GloucesterTimes.com, Gloucester, MA

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September 15, 2011

Catch share support sparks Wal-Mart boycott

The decision of the Walton Family Foundation to invest $36,341,561 in Environmental Defense Fund and other nonprofits helping the Obama administration re-engineer U.S. fisheries though catch share programs has produced a nascent campaign to boycott Wal-Mart stores.

The push back against the world's largest retailer began on North Carolina's Outer Banks, by North Carolina Watermen United, a group of perhaps 200 commercial, recreational, longliner and charter fishermen, and has been joined by the Recreational Fishing Alliance, with members in every coastal state, including Massachusetts.

The $2.2 billion Walton Family Foundation is led by descendents of Sam Walton, who founded Wal-Mart in Bentonville, Arkansas. A grandson, Sam R. Walton, was in 2008-2009 an EDF board member.

"We object to your sponsorship of catch shares," Britton Shackleford, president of Watermen United, wrote to members of Wal-Mart's Global Ethics Committee on Wednesday.

The organization said it "would like to inform both Wal-Mart Stores and the Walton Family Foundation that it has encouraged its members to begin a boycott of your stores immediately."

The RFA applauded and urged its members to follow the lead of the North Carolina fishermen.

"We're asking every fisherman not to go to Wal-Mart," said Jim Donofrio, executive director of the RFA "Hunters, too."

In his letter to Wal-Mart, Shackleford went on to assert that, in supporting catch shares — a hotly disputed allocation system that EDF, and allied groups have been advocating for years, but is being for a rapid consolidation and job losses within the fishing industry — Wal-Mart has been violating its own ethical code which asserts that "...we will not participate in any activity intended to restrain trade..."

The catch share system typically leads to massive consolidation, as better capitalized fishing businesses push out the smaller operators, and small, independent boats, like those that dominate Gloucester's fleet are forced out of the industry.

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