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Catch Shares Cause $100 Million Damage To NE Fisheries In 4 Years

We CERTAINLY do not want nor need to expand this failed concept to the Gulf.

September 12, 2012

Patrick, other governors, seek fishing aid
By Richard GainesStaff WriterThe Gloucester Daily Times

Nearly 10 months after Gov. Deval Patrick filed socio-economic studies to show the federal government the groundfishery was in calamitous decline — caused in part by one of its own agency’s policies — he and three other New England governors announced Wednesday they are asking Congress for $100 million in aid for the industry.

The written request from Massachusetts, Maine, New Hampshire and Rhode Island was made explicitly “contingent” on the U.S. Commerce Department’s acknowledgement that the fishery over which it has presided for nearly four years has devolved into a state of economic disaster — something the Obama administration has refrained from doing.

The catch share program for the groundfishery— a system that encourages buying selling and trading of fishermen’s quota or catch shares as financial commodities — was the brainchild of NOAA Administrator Jane Lubchenco. Her initial act after taking office was to pressure federal fisheries regulators to approve the re-engineering of the groundfishery without delay.

But NOAA’s own statistics show that the system has driven more and more quota into the hands of larger boats and corporations, with smaller, independent boats forced to the sidelines; in the first year of catch shares, Gloucester’s fleet alone lost 21 of its then-96 groundfishing boats, and the jobs they provided.

In his original filing last Nov. 15, Gov. Patrick explicitly faulted the “catch share” system for making a bad situation worse. The downward spiral was triggered by two decades of conservation and ever-smaller government-mandated catch limits to meet to congressional mandates, and has accelerated by a series of government assessments this year leading to even tighter cuts in catch limits, notably for Gulf of Maine cod.

Since Gov. Patrick’s initial filing, however, and despite the industry’s fading future, the Commerce Department has not responded even to acknowledge receipt of the multiple letters, including one sent recently by the New York delegation.

Pressure has been applied on the Commerce Department and Lubchenco from many directions; before Labor Day, Sen. John Kerry circulated a draft letter to the region’s congressional delegation with fishing ports and the ocean states’ senators which roughed out a $100 million congressional funding request that could be appended to a spending bill at the 11th hour. The most likely vehicle to carry the fisheries disaster appropriation is a farm aid bill which exists in very different forms in the Democratically controlled Senate and Republican House.

The letter released Wednesday by Patrick’s office which was also signed by Govs. Paul LePage of Maine, John Lynch of New Hampshire and Lincoln Chafee of Rhode Island, differed in one important way from the substance of the draft letter out of Kerry’s office.

Kerry’s draft proposal had discussed funding of $10 million to cover defaults from a $100 million loan to capitalize a $100 million industry-funded buyback, along with the $100 million bailout in the form of investment to reduce the cost of operations for the fishery, now reorganized into a commodity market with the total allowable catch, which is certain to be much smaller next year, allocated as catch shares to members of fishing cooperatives known as sectors.

The latest version of the Kerry letter, however, no longer includes a buyback, sources who have read the letter told the Times. Andm dated last Friday, the governors’ letter makes no mention of a buyback, either. But it discusses using the $100 million to offset new obligations indigenous to the catch share system introduced in May 2010, “temporary financial relief.”

The industry is facing cutbacks in catch limits from for 43 to 75 percent next year, based on widely disputed updates of stock assessments.

The governors emphasized the need for investing in NOAA science.

“A portion of the requested funds will be used for cooperative research focused on improving assessments and the system of data collection for the fishery,” they wrote. “The severity of the potential consequences of inaccurate or uncertain science demand that all steps are taken to ensure that the data used to set catch limits is as robust as possible.

“With the livelihood of our fishing communities at stake,” the governors added, “continued improvement of fisheries science remains a top priority.”

Marni Goldberg, press secretary at the Commerce Department, said, “The department is actively working on these requests.”

Introducing a fisheries disaster funding bill this late in a session overshadowed by the presidential and congressional elections, however, makes for an iffy outcome, congressional and State House sources agreed Wednesday. The same sources said belated action from Commerce could come as soon as today.

BloombergBusinessWeek reported Wednesday that the Senate, which passed a five-year farm bill in June, is aiming to adjourn at the end of next week and return after the Nov. 6 election, according to deputy Democratic leader **** Durbin of Illinois.

In the House, Republican leaders are reluctant to vote on a five-year bill before the law expires Sept. 30. A one- year measure being considered by House Republicans is “unacceptable,” Senate Agriculture Committee Chairwoman Debbie Stabenow of Michigan said yesterday, BloombergBusinessWeek added.

Subsidies to agriculture for the next 10 years, which had been passed by the Senate and approved by the House Agriculture Committee, have been estimated at $1 trillion.

The fate of any fisheries disaster funding amendment might not be decided until after the Nov. 6 elections, according to a lobbyist for the American Farm Bureau Federation, the nation’s biggest farmer group, who was quoted in the BloombergBusinessWeek report.


  • BeckBeck Posts: 2,332 Captain
    Did I miss where they are demanding that catch shares are done away with? If they feel that catch shares are a problem, and they are, then why no push to get rid of them? An aid bill isn't going to fix anything.

    .......and no, we don't need this mess in the Gulf. We have enough problems to fix as it is now. At least they are pushing for better science.
  • EggsuckindogEggsuckindog Posts: 1,526 Captain
    Beck wrote: »
    Did I miss where they are demanding that catch shares are done away with? If they feel that catch shares are a problem, and they are, then why no push to get rid of them? An aid bill isn't going to fix anything.

    .......and no, we don't need this mess in the Gulf. We have enough problems to fix as it is now. At least they are pushing for better science.

    thats in other lawsuits started earlier
    1976 SeaCraft master Angler - Merc 200 XRi
  • Since Obama/Lubchenco/EDF came into power, over a Hundred Million Dollars have been spent Promoting Janes "National Catch Share" program.
    Plus how about the taxpayer funded enforcement and monitoring cost not paid for by the fishermen under the Catch Share schemes? There is
    an afull lot of taxpayer money being spent on these failed programs. How about the likely taxpayer burden on those that became unemployeed
    as a result of this scheme? Lost their business's?

    Yet....despite these losses, the spending continues. Obama admin wrote out the root cause of this fishery disastor, claiming years of decline
    in fish stocks. Makes one question if there was more than simple incompetance in the latest New England stock assesments called "Unreliable" at
    best by respectable "non-NOAA" scientist and fishermen alike. Makes you wonder if it was not pre-determined to set allocations artifically low
    so as to advance the consolodation scheme despite what seemed like a looming possibility of legislation aimed at curbing the Catch Share scheme.
    Either way, NOAA, EDF and the other Special Interst groups responsible for this travesty have gotten what they want.....fishermen off the water.
    And we all pay dearly so that an ever shrinking number of select fishermen, appointed to prospher, can profit from the Public Resource.
  • Tom HiltonTom Hilton Posts: 1,594 Captain
    The feds' refuse to accept blame for their man-made disaster by implementing catch shares and choose to blame the fish themselves.

    Brown got it right; “I want to be clear that the long-term solution to this crisis is reforming NOAA and its policies that created this situation in the first place.”

    As long as the current enviro-led fisheries management regime remains in place, it will not matter what "Plan" is implemented - the results will be pre-determined to remove as many boats and fishermen from the water as possible.

    Capt. Thomas J. Hilton

    September 14, 2012
    Fishery declared economic 'disaster'
    By Richard Gaines Staff Writer

    The Northeast groundfishing industry, battered by conservation measures to protect weakened stocks and struggling to maintain its historic diversity while operating since 2010 as a commodities market geared toward encourages consolidation, was declared an economic disaster by the federal government Thursday.

    But the finding, announced by Sen. John Kerry and Acting Commerce Secretary Robert Blank offered no certain assistance.

    Although the Magnuson-Stevens Act directs the Commerce Department to “make sums available” to relieve the damage and protect the industry, Blank made no mention of forthcoming financial assistance from the Obama administration.

    Instead, Kerry emphasized that the declaration removed a political impediment to a belated effort he said he would mount confidently to generate a major appropriation through the lame-duck, tail end of the 112th Congress after the Nov. 6 presidential and congressional elections.

    Kerry said he had obtained a commitment from Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid to attach a $100 million funding package for the six states with groundfishing interests — Massachusetts, Maine, New Hampshire, Rhode Island, Connecticut and New York — to a farm drought relief bill. Though it has been neither introduced nor drafted, Kerry said he was optimistic the combination bill would be approved and sent to President Obama before the expiration of the Congress.

    Thursday’s disaster declaration, first reported yesterday morning online at gloucestertimes.com, came nearly 10 months after Gov. Deval Patrick filed a brace of socio-economic studies showing the decimation of the industry, caused by regulatory and statutory catch limits. The declaration also came 7 1/2 months after NOAA Administrator Jane Lubchebnco promised “to have an answer soon” on an expanded request for disaster assistance.

    Lubchenco was responding to a follow up letter from Patrick, this time pointing out an additional major weight on the back of fishermen — a disappointing and surprising stock assessment of Gulf of Maine cod, auguring years of catch cutbacks.

    Blank’s announcement was via a press release. In the agency’s brief announcement, Blank is quoted blaming the disaster on a single cause: “the unexpectedly slow rebuilding of fish stocks.”

    Lubchenco has championed re-engineering the fisheries into virtual commodity markets, which makes fishing more efficient, but also invites and feeds consolidation. In April 2009, she announced her plan to see a “sizeable fraction of the fleet” eliminated.

    The engineered consolidation policy shows in an analysis by NOAA of changes in the profile of the industry since the start of catch share fishing and trading. While gross revenues from landing of groundfish were climbing by 15.6 percent to $45.8 million during catch shares’ first two years — 2010 and 2011 — the number of boats sharing the revenues was dropping 11 percent and the number of crew working was also off by nearly 10 percent.

    The situation was more serious among day boat owners — the small businessmen who make up the majority of the fleet, as Patrick noted in his November 2011 filing and reiterated Thursday.

    A case study of one fishing cooperative made up of more than 30 boat owners on the South Shore showed a generalized collapse of the businesses, with a group of 27 showing a 52 percent loss of revenue in the first year of “catch shares,” while nearly one third of them, as a group, had lost 80 percent of their revenues.

    Reaction to Thursday’s disaster declaration was nearly universally positive. But there was also widespread concern that the action is dollars short and many days late, that it failed to acknowledge any government culpability in the unraveling of the industry, and did not articulate a recovery plan.

    “It is of utmost importance that we demand they make it clear that the disaster is due to unwarranted cutbacks based on bogus ‘science,’ and catch shares commodification and consolidation — and not dwindling stocks,” said fisherman Richard Grachek, who fishes New England’s waters out of Point Judith, R.I.

    “Declaration of a fisheries failure is a step in the right direction, even if it has been delayed for many months,” said Brian Rothschild, the marine scientist at University of Massachusetts-Dartmouth and a widely respected advocate for the fishing industry.

    “There has been little discussion of what needs to be done,” Rothschild added. “Hopefully a careful analysis will be made so that funds could be directed to the families and businesses that have been harmed and to reforming the way NOAA executes its fisheries mission.”

    U.S. Sen. Scott Brown and Elizabeth Warren, who is running against him, issued statements showing — again —that their views on the fishing problem are similar.

    “After two years of delay, I am relieved that the Commerce Department has finally responded to our many calls for a disaster declaration,” said Brown. “Our fishing communities are suffering and they need a relief package. “However,” he added, “I want to be clear that the long-term solution to this crisis is reforming NOAA and its policies that created this situation in the first place.”

    “Massachusetts fishermen have faced unfair enforcement and poorly-designed regulations, said Warren. “The federal government must work more closely with scientists and fishermen to reach everyone’s shared goals.

    “That means having sustainable fishing stocks,” she said, “but doing so in a way that doesn’t drive fishermen out of business.”

    Congressman John Tierney, whose district includes all of Cape Ann, echoed similar cautions.

    “While I am pleased the Department of Commerce has finally issued a formal disaster declaration for our fishing community,” Tierney said, “it should have happened much sooner and not have required so many requests from me, my colleagues in Congress, and other interested stakeholders.

    “I am committed to working with my Senate and House colleagues as quickly and aggressively as I can to get Congress to appropriate the necessary disaster funding for our fishermen,” Tierney said, “but by issuing this declaration with only a few legislative days remaining before the November elections, Commerce did not give us much time to act.”

    The region’s largest fishing industry organization, the Gloucester based Northeast Seafood Coalition, called the disaster declaration “a significant leap forward.”

    “For many years, fishermen have complied with stringent scientific and management requirements and they have not exceeded the allowable catches,” the coalition declared in a prepared statement. “... It is unfair to hold fishermen accountable for natural cycles of complex ecosystems. NSC believes it’s time to review and understand the larger picture of this ecosystem and develop strategies that are more reflective of this reality.”

    Mayor Carolyn Kirk said that any following aid should have targeted destinations.

    “At a minimum,” she said, “the (aid) package should include direct aid to fishermen, financial assistance on the monitoring program, significant investment in collaborative research between fishermen and scientists, protections for the port infrastructure, and programs and investment for diversifying the port economy.”

    State Sen. Minority Leader Bruce Tarr of Gloucester said that, without the aid, the industry would implode.

    He noted the need for reliable scientific research, noting “wild fluctuations” in stock estimates have been used to make critical fisheries management decisions.

    “People shouldn’t mistakenly believe that this money will solve the problem,” Tarr said. “This money will allow people to survive long enough to hopefully solve the problem.”
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