For Immediate Release
Obama Administration Ignores Opposition From Fishermen and Others, Approves Destructive Fishery Management Plan for Gulf of Mexico
Statement of Food & Water Watch Executive Director Wenonah Hauter
WASHINGTON - “Yesterday, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration
Fisheries (NOAA Fisheries) overrode opposition from many fishermen and
others and relied on a highly questionable referendum to approve an
unfair and potentially harmful plan for managing the Gulf of Mexico’s
tilefish and grouper fisheries. The plan, known as ‘Individual Fishing
Quotas’ (IFQs) or ‘catch shares,’ determines who is allowed to fish,
and how much, based on ‘catch history,’ or how much an individual or
business has caught in the past. This method inherently favors those
who fish the hardest and fastest and squeezes out many smaller-scale
and historic fishermen. Worst of all, the process by which the plan was
created and approved was biased and unfair. The Gulf’s Fishery
Management Council held a sham referendum on the plan in which
eligibility for voting was skewed to exclude nearly 70 percent of
fishermen whose jobs were at stake if the plan passed.
spring, Food & Water Watch conducted its own re-referendum
surveying the fishermen who were excluded from the initial vote, and
found that the nearly 90 percent opposed the plan. Had these fishermen
been included in the initial vote, it is questionable whether the plan
would have passed. Still, NOAA Fisheries has proceeded to approve the
plan seemingly without regard for this clear opposition and the risk of
massive job loss.
“The plan could be destructive not only
economically, but environmentally, too. While proponents may claim
catch share programs work for conservation, often they do not—and this
plan, especially, is problematic. The plan allocates big portions of
the annual allowed catch based on historical catches using longline
gear. Last year, studies found that longlines in the Gulf have been
catching too many threatened loggerhead sea turtles as bycatch—at a
rate nearly ten times higher than permitted. It is unlikely that
longlines will continue to be allowed in the Gulf long term due to such
turtle interactions. Most fishermen that use other gear types such as
hook-and-line received fewer catch shares—meaning that the plan rewards
longline usage, while penalizing many fishermen whose catch methods may
have fewer negative effects on the Gulf.
“The catch share plan
that has been approved for Gulf tilefish and grouper will essentially
privatize the fisheries, simply handing control—and thus, the bulk of
all profits—to a small handful of people and businesses. The Gulf of
Mexico and the U.S. as a whole need fishery management solutions that
truly come from within the community, keep public resources public, and
work to promote long-term widespread social, economic, and
environmental benefits. Sadly, this Gulf catch share plan falls far
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