One of the nation's largest environmental groups -- bankrolled with $50 million from the heirs to the Walmart fortune -- has spent millions of dollars pushing a wholesale change in how the U.S. manages its fisheries, an AL.com investigation reveals.
Critics blame the Environmental Defense Fund effort for hurting fishing communities on every coast, from Kake, Alaska, and Gloucester, Mass., to Bayou La Batre, Alabama.
The group has pushed a system that turns the right to catch a pound of fish into a private commodity that can be bought and sold like a share of stock on Wall Street. The government then gives these shares to individual commercial fishermen, granting them the right to catch that fish, or lease or sell the right to catch it to another fisherman.
EDF has been profoundly successful at persuading regulators that commercial fisheries should be managed through these so called "catch share" systems. Now the organization is turning its sights on recreational fishermen, particularly when it comes to red snapper.