GloucesterTimes.com, Gloucester, MA

Opinion

December 3, 2009

Editorial: Lack of fed cash final nail in catch share plan

There are obviously a ton of issues and concerns now swirling around the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's push to use fishermen's catch shares as the primary tool for regulating New England and other U.S. fisheries.

In no particular order, there are dire examples and concerns that the change pushes independent family-owned fishing boats out of business and cedes control of the seafood industry to corporate outside investors who buy up the shares, much as today's so-called "agri-business" companies drove away America's family farms.

There are significant flaws — admitted by the NOAA's National Marine Fisheries Service — in the landings data being used to set New England fishermen's shares for when the change supposedly takes effect next year.

And then there's the fact that allocation limits outlined by the New England Fisheries Management Council — based on oft-disputed trawling science — are so constricting in some cases they seem destined to doom fishermen's viable shares to near zero, and perhaps doom the catch-share program to failure in the process.

All of those problems, as we've noted in the past, are reasons to push back conversion of the New England fishery to catch shares for at least a year.

Yet, if there is one final nail needed to drive home that point, it's this: The $18 million promised by first-year NOAA chief administrator Jane Lubchenco has not been funded by Congress — and there is no indication it will be.

To that end, Lubchenco — no doubt drawing on her career as a scientist, educator, Pew fellow and vice president of the Environment Defense Fund — is welcoming "fund-raising" efforts by the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation, a public-private philanthropy that is backed by a number of corporate partners.

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