Campus News

Congressman Allen '67 Seeks Input From Faculty for Federal Oceans Legislation

Story posted December 23, 2004

Congressman Tom Allen (D-Maine) was on campus last week for an ocean policy discussion with a group that included six Bowdoin faculty members and nearly a dozen other experts on Maine’s marine environment – including two lobstermen from Stonington. The meeting was organized by Coastal Studies Center Scholar Anne Hayden.

Allen, who is a Bowdoin alumnus from the Class of 1967, is one of the chief sponsors of a federal oceans-policy bill (HR 4900), commonly dubbed "Oceans 21." The bill, which was introduced last July, has not yet made it to the floor of the House. It attempts to establish a national oceans policy and provide a blueprint for developing a more cohesive structure within the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration to connect federal-level oceans policies to the regional and local levels.

Allen returned to his alma mater to discuss his interest in fine-tuning the legislation to better connect federal programs to regions such as the Gulf of Maine.

"How can we work together to seize the opportunity to create a good piece of legislation?" Allen asked the group. "We need to know what we mean by 'ecosystem-based management.' It's a great phrase, but what does it mean in the real world?"

Bowdoin experts on marine research and policy met with Rep. Tom Allen on December 15, 2004 (from left to right, Coastal Studies Director Anne Henshaw, Visiting Assistant Professor of Biology Lindsay Whitlow, Allen '67, and Coastal Studies Center Scholar Anne Hayden).

Allen heard from a variety of people, including DeWitt John, Bowdoin's Thomas F. Shannon Director of Environmental Studies. "We need to balance mandates from the federal government with the interests of stakeholders," he noted. "The idea is to go from the bottom up, to connect regional and federal policy with the wide variety of stakeholders and interests that exist on the local level."

Economist Jim Wilson, Professor of Marine Sciences at the University of Maine, suggested an approach to ecosystem-based management that would align fishermen, government regulators and academicians. "We need to create a management system for ground fish modeled on the success of Maine’s lobster zones," he said.

Maine's lobster zones, which were established in 1996, designate seven zones along the coast in which fishermen in each zone exert local control over access to the fishery and the number of traps allowed. As applied to the ground fishery, the proposal would create an area of limited access similar to the lobster-zone approach.

"Limiting access creates the incentive for those who do have access to conserve the resource for their future harvest," noted Anne Hayden, adding, "We can’t segment the regulatory process anymore and deal with fisheries separately from the environment. We need programs that incorporate the information and perspective of stakeholders including fishermen, recreational boaters, birdwatchers, environmentalists, and others."

Allen encouraged the group to continue to work together to provide him with information and suggestions for moving the legislation forward at the federal and state levels. "We want to deal with oceans in a more comprehensive way but still protect small boat fisheries, particularly in Maine," said Allen. "I am hopeful that we can find a balance in the Gulf of Maine between healthy fishing stocks and the fishing industry. You have a lot to contribute to the regional governance piece."

Other group members included Philip Conkling, Island Institute; Heather Deese, Northwest Atlantic Marine Alliance; Sandy Sage, The Bigelow Laboratories; Susan Farady, The Ocean Conservancy; Barbara Vickery, The Nature Conservancy; Laura Singer, Gulf of Maine Research Institute; Roger Fleming, Conservation Law Foundation; fishermen Ted Ames and Steve Robbins; Bowdoin student Deb Schaeffer '05; and Bowdoin faculty members: Anne Henshaw, Lindsay Whitlow, Amy Johnson, and David Vail.

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