“That government is best which governs least. “
SEABROOK, N.H. -- Fishermen on New Hampshire's Seacoast are warning that new fishing regulations could destroy their industry and have already caused them severe emotional stress.
The U.S. Department of Commerce has sent a team to Seabrook to look at the effects of the new regulations.
"If they don't do something to modify the fishing regulations, we won't have a fishing industry on the Seacoast, is what it boils down to," said Hampton Town Manager Fred Welch.
Many in the fishing industry said they want the federal team to do more than its stated task of creating an economic development assessment report. The team is spending three days in Seabrook and visiting five other New England fishing towns.
The new regulations are known as "catch-share." The team said they are not there to look at possible changes to the rules but rather to see what effects they are having.
"What the economic challenges are and, maybe in the future, what the economic opportunities are for the community, and we're putting together a report some time in the summer based on what we hear, as far as the challenges and opportunities for economic development in the community," said Bryan Borlik of the Department of Commerce.
While the report won't produce short-term changes, local fishermen said they were glad to share their pain on the record.
"One of the fishermen from Rye had said that there had been three suicide attempts and a half dozen divorces during this first year of catch-shares," said Bob Campbell of the Yankee Fisherman's Cooperative. "Commercial fishermen are usually pretty tight-lipped, and for something this serious to come out, I mean, you know that the whole situation is grave."
Campbell said the cooperative has lost about $750,000 in business since the new regulations went into effect.
"We're off 1.1 million pounds of fish from last year, and over a million and a half pounds from the year before," he said.
Local fishermen said they were told by the federal team not to discuss the new regulations, just their effects.