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May 17th, 2012

Catch Shares Are The Wrong Kind of Regulation

By Meredith Moore

Read the full report

Fish, Inc.: The Privatization of U.S. Fisheries Through Catch Share Programs

A recent editorial by the New York Times attributed the successful rebuilding of six fish stocks to a management scheme called catch shares. Putting aside the fact that only three of those stocks are under a catch share, the entire comparison is flawed.

The Times criticizes republicans in Congress and their fishermen allies for hating the environment. “Add fish and oceans to the long list of environmental issues that House Republicans do not much care about,” opens the piece. But equating catch shares to any other environmental issue overlooks the larger point: catch shares are a way of managing fishermen, not fish.

Fish sustainability is guaranteed by setting scientifically-based limits on the total number of fish that can be caught each year. These are called annual catch limits, and are mandated under our nation’s key fishing law. The United States is leading the way in setting and enforcing these limits, and the hard work is paying off as more and more fisheries recover. This is the sort of regulation our oceans need—not catch shares.

Catch shares, currently being pushed by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), are a way of distributing portions of that total catch to individual fishermen, in a way that is often grossly unfair. Catch shares cause significant unemployment and financial hardship among our nation’s traditional small fishermen and their communities. Since catch shares always come packaged with an annual catch limit, the gains made setting sustainable limits are often attributed to catch shares management. But catch limits and catch shares are not the same thing.

Contrary to what the Times editorial board thinks, Congress isn’t trying to hurt fish; they’re trying to stop NOAA from hurting fishermen.

4 Comments on Catch Shares Are The Wrong Kind of Regulation

  1. Jim Clements says:

    Until 2006 the Gulf of Mexico fisheries were managed with traditional systems of seasonal closures, endorsements, income qualifications, gear restrictions, and other indirect means of controlling how many fish were caught. The fishery was unmanageable.

    Because it was the fairest solution that allowed the most participants, fishermen worked with the Gulf of Mexico Fishery Management Council to develop the Red Snapper and Grouper Catch-Share programs. Both programs were supported by more than 80% of the commercial fishing industry in multiple referendums.

    Today commercial fishermen are providing fresh domestic seafood to our nation year-round with no closed season. We are rebuilding our fishery at the fastest rate in history and have reduced wasted resources while paying for our catch share programs through the cost recovery system as the fish are landed. Quality is up, income is up, while imports and discards are down.

    Catch share programs are strictly for commercial fishermen and are not advocated for the recreational sector. If you are a recreational fisherman or organization like RFA or NACO, please stay out of our business.

    • Captain Henry says:

      Catch Shares in the GOM were not supported by a clear majority, it only was passed by eliminating a significant number of small operators from participating in the referendum. With the deck stacked, a minority could now pass the scheme which tended to benefit the larger operations. This was not an equitible vote by all fishermen in the commercial sector. Studies have shown had that been allowed, it would not have passed! As to the recreational sector and Catch Shares, the same promoter, EDF who backs financially the commercial IFQ collectives, is doing the same to push the scheme into the Rec sector. Sadly many with commercial holdings are also advocating this push, and as such, rec’s have every right to have a say in what the com side is doing. Add the hundreds of millions of taxpayer dollars being spent on your “Catch Share” scheme, and the resultant lack of funds to manage our fisheries with science based data, and ‘Your’ catch Shares are costing all fisherie sectors dearly, including the recreational sector. Its time for the Catch Share beneficiaries to start paying the rightfull owner of the public resource for the ‘right’ to fish rather than making fish barons rich from what is being ‘gifted’ to them. Commercial IFQ groups are costing us all dearly, and its time to become accountable for the damage that has been done. Time to get Market Based Fisheries Management out, and Science Based management in. Oh Yeah, I forgot, EDF and its affiliated Fishing collectives OPPOSE the mandate to use Science based data in fishery management….How Sad!

  2. Pam says:

    Thank you for speaking the truth about catch shares. They are the ‘cap & trade’ of fisheries, picking winners and losers in the fishing industry. It is very true that they are not about the fish, but very much about ‘reducing participation in the fishery’. Once people understand that, I believe the majority will see them for what they are.

  3. Captain Henry says:

    Thanks for standing up for the facts. EDF has raked in millions from corporate interest to promote this scheme, and has proven to go to extreme lenths to see it through, even sacrificing the Truth and Facts. The huge cost of the Catch Shares “Market Based Fishery Management” has had its toll on science based management, with funding in short supply to conduct the necessary stock assesments for ACL’s to be truely science based. Unfortionatly this catch share spending has introduced an increased level of “Gustimating” in the currrent fishery management. Our fisheries and fishermen deserve better.

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