U.S. Senators Charles E. Schumer and Kirsten E. Gillibrand today announced that the 2011 Continuing Resolution will protect the Long Island commercial and recreational fishing industry and the thousands of jobs that come with it, by prohibiting the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) from using federal funds to implement any new flawed catch share programs in the Mid-Atlantic or New England fisheries. In a February letter to U.S. Department of Commerce Secretary Gary Locke, Schumer and Gillibrand expressed their concern that NOAA was attempting to invest $54 million to encourage the adoption of flawed catch share programs that will severely limit Long Island’s commercial and recreational fishermen and further endanger the already-struggling industry. Schumer and Gillibrand said that the budget deal represents a vital step towards stopping flawed catch shore programs from being implemented on Long Island, and urged NOAA to instead better assess fishery stocks as required by law.
“Long Island’s struggling fishing workers can breathe a sigh of relief today because we deep-sixed the flawed catch share program that would have made it even more difficult to make a living – without improving fishing stocks,” Schumer said. “The industry is hurting, and this faulty catch share program would only have made things worse. Instead of continuing to try to implement these flawed, unproven catch share programs that will only further endanger our struggling fishing industry, NOAA should take the hint, abandon catch shares, and get serious about accurately assessing local fishing stocks. We shouldn’t be auctioning off shares of fishing stocks to corporate and foreign interests at the expense of small fishing businesses.”
“We are finally making progress towards abandoning these flawed programs which will allow us to focus on real solutions for our fishing communities,” said Senator Kirsten Gillibrand. “When you speak to local fisherman, it is clear – catch shares are not the answer to rebuilding our fisheries. We must have better science and data collection to provide them with a better future and I will continue to fight for both.”
A catch share program differs from traditional fishery management by dividing up the total allowable catch in a fishery into shares. These shares are typically allocated based on historical participation in the fishery. They may be assigned to individuals, cooperatives, communities or other entities, who would be allowed to fish up to their assigned limit. Catch share participants also agree to stop fishing when they have caught as much as they are allowed.
NOAA had requested $54 million to encourage the adoption of catch share programs but has not committed the necessary funds to accurately assess fishing stocks, as it is required to do under the Magnuson-Stevens Act. The Magnuson-Stevens Act expressly calls on NOAA to assess the health of fishing stocks, but NOAA has not committed significant funding to fulfill this requirement. Schumer and Gillibrand said NOAA should first commit sufficient funding to carry out this important duty before providing funding for a new fishery-management tool based on flawed data that requires – and currently does not have – broad-based support from the fishing industry.
Adoption of a catch share program could further reduce the ability of fishermen to generate revenue because success in fishing has traditionally depended upon the ability to choose among various fisheries as conditions warrant. Such flexibility may be lost if a significant number of fisheries are regulated by catch share programs. Catch share programs could deter future generations’ interest in becoming fishermen and threaten what is a staple industry on Long Island. Catch share programs increase capital expenditures and raise the barriers of entering the business, which discourage young people from considering a career in the fishing industry.
Schumer and Gillibrand noted the very real threat faced by commercial fishers who are seeing significant portions of their industry shut down because of overly stringent caps on catches that are not based on the best available and most accurate data.