Monday, August 8, 2011

100 Dead Fish and Amendment 18

100 Dead fish are 100 dead fish. We can either have one large factory trawler catch all those fish or we can have a diverse fleet that is appropriately scaled to the size of the eco-system, that enriches our communities with local healthy food and provides more jobs.

Quite literally, as seafood consuming folks we have a say in how the fish we eat are caught. Most of us take for granted that there will be folks catching fish in New England from small vessels plying the harbors that dot the coastline of New England - because its been that way for four centuries. But as we look at the current state of the fishery:
  • Three permit holders control 41% of the George's Bank Winter Flounder (which is a choke species*)
  • The groundfish fleet lost 458 crew positions last year.
  • Vessels over 50 ft. increased landings by 8.4% and increased revenues 21.5%
  • Vessels under 50 ft. had landing drop 51.7% and decreased revenues of 34.2%
All of this points to a picture of consolidation of the fleet to larger and fewer vessels. There may always be small vessels plying the waters, but we should not take it for granted or before our eyes we could not only lose the small day-boat fleet and the jobs associated with it, but also the high quality seafood we have come to love at CAFC.

What can you do? Pledge to support a diverse fleet!

Over the coming months, the New England Fisheries Management Council (NEFMC) will debate Amendment 18 to the Magnusen Stevens Fishery Act about whether and how to enact regulations (many of which existed prior to the Catch Shares program) that will help preserve a diverse fleet through allocation caps, quota set-asides for new entrants and owner-operators and measures to foster an affordable fishery through leasing restrictions.

Without these controls in place, we are very likely to see the fleet consolidated further over the coming years, so please consider signing the pledge and lending your voice to a diverse fleet.

* Fishermen are allocated a variety of fish species to catch. Once they catch all of any single allocation they have they cannot fish anymore unless they lease allocations from another fisherman. "Choke species" then are the ones typically considered to be low in allocation.

For example, a fishermen from the South Shore recently reported that he had already caught all of his allocation of Winter Flounder. His choice to continue fishing is to either lease Winter Flounder at $1/lb or stop fishing. Winter Flounder sells for $1.40/lb at the dock. If someone controls a large amount of a choke species they can control who gets to fish.

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