Monthly Archives: September 2009

Catch Shares Success as Big as Texas

red snapper in bucketsWhen the largest paper in Texas (.42 million readers) puts catch shares on its front page, you know it’s worth talking about. This Saturday the Houston Chronicle wrote an article titled “Catch and Relief: A new share system for fishing red snapper in the Gulf appears to benefit anglers, as well as the species suffering from overfishing.”

The story features commercial fisherman Buddy Guindon, who also owns Katie’s Seafood in Galveston, TX. He owns quota in the Gulf of Mexico’s commercial red snapper individual fishing quota (IFQ) program, a type of catch share.

An interesting excerpt:

“At first, the concept of individual shares so worried Guindon that he sold one of his two seafood markets as a pre-emptive move. Two years later, Guindon said he is catch half the fish but making more money. The new system allows him to reduce expenses because his boats can take longer and more fuel-efficient trips while increasing revenue by fishing when the Gulf is safe and dockside prices are high.”

Check out the full story.

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Fishermen Voices: Dave Preble – Narragansett, Rhode Island

This clip is from a fall 2008 interview with Dave Preble, a 45-year commercial and charter boat fisherman currently serving on the New England Fishery Management Council. Dave describes both the pressure on a fishery and fishermen, and the safety concerns associated with current fishing regulations that trigger a “race to fish.”  Under “sector” catch shares management, New England groundfishermen have begun developing business strategies to maximize the benefits of harvesting specified allocations of fish when they choose rather than competing with other fishermen for a scarce resource.

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Killing Machine or Ecological Treasure?

Sometimes sharks are called “killing machines.”  In reality, people have a much higher chance (over 600%) of being stuck by lightning than being attacked by a shark.

Movies like the famous 1975 thriller “Jaws” portray sharks as evil, almost supernatural, beasts that will do whatever they can to taste human flesh.  But, perhaps we should look in our own mirrors to see the real threat.  Sharks around the world are captured by the millions for their meat, skin, and oils.  They are hunted for their fins, used in some countries to make a popular soup, while the rest of the body is thrown overboard to die.  Sport fishermen host tournaments with top prize money for big sharks.

Certainly, shark fishing at a sustainable level is possible, and sharks are an important source of food and income for thousands of people.  However, many are being caught faster than they can reproduce. Some sharks are even at-risk of being classified as “endangered” under the U.S. Endangered Species Act.

Even if the sight of a shark gives you the “willies,” you should care about what happens when they are gone.  The decline of sharks can cause what scientists call “cascading” impacts on oceans.  When large sharks on the U.S. East Coast were depleted, there was a rise in the population of a type of ray called the “cownose” ray.  What’s so bad about that?  Well, the rays damage vital sea grass habitats that are important marine life nurseries.  To make matters worse, the rays like to eat a lot of the same seafood that we enjoy, like scallops and clams.

Recently the Texas Observer published an article presenting an interesting account of the tragic circumstances facing sharks and one struggling Mexican community that relies on them. It tells us that not only do we have to do a good job in managing sharks within our own national waters, but that we need to find ways to work and cooperate with the other countries in the Gulf of Mexico region to conserve sharks – for the benefit of the oceans and coastal communities.

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