Ed Backus at Ecotrust flagged this letter from several members of Oregon’s congressional delegation, as well as senators from Alaska and Massachusetts. Note: All states where fisheries are being overhauled through catch share programs.
The letter, signed by Oregon senators Ron Wyden and Jeff Merkley and Oregon Congressman Peter DeFazio, asks National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration chief Jane Lubchenco for advice on how to design catch share programs that protect fishing communities. They wrote:
“Fishing is an important economic driver in many of our nation’s coastal communities, and protecting this resource is even more essential now than ever as our nation struggles to rebound from the economic downturn. We ask that NMFS provide the necessary guidance during the implementation of its Catch Share Policy to ensure a vibrant future for our local fishing economies.”
The letter underscores a potential problem with catch shares, which divvy up shares of catchable fish among fishermen. The shares can be traded, bought and sold. And depending on who sells what, they can wind up shifting the fishing industry away from small fishing towns.
As Lubchenco noted in a debate over catch shares last month, catch share programs can be designed to protect fishing communities (by giving towns their own shares of fish, for example). But what’s the best way to do it? That’s what eight members of Congress want to know.
And they think NOAA should be the one to help the regional fishery management councils figure it out. After all, NOAA has recommended catch shares for all U.S. fisheries. So, a guide to preserving fishing communities could be useful to more and more regions as time goes on.