist, economist, official spokesman, advisor, or even self proclaimed expert on fishery regulation and issues. I am simply a businessman and fisherman who has been pummeled by an omnipotent fishing bureaucracy, that has taken control of every aspect of our industry and our lives.

I am a strong advocate for the preservation of our small boat commercial fishing industry, and maintain that the fishing bureaucracy has become so powerful and authoritative, that fishermen have no effective input in the regulatory process. Recognizing that strong stock management in our electronic age is crucial to the survival of commercial fishing, and believing that commercial fishermen should have a voice in the rules making process, I have been an active participant in the process through committee work, and outspoken at public hearings for the past 30 years.

However, like most everyone else in our industry, I have concentrated on the details of regulations and amendments that would affect me today, while fishery managers were inexorably leading us to the bureaucratic fishery of the future. In other words, we have innocently accepted rules that would allow us to survive for now, without being able to see the big picture.

The big picture then, is simply this. The fishing bureaucracy nation wide, is aiming to consolidate production in all fisheries, into a handful of large producers who can be easily monitored and controlled, and have their income limited by Individual Fishing Quotas. Ideally, the producers will be corporately owned, because corporations are easier to control than individuals, and proposed rules would no longer be opposed by contentious crowds of rowdy fishermen. The Florida Keys fishing industry – the 10th largest in the United States – is entirely a small boat fishery, and has a 150 year history of individual boats being owned and operated by the captain. Individual Fishing Quotas are the single greatest threat to maintaining the tradition, and Keys fishermen are already feeling the negative effect.

Since serving on the first Lobster Advisory Panel for the Gulf of Mexico Fishery Management Council, I have watched as the fishing bureaucracy evolved from the halting first steps to preserve the fisheries, to become sophisticated fishery managers who are highly skilled at manipulating fishermen, and implementing both their open, and hidden agendas. What started out as a government agency working to support an industry, has turned into an industry supporting a massive and powerful bureaucracy.

Today, I am contributing to this website primarily out of frustration. After years of writing letters that receive no response, serving on meaningless advisory panels, being limited to 3 speaking minutes to defend a life’s work at public hearings, and being patronized by politicians who are primarily interested only in the next election, I am trying the unfamiliar forum of the internet to have my voice heard.

While Pete’s View is purely my own opinion, and I don’t purport to speak for anyone else, I know that my feelings are shared by many Keys fishermen. I urge everyone in our industry to contribute comment to this website, and make their feelings publicly known. As we are painfully aware, there is only strength in numbers, and if we are to have any chance to stop the regulatory steamroller, we must move forward with a loud, collective voice.

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