Fishermen, the new bycatch


Jessica Hathaway

Published on
October 18, 2010

Come the first of the year, catch shares will go into effect for West Coast bottomfish such as blackcod, bocaccio (rockfish) and flounder.

I am not a champion of catch shares, but that’s not to say they can’t work in a properly developed program. In other words, one that looks nothing like the program on the East Coast.

However, I remain skeptical, because the imperative behind catch shares in 2010 isn’t maximizing a scarce resource but rationalizing fisheries — eliminating fishermen.

Adherents assert that catch shares promote a safer, more orderly fishery, less bycatch and better prices — which are all desirable outcomes.

What we are finding on the East Coast, however, is that there is a cost to be paid for all of this orderliness: In New Bedford, Mass., the nation’s leading port, two out of three groundfish boats are tied up.

Gloucester, Mass., is hurting and so are New Hampshire and Maine, not because there are no fish but because so many fishermen lost the ability to make a living as a result of the metrics of reallocation, which has fallen heavily on the shoulders of fishermen with smaller vessels.

The notion that the only way you can protect fish is through catch shares is a canard. We’ll take a little disorder if it means life for coastal communities.

Thank you for your time.

Jerry Fraser
Editor & Publisher, National Fisherman 


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