For Immediate Release

Organization Profile: 

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

WASHINGTON - “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.”



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