The Progressive


A project of Common Dreams

For Immediate Release

Ben Bowman, (202) 683-2443,
Erica Schuetz, (202) 683-4903,

Obama Administration Approves Harmful Privatization Plan for Managing Mid-Atlantic Fishery

Statement of Food & Water Watch Executive Director Wenonah Hauter


"Yesterday, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration approved an unfair and potentially destructive plan for managing the tilefish fishery of the mid-Atlantic region, known as 'Individual Fishing Quotas' or 'catch shares.' Tilefish is a common finfish of the region, and the fishery is predicted to be a $10 million industry when rebuilt. Under this plan, only fishermen who are awarded "shares" by the management council--in this case, the Mid-Atlantic Fishery Management Council--are allowed to fish, while large numbers of fishermen are pushed out of their jobs. The plan determines how much quota share a fisherman receives based on the quantities he has caught in the past, thus inherently favoring bigger players and squeezing out many smaller-scale and historic fishermen. This plan also essentially privatizes the resource, ensuring that all the profit gained from its use benefits only a few, despite that oceans and fish resources are to be held in public trust for the benefit of all.

"The plan also includes a 49 percent accumulation cap, meaning that one fisherman or fishing company may have exclusive access to as much as 49 percent of all the fish under this plan--and as few as three companies could control the entire fishery. This could amount to a near-monopoly. In 2007, then U.S. House Representative Jim Saxton (R-N.J. 3) raised concerns over this control issue with the U.S. Department of Justice's Antitrust Division.

"Further, while this plan is billed as necessary for conservation, it is entirely about economics. Catch share plans do not eliminate environmental problems such as overfishing, and may even exacerbate them. The plan places the resources in the hands of a small number of people--and in the process, eliminates large numbers of jobs. Food & Water Watch opposes this plan and the privatization of publicly held resources, and supports community-based fishery management solutions that work to balance economic, environmental and social concerns by keeping the public in control of public resources."

Food & Water Watch mobilizes regular people to build political power to move bold and uncompromised solutions to the most pressing food, water, and climate problems of our time. We work to protect people's health, communities, and democracy from the growing destructive power of the most powerful economic interests.

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