For Immediate Release

Organization Profile: 

Marianne Cufone or Ben Bowman
(202) 683-2500

Catch Share Task Force Statement Vague

Statement of Food & Water Watch Executive Director Wenonah Hauter

WASHINGTON - "Yesterday, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's (NOAA's) Catch Share Task Force released a vague policy statement advocating a management tool that can be used to privatize access to our public ocean fish resources or, conversely, to provide more efficient and fair use of federally managed fish populations through publicly managed access programs.

"The policy statement supports the use of ‘catch shares,' a management tool that, much like health care programs, can have a public or private option. Catch share regimes generally divide the total amount of fish that can be caught each year among a limited number of parties (fishermen, companies, etc.). The Task Force Policy establishes specifics for neither the public nor private option but rather passes on the decision-making to regional fishery management councils.

"Regional councils were created under federal law to be advisory bodies to National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS), the agency tasked with conserving and managing U.S. fish resources. The councils recommend management measures to NMFS for final approval. The agency says it will provide further guidance on the interpretation of the existing federal law on catch shares in the future to councils. We hope NMFS is more explicit in its support for publicly managed, rather than privatized, fisheries.

"Poorly designed privatized catch share systems can actually harm marine resources by supporting industrialized seafood production, often at the expense of more sustainable and local seafood producers. Countries that have tried the privatization approach often experience job loss, lower wages for fishing crews, and threats to smaller-scale, historic fishermen and their communities.

In 2007, the United Nations Human Rights Committee ruled that Iceland's privatized catch share system violated international law because the system forced fishermen to pay money to a privileged group of citizens who exclusively held the nation's fishing rights. Iceland is now working to undo the damage that this policy has caused.

"Food & Water Watch opposes any push to privatize access to public resources, but not the use of publicly managed catch share programs. We support continued public management of fish resources and expect the federal government - when applicable - to rent catch shares directly to eligible entities and use the rental revenue for better ocean management. This means fairer long-term access to fish, and a system that benefits the fishermen, the environment and broader community - not primarily larger businesses.

"Food & Water Watch and the Pacific Coast Federation of Fishermen's Associations have jointly requested Congressional oversight hearings to fully evaluate use of catch share management in U.S. fisheries."


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