Monday, February 21, 2011

New York Metropolitan Legislators Vote To Cap & Trade Coastal Fisheries

Last week, President Obama unveiled his FY2012 budget request proposing a new National Catch Share Program calling for approximately $17.4 million in catch share funding to be moved out of Fisheries Research and Management Programs and Cooperative Research. The President's budget defines Catch Share as "a general term for several fishery management strategies that allocate a specific portion of the total allowable fishery catch to individuals, cooperatives, communities, or other entities."

Those entitled to receive Catch Shares are accountable to cease fishing when specific quota is reached, and the President's budget also cites other programs like limited access privilege (LAP), individual fishing quota (IFQ) programs, and exclusive allocative measures such as Territorial Use Rights Fisheries (TURFs) that grant an exclusive privilege to fish in a geographically designated fishing ground. The key word used in defining Catch Shares of course is “privilege” as the entire scheme is dependent on selecting a few “privileged” individuals or entities to control catch and harvest of our coastal fisheries, regardless of commercial or recreational designation.

One conservation group in particular outlined their plan for implementing Catch Shares across both the commercial and recreational sector through use of fish tags, whereby harvest privilege gets assigned to those who possess tags to affix to harvested fish. Regardless of whether or not one chooses to sell their fish or take it home for personal consumption, a fish tag would be required, and according to this particular plan, a capped number of tags would be offered for any particular species, available for purchase through state entities or via public auction.

Those unable to get access to individual tags or unable to afford the bid would be precluded from participating in any particular fishery. Currently as they work in the commercial sector, once a share of the fishery is owned, it’s theirs to keep unless traded or sold at the discretion of the share owner. The Catch Share program in place in some commercial only fisheries today ensures that no new participants may enter a fishery. Imagine the concept being grandfathered in to being allowed to fish!

Fishermen call the Catch Share scheme the privatization of a public resource, though it’s also being referred to as 'social engineering' and coastal sharecropping as well. By design, Catch Shares cap fishing participation and trade ownership of our fish stocks amongst the privileged few. At a time when vital coastal fisheries like fluke, black sea bass, porgy and red snapper are being closed down due to lack of science and data collection, it’s staggering to think that the President would again cut important fisheries research funding from the NOAA Fisheries budget to offload to this restrictive Catch Share program. This is the second FY budget in which President Obama has reallocated millions away from science towards science fiction created by preservationist agenda.

The worst part is that New York legislators are helping ramrod the Catch Share manifesto down the throats of the coastal fishing community. On February 19th in the early morning hours, North Carolina republican Congressman Walter Jones introduced an amendment to the President’s FY2012 budget to prevent funds from being expended by NOAA to enact new limited access fishing programs. The Jones amendment (#548) to H.R. 1 was cosponsored by Rep. Barney Frank (D-Massachusetts) and Rep. Frank Pallone (D-New Jersey), and limits NOAA from being able to spend important research and science funding on developing or approving new limited access privilege programs for any fishery under the jurisdiction of the South Atlantic, Mid-Atlantic, New England or Gulf of Mexico Fishery Management Councils. This bipartisan amendment to the budget passed the United States House of Representatives on a recorded vote of 259-159 at 1:43 a.m.

In total, 51 Democrats joined 208 Republicans voting in favor of the Amendment, in support of coastal fishermen. Catch Shares will only cost more American jobs and lead to the outsourcing of our seafood industry to those foreign nations with no concern for quotas or conservation principles as held by American fishermen. This privatization scheme is being sold as a method to end overfishing when all it really does is end open access fishing by placing our nation's marine fisheries into the hands of a select and privileged few. The public does not want catch shares, recreational charter boats do not want catch shares, the majority of commercial fishermen do not want catch shares, and both republicans and democrats within our coastal communities have united in bipartisan form to help stave off this coastal sharecropping scheme to sell off our public resources to the highest bidder.

However, the following New York legislators voted against their coastal constituents, siding with the minority of Congressional representatives who believe that cap and trade is a good policy for coastal fisheries management. Our local fisheries in New York like black sea bass, fluke and porgy are healthy and rebuilding, and no overfishing is taking place on any of these species. Individual anglers and coastal owners of coastal businesses like tackle shops, marinas, party and charter boats and even seashore restaurants which rely on healthy coastal fisheries should take note that the following coastal democrats in New York voted against the Jones Amendment – and a vote against the Jones Amendment is clearly a vote against the fishermen of New York!

If you fish in the Port Washington area along the North Shore of Long Island, Rep. Rep. Gary Ackerman (D-5th Congressional District) voted in favor of privatizing your public resource on Long Island Sound.

If you depend on the party boat industry on City Island in the Bronx, Rep. Joseph Crowley (D-7th Congressional District) wants to cap the number of anglers able to fish the Sound.

Those of you who like to drift for fluke off Coney Island in the summer can thank Rep. Jerry Nadler (D-8th Congressional District) for voting against efforts to protect your right to fish!

Sheepshead Bay fishermen who’ve been in contact with Rep. Anthony Weiner (D-9th Congressional District) for help on fishing limits should know their Congressman supports limited access privilege.

In Manhattan, Rep. Carolyn Maloney (D-14th Congressional District) and Rep. Charles Rangel (D-15th Congressional District) both agree that fishing should be restricted to those with privilege.

The fishermen of Port Morris in the Bronx might want to ask Rep. Jose Serrano (D-16th Congressional District) how a public auction of fish tags will be made available in the future.

Hudson River anglers should know that Rep. Eliot Engel (D-17th Congressional District) also believes that access to our fisheries should be capped.

Finally, for charter boat captains out of Port Chester, and Mamaroneck, Rep. Nita Lowey (D-18th Congressional District) believes it’s okay to trade away ownership of fish stocks to the highest bidder.

My Member of Congress, Rep. Weiner, will be receiving his letter in the coming days - I hope it's not the only one!

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