This article I found probably doesn't belong here but in news column
Catch-shares program won't float here, N.C. watermen say
Posted to: News North Carolina
By Catherine Kozak
© January 12, 2008
Nothing is ever simple when it comes to fisheries management, as North Carolina's exploration of catch shares is bearing out.
Based on an allocation of a species divvied up as shares among qualifying watermen, the proposed program is drawing the ire of commercial fishermen who say it won't work in North Carolina, where currents and wild swings in the weather defy efforts to predict when the fish will run.
Advocates of the Limited Access Privilege Program argue that it offers simplicity and fairness. Fisheries now are regulated by an array of changing daily, seasonal and size limits that can vary from region to region.
Catch shares would allow watermen to know in advance what they can catch, and if they are not interested in using them they could sell or trade them. They could also give watermen more flexibility with when they can fish, advocates say.
But Jeff Oden, a commercial fisherman from Hatteras, argues that catch shares will further restrict watermen. Since shares typically are issued in advance based on a waterman's historical catch, he would not have the leeway while at sea to go after another species if his catch-share species isn't running, Oden said.
"What they're going to do is they'll steal your versatility with this," he said. "There will be nobody viable in our area, and basically what we'd have to do is sell our daggone piddly shares."
The North Carolina Division of Marine Fisheries started investigating the possibility of a catch-share program last year, prompted in part by the reauthorization of the Magnuson-Stevens Act, the federal legislation that established most fisheries policy. The new version promotes creation of catch shares, or allocations of the total quota for a fishery divided among individuals, a community or a group.
Scott Crosson, socio-economics program manager for the division, is analyzing the king mackerel, striped bass and southern flounder fisheries as candidates. His findings will be presented at the North Carolina Marine Fisheries Commission meeting Jan. 24 and 25 in Carolina Beach.
Crosson said he will provide a current economic snapshot of each fishery and suggest potential allocations under a Limited Access Privilege Program.
"We're not advocating anything right now," he said. "They're just asking us to look at this stuff."
Of the fisheries he is looking at, Crosson said, striped bass may benefit the most from a catch-share program. As it is managed now, the commercial season is often just a few days long, which creates a "derby" fishery in which everybody rushes in to grab the quota.
North Carolina is not alone in exploring the program, also called an Individual Fishing Quota system. The South Atlantic Fishery Management Council, the body that regulates fishing in federal waters off Georgia, the Carolinas and a portion of Florida, has been conducting workshops this year on using the program in the snapper-grouper fishery.
Oden, a member of the council's snapper-grouper advisory panel, said the program is being sold to watermen as their "saving grace." But the administrative fees involved for special equipment and monitoring and the disregard for the unpredictable nature of fishing in the region's waters would doom most North Carolina commercial fishermen, he said.
If the program is established in the south Atlantic, he said, "75 to 90 percent of fishermen are going to be history."
"There's not one reason to like it," Oden said of the program.
That sentiment is shared by the 1,500-to-2,000-member North Carolina Fisheries Association, a lobbying group that represents the commercial fishing and seafood industries.
"This type of management scheme is not a good fit at all for the state of North Carolina," said Sean McKeon, the association's president. "There's not one of my members - not one - who have indicated any support for this at all."
But Dan Whittle, director of the Southeast oceans programs for Environmental Defense, said that with the dismal state of the fishing industry in North Carolina, there's nothing to be gained by turning a blind eye to an innovative management policy.
"The objective under catch shares is to make commercial fishing viable again," he said. "To do nothing, I think, is extremely risky."
Whittle said the program has worked well in the red-snapper fishery in the Gulf of Mexico, where it was implemented last year. The 2007 data show that although landings decreased, so did expenses. Watermen had more flexibility to catch and sell fish throughout the year. Fish per pound were worth more, and by-catch was decreased. Ultimately, the gross value was higher and the fishery became more sustainable, he said.
The key is keeping an open mind, putting all concerns on the table, and working through them, Whittle said. For instance, catch shares can be bought and traded, even when the fisherman is on the boat. Fears about corporate fishing and winnowing out part-time fishermen can be addressed as they relate to each individual fishery, he said.
Fishermen who are proponents of state Limited Access Privilege Programs may not be as vocal, Whittle said, but they're out there.
"Most fishermen are really worried about the future," he said, "and if there's a management tool that could improve their livelihood, they're more than willing - in some cases, eager - to take a look at it."
Billy Carl Tillett, a veteran Wanchese waterman and manager of Moon Tillett Fish Co., doesn't buy it.
"It's a sly way of trying to weed out fishermen and making their job easy," he said of fisheries managers. "I know of no fisherman in their right mind who is for this."
Catch shares, Tillett said, would make an already overregulated business even worse.
"What this does, this type of stuff, is put us fighting amongst ourselves," he said. "Then we've got a problem. That's the thing that worries me more than anything."
Catherine Kozak, (252) 441-1711, firstname.lastname@example.org