Our guest blogger is Michael Conathan, Center for American Progress Director of Oceans Policy.After Sarah Palin left the governorship of Alaska in July 2009, more than a year before her term was to expire, her first move was to go fishing. Palin and her daughter Bristol — named after the fertile fishing ground of Bristol Bay — bonded on her reality show with even more fishing.
When Palin’s One Nation bus tour pulled into New Hampshire yesterday, it came as no surprise that one of her first stops was the Yankee Fishermen’s Cooperative in Seabrook. New England is home to America’s oldest fishing industry. Many of the region’s fisheries were overfished for decades until recent reductions in catch limits began rebuilding depleted fish populations. While these regulations will allow the fisheries to reverse decades of decline, the short-term economic sacrifices have hit some fishermen hard.
In New Hampshire, which has just 18 miles of coastline, fishermen have felt the pinch, while some of their counterparts in the larger Massachusetts fishing ports of Gloucester and New Bedford or Portland, Maine have thrived. As such, Palin found fertile ground for her anti-government pandering. Palin greeted fishermen by exclaiming “I love your industry!” She tied her visit to one of her major themes, excess government regulation:
“Politics cannot play a part in the fisheries industry,” said Palin, rapping “overly cautious environmental concerns” for strangling the enterprise.
The “overly cautious” regulations Palin attacked are rebuilding fish populations and ensuring that the fisheries reverse decades of decline to once again become growth industries, sustainable for future generations.
Palin has a long track record of politicizing fisheries issues in her Alaskan homeland, to the detriment of both the wildlife and Alaska fishermen:
— Palin consistently opposed allowing native Alaskans to maintain their subsistence fishing rights, choosing instead to back commercial and sportfishing interests.
— Testing the limits of campaign laws, Palin joined mining interests to actively oppose a state ballot measure that would have protected Bristol Bay’s abundant salmon populations from polluted runoff and habitat destruction that would come as a result of opening the Pebble Mine site, thought to contain up to half a trillion dollars of gold, silver, and copper ores.
— Palin attempted to block the endangerment listing of Cook Inlet beluga whales for economic reasons, despite the fact that the Endangered Species Act explicitly excludes consideration of economic factors from decisions about endangerment listings.
For Palin, it seems the only good fish is a dead fish. Honest politics and sound science can give us good fisheries policy. Let’s keep Palin’s political rapping out of the equation.