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Editorial July/August 2010

The Catch Shares Conspiracy

Beware— The Trojan Horse

    In 2006 the Magnuson/Stevens Act (MSA) was reauthorized placing the “catch shares” method of fishery management as a consideration when governing fishing activities within the 200-mile EEZ limit.
According to NOAA Fisheries (NF) the following is their definition of catch shares:
“Catch shares” is a general term for several fishery management strategies that allocate a specific portion of the total allowable fishery catch to individuals, cooperatives, communities, or other entities.
The Environmental Defense Fund (EDF), recipient of hundreds of thousands of dollars from the Pew Charitable Trusts through the years, has been a proponent of the catch shares fishery management system and worked with regulators laying the ground work for catch shares to be part of the reauthorization process of the MSA in 2006. During this period, Dr. Jane Lubchenco, current NOAA administrator, holder of a Pew Charitable Trusts fellowship, and previous vice chairperson of EDF’s board of trustees, worked closely with EDF helping push their catch share agenda on the public.
    EDF, using science bought and paid for by their organization and their paid consultants profess that catch shares and the limited access privilege program can be a powerful tool to manage fisheries, decrease bycatch, rebuild fisheries to sustainable levels, achieve better conservation, and even protect fishermen from injury.
Shortly after Dr. Jane Lubchenco’s appointment as NOAA administrator in March of 2009, she appointed Monica Medina, former Pew employee, as “Catch Shares Czar” to help NOAA promote the catch shares system to fishermen around the country.
    Recently, NOAA issued a draft explaining their position on the catch shares policy and requested input from the public on this draft proposal on their web site. Lets take a closer look at this proposed panacea being forced down our throats by EDF, and Dr. Lubchenco and her staff.
    First and foremost, it states NF must establish a mechanism for specifying annual catch limits (ACL) in most fisheries by 2011. The ACLs will place a cap on fisheries removals so overfishing will not occur.
What science will be used to determine the ACLs in the individual fisheries? A better question to direct to NF is “whose” science will be used to determine ACLs, their current old science for which both commercial and recreational fishermen state is “broken,” or new science being bought and paid for by Pew, EDF or some other environmental shell corporation?
    Reading further into the Draft NOAA Catch Shares Policy document and sifting through the comments on the benefits of the catch shares system, how this system of fisheries management is the greatest management tool ever, and all being attested to by the following organizations; the Joint Ocean Commission Initiative which is made up of the former members of the U.S. Commission on Ocean Policy and the Pew Oceans Commission, the National Academy of Sciences through their paper “Sharing the Catch, Conserving the Fish” written by David Festa, Vice-President Environmental Defense Fund West Coast operation, the Ocean Studies Board with sponsors such as the David and Lucille Packard Foundation (instrumental in closing 40,000 square miles to fishing on the West Coast designating sections as Marine Protection Areas (MPA), and the Oregon State University (Lubchenco’s previous employer). They all cite how successful the catch shares system is working in Alaska. Here are a few comments from Alaskan commercial fishermen on the Alaskan catch shares system adopted in 1995.
    My name is Rhonda Maker, and I live in Kodiak, Alaska. We have lived with catch shares, IFQs (individual fishing quotas) whatever they call them since 1995. I’m here to tell you that it is all bad. It gives a public resources to certain individuals based on fishing history for the boat owners. It will divide your people into haves and have nots. You will see an exodus from your community. You will see people struggle to get something, or get nothing, and where do they get the money to buy in once the fish have been given to others. You will be paying for your fish years ahead, and your traditions will fade. You will see others buy the fish you used to live off of. EDF is not on your side. They are working for control of the resource because they want them for themselves and their investors. I wholeheartedly oppose this system. It’s killing our town, and my future.
    Alaska’s Crewman’s Association has about 1,000 members with hundreds still active, according to Executive Director Shawn Dochtermann. He has filed a request with Sen. Locke on April 10, 2010 for a two to three-year moratorium on catch shares due to their negative consequences and irreversible effects due to past privatization programs in Alaska that have harmed many coastal communities.”
    Reading the Draft NOAA Catch Shares Policy document a little further I come to the section on “Transferability.” According to NOAA, the councils should thoroughly assess the net benefit of allowing transferability of catch shares which would allow the transfer by sale or by lease of a portion or all of an individual’s or corporation’s catch share fishing quota.
    Continuing to work my way through the NOAA document I find another interesting section on “Royalties.” NOAA states, “NOAA will assist councils if and when they determine that it is in the public interest to collect royalties in connection with the initial or subsequent allocations in a limited access privilege (LAP) program. Section 303A(d) of the 2006 reauthorization of the MSA states quite clearly, “Section 303A(d) requires the councils to consider the collection of royalty payments for the initial or subsequent distribution of LAPs.”
With the royalty provision in place there will be an up front charge to participate in a fishery which many start up operations will not be able to afford. Couple the payment of royalties with the ability to transfer or lease your quota to the highest bidder, especially if the quota allotted is to small to survive, seems it will, within time, limit the fisheries to only the very wealthy huge corporations.
This brings us to the question “why” is the EDF, and other enviro groups so adamant about adopting catch shares? It is apparent the catch shares system, with royalty payments and transferability of quota options, will cut out the “mom and pop” style commercial fishing operations and limit participation in the different fisheries to only the wealthy corporations.
    In a 2009 panel at the Milken Institute entitled “Innovative Funding for Sustainable Fisheries and Ocean” moderated by Larry Band, a consultant of the EDF, Jason Winship, Managing Principal of Sea Change Management LLC, which manages the Sea Change Investment Fund, a growth equity investor that facilitates greater market access to environmentally preferable seafood, while providing a compelling financial return to investors along with members of the IFSFO panel made these comments and they may shed some light on the “why” question. From the Milken Institute web site:
    The financial benefits of catch share programs are attractive to investors. “We do see a significant opportunity,” he said. But while catch share fisheries offer significant potential, just 15 are in existence. The panel expressed hope that by 2030 the number of catch share fisheries might increase to 70.
    The goal will require significant and early investments in fishing equipment and vehicles. “Money needs to come into fisheries ahead of catch shares taking place,” Band said, explaining that improvements in the tools of the trade must take place before sustainable fishing can occur.
    The Milken panel agreed that the infusion of private capital into these enterprises will be essential to advancing this innovation in fishing. “We need capital to rationalize the fishing fleet,” Band said.
    Could this mega-push for catch shares by EDF be nothing more than an attempted economic windfall for a certain few investors? Is it all about the money and not conserving the resource?
Tina Jackson, president of the American Alliance of Fishermen and Their Communities (AAFC), a New England based commercial fishermen’s organization states:
    “Catch shares are just another name for privatization. They don’t help to improve the health of fish stocks. They are not a conservation tool; They are an economic tool.”
If catch shares are adopted, the commercial fishermen have no choice but to comply with the law. What about the recreational sector? Will we be forced to comply with Lubchenco’s and EDF’s folly or will we escape the wraith of the environmental business community?
    According to the MSA, “If a council adopts a catch share program for the commercial sector, the MSA does not require catch shares to be adopted in the recreational or any other particular sector of a fishery.” But Monica Medina, Catch Shares Czar, NF stated, “This task force will engage stakeholders to help ensure that the regional fisheries councils and NOAA implement catch shares wherever appropriate.”
    With tentacles reaching deep inside NOAA, I’m afraid the recreational fishing community will suffer at the hands of the environmental groups privatization plan and soon we will be facing a recreational catch share management system that will further the enviros anti-fishing and “innovative funding” agenda.

    Captain Len Belcaro