September 19, 2005
Contact: Kathleen Goldstein, Environmental Defense, 202-572-3243
(September 19, 2005 – Washington, DC) Secretary of Commerce Carlos Gutierrez took an important step forward today in modernizing how the government governs fishing by proposing amendments to the nation's primary fisheries management law and laying out specific commitments to management approaches that align fishermen's economic interests with conservation goals. One of these approaches is to give fishermen ownership shares in the stock of the fish they target, called dedicated access privileges (DAPs) in fishery law terms. The proposed amendments to the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act explicitly authorize doubling the existing number of these programs.
"Environmental Defense applauds the Administration's efforts to protect people and fish by doubling the existing number of dedicated access privilege programs," said Environmental Defense president Fred Krupp. "The status quo is not working, and innovative fishery management tools that align economic and environmental incentives are needed to save our failing fisheries and keep fishermen in business."
The proposed amendments establish provisions to ensure that the implementation of DAPs - catch shares - respects the social, biological and economic conditions unique to each fishing community and fish stock. Further, the Secretary committed his agency – which is in charge of managing fisheries – to expanding catch share systems in eight additional fisheries by 2010. To make sure this happens, the Administration's proposed legislation also provide resources, management tools and support for research and implementation. These changes are a first but important step to expand the economic benefits of the fisheries, preserve maritime heritage and increase environmental sustainability, and ultimately will make it possible for fishermen to make a better living, more safely.
Catch shares are one of the most economically attractive ways to fish. Under this system, fishermen are allocated shares of the annual catch, which they can buy and sell with other boats to meet their business needs. Instead of government mandates limiting fishermen's flexibility, catch shares allow fishermen to work year-round when they judge market and weather conditions to be right. Catch shares help to save fishermen money by cutting harvesting costs, improving the quality of their fish and dockside prices and saving millions of fish each year. Just as shares of a company become more valuable if the company is well-managed, fishermen's shares gain value when fish increase over time. The new fishermen share-owners now have a financial interest in conservation measures that help protect the ocean.
Environmental Defense has been a leader in the environmental community in implementing catch share programs, working closely with unique partners and stakeholders. For example, we recently formed a partnership with the Cape Cod Commercial Hook Fishermen's Association to support their efforts to develop a fishing cooperative, work in California to promote working waterfronts and in the Pacific to develop a quota system for groundfish. We are also working closely with fishermen, government officials and other partners in the Gulf of Mexico to design fishing quota systems for red snapper and reef fish, shrimp and other key fisheries. Following the destruction of Hurricane Katrina, we will work with our partners to find ways to improve the long-term economic and ecological outcomes in the Gulf’s struggling fisheries.
This catch-share approach has proven effective—both economically and environmentally—in New Zealand, British Columbia and Alaska. It was also endorsed just last year by the National Commission on Ocean Policy. With today's announcement by Secretary of Commerce Carlos Gutierrez, catch shares will be expanded greatly, benefiting U.S. coastal communities, fishermen, consumers and the environment.
"We don't want to throw the baby out with the bathwater," said Environmental Defense oceans program director David Festa. "Implementing catch shares needs to be done in a way that integrates the best features of the current system while eliminating the ones that are hurting fisheries and fishermen. The challenges in doing so have kept progress at a snail's pace. The Administrations commitment to specific time tables and goals is an important boost to harmonizing human use with the health of the oceans."