You may heard of vegetable coops, meat shares and perhaps even fish shares, now NOAA is advocating “catch shares” for western US fishermen. People can buy in to a particular cooperative harvest each season, ensuring that farmers and fishermen get a fair price for their products. Farmers often practice better farming/harvesting methods that hopefully raise overall food quality. Catch shares are quotas that fishermen can voluntarily accept that are intended to limit bycatch, promote individual responsibility for maintaining the quota, and release pressure from overfished species by encouraging less fishing. According to the Associated Press article “catch share gets rid of the traditional race for fish”, leaving the decision of when to fish up to the fishermen.
The catch share system has been in place before and the research points to increasing groundfish stocks. Small boat, hook and line fishermen form Cape Cod, Massachussetts were the first in the US to adopt the catch share program.
“We were almost like the canary in the coal mine,” said Eric Brazer, sector manager for the Cape Cod Commercial Hook Fishermen’s Association, which went to catch share in 2004. “We’ll live within the limits set by science. Other fishermen are willing to go toe-to-toe with the scientists. We’re most interested in preserving our community and making sure we get through the next few years till we start seeing the fish populations come back.”
Not everyone in the 120-boat West Coast groundfish fleet will be a winner under the new rules. An analysis estimates 50 to 70 boats will be left with fishing permits after things sort out. The remainder will have to stop groundfishing.”
One thing that worries me is who decides who gets to fish? If 50% of the boats get docked, 50% of the work force is unemployed. Do you have any thoughts about this? Perhaps some more knowledgeable than I can chime in on how it all works. Is there any program for dealing with the unemployed fishermen? Many of which are no employable outside of the fishing industry. Regardless, it is an interesting program that I will be watching attentively and shows promise for rebuilding diminished stocks to whet the American appetite.