Written by Jen Finn
Views on catch shares from some of the nation's oldest and newest programs remain deeply divided
Part 2: West Coast and Alaska
By Melissa Wood
For both a crewman just starting out on deck and an Alaska veteran, one of the problems with catch shares is that they change the nature of what it means to be a fisherman.
Ryan Higby, 29, crews on a trawler out of Kodiak Island in the Gulf of Alaska, where pollock and cod remain under a fleet quota. For him, the inevitability of catch shares coming to that fishery signals a possible end to his fishing career.
"The general sentiment is that it's privatization of what should be an open resource," says Higby. "People think that the fish should go to those willing to go out and get it. No one's behind it; they're expecting and preparing for it."
These days, Chris Berns, 60, also of Kodiak, mostly fishes salmon and some crab. Fishing in Alaska since 1970, Berns doesn't know of any fishery in the state he hasn't participated in at one time or another, including the early days of the halibut and blackcod individual fishing quota program. Catch shares, he says, turn a fisherman into a businessman. "It's kind of counter-intuitive to how fishermen worked," says Berns who points out that previously a fisherman had to be hardy enough to stay up all hours running gear. Now, "you have to have an MBA to be a fisherman."
In Alaska, home of some of the country's oldest catch share programs, industry views are mixed on whether the management system has been a good thing for those fisheries. Those sentiments are shared among U.S. West Coast fishermen, as well. Though there is consensus that programs should be crafted with measures specifically designed for each fishery, rarely does it seem that stakeholders agree on what is best.
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