Reacting to Will Sennott’s July 2022 ProPublica story about a European family owning a large chunk of New England groundfish quota, a consortium of fishermen and others from around the country have landed in Washington D.C. and will be meeting with the members of House and Senate Committees to advocate for more fishermen-friendly systems. 

From Feb. 6-9 the Catch Share Reform Coalition will be raising awareness in Congress of the failures of Catch Shares and other Individual Transferable Quota (ITQ) management schemes.

Consortium members cited Larry Marino, a representative of Louisiana’s Attorney General Office, as a high-profile critic of catch shares. Marino spoke at a recent meeting of the Gulf of Mexico Fishery Management Council of the need to reform catch share programs.

He noted that big shareholders, particularly in the Gulf’s red snapper fishery, have been known to exercise control over the allocation of fishing rights, through intimidation and abuse of power.  

For consortium member Tim Barrett of Scituate, Mass., the impacts of catch shares are personal. 

“Jane Lubchenco (administrator of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration 2009-2013) came right out and said there were far too many fishing boats participating in the New England groundfish fishery. Catch shares were designed to greatly reduce the number of fishing boats in New England,” says Barrett. Lubchenco’s sentiment echoes the 1969 Stratton Commission report, which clearly stated that it was time to get rid of small-scale fishermen “who are content to eke out what is for them an adequate living.”

“We were a sector primarily made up of smaller dayboats with members pretty much from south of Boston — Scituate through the Cape to Provincetown,” says Barrett. “We had 28 boats (in 2011). Right from the jump we started losing people. In about five years we got trimmed down to about 10 or 15 active boats. Now we’re down to one. That’s me. Last man standing.”

The consortium will exhort senators and representatives to reform catch share and ITQ programs so that only fishermen, rather than speculators can own quota.

They are asking Congress to further cap the amount of quota that can be held by a single individual or entity, regulate leasing of quota, and require NOAA to collect and publish data on quota ownership nationwide.

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Paul Molyneaux is the Boats & Gear editor for National Fisherman.

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