Environmental Defense Praises Historic Senate Cap and Trade Fisheries Bill as a Powerful Economic Lifeline for Fishermen That Ensures Seafood Supplies

December 7, 2006


Kathleen Goldstein, Environmental Defense, 202-572-3243, cell 202-841-0295

(December 7, 2006 – Washington, DC) Environmental Defense praises Senate Commerce Committee Chairman Ted Stevens (R-AK) and ranking member Daniel Inouye (D-HI) for spearheading efforts today to pass of one of the most significant pieces of environmental legislation in this Congress. The House is expected to pass the bill, which reauthorizes the Magnuson-Stevens Fisheries Act, later today or early tomorrow.

“This historic legislation creates a cap and trade system that will provide an economic lifeline to fishermen and ensure a secure supply of fresh, local seafood for all Americans,” said David Festa Environmental Defense Oceans Program Director and former director of policy and strategic planning in the Commerce Department, which includes National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. “Senator Stevens and Senator Inouye deserve credit for leading the effort to enact this vitally important legislation.”

The bill gives a green light to cap and trade programs by mandating scientifically-determined caps on fishing catches and issuing clear guidelines on mechanisms to establish trading of catch “shares”, also known as “limited access privilege programs”(LAPPs).

“Catch share programs change the economics of fishing and conservation,” added Festa. “Just as shares in a company become more valuable when the company is well managed, shares in a fishery become more valuable as the fishery rebounds in response to conservation measures.”

These programs also give fishermen better control over when and how they fish, allowing them to reduce costs, increase personal safety and have higher quality fish, which raises the price they can get for their catch. That is welcome news for many struggling fishing communities.

A recent article in Science magazine predicted that the wild seafood supply would be exhausted in the next 40 years if we do not change course. By making sustainable fishing economically attractive, these programs have helped prevent overfishing in nearly every fishery where they’ve been implemented. This bill clears the way for their widespread adoption in the U.S.

Despite their advantages, catch shares are not magic bullets to the problems of overfishing. They need to be implemented in the context of strong conservation goals and standards to ensure fairness and public input to the design process. When done right, they help lead to economically viable fishing communities, better recreational opportunities and supplies of fresh, local seafood.

Other details of the bill include:

  1. Requires caps on fishing to be set using the recommendations of the science and statistical committees of the eight regional fishery management councils in the U.S.
  2. Issues guidelines to management councils to establish rules on trading of fish shares.
  3. Mandates stopping overfishing in fisheries undergoing rebuilding.

In addition, the bill backslides on a few conservation points:

  1. Provides only weak accountability in ensuring caps are met in all cases.
  2. Delays the implementation of the requirement to stop overfishing for two-and-a-half years.
  3.  Extends the deadline for rebuilding the Mid-Atlantic summer founder fishery until 2013 (an extra three years than under current law).
  4. Bill may have unintended consequences that could undercut the Pacific groundfish cap and trade program currently under development.

“After ten years of ongoing negotiations and failing fisheries, we now have a solution that gets to the heart of the matter and addresses the economic incentives of overfishing,” said Amanda Leland Environmental Defense Policy Specialist. “With such a bright future on the horizon, we need Congress and the Administration to fully fund these programs to make that future a reality.”