The National Marine Fisheries Service has redirected $1 million budgeted for dockside monitoring — a program effectively abandoned last spring — to help defray operating costs of the quasi voluntary business cooperatives or sectors that are working with catch shares.
"By providing funds directly to sectors," said Maggie Mooney-Seus, NOAA spokeswoman for the northeast region, "managers and members can determine how best to use the money to develop their respective operations. Sectors may use funds for approved operating costs such as sector manager salaries, office space rental and communications costs."
The mandatory dockside monitoring program ends Sept. 19 and there will be no required monitoring through April 30, 2012, when the 2012 groundfishing annum ends.
Costs for the monitoring program, which loses federal funding after 2012, were a sticking point with sector leaders. Among their arguments was that the burden of paying for the monitors would fall, in relative terms, more heavily on the day boat fleet than on the bigger offshore boats, and so it would reinforce the biases of the system which have worked to shift control of the industry into the hands of bigger and better capitalized fishing businesses.
The decision, announced last Monday, was praised by Jackie Odell, executive director of the Gloucester-based Northeast Seafood Coalition, the largest industry umbrella organization which has launched 13 sectors representing different geographic, boat-size and gear-type fishing businesses.
"The utility and expense of the program at hand, which was scheduled to fall upon the shoulders of the struggling fishermen in the future, has been a serious issue for the NSC," Odell said in a statement. "We are pleased to see that the agency is being responsive to the concerns that have been raised — and that the remaining monies will be used to offset sector operational fees."
But Odell cautioned that monitoring is just one of the many expenses associated with catch-share management which needs to be addressed if managers want the program to be economically viable.