Governor Kasich and the New Hampshire Fishermen

When John Kasich tells you that he is a skilled executive, believe him.

Governor Kasich met with several New Hampshire fishermen on 8 January.  David Goethel, owner and captain of the 44-foot fishing trawler Ellen Diane, is suing NOAA (the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration) for bureaucratic overreach and has explained his position in a Wall Street Journal op-ed.  Governor Kasich read the op-ed and as a result requested the meeting.

This was not a campaign stop.  Nobody took names for a mailing list; nobody handed out bumper stickers.  The governor was there to learn and to help.

The impromptu get-together was held indoors in the fish-processing bay at the Yankee Fisherman's Cooperative in Seabrook, N.H.  The aroma of fish guts filled the air, reminding me of my school-day summers working on the fish pier in Gloucester.

There were several fishermen present – a small several, as years of government assistance have driven many from the business.  The governor listened to them as they expanded their complaints beyond the scope of Mr. Goethel's lawsuit.  I couldn't hear well, as the non-campaign stop lacked an audio system.

After a few minutes, Governor Kasich said, "OK, can I speak now?" and then went on in a loud but conversational tone to outline what needs doing.  First and foremost, he said, get your congressional representatives involved.  Have them write letters, forceful letters, to the executive branch.  Get the powerful congressional leaders involved, Republicans and Democrats, like Senator Schumer among the latter group.

The fishermen told the governor that there had been several congressional letters in their behalf; all apparently fell on deaf ears.  There are currently two letters relative to Mr. Geothel's lawsuit sent to Dr. Sullivan, the head of NOAA, in early January.  One was signed by nine senators and several House members from the five seacoast New England states.  The other was from the tenth senator of the region, the obsequious Edward Markey.

This prompted another conversation between the fishermen and the governor.  At one point I heard the governor say, "Ah, environmentalists."  At the end of their conversation, the governor said, "These guys are trying to put you out of business."

The governor had nailed it!  He had reached the correct conclusion in less than a half-hour conversation with the New Hampshire fishermen; as Dan'l Webster said, if a few "New Hampshiremen aren't a match for the devil, we might as well give the country back to the Indians."

The fishing industry's problems with the government go back decades, but there was always a gentleman's agreement that they had a common purpose.  Since the advent of the Obama administration, that's gone by the boards.  Obama and his fellow environmentalists have made elimination of a large percentage of the fishing fleet a national policy goal.

Upon inauguration, President Obama appointed Dr. Jane Lubchenco as head of NOAA.  Dr. Lubchenco had previously been an executive vice president at the Environmental Defense Fund (EDF), which in more genteel times might have been considered a conflict of interest.  She announced that all fisheries, starting with New England's, would be switched to the revolutionary catch shares fisheries management system.  She also said that a significant fraction of the vessels would need to be removed to make the industry sustainable.  Vessels are inanimate; the people who depend upon them for their livelihoods are not.

At the same time that an extremely eco-friendly administration was taking power and appointing an eco-zealot as head of NOAA, the Milken Institute Global Conference of 2009 featured a session titled "Innovative Funding for Sustainable Fisheries and Oceans."  One of the speakers, Mr. David Festa, a vice president of the EDF, envisions a "complete redefinition of our relationship to the natural resource [the fisheries]."  By this, he means that the fisheries will all be converted to catch shares, a highly controversial approach sponsored by the EDF.  This will present a "business opportunity" and require capital.

This is crony capitalism at its most crass.  The government forces the small business operations out of business, and its eco-buddies move in to fill the vacuum.

Governor Kasich recognizes that the environmentalists with aid from the government are trying to put the fishermen out of business.  He reiterated this in a conversation with me after the meeting.  The governor promised the fishermen that if he is elected, he wil fix the problems.  He said, "I won't forget.  This meeting has put it up here," and he tapped his head.  I believed him.

It has been a grueling campaign.  Time is running down to the New Hampshire primary, whose results will be critical to the Kasich campaign.  The governor looked tired and had yet another stop on his schedule before calling it a day.  Nevertheless, he had added this stop to his already crammed schedule.

I'm a New Hampshireman, and in our great primary tradition, I have yet to decide for whom to vote, so this essay is not an endorsement of Governor Kasich.  It is a compliment to a good man who cares for his constituents and will work to resolve their issues.

Mike Johnson is a small-government conservative, a live-free-or-die resident of N.H., and the author of the e-book John Kerry & PCF-44.  Email