Jes Hathaway is the editor in chief of National Fisherman magazine and NationalFisherman.com.
Friday, 11 May 2012
Today the U.S. House made waves.
If the language in a budget bill gets through the conference committee with the Senate, then NOAA will have to hold off on implementing any new or pending catch share programs.
Fisheries already under catch share management would not be affected by this bill, including New England groundfish. However, the ongoing management difficulties and lack of protection (by the way of allocation caps) for small-boat fishermen under the Northeast groundfish program are ample proof that NOAA still has work to do on at least one existing catch share program before it declares success and charges ahead with the policy.
There are some easy fixes that could vastly improve working conditions and help stabilize the New England fleet. We need to hunker down and make sure we are protecting the small businesses and working waterfronts before we wave the Mission Accomplished banner.
The Environmental Defense Fund (the non-governmental organization where NOAA head Jane Lubchenco once was a vice-chairwoman) has invested a lot of time and money into promoting catch shares. But there has sadly been little focus on the small-boat fishermen or the working waterfronts that dot the New England coast and have relied on fishing fleets for hundreds of years.
The catch share system is not inherently good or bad. It works best when the policy is adapted to suit the fishery to which it's being applied — which includes accounting for the biomass as well as the human elements that make up that fishery.
Fishery managers have access to far better solutions than to approach every problem wielding only a hammer. As stewards of some of the healthiest ocean resources in the world, it ought to be our duty to respond to any fishery management obstacle with careful assessment first. From there, we can begin to gather the appropriate tools to solve the problem.
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