National Fisherman

Share America
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.

Inside the Industry

Abe Williams, who was elected to the Bristol Bay Regional Seafood Development Association board last spring, has been selected as the new president as of September.

Williams fishes the F/V Crimson Fury, and is president of Nuna Resources, a nonprofit that supports sustainable resource development in rural Alaska, including fighting for an international solution to issues raised by the proposed Pebble Mine project.


The Harte Research Institute for Gulf of Mexico Studies at Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi is teaming up with leading shark-tracking nonprofit Ocearch to build the most extensive shark-tagging program in the Gulf of Mexico region.

In October, Ocearch is bringing its unique research vessel, the M/V Ocearch, to the gulf for a multi-species study to generate previously unattainable data on critical shark species, including hammerhead, tiger and mako sharks.

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