At the risk of butting in from far away (and no doubt the pro-catch share faction will see it as that), fishermen solidarity is essential if we are to weather this storm, so I would like to share my experience here in New England regarding catch shares and their disasterous effects (Quota system will save the fleet, The Daily Astorian, Dec. 30).
I hope your experience is different than ours. Two-thirds of our groundfish fleet has not left the dock since the inception of catch shares last May, due largely to low allocations of choke species. Also, many fishermen and small boat owners are out of business because they never got a large enough individual allocation of any of the species to make a single trip to the grounds feasible.
The race for commoditization: or, too many bureaucrats chasing too few fishermen. The question that keeps emerging for rational people at almost every turn is: Why catch shares? What exactly is behind this race for commoditization?
Theres no clear evidence that catch shares do anything for the fish, and a sampling of some of the rest of the worlds fisheries, some using Individual Transferrable Quotas (ITQ) for 30 years (see tinyurl.com/tippoint), shows no more than a controversial attitude at best, and a desire to rescind such programs is widespread internationally as well. At any rate, there is clearly no demonstrable evidence that such a privatization scheme helps the fish or the fisheries. Most of our U.S. fisheries are healthy and sustainable or clearly on a path progressing toward those goals.
If you accept the talking point that there are too many fishermen chasing too few fish, then this consolidation push makes sense. If, on the other hand, you are rational, you will take into account the fact that in the Northeast, for instance, the already 70 percent reduced fleet has harvested only a fraction of the sanctioned total allowable catch over the last several years. Further reduction of the fleet will result in a domino collapse of essential and crucial shore side infrastructure.
If you understand that by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administrations own figures, most stocks are already healthy and approaching sustainability, and if you know, for instance, that there are more fish coming up in surveys now than there have been since the beginning of NOAA record keeping, then none of the attitudes by NOAA and the Environmental Defense Fund make any sense at all not to fishing, anyway.
The push for consolidation does make sense, however, if you are trying to clear fishermen out of the way for industrial development of the ocean resource, forgoing fishing for oil.