A commission conducting the first serious study in more than 30 years of how adjacent ocean resources are managed by the United States has finished its investigations, issued many reports and is now poised to submit its recommendations for future management changes to Congress. The last group of specific reports, and the most recent, is a series on commercial fishing.

The target date for the final Pew Oceans Commission report to Congress is April 9, and the recommendations have been not been made public, nor has the text of the report been completed, according to staffers.

However, as far as fisheries management is concerned, commission members heard loud and clear from harvesters around the country that no single management regime will work for everyone.

“We can’t assume that what makes sense for Maine lobstermen makes sense for trawlers in Alaska,” said Justin Kenney, director of communications for the commission. “We have to have management that’s flexible, that allows you to do what makes sense in regional fisheries and for particular economies. We heard that repeatedly from fishermen.”

Some possible recommendations can be anticipated by the published writings of the group’s chairman, Leon E. Panetta, and others.

Panetta, who chaired the commission established and funded by the Pew Charitable Trusts in 2000, is a former congressman, former chief of staff in the Clinton White House and current chairman of the Leon & Sylvia Panetta Institute for Public Policy, California State University at Monterey Bay. He is also the grandson of an immigrant Italian fisherman.

Although the Pew commission is the first to study ocean management in decades, since the Stratton Commission, it is not the only group. After Pew funded its commission, President George W. Bush appointed a federal study group, The U.S. Commission on Ocean Policy, which was mandated by the Oceans Act of 2000, but not appointed until September 2001. Unlike the Pew Commission, the U.S. Commission has no commercial fishermen as members.

Two of the Pew commission’s 18 members are commercial fishermen. The East Coast representative is Patten D. White, a lobsterman from York, Maine, who is also a member of the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission, a former member of the New England Fisheries Management Council and Executive Director emeritus of the Maine Lobstermen’s Association. The West Coast representative is Pietro Parravano, commercial fisherman, president of the Pacific Coast Federation of Fishermen’s Associations (PCFFA) and a member of the San Mateo (California) County Harbor Commission.

“For the most part we’re happy with the reports,” said Pat White. “[There has been] a lot of give and take and a lot of concessions. But overall, we think it will help us [fishermen].”

White said he believes the problems in fisheries receive a lot more attention in the reports than successes such as the current rebuilding of New England groundfish stocks. “But, we have to look at fisheries on a worldwide basis, not a local one. New England people have done admirably, but a lot of the world’s fish stocks are in trouble.”

White said he didn’t agree with all of what he anticipates will be contained in the final report to Congress, “but neither does anyone else. But I am comfortable with it overall. It’s the work of a lot of diverse people.”

One area Pew will definitely promote as a way to enhance fish stocks is marine protected areas. The title of one report, Marine Reserves: A Tool for Ecosystem Management and Conservation, indicates the panel’s interest in protected areas intended as no-take zones for marine organisms. Proponents of marine protected areas (MPAs) believe the no-take zones protect spawning stocks and promote fish population increases.

“We must adapt our management of the oceans to respect the complex relationships among living things and the marine environment. Our primary goal must be to restore and maintain the health of ocean ecosystems such as coral reefs, kelp forests, and seagrass beds,” wrote Panetta in an op-ed piece last fall. “Without healthy, functioning ecosystems we cannot enjoy the oceans’ ecological and economic benefits.”

Some critics fear the president’s own commission’s recommendations – less likely to be favorable to fishermen – will take precedence over the Pew commission’s findings. Pew had an uphill battle to gain the confidence of fishermen at the start, since the foundation also funds many of the environmental groups fishermen see as a threat, including those which bring lawsuits against federal fisheries managers.

The other three reports focused on fisheries released by the Pew panel were titled: Managing Marine Fisheries, A Dialogue with America’s Fishermen, and Socioeconomic Perspectives of Fishing. All four fishing reports, and others, are available at .