Can a catch share structure help or hurt the US bluefin tuna commercial fleet? Can catch shares create a better structure for self-management of the stocks by the fishermen? Here is a look at a conversation still brewing between heads of the US commercial fleet and members of this network on this very issue. As we know, NOAA
has a keen eye for catch share programs. However there is considerable debate on the types of fisheries catch shares will benefit. For large industries where the commercial fleet is largely ubiquitous, catch shares can work as they have in areas like Alaska. However the debate arises when the fishery has tiered levels of participants such as large, medium and small boats. In these cases, do catch shares start a natural selection where the smaller operations are edged out? These are just some of the issues up for discussion on how catch shares might impact the US bluefin tuna fishery. Here are some perspectives to evaulate as sparked by TokyoTom
of this network;
(Bluefin tuna harpooner) and from the American Bluefin Tuna Association
lends this perspective on catch shares in relation to bluefin fishermen in the NorthEast;
"Catch shares are not well liked by Northeast ground fishermen, it has put many small boat fishermen out of business."
Ralph further states that the recent reductions agreed upon by the Eastern nations at the ICCAT meeting in Brazil serve as the go forward plan in place of catch shares. Ralph cites Turkey as an example that has taken significant reductions as a management step going forward.
, Executive Director for the American Bluefin Tuna Association
, adds the following statement;
"I have little doubt you can make allocation of catch shares work to limit fishing mortality, in selected, relatively clean fisheries to match the level necessary to sustain the appropriate MSY (maximum sustainable yield). In my mind, the contentious issues center more on philosophical, moral principles and in some cases overall economic benefits flowing from fisheries that have significant mixture of recreational and commercial values. The value added to many fisheries from unsuccessful recreational (or commercial for that matter) fishing effort can be staggering and dwarf the value of commercial and recreational catches. Any time you limit access, as catch shares do, you impact the economic activity and value. I know the simplistic response is "well we assign or leave for purchase, shares for open access but this does not adequately address the complex reality of some fisheries. Although the current NOAA stated policy recognizes and is attempting to appease the skeptics by suggesting "catch shares are just another tool" in the arsenal of managers, we have seen before how a zealous bureaucracy can run wild with a new fad to make their life easier or make new work/travel but with ruinous impacts on fishery communities.
One of the biggest concerns lies with privatization of a natural public resource. At least I am not aware of any road back from ownership (shares) should, at some point, the new wave panacea not look so good in reality to future generation. Of course, it may always look pretty good to the initial winners.
Another whole issue is whether privatization/catch shares are good for the consumer and this again, can be debated on a species by species basis."
is of the mindframe that commercial fishermen, including the US bluefin tuna fleet would favor catch shares. He just penned a good post here
on his blog. He further states;
"I had considered catch shares to be an approach that the fishermen favored - subject to initial concerns about who gets what - as much better than a federally micro-managed fishery involving a race to catch, so I`m surprised to hear your concerns. I don`t want to impose on your time, but if you could point me to something that spells out the arguments I`d appreciate it.
(BTW, it seems to me that a "way back" if catch share isn`t working is for the ENGOs to buy them, or the govt to reduce periodically each share based on sustainable yield, but frankly I simply have no expertise here.)
While your group might not favor catch shares for the western Atlantic, have you considered that it might be a good idea for the Mediterranean, E.Atlantic, where there are too many fisherman and too many subsidized boats chasing too few bluefin?
I`m curious about the level at which your group is communicating with European/African fishermen. Are you discussing only at occasional ICCAT meetings, or are you make ongoing efforts to try to persuade them yourselves?
And are you making any efforts to talk to the Japanese ICCAT delegates, to try to see if they would support import restrictions on the East/Med until stocks recover, while treating your catch favorably? Wouldn`t this greatly lower market value of IUU and Easter catch, and provide those guys with greater incentives to retire boats and otherwise get their act together? This would also address some of the heat that the US govt is feeling from ENGOs and consumers who want to do the right thing."
...so the conversation continues as I will be looking for additional input here from some folks in the recreational sector as well. As always thanks to TokyoTom, Rich Ruais and Ralph Pratt for taking time from busy schedules to provide their input here on this network.