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March 9, 2011

Senate panel gives catch shares a quick study

Not a discouraging word about catch shares was spoken Tuesday during what proved to be a U.S. Senate subcommittee's quick study of the impact of the 2006 Magnuson-Stevens reauthorization.

Even Vito Giacalone, policy director for the Northeast Seafood Coalition, who issued a searing indictment of government actions in constructing the nation's newest catch share program for the New England groundfishery, emphasized the flaws in the approach, committing "our fishery to a fool's errand," as he told the panel, were not inherent in the shift from effort to output control but in the engineering of it, he told a subpanel of the U.S. Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee.

The full analysis, contained in a 14-page written statement to the Subcommittee on Oceans, Atmosphere, Fisheries and Coast Guard, centered on what Giacalone described as a widespread perception that the system was rigged on the inside to the benefit of industry groups privileged to be represented on a decision-making commission and allied with the green groups determined to install catch share programs across the nation.

The equity shift has made many losers and a few winners, which is the universal trademark of catch shares, as deeper pockets outbid the smaller players for shares.

Giacalone did not name names, but the most visible and prominent group in the campaign to convert U.S. fisheries to catch shares is the Environmental Defense Fund, whose former vice chairwoman, Jane Lubchenco now heads the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

In his written testimony, Giacalone noted that the prototype for the New England system was forged in the small dissident group of fishermen organized as Cape Cod Commercial Hook Fishermen's Association, then essentially forced onto the larger fleets in the hub ports by NOAA and the New England Fishery Management Council.

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