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Thursday, December 23, 2010

Time to declare an emergency against NOAA Fisheries management

8/23/10: "Since her appointment to head the NOAA by President Obama, Lubchenco, who had been an officer of the Environmental Defense Fund and a leader of the Pew Oceans Commission, has pushed to convert the fisheries into commodities markets under a management system known as catch shares.
  • In a statement to the Times soon after her confirmation by the Senate, Lubchenco's office said her goal was to see a "significant fraction of the vessels ...
  • removed."

With the stocks rebuilding strongly, fishermen wonder at the need to reduce the size of the work force."...

The effect will be the elimination of the small-business fisherman and the creation of blue-collar serfs in the crews of massive fishing factories. Catch shares has other warts as well -- see for example the Ecotrust Canada piece, "A Cautionary Tale About ITQ Fisheries."

In my opinion, catch shares -- given decent management, restrictions on who can buy shares, and, most importantly, reasonable allocations -- is a viable management technique. However, no management technique will work (be it catch shares, days-at-sea, or jigging with tinfoil) with an ideologue in charge, Peter Principle underlings, and malicious catch allocations.
Dr. Brain Rothschild, the highly respected fisheries scientist of UMass Dartmouth, in a radio interview on WBSM, said that allocations (catch limits) were slashed 30% to 50% from the previous year. He further stated that in his opinion, allocations could be raised 30% without impacting the science.
  • The deep cuts in allocations alone would have brought fishing to a virtual halt, and the imposition of a technique that neither NOAA management nor the fishermen understood just aggravated the situation.
That the results were clearly predictable does not make them any less disastrous. Seventy percent of the fleet has not left the docks since the hammer fell. This is plainly an emergency.
The midterms evidently shook Obama and Dr. Lubchenco. On 4 November, just two days after the elections, NOAA issued a press release, titled "NOAA Policy Encourages Catch Shares to End Overfishing and Rebuild Fisheries."
  • The release gives every impression that they plan to rush implementation before the 2012 elections.
The press release describes catch shares thus: "[A] fishery management tool that has shown it can help rebuild fisheries and sustain fishermen, communities, vibrant working waterfronts and culturally important fishing traditions."
  • This description continues the disinformation that catch shares cures the ills of the fishing industry. Nonsense. It does not. The press release ignores the most important elements: capable administration and limiting the allowable catch.
Dr. Lubchenco did not introduce appalling mismanagement to NOAA, but she has made America acutely aware of it. NOAA was ineffective on the Gulf oil spill, and NOAA fisheries has been an outright disgrace, given incompetent management (that word again), corrupt disposition of funds generated by fines and property seizures from fishermen, and vindictive enforcement of regulations. Dr. Lubchenco has vigorously tried to downplay and cover up the scandalous law enforcement revelations.
Enter Gary Locke, the Secretary of Commerce. Locke is nominally Dr. Lubchenco's boss, but he is not sufficiently simpatico to blend with the Obama-Lubchenco axis. Locke, obviously embarrassed by NOAA's performance, committed to several corrective actions aimed at the fisheries law enforcement scandal. He appeared on Maine Public Broadcasting on 27 September, where he said:
They [the NOAA fisheries law enforcement problems]'ve been allowed to persist for too long of a time, some going back -- and some of the issues and the cases raised and the complaints -- going back as far as 2001, but all of these problems are going to end on my watch as secretary of Commerce.
Governor Patrick of Massachusetts has asked Locke to consider steps to alleviate the problems. Mayors Land of New Bedford, MA and Kirk of Gloucester, MA have also solicited Locke's assistance. He has agreed, with conditions. The following set of short-term and longer-term actions are essential.
Short-term:
  • Declare an emergency in accordance with the Magnuson-Stevens Act (MSA) and increase the allocations (catch limits) to offset the emergency created by the impetuous and poorly understood imposition of catch shares.
  • Declare a moratorium on any extensions of catch shares pending resolution of the long-term actions.
Long-term:
These would significantly improve the industry's outlook without impacting the sustainability science, but I fear that Locke's watch 12/23/10, "NOAA's catch shares fisheries debacle," American Thinker, Mike Johnson Comments to AT article:
  • "Pegasus66
Slowly but surely the mid-size and small food producers, on land and sea, are being put out of business through REGULATIONS based upon collectivist laws. Prices will go up, supplies will shrink and the government will be expected to feed us. ... Fishing, like ranching and farming, breeds independent-thinking folks who value the work ethic and classic Americanism. No wonder their base of production/survival is being purposely eroded by various government agencies. It is a frightening thought that fishing "rights" could be sold to foreign interests and eventually collectivised under giant corporations."...
  • "jmc
Why does this sound so familiar? This idea has features that sound so much like the carbon-credit trading scheme that already fell flat on its face, just another way to put Big Government in control over Private Enterprise. "

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