Written by Melissa Wood
May 23, 2012
For some fishermen, catch shares have been a blessing. Buddy Guindon of Galveston, Texas, says they’ve changed his life for the better. Since the implementation of Gulf red snapper IFQs in 2007, the 30-year fishing veteran says he gets double the money for his catch, spending a third of the time — and fuel — at sea.
I talked to Guindon about catch shares for a two-part story I wrote for the April and May issues of National Fisherman. As catch shares have become the predominant fishery management system in this country (there are now 17 fisheries under some type of catch share management), my goal for the story was to talk with fishermen on all coasts for a national perspective on this national policy. I asked them to share their experiences about what worked and what didn’t.
For some, catch shares clearly aren’t working. David Goethel of Hampton, N.H., has seen the number of his state’s small boat fishermen shrink and has little hope for that fleet’s future under this management system. He wasn’t the only one to dislike catch shares as they have triggered lawsuits on both the East and West coasts as well as protests and accusations of serving special interests.
Of course controversy probably isn’t a big surprise to those involved in fishery management. Fish are a limited resource and it’s not always possible to make sure everyone gets a piece of the pie. But catch shares in particular seem to divide fishermen into the haves and have-nots, the winners and losers. In the stories, you’ll read a variety of views, including those in favor and those who are adamantly against them. You’ll also hear from people who remember the early days of catch shares in Alaska and who note the importance of carefully crafted catch share plans.
It’s difficult to paint a broad-brush stroke over an issue as complex as fisheries management, and to be perceived as fair when covering something as controversial as catch shares. I wanted to include voices of fishermen who had a positive story to tell since their voices weren't usually in the news stories about catch shares. On both sides, however, not every point could be made, not every view could be expressed and not every detail could be explained in full.
That’s why I’m hoping these articles will serve as a springboard to make this an ongoing conversation about catch shares. We’ll continue to cover catch shares as they make news, but we’d also love to get letters from more fishermen who have worked under the program and hear what your experiences have been like too.
Please check out the April and upcoming May issues of National Fisherman and let us know what you think.
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