Written by Jen Finn
At the end of 2010, NOAA director Jane Lubchenco at long last addressed some of the criticism placed at her door regarding catch shares.
In her response to a letter from Rep. Walter Jones (R-N.C.), Lubchenco says of Northeast catch shares, "But since it is merely a tool, rather than a regulatory outcome, it is not the cause of the loss of employment in the fishing communities."
Whatever label the federal government wants to slap on catch shares, it will not make this "tool" any less effective at eliminating jobs in the Northeast groundfish fishery.
The restrictions implemented with catch shares, in fact, make it financially very difficult for small-boat fishermen to stay afloat. When governors, representatives and senators from both sides of the aisle are calling for a change in the system, how does it behoove the administration to ignore a bipartisan movement?
If catch shares are the future of fishing in this country, let's not dance around it by using definitions to deflect responsibility. Lubchenco trotted out catch shares to tout their advantages, and she hasn't held audience with those fishermen since.
There was a time when the U.S. government and technology intersected in a dangerous way to get more fishermen on the water, in better boats with better gear in deeper waters. But what they and many others didn't fully understand was that the resource was limited.
In the decades since, American fisheries have stabilized, management has improved, and many fishermen have left the industry. So who is left? Sure there are still big boats and corporations, but the legacy of American fishing is the small-boat fisherman whose family is full of fishermen, who would rather be on the water than anywhere else, who has fishing in his blood.
These are the stakeholders who go to council meetings, submit comments to NMFS and band together to sell their catch directly to the public when local infrastructure falls short. These are the fishermen who will do anything it takes to keep fishing, even if that means floundering under a failing catch share program until their cases move through the court system. The question is, can they outlast this administration?
And what does Lubchenco, their regulatory leader, have to say in response?
"Catch share programs have a strong track record and, if well designed, provide an effective means of staying within targeted catch limits while improving the economic performance, social stability, and safety-at-sea of Federally managed fisheries."
And therein is the rub. If any management program is well designed, it will be effective at maintaining or rebuilding the resource without putting half the fleet out of business. The problem with this catch shares program is that it was not well designed. It was rushed into implementation, and it is, therefore, not working as planned.
It doesn't take a fleet of fishermen, lawyers and politicians to see that. But if one person at the federal level keeps her blinders on, then everyone in the industry will continue to suffer from her lack of vision.
– Jessica Hathaway
The following was released by the Maine Department of Marine Resources on Jan. 22:
The Maine Department of Marine Resources announced an emergency regulation that will support the continued rebuilding effort in Maine’s scallop fishery. The rule, effective January 23, 2016, will close the Muscle Ridge Area near South Thomaston and the Western Penobscot Bay Area.Read more...
Louisiana’s Department of Wildlife and Fisheries, which governs commercial and recreational fishing in the state, got a new boss in January. Charlie Melancon, a former member of the U.S. House of Representatives and state legislator, was appointed to the job by the state’s new governor, John Bel Edwards.
Although much of his non-political work in the past has centered on the state’s sugar cane industry, Melancon said he is confident that other experience, including working closely with fishermen when in Congress, has prepared him well for this new challenge.Read more...