Catching up with the catch shares program, which is unpopular with
BY CATHERINE KOZAK
As a potential management strategy for the snapper-grouper fishery,
catch shares has hit a nerve among North Carolina fishermen.
Nearly four years after catch shares were first pitched by some as a
way to save the fishing industry in North Carolina, a proposed plan has
been presented by the South Atlantic Fishery Management Council, the
federal regulatory body for the region’s fisheries.
The initial comment period on the snapper-grouper scoping plan closes
on Feb. 14, but all parties agree that it will be years before the
matter is settled.
“We’re not supporting catch shares until the majority of fishermen want
it,” said Brian Cheuvront, the state Division of Marine Fisheries
representative on the 13-member council, which covers the coast from
So far, Cheuvront said that feedback he has been hearing has been more
negative than positive.
“I think it’s a really good thing for the fishermen to keep their eye
on this. However, at this point, the council has no definite plans to
go forward with any plan to institute catch shares in North Carolina.”
Catch shares --- also called limited access privilege program, or
LAPPs, and individual fishing quotas, or IFQs --- allocates a
percentage of the total allowable catch to an individual, or a
community, or group.
Such programs are in place in select fisheries in Alaska, the Gulf of
Mexico, and most recently, New England, among others, but reviews have
been mixed. And whatever the results have been elsewhere,
watermen say, North Carolina fishing is unique and not a suitable
candidate for the method.
Recent amendments to the federal Magnuson-Stevens Act that regulates
fisheries includes a mandate that catch shares be considered in
management plans, although councils are not required to adopt the
The Environmental Defense Fund, a New York-based nonprofit, has been
promoting catch shares as an innovative way to give fishermen an
investment in the resource, alleviate dangerous derby fishing --- the
rush to catch quota in the brief open time ---while fostering
sustainable fishing. The group’s website’s catch-share page features 12
videos of fishermen from different parts of the country stating their
support of the strategy.
In one clip, Tyrrell County waterman Willy Phillips said that catch
shares are not appropriate for all fisheries, but he believed such a
program could be “a major improvement” in management of striped bass.
If plans were tailored properly, he added, he’s “hopeful that catch
shares per se will be the salvation of some fisheries.”
But Hatteras fisherman Ernie Foster, owner of the Albatross Fleet, said
that the EDF’s professed goal of restoring the vibrancy of fishing
communities does not match interest from Wall Street in buying fishing
shares. The reality, he said, is that the little guy will be put out of
“You find a corporation that gives a rat’s ass about small
communities,” he said. “There isn’t one.”
Foster said that catch shares may also be pushed by charter and
recreational fishermen, which makes it clear that the interest in catch
shares has more to do with financial gain than resource protection.
“The thing that makes catch shares attractive is if you are a big-time
operator, and you can get your hands on a lot of shares, you can make a
lot of money,” he said.
But the end result, Foster said, would be the collapse of the local
“What good is going to come to Dare County or any coastal county if
they lose half their fishermen?”
Fishermen also say that fishing in North Carolina, with its intense
weather and powerful currents that are in constant flux, is not like
any other place. Dividing up a resource ahead of time, based on
historic landings, would more often than not leave North Carolina
fishermen with empty holds.
Catch shares opponents include U.S. Sens. Richard Burr, R-NC, and Kay
Hagan, D-NC; U.S. Rep. Walter Jones, R-NC; the Outer Banks Chamber of
Commerce; North Carolina Waterman United, and the Dare County Board of
“The implementation of the Catch Shares Program will effectively add
the commercial fishing industry of the Outer Banks to the long list of
wrecks shown on the maps of the Graveyard of the Atlantic,” chamber
chairwoman of the board Robin Mann wrote in a Dec. 20 letter
Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the administrator of federal
Eileen Dougherty, senior conservation manager with Environmental
Defense, said that many of the concerns that Foster and others have are
“design concerns” that could be addressed in devising a plan
appropriate to the fishery.
“We are in the very beginning stages and fishermen can come to the
table and voice their concerns,” she said.
For instance, Dougherty said, concentration caps could be established
that prevent people from holding more than a certain amount of
shares. Or ownership of quota shares could be tied to
of an active snapper-grouper permit with an active vessel.
Other remedies, she said, could be putting a “use it or lose it”
provision in a plan. Also, a loan program with low interest rates could
be established to help pay the initial costs of entering the program.
“That’s the beauty of catch shares,” Dougherty said. “They are very
flexible in their design.”
Catch shares is just one of the many proposals under consideration in
the scoping document, although the complex topic used up much of the
ink, said Kate Quigley, the council’s staff economist.
After reviewing the comments, the council will offer revisions at its
June meeting and choose an action alternative, she said. Staff will
then analyze the document for about 18 months, bringing it to the
council every quarterly meeting.
The final draft document will likely take at least two or more years,
she said, and will be presented for more public comment before being
In the process, the council could revise the proposals in the scoping
document, Quigley said, or “they could drop catch shares altogether.”
Click here to read Hatteras
Foster’s commentary on catch shares on Island Free Press
To view the Environmental Defense Fund catch share page, click: http://www.edf.org/page.cfm?tagID=48250
To view the South Atlantic Fishery Management Council catch shares
scoping document, click: http://www.safmc.net/LinkClick.aspx?fileticket=WY0AxCoUX6A%3d&tabid=624