West Coast Fishermen Adapt to Catch Shares and End Wasteful “Regulatory Discards”

Almost one year ago, the West Coast’s largest commercial fishery by volume transitioned to a catch share management system. The new system:

  • Enables fishermen operating in the multispecies groundfish trawl sector to fish when they want, rather than forcing them into a series of two-month “use it or lose it” fishing time-frames;
  • Enables them to lease or trade quota for specific species and adapt their fishing practices to both market and weather conditions; and
  • Ends the universally-despised “regulatory discards,” which, under the previous management system, compelled fishermen to throw uncounted tons of perfectly good fish overboard, dead.

The Oregon Field Guide recently sent a reporter/videographer team on a fishing trip aboard the F/V Cape Windy, with Oregon fisherman Paul Kujala, to witness firsthand how the new system is affecting fishermen. During the trip, Kujala was surprised to haul in a large amount of Canary Rockfish, one of the most tightly-regulated “constraining species” that the new system is designed to gradually rebuild. In the past, those fish would have been thrown overboard. You can view the OPB video here.

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One Comment

  1. Henry
    Posted November 24, 2011 at 8:57 am | Permalink

    Like much of the Catch Share Propoganda, this article too, omits information that if posted would certainly garner opposition to the scheme. Like another recent blog post that claimed that ‘Congress Supports Catch Shares’, which is not accurate at all, this blog seems to suggest that Catch Shares save fish.

    In the past, By-Catch, and Over-Catch was not allowed. Now with allowances made for this, the incentive to push the limits exist. The very reason recreational anglers are not allowed to keep over=limit, over/under sized, or out of season fish, even if dead, is to discourage the ‘bending’ of the rules. Now commercial fisherman are allowed this practice, under the Catch Share scheme. Rather than discouraging harvest beyond allowable catch of targeted specis, it now encourages it!

    And in the end NO FISH ARE SAVED. Catch shares do change the total allowable catch…they only dictate WHO is allowed to participate in the fishery, and profit from the allowable take. Catch Shares have in most regions they have been imposed on anglers, killed at least 20% of the fishing related jobs. There is also a great cost associated with managing Catch Share programs. Groups like WalMart, funneled tens of millions of dollars through their Walton Foundation to promote Catch Shaes. Catch Shares would benefit WalMart greatly with a privitived fishery, and guarenteed shares, to fill their freezer shelves with. The Share cost (buy-in), associations fees, and of coarse the hundreds of millions US taxpayers are having spent by NOAA of this scheme , are very steep. Given that NO FISH are saved, hundreds of millions of dollars are being spent and jobs are killed…….Why exactly are they being promoted???

    A fw people have even suggested that Catch Shares makes fishing ‘Safer’, citing Alaska’s Crab fishery as an example. Funny this would be their example. Yes, Catch Shares divy up the allowable catch to literally a handfull of boats. These shares are then fished in a very short season, with a rush to return to the processor. They fish in any weather, usually dangerous at best! Their is a reason it is listed as the nations deadliest profession. So how exactly is it safer as a result of Catch Shares???? Its not!!!

    EDF has taken hundreds of millions of dollars from various groups to push catch shares. EDF has lobbied and even bragged about getting their policy promoted from the ‘top down’, with former EDF exec Jane Lubchenco now heading NOAA Fisheries. With all of this invested, and contributers to answer to, its hard for them to declare their program a disastor, however it is time for just that. Coastal Communities and fishermen overwhelmingly oppose this scheme. Supporters in the fishing community have in large measure recieved assistance, financial and other, from EDF, to help promote it, yet, these number in single digit percentages.

    In only its first year in New England groud fisheries, the nations oldest and most experianced fishing community, it has proven disastorous. With over 20% of the jobs killed in less than a year, and high management cost, further loss’s are expected. The biggest toll is on the backbone of the fishng community, the independant, small operator. And this is only after one year!!! Other communities around the nation are following a silimar pattern when Catch Shares are imposed. Alaska is hard hit in an experiment to push Catch Shaes into the recreational sector. By the time this is fully established, its estimated as much as 60% of the recreational charter fishermen in Alaska’s Halibut fishery will be out of work!! Where does their allowcation of fish go? A lot has already gone to commercial fishermen, which have more dead discards of Halibut that the entire recreational sectors allowance!!! Disgusting, but this is what Catch Shares do.

    As with any fishery management, Accurate and Current Data is required to sucessfully manage with. In the USA, this is virtually non-existant. Despite spending hundreds of millions of dollars on Catch Shares, US Federal Fisheries have no data on 75% of the managed fisheries, and the other 25% are managed with data up to a Decade old! Tpp bad those hundreds of millions of dallars were not put to GOOD use! Sustainable fisheries cannot be qualified as such without this data, yet Catch Shares promoters are falsely proclaiming their scheme does just that. This is more than simply disengenuous, it plain FALSE. EDF Opposes a call by fishermen to mandate the use of ACCURATE and CURRENT Data in regulating our fisheries!!! They prefer the ‘Status-Quo’, with little to no current data. The “Best Avalible Data” they prefer, is the aforementions decade old data at best!!! That simply is unacceptable, and outrageous. For an enviormental group to take such a position tells us all that they have sold out to corporate interest. They have opposed what is best for the enviorment, the fishery, in exchange for what is best for their contributors, this being large corporations, with a vested intrest in the fishery.

    Its time for EDF to count their loss’s, and support fishermens call for real science, current and accurate data to manage our fisheries with. Catch Shares are a Fishery Disaster, which is leading to millions of dollars in loss’s to coastal communities, and no conservation measure for the cost. The workers loosing jobs and business so that a few can profit big is the final blow in the Catch Share Scheme. Yes, Its time for EDF to change its position…and do the right thing!