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fish cartel

Tom HiltonTom Hilton Posts: 1,595 Captain
Look at what's happening up in the NE with sectors and catch shares - it has created a mafia-style cartel, controlling the quota, creating a virtual commodities market, driving boats off of the water, and not doing a **** thing for the fishery. One guy is ready to spend up to $10 million fighting to keep his outsized share of groundfish allocation! This underscores the corruption and greed that the Catch Share system spawns and encourages.

Is this cartel-type activity REALLY what we want happening down here in the Gulf?

None of this could happen if the fishermen simply leased the quota directly from the government, as other American businesses currently do when harvesting/profiting from our Public Trust Resource. All monies raised from the royalties collected should go back to the resource via annual stock assessments, fishery independent research, and habitat enhancement.

Capt. Thomas J. Hilton

January 28, 2012
Fish trade complaint targets local leaders

By Richard Gaines Staff Writer

The right of first refusal in the business plans of all 12 sectors organized by the Gloucester-based Northeast Seafood Coalition — representing more than half the active boats in the catch share groundfishery — has been used to wrongly restrain trade in catch shares and fishing permits, a New Bedford fisherman has alleged.

Outlined in a letter last month to Patricia Kurkul, then the regional administrator based at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's Northeast regional headquarters in Blackburn Industrial Park, the fisherman, Pat Kavanagh, identified Vito Giacalone, policy director for the coalition, and two other industry leaders as linked in a cartel-like relationship to control fishing quota.

The others in league with Giacalone, according to the letter, are New Bedforders Carlos Rafael, who owns the region's largest fleet of groundfish and scalloping boats, and Richie Canastra, who, with his brother Ray owns and operates the region's dominant auction business, with an outlet in Gloucester operated by Giacalone's sons on Fisherman's Wharf.

Giacalone, Canastra and Raphael are all Northeast Seafood Coalition board members. Giacalone is also president of the Gloucester Fishing Community Preservation Fund, which acts as a permit bank for local boats.

"Busting the Rafael/Canastra/Vito cartel would be a wonderful legacy for you ..." Kavanagh wrote to Kurkul, who retired from her administrator's job at the end of December.

In a letter to the chairman of the New England Fishery Management Council soon after receiving Kavanagh's complaints, Kurkul said she saw the potential in the mutual extension of first refusal across the 12 Northeast sectors to "affect the liquidity" of catch share trading within what operates as a virtual commodities market.

The system, launched in New England in 2010, is consolidating the fleet rapidly, driving out some 25 of Gloucester's 95 boats during the 2010-2011 fishing year alone, according to NOAA figures. It is also creating fissures between haves and have-nots within the industry, and pressure for the government to consider whether and how it might institute trade controls and accumulation limits, with more and more fishermen's quota being landed by fewer but larger businesses.

A member of the Sustainable Harvest Sector, which is not associated with the coalition's sectors, Kavanagh declined making any comment when reached Friday by the Times.

But in his Dec. 2 letter to Kurkul, he described having the Preservation Fund, which is Northeast Seafood Coalition Sector 4, exercise what he believes was an unfair "right of first refusal" to acquire a "multi-species permit" that Kavanagh had arranged to buy from a member of Northeast Sector 8.

Northeast Sector 4 "bought the permit out from under me," he wrote.

"The Northeast Sector 8 members declined to act on (their) right of first refusal, and subsequently Northeast Sector 8 voted to accept my membership in that sector via the sale of the permit," he wrote.

Giacalone denied that he acquired the permit — actually two permits and boats — on behalf of the permit bank, which was funded with $12 million from the state as part of a mitigation settlement with operators of two liquefied natural gas terminals off Gloucester's coast.

But Giacalone acknowledged Friday that, as a working fisherman and member himself of Northeast Sector 2, "I exercised my right of first refusal" and stepped in to acquire the permits and boats that Kavanagh sought and expected to be able to land once Sector 8's members had passed on the deal.

According to legal papers, on April 21, 2011, Giacalone acquired two permitted boats — Destiny and Sea Escape — from a New Bedford businessman, then sold them to Rafael on May 3.

"I needed the permits," Giacalone said in a telephone interview, adding that he couldn't afford the liability costs of insuring the boats. So he said he sold them to Rafael, who owns more boats by far than he uses, concentrated in Northest Sector 9.

Rafael, who recently said he has stacked 60 permits on 15 working vessels, told the Times in a telephone interview that he sold Sea Escape to an African buyer, while Destiny is active in his working fleet.

"I bought the two boats because the price was right," said Rafael. He said a previous owner recently invested $700,000 in Destiny, making it "seaworthy."

The New England Regional Management Council holds a scoping hearing in Gloucester on Monday night (6 to 8 p.m. at the state Division of Marine Fisheries station on Emerson Avenue) on whether the industry wants to cap catch share accumulation, or would rather continue to evolve as an unregulated free market.

The Northeast Seafood Coalition opposes efforts to establish limits on accumulation of quota.

Rafael was outspoken in his feelings during the Fairhaven scoping meeting a week ago, insisting he would spend up to $10 million fighting to keep his outsized share of groundfish allocation.

But owners of smaller-scale businesses at a scoping hearing in Hyannis on Thursday said the council needs to act to protect smaller boats and businesses, and many observed that big boats no longer constrained by effort controls — the system prior to catch shares — were making gigantic hauls of cod in Stellwagen Bank.

A surprising new assessment of inshore cod finds it to be badly overharvested.

Jackie Odell, executive director of the Northeast Seafood Coalition, said her organization is not involved with the details of sector activity.

"We do not receive or manage quota. Nor do we get involved in the operations plans," she said in a statement

Giacalone said the right of first refusal helps give Northeast Seafood Coalition sector members resources that allow them to remain active, and further that the range of boat sizes and gear types represented in Northeast sectors helps ensure fleet diversity.

Richard Gaines may be contacted at 978-283-7000 x3464 or [email protected].


  • Remember when EDF and NOAA were first trying to sell the Catch Share scheme? They said the program would
    pay for itself! Hundreds of Millions of US taxpayer dollars later, the spending spree continues, with $54 Million
    budget for 2012 alone. So, the US taxpayer pays for Catch Shares, which benefit only a small number of all fishery
    stakeholders, yet science based data of lacking in most NOAA managed fisheries, which is needed for all fishery

    When a government agency stacks the deck so a small minority benefit at the expense of the majority may be
    commonplace in DC, but NOAA is "Supposed" to be an agency of "Science" Their "Integrity in Science" policy
    certainly has not done anything, nor has thei promise of 'Transparency'. NOAA's policy makers have certainly
    proved incompetant in fisheries management. Allowing ENGO's to dictate policy also may be commonplace in
    DC, but again NOAA is supposed to regulate on science not external policy. Especially when Policy is contrary
    to science does this merit stern action.

    NOAA has censored me, removed comments they apparently did not support their policy, despite being factual,
    and I'm sure this is common for many stakeholders. NOAA also ignores not only the clear will of the people and the
    clear majority of the stakeholders, but also has shown that even the legislative actions taken by Congress are no
    reason for NOAA to deviate fronm their self-willed couarse! Criminal actions have all but been washed aside, and
    the continued actions of NOAA leadership to subvert the clear spirit of the law should more than simply cost someone
    their job. Much like the Dale Jones case, its only the public outcry that eventually forces NOAA to do something to
    change what should have never occured in the first place.

    I've dealt with NOAA feild agents and NOAA regional staff members that have been extremely helpful, courteous,
    and prefessional, but policymakers and their staff all but ignore the stakeholders if they do not cupport their
    position. I have dozens of unanswered e-mails and unreturned phine calls, despite promises to do so, when the
    issue of policy, rule making, request for data information or statistics is involved. I guess NOAA has forgotten
    that it as a government agency still works for the people......All of the people!
  • FletchFletch Posts: 2,580 Moderator
    Why lease a **** thing from the gub'ment (and especially another fisherman) at all???

    Catch shares don't limit the amount of fish taken - only the fishermen. America is supposed to be about equal opportunity. Catch shares are about as far from that end of the spectrum as I can imagine. The only (and I mean only) argument in favor of catch shares that really makes any iota of sense is to eliminate derby fisheries in areas where loss of life is very high (i.e. Bering Sea). That argument doesn't hold water in the GOM and/or S. Atlantic at all. But even in the Bering Sea, that argument is weak. NOAA could simply shut the high risk fisheries down if certain bad weather constraints are met, thereby forcing those lunatics to stay at the dock. Impose penalties for boats that cheat. If those idiots are still crazy enough to cheat and risk their lives over a fish, I say let Darwinism work. There are plenty of other options over catch shares that can enhance safety at sea as well.

    Get rid of the catch shares and instead focus on forcing NOAA to do their jobs - ACCOUNT FOR THE FISH BEING HARVESTED. Let any fisherman who wants to get involved do so without putting everything he has at stake to "buy in" to a catch share program.
    "Ninety percent I'll spend on good times, women and Irish whiskey. The other ten percent, I'll probably waste..."
    -- Tug McGraw on getting a raise

    Get Down Fishing Charters - Port Canaveral, Florida
  • TypicleseTypiclese Posts: 393 Deckhand
    Cue Scream..oops Screen Name and Capt Easy
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