The controversial “catch shares” program, that allows corporations and environmental groups to buy “percentages” of fish species like tradable commodities, has suffered a set-back. Small-time fishermen claim the program allows big, resource-raping corporate outfits, and wealthy green-washed environmental groups to unfairly buy up the shares, thereby putting them out of business.
A ruling by a federal court in California threatens to upset a controversial new fishing management plan embraced by environmental groups, including the Environmental Defense Fund and The Nature Conservancy.
In 2011, the regional council overseeing marine fisheries on the Pacific Coast instituted a kind of cap-and-trade program for the Pacific whiting fishery and the groundfish fishery, which includes fish such as Dover sole and petrale sole.
The council, which oversees marine fisheries off the coast of California, Oregon and Washington, decreed the government would no longer tell fishermen when to fish or what kind of gear to use. Instead, they’d tell fishermen how many fish each could catch by assigning them shares, or a percentage of the fishery.
These shares can be bought, sold, leased or traded like any commodity.
The idea behind the change is that if a fisherman “owns” a piece of the resource, he or she will be a better steward of it.
In order to figure out each fisherman’s – or corporation’s – share, the Pacific Fishery Management Council reviewed catch level history from 1994 to 2003. Those who caught the most fish during those years got the biggest shares.
But a group of small-boat operators said they thought the way the council had divvied up those shares was unfair. So they sued the government, and last week, the judge ruled in their favor.
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