EDF Applauds NOAA’s New Catch Share Policy and Introduces the Catch Shares Action Toolkit

Amanda Leland, Oceans Program - National Policy DirectorA policy released today by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) charts an historic new course for the nation’s fish stocks, giving hope for the recovery of struggling fishing communities and depleted fish resources. With the new policy, NOAA is seeking to correct decades of failed management that has resulted in economically-depressed, unsafe, and unsustainable fisheries around the country.

The policy promotes greater use of catch shares, and we at EDF applaud NOAA for promoting this innovative fisheries management approach proven to improve fishermen’s lives and livelihoods and restore fish populations. NOAA’s policy builds upon the significant work of fishermen, fishing communities, scientists, fishery managers, and conservationists to design and implement catch shares in fisheries around the country.

Catch shares work for fishermen and fish populations because they include science-based annual catch limits, accountability measures to ensure compliance with those limits, and effective enforcement. At the same time, catch shares give fishermen greater flexibility for how to run their businesses, which improves economic performance.

NOAA’s new policy does not mandate catch shares for fisheries but rather makes important changes in strategy and operations, providing incentives and support for fishery managers who pursue catch shares. In particular, the draft policy:

  • Promotes the consideration and adoption, where appropriate, of catch share programs in federal fisheries.
  • Removes technical and administrative impediments to catch shares.
  • Provides technical and other support to those regional fishery management councils that choose to pursue catch shares.
  • Enhances outreach, education and assistance to stakeholders.
  • Promotes the development of technical guidance on specific program design elements.
  • Supports adaptive management through new research and performance monitoring of catch share programs over time.

The policy has been released in draft form but will take effect immediately. NOAA will take public comments for the next 120 days.

Today, as NOAA announces their new policy, EDF introduces the Catch Shares Action Toolkit to provide a resource for supporters of catch shares and encourage them to take action by telling NOAA and others that catch shares fishery management is the right policy to protect and restore the public’s ocean fishery resources, and increase profitability, wages, and safety for fishermen.

The toolkit features videos of fishermen sharing their stories about the failures of the current management system and why they support catch shares programs. The toolkit also encourages catch share supporters to engage in the dialog about catch shares through commenting online to NOAA and news articles, spreading the word about the benefit of catch shares to their friends, and submitting their own stories.

Today over 50 federally-managed stocks are overfished or experiencing overfishing. Under current management, meeting a Congressionally-mandated deadline to end overfishing by 2011 will mean ever-shorter fishing seasons and long-term closures for many prized species which will have a devastating impact on coastal communities. Catch shares allow continued fishing even while fish stocks recover.

We encourage all catch share supporters and those who want to learn more about this solution for our struggling fisheries to visit our new Catch Shares Action Toolkit.

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  1. Mary Beth de Poutiloff aka muddog
    Posted December 10, 2009 at 9:24 pm | Permalink

    Sounds like an attempt to sugar coat ITQ’s. EDF has all ready gained huge corporate funding through grants to steal the public’s resources. Once you fool your way in fisheries management, you EDF people can sit at home and be sea lords, while all the serfs are out fishing for you.

    Guess what? We can read between the lines-catch shares are ITQ’s & they devastated the fisheries that use them-pacific whiting, AK pollack, orange roughy. I could go on & on.
    EDF is good with PR, but lacks in fisheries knowledge.

    The ONLY fishermen who support catch share fisheries are the minority winners.

  2. Posted December 11, 2009 at 7:57 am | Permalink

    There is no quick fix and no perfect solution to preventing overfishing, a properly constructed ITQ system is a viable approach to prevention, but of course it is not without jobb loss and consolidation, which are the downsides to ITQ’s. Obviously the status quoa is not working, Mary Beth, what other solutions would you suggest? I think one of the key ways to prevent the negative side affects is to create and fund a CQE or Fisheries COOP and keep as much of the quota in the community as possible.

    My company, Mission Markets http://www.missionmarkets.com is going to do just that, but we are also going to facilitate electronic transfers of quota and leases and create a centralized data and documents registry. What we wont do is support ITQ speculative investment. However no matter how hard you try, there will be consolidation, job losses, and an increase in the price of leases, that is the pain of change.

    Michael Van Patten

  3. Posted December 11, 2009 at 8:49 am | Permalink

    Thousands of fishing jobs have been lost as fisheries have declined under the current system, and the trend continues. Fishermen are facing significantly shortened seasons, even full closures, in many fisheries; they work in a dangerous business and are getting paid less. How is a fisherman expected to earn a stable living this way?

    Catch shares provide for continued fishing — even as stocks recover — and will increase full-time employment and wages for fishermen, including crew. Visit http://www.edf.org/page.cfm?tagid=48874 to find out more about how jobs have improved in catch share fisheries around the country.

    But if you don’t believe me, take it from Bob Alverson, manager of the Fishing Vessel Owners Association whose members fish for halibut and sablefish in the North Pacific. “Catch shares have brought job stability and security to our longline fishing fleet. Catch shares have helped increase the dock-side value of our catch by more than 150 percent while improving the quality, eliminating dangerous derby fishing and bringing job stability to vessel owners, crews and communities.”

  4. Mary Beth de Poutiloff aka muddog
    Posted December 11, 2009 at 8:33 pm | Permalink

    Mr. Van Patten, Your investment (ITQ’s) in our fish resources will not stop overfishing as proven in ITQ fisheries around the world. It will cause the price of fish to go up with costs of leasing, buying and observer coverage.

    Why not just a TAC? Why should the minority be gifted with a public resource?

    Scallops are not over fished, in fact some are dying of old age. Why fix it if it isn’t broken?

  5. entopy
    Posted December 12, 2009 at 4:21 am | Permalink


    Please explain how Bering Sea crab Quota share owners now charging a 70% or more lease of the ex vessel value have increased wages for fishermen?

    You selectively quote Bob Alverson, too bad you didn’t bring him back for your dog and pony shows instead of Joe Childers and Steve Minor. You might have learned something.

  6. Jim Stone
    Posted December 12, 2009 at 2:05 pm | Permalink

    As a Bering Sea fisherman I will try to answer your logical question on 70% lease rates.

    The problem with the assumption of a 70% crab lease is that it is not the fleet-wide lease rate but rather the high end of rates of only one of 8 species of crab included in the Alaskan Crab catch share program. You must include more facts as you analyze our fishery. Most active harvesting boats do not charge lease on their own crab. These harvest boats will then pay leases to the other boats, who have decided to leave their boats tied to the dock and not to fish because of current continual low crab quotas. Some leases in Bristol Bay Red King Crab (not our other 7 other “Catch Share” crab species) are indeed 70%, but not all. With fewer crab traps on the ocean floor the amount of crab caught per trap, has substantially increased and in some crab fisheries doubled. The increased efficiency of less boats and less trips to port with partial loads of crab has cut our fuel usage by 55%. All of this equates to a larger pay check for the crewman.

    I would encourage you to look at a paper prepared by the Alaska NMFS staff in June, 2009 for the North Pacific Fisheries Management Council. http://www.fakr.noaa.gov/npfmc/current_issues/crab/leasingPractices509.pdf. On page 7 and 8 are some very helpful tables that show the favorable effect of Crab Catch shares on crew pay. In particular look at the section of table 4 on page 7 that refers to Bristol Bay Red King crab since this is the only crab fishery that has some leases of the 70% you asked about.

    Jim Stone

  7. entopy
    Posted December 13, 2009 at 8:52 am | Permalink


    Are you a crew member? Why don’t you let them speak for themselves? The Deep Sea Fishermen’s Union or the Crewman’s Association here in Kodiak would be more than willing to.

    I realize 70% is the high end, actually no it’s not, there are higher leases even than this being charged, You say most boats do not charge a lease on their own quota. That is half the story. How many have NOT lowered crew share percentages or skimmed off a lease since the quota program began?

    I know of one such boat. I know there may be more but it not the norm as you imply.

    Crew making more money than before? Almost every crab crew I talk to says they now work twice as many days for less than half the money.

  8. Jim Stone
    Posted December 13, 2009 at 10:43 am | Permalink

    I have been a crew member and captain of Bering Sea Crab boats from 1978 to 2006. In 2006 I stepped aside & made room for the younger guys. I am now in vessel and coop management, not something I am very suited for. Crab fishing is in my blood, I would love to go back to sea, but then would have to displace one of my younger buddies.

    I dont think my blog is stopping any crewman from speaking for him self. I have worked very closely with Deep Sea Fishermens’s Union and have a lot of respect for them. Two of my crew in Kodiak, June 2008 testified to NPMF council about Crab Catch shares.

    I too have heard of higher rates then 70%. I have also heard that these same vessels received large sums of money from a TV show and needed more crab for for more camera time. I assume these vessels are sharing their Hollywood supplements with their crews.

    Lower crew percentages I am not aware of and do not approve of. In any fishery we have all seen a few bad boat owners who behave irresponsibly, whether this is illegal fishing or burning crewmen and this has nothing to do Crab catch shares, but rather individual behavior characteristics. In the past when I have seen boats reduce pay to crew I have seen the boats suffer in the end, because the quality crewmen leave and the inferior and less experienced ones get hired on. The boats and gear quickly deteriorate. The Crews we have on most of the boats now are some of the most professional guys I have seen since the large crab quotas of years gone by. Myself and other responsible vessel managers I know have at times have increased crew percentages on particularly poor fishing trips to ensure them a fair wage.

    Many boat owners charge 0% for their crab yet no one is saying this is the norm just as no one should say 70 plus % is the norm. I would expect the fleetwide average lease rate is somewhere in the middle, perhaps 35%???? That doesn’t have the same headline grabbing ring to it.

    I dont expect you to take my word for proof of higher pay for crew now that Crab Catch shares are enacted, but rather to look at the NMFS paper on leasing which I referred to in my last blog. http://www.fakr.noaa.gov/npfmc/current_issues/crab/leasingPractices509.pdf. This paper gives us the story FLEET-WIDE of how the crew is treated. Table 4, page 7 tells the whole story. We can not point to the fringes of fleet behavior and call it the norm when reviewing an entire program.

    Thanks, Jim Stone

  9. entopy
    Posted December 27, 2009 at 1:55 pm | Permalink

    So, as I guessed, you do not get your feet wet but are among those who gets to skim off what used to go to the captains and crews. No wonder you support a system which will decrease the crews leverage to gain fair wages.

    I have gone to the npfmc study you cite and it is clear the crew gets paid less now for every hour they spend at sea. It is only because they now spend way more time at sea that they make a bit more money.

    It’s too bad EDF can’t take a clear look at ITQ’s. It might be possible to design a better version but they seem to have sold out to the investor class.

    Your and their attempts to gloss over serious issues detracts from anything positive they and you say.

  10. Posted January 7, 2010 at 9:07 am | Permalink

    Under catch shares, fishing jobs have become substantially safer and more stable. Vessels can work at a more deliberate pace, no longer subjecting crew to the dangerous conditions necessitated by the race to fish. With respect to wages, the bottom line is that fishing crew earn considerably more money under catch shares. Average income more than doubled in the king crab fishery, and rose by 33-80% for opilio. We’ve seen similar increases in other catch share fisheries – the amount of revenue per crew position approximately doubled in the Alaskan halibut fishery, and British Columbia groundfish crew saw their pay increase by 60%.