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Ecotrust's Fair Catch report lays out 10 ways the government can improve its catch share programme. (Photo: NOAA)

Catch shares programme takes off amid concerns

Click on the flag for more information about United States UNITED STATES
Thursday, June 10, 2010, 03:50 (GMT + 9)

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) recently launched a programme that will entitle the nation’s USD 4 billion fishing industry with far-reaching privileges through the allocation of “catch shares” to private fishing businesses and individuals, warns a green group.

Ecotrust believes these programmes favour the fishing practices that caused overfishing to begin with and, additionally, threaten the income of fishing communities.

According to the environmental group, oceans are about to become one of the largest government handouts of a public resource to private interests.  Although historically the exclusive use of valuable public resources — like grasslands, forests, oil and mineral deposits and airwaves— produces substantial public revenues from the auctioning and leasing of these privileges, the fishing industry is not anticipated to pay for its new entitlement, Ecotrust argues.

NOAA has deferred the design of catch share programmes to regional fishery management councils dominated by industry interests, Ecotrust opines. 

A council handling fisheries management for the Pacific region is proposing to give 90 per cent of the West Coast groundfish fishery to the trawl fleet. But this proposal does not fully address the economic, social and ecological objectives required by the Magnuson-Stevens Act, Ecotrust claims.

The green organization said it is critical that the design of such management programmes address the requirements of national fishery laws.

In a report released Tuesday, Ecotrust offers ways to improve the design of this programme to better benefit all involved. 

In its Fair Catch report, Ecotrust lays out 10 ways the Pacific Fishery Management Council (PFMC) can better its catch share programme to meet the economic, social and ecological objectives and requirements of the Magnuson-Stevens Act.

Ecotrust’s report can be applied in all coastal communities where catch share programmes will be implemented.

The Fair Catch report speaks directly to a West Coast catch share proposal that would reduce the trawl fleet and assign quota shares to remaining members with the goals of, “increase[ing] economic efficiency within the Pacific coast groundfish trawl fishery and reduc[ing]” bycatch. The programme fails to tackle vital economic, social and ecological objectives, and disadvantages crews, small owner/operators, fishing communities and new entrants to the marketplace.

The Fair Catch recommendations include:

• Fostering an affordable fishery by limiting quota to active fishers.
• Regulating quota leasing to prevent unfair profiting.
• Increasing market transparency.
• Investing in fishing communities via initial quota allocations and allowing Community Fishing Associations to purchase further quota while protecting against excessive concentration.
• Supporting new entrants and small operators by establishing owner-on-board rules and providing an initial allocation for new entrants.
• Offering incentives for low-impact, low-carbon fishing gear.
• Prohibiting hoarding and profiteering on overfished species by placing overfished species quota in a public conservation trust that leases the quota to fishers at prorated fees.
• Preventing inter-fleet spillover through policies to tackle negative impacts of spillover of trawl vessels into crab, shrimp and other fisheries.

Related article:

- NOAA pushes for catch share programme

By Natalia Real
editorial@fis.com
www.fis.com

Photo Courtesy of FIS Member  National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration NOAA/NMFS
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