Posts Tagged ‘EDF’
Sector Separation – It’s OK to Throw Bad Ideas Away
by Ted Venker
Coastal Conservation Association
Linus Pauling was an American chemist, biochemist, peace activist, author and educator. He was one of the most influential chemists in history and one of only four individuals to have won more than one Nobel Prize.
As far as I know, though, he never worked in fisheries management. He might not have liked to fish and possibly may not have even liked to eat fish. However, given his famous saying about ideas, we could certainly use him on the Gulf of Mexico Fishery Management Council today.
“The way to get good ideas is to get lots of ideas,” Pauling once said, “and throw the bad ones away.”
What Linus saw so clearly has apparently proven to be a tough concept for most of the Gulf Council to grasp. It’s good to have ideas. Big problems need lots of ideas to solve. Put them all on the table – poke them, prod them, sift through them. But when they turn out to be bad ideas, throw them out and be done with them, for goodness’ sake.
Someone should have thrown out the idea of sector separation long ago, but instead the idea seems to be a classic case of the squeaky wheel getting the grease.
Sector separation is the proposal to formally split existing and future recreational sector allocations of harvest into separate private boat and charter / for-hire / headboat sector portions. This approach has been pushed by the Environmental Defense Fund (EDF), which is also advocating catch shares for the for-hire and headboat sectors.
Times are tough for charter/for-hire and headboat operators in the Gulf of Mexico. No one disputes that. Times are tough all over. But somehow, a small, vocal minority of operators has convinced the Gulf Council that they need extra help. They figured their lives would be a lot easier if someone would literally give them some of the recreational quota of red snapper and allow them to be one of the very few segments in America today with some stability in their businesses. The Council apparently feels the need to do something to help them.
In reality, every entity from the federal government to your local vegetable stand craves a little stability in their business right now. I bet all of the state wildlife management agencies that are seeing their budgets slashed and burned would love to see some stability and guaranteed revenue streams as well.
It’s a nice gig for the operators, if they can get it. But does the chance to play favorites for a few operators justify the Council striking off on such a radical and wildly unpopular idea that makes no sense at any level?
It makes no economic sense for anyone but a handful of fortunate operators. By catering to a very small segment of the Gulf reef fish fishery, the Council is apparently willing to shortchange the private boat angling sector that is many times larger and far more economically vibrant – see Table 1 below.
NOAA’s own economic studies show that for the period 2009 to 2032, private boat recreational anglers will contribute $9.1 billion of the value in the Gulf of Mexico shrimp and reef fish fisheries, followed by the commercial shrimp fishery at $1.6 billion, and the recreational for-hire fishery at just $0.83 billion.
It shouldn’t make any sense to state wildlife management agencies. Given the limited recreational allocation, the only way the idea works at all is if managers take fish and fishing days away from private boat anglers and give them to a few private businesses. Private boat anglers supply the vast majority of license fees that support state fisheries programs. Charter/for-hire vessels supply a much smaller percentage of revenues. It is very likely a move to separate the recreational sector will create challenges for state fisheries directors by influencing the growth in the number of licensed anglers and fishing opportunities in their states.
The issue of sector separation and catch shares for the recreational angling sector has drawn opposition from governors, Congress and recreational anglers. And yet, the Gulf Council members continue to toy with the idea like a puzzle they can’t quite fit together.
Linus Pauling, where are you when we need you?
Before the Council lets sector separation whither into existence against the will of everyone but a few operators, it should first heed calls to reallocate fisheries according to modern factors like economic, social and conservation criteria, rather than outdated catch history. There is a very good likelihood that reallocating red snapper would solve many of the problems faced by operators without creating so many new ones.
Today’s Gulf red snapper allocation is 51 percent commercial/49 percent recreational. Before the Gulf Council turns the recreational sector inside out and upside down for the benefit of a few charter/for-hire and headboat operators, it would seem wise to first determine what happens if they changed the allocation to something more reflective of current reality. Maybe something that would encourage growth in the sector that is the greatest economic engine in this fishery.
Now that’s a good idea.
If those same operators are still struggling a few years from now under the new allocation, then perhaps you reallocate again or perhaps you throw some other ideas on the table and sift through those.
But take it from a guy who won two Nobel Prizes – don’t forget to throw the bad ideas away.
Tags: Catch Shares, EDF, sector separation
Posted in CCA Blogs, CCA Gulf of Mexico | 1 Comment »
Much has been made about the catch share issue in recent months. Catch shares are a poorly understood issue that has been made more complicated by an absolute avalanche of mistruths, half-truths, and outright lies swirling about it in fishing chatrooms and blogs across the country.
Almost every facet of the past, present and future of catch shares has been grossly distorted. A glance at the average chatroom would lead casual readers to believe that there is a vast, strange conspiracy linking all-powerful environmental groups with oil companies with “double-agents” posing as anglers to rid the world of fishermen. One recurring theme is that the goal is to empty the oceans of all people so the oil companies can pillage at will. Another, green theme says the goal is to empty the oceans of all people so that the fish and whales are left alone to prosper. There are long, fantastical charts linking this group to that group, to prove the conspiracy of anti-fishers exists. Everyone is on Pew’s payroll, or Environmental Defense’s or Exxon’s.
The only thing missing is a good 007 character to save the day.
None of it is true, but it makes good reading. And nothing spoils a good tale like a few cold facts, but in the interest of setting at least some of the record straight, this column attempts to splash a little reality on the catch share mystery.
- Catch share programs have been used sporadically in commercial fisheries for decades. They were created to address a fundamental problem in some commercial fisheries – too many boats chasing too few fish, resulting in dangerous, wasteful derbies. If you have ever watched the early seasons of Deadliest Catch on The Discovery Channel, that was a derby fishery. The whistle blew, all the boats went to catch king crab no matter what the weather was, no one slept and they fished until someone, somewhere, calculated the quota had been caught and then the season ended. Some made a fortune, some went broke, and everyone fished in a manner to catch as much as possible as fast as possible regardless of the danger or bycatch involved. The fact that no one sleeps for 4 or 5 days at a time is the reason it’s called Deadliest Catch.
- Staying with the Deadliest Catch theme, catch shares took the whole quota for king crab and divided it up among boats based on their past catch history. Each boat’s percentage effectively became “theirs” to harvest, however and whenever they liked during the season. The Northwestern, the Cornelia Marie, the Wizard, the Time Bandit and others all now “own” shares of the king crab fishery.
- The goal of catch shares in that scenario is to eliminate the derbies and reduce bycatch. A by-product of catch shares is that inevitably, some boats will sell out or lease their share to other boats. The overall number of boats drops, until a relatively few big boats are left fishing. Ideally, the dangerous derbies are eliminated, bycatch is reduced and the economics improve. That is the goal of a catch share system in a purely commercial fishery.
- Some environmental groups, Environmental Defense Fund foremost among them, became enamored, somewhat naively, with the prospects of applying catch shares to all fisheries, including recreational ones, based on their use, implementation and success in purely commercial fisheries. The critical disconnect is that no one at EDF understood or appreciated the vast differences between recreational fisheries and commercial fisheries. In EDF’s mind, catch shares were a solution to all fisheries problems.
Now, in order to set the stage for what comes next, you have to understand a separate but connected issue, and that is how allocations are set in mixed-use fisheries – fisheries that have both commercial and recreational participation. Allocations between recreational and commercial sectors have historically been based on catch history, often using time frames as short as selected three-year segments. Given federal managers’ history of promoting commercial fisheries, the time frames were often not favorable to the recreational sector.
Those allocations are essentially frozen, despite the growth of recreational angling and the growing economic contribution of the recreational sector. They are frozen because the reallocation process is a political nightmare for a Fishery Management Council. It is long, convoluted and tortuous, with lots of emotion thrown in for good measure. No Council member or staffer willingly endures it if he or she can possibly avoid it.
As a result, allocations that were set 20 or 30 years ago are completely out of whack with the demographics, population and public demand that exists today. When a stagnant recreational allocation combines with the constant migration to the nation’s coasts, the end result is that more and more recreational anglers are trapped chasing a fixed allotment of fish, resulting in shorter seasons and greater restrictions for everyone. The red snapper fishery in the Gulf of Mexico is a prime example. About 300 commercial boats currently chase 51 percent of the entire harvest of red snapper in the Gulf under a catch share system. Hundreds of thousands of recreational anglers get the other 49 percent.
And no one in NOAA Fisheries has been interested in cracking the egg on reallocation.
- Jumping back to catch shares, Dr. Jane Lubchenco was appointed to lead the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) in 2008. Dr. Lubchenco is a marine scientist with deep ties to EDF, including a stint on its board.
- Not long after that appointment, the Obama Administration created the Catch Share Policy Task Force, signaling a new focus to broadly impose catch share systems on federal fisheries, including those enjoyed by recreational anglers. Compounding the complexity of this issue is the fact that the Obama Administration is filled with people from places like San Francisco and Chicago who do not exactly understand or appreciate saltwater recreational angling.
- Promoted by a former board member of EDF – which doesn’t understand or appreciate recreational angling – in an Administration that doesn’t understand or appreciate recreational angling, the danger of a Catch Shares Policy Task Force was immediately clear. There was NOTHING to prevent catch shares from proceeding as a one-size-fits-all solution for the commercial and recreational sectors in every fishery.
- A coalition of marine industry and fishery conservation groups, recognizing the need to become involved in the process of shaping the new policy, engaged the Administration on the issue of catch shares. At the same time, the coalition engaged with environmental groups that were heavily promoting catch share systems, including Environmental Defense Fund. The goal of that engagement was to educate them on the problems catch shares present for recreational anglers and shape the policy so that at the very least it was not detrimental to recreational angling.
- That engagement is the source of a lot of confusion on the Internet. In the eyes of some conspiracy-theorist bloggers, by engaging the Administration and the environmental community on catch shares, the angling groups involved (CCA, CCC, TBF, IGFA, ASA, NMMA) were somehow “negotiating with the Devil,” “selling anglers out,” “getting on the EDF payroll,” etc. That line of thinking completely ignores the consequences of non-engagement. An outcome driven by an EDF-driven Catch Share Policy Task Force, in an Administration that has no interest in recreational angling, could only be bad for sport fishermen. The belief that anyone can achieve a favorable outcome merely by turning their back on this issue and “just saying No” is pure political fantasy.
- The coalition created a list of points to pursue in discussions with the administration, most of which are now included in the NOAA Catch Share Policy released in late 2010, such as:
- The coalition is and always has been firmly against catch shares for recreational anglers. The coalition does not believe they are an appropriate tool to manage recreational anglers under any circumstances.
- The coalition is firmly against separating the recreational sector into for-hire/charter and private boat designations.
- In mixed-use fisheries, those that have a quota for both recreational and commercial fishers, it may be determined that catch shares are an appropriate tool for the commercial sector. However, before implementing a commercial catch share system, the allocation must be redefined and updated using economic, social and conservation criteria.
- Once set, the new allocation must be reviewed periodically using those same criteria.
- In mixed-use fisheries that employ a catch share system for the commercial sector, the commercial shares must be made available for transfer to the recreational sector to allow for the growth of the recreational sector. The mechanism for transferring commercial shares could include state agencies, but is as yet undefined.
- The coalition’s engagement effectively changed the Catch Share Policy from one that was initially poised to work against recreational anglers, to a tool that may be used to address the persistent allocation problems that have short-changed anglers for decades. Would this be the case if the coalition had not engaged? Absolutely not. We would certainly have a catch share policy, but there would be very little in it that might work FOR anglers.
- Ideally, applying the current catch share policy in the Gulf of Mexico for red snapper, for example, could result in a 70% or 80% recreational share, with the potential to shift more commercial quota to the recreational side if economic, conservation and social factors determine it is warranted. Unfortunately, the policy does not apply to Gulf red snapper since a catch share system was implemented for that fishery in 2006. The outdated allocation for Gulf red snapper remains a stubborn problem seeking a solution. However, CCA is currently pursuing reallocation and transferability of commercial red snapper shares at the Gulf Council.
The coalition of groups that engaged with the Administration and the environmental community on catch shares stepped in to prevent a disaster for recreational anglers. Perhaps that is not as interesting as a good spy novel, full of intrigue, deception and betrayal, but this is not some daytime soap opera. This is a real-life fisheries debate, with real political consequences that must be confronted and dealt with.
When it comes to the Internet, it is good to remember that often the simplest explanation is correct. If it starts to sound like something Ian Fleming wrote, then maybe it has been written for entertainment purposes only. In fact, you should be suspicious of everything you read in chatrooms and online forums, which means you should even take this article with a grain of salt. At the very least, go see the complete text of CCA’s documents and testimony before Congress and letters to the Administration, and check out information about our lawsuit against the federal government and Environmental Defense Fund over the Gulf grouper catch share program. It’s all on the Catch Shares page in the Newsroom section of www.JoinCCA.org. Do some research and, by all means, decide for yourself.
Tags: Catch Shares, EDF, NOAA Catch Share Policy
Posted in CCA Atlantic States, CCA Blogs, CCA Gulf of Mexico, CCA South Atlantic, Catch Shares | 8 Comments »
Environmental Defense Fund intervenes to thwart CCA catch share lawsuit
FORT MYERS, FL – Seeking to defend a controversial catch share program for Gulf grouper, the Environmental Defense Fund has been allowed to intervene in a lawsuit filed by Coastal Conservation Association in federal district court that challenges the adoption and implementation of Amendment 29 to the Gulf of Mexico Reef Fish Management Plan.
“This was not wholly unexpected. After all, EDF has made a considerable investment in its efforts to enact catch share programs in fisheries throughout America so this lawsuit is clearly a threat to their program,” said Chester Brewer, chairman of the CCA National Government Relations Committee. “The intervention of EDF simply clarifies what is at stake for recreational fishermen, not just in the Gulf of Mexico, but everywhere in the country.”
Amendment 29 gives away a majority share of Gulf grouper to the commercial fishing industry through a catch share program that has been heavily promoted by the Environmental Defense Fund (EDF). CCA filed the lawsuit in September of 2009 seeking to overturn the catch share program and force the federal government to consider the impacts of such action on other participants in the fishery.
Catch share systems bestow a percentage of a public fishery resource to a select group of commercial fishermen to harvest for their own personal gain. The commercial entities pay nothing back to the public for the permanent property right to harvest a public resource, but catch share systems are nonetheless being emphasized in federal fisheries as a way to reduce overcapacity and improve economic efficiency in the commercial sector. CCA has contended that in fisheries where there is a large and growing recreational sector, exclusive fishing rights proposals maximize benefits to the commercial fishing industry while ignoring the participation and beneficial economic impacts of recreational fishing.
“As we have seen with the red snapper catch share program, the stakes for recreational anglers are very high in this lawsuit. It continues to surprise me the extent to which the environmental community seems willing to go to keep commercial fishing operations in business at all costs,” said Brewer. “Giving away permanent harvesting rights to the commercial fishing industry through catch share programs is a threat to the future of recreational angling and we are completely committed to seeing this lawsuit through to a successful conclusion. Anglers have too much to lose.”
Tags: Amendment 29, catch share, EDF, lawsuit
Posted in CCA Federal Fisheries, Catch Shares | 2 Comments »