Complexity Makes Ocean Fishing a Tough Story

Daley, Beth
March 2005
Nieman Reports;Spring2005, Vol. 59 Issue 1, p30
This article presents a narrative of the author's experience in writing a story about a fishing crisis in New England. Our four-part fishing series, Sea Change: The New England Fishing Crisis, reached our readers in October 2003. From its inception to its completion, this project underwent its own sea change in how we would tell the stories. Without having a person, regulatory agency or group at fault, it was difficult to find a conventional organizing mechanism for all of our reporting. The other challenge was, as one New England environmentalist likes to say, fisheries regulation is like Alice in Wonderland, without the drugs. It took us months to even understand what was going on and to figure out ways to convey what we knew in reader-friendly formats. There are volumes of regulation about fish, and they are different for each one of the dozens of species managed in New England waters. Regulatory meetings go on for three days at a time and feature dizzying, acronym-filled discussions. What we know now is that fishery regulators really do not know how many fishermen are fishing. Added to this is a realization that hundreds of fishermen often change their mind about what rules they want depending on what fish are profitable at that moment. Absolute truths are hard to find.


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