Wednesday, August 17, 2005

Community quotas

It looks like Alaska isn't the only place interested in keeping a piece of the pie close to home. Fishermen on Cape Cod are spearheading an effort to buy permits that would be kept in the community. The goal is to keep fishing rights close to home. That has the effect of retaining or even increasing the industrial base of coastal communities. Probably the smartest thing a city council could do.

Of course, in Alaska, it took an act of the Legislature to do it. Nobody but an individual could own permits or quota shares before that. And in Alaska it only extends to those fisheries like black cod and halibut that is based on an individual quota system. Not like salmon fishing that is based on a permit system. The Legislature sure as heck didn't want the big companies buying up the permits and then leasing them to fishermen. That smacked too much of the old cannery fish traps.

I wish the Cape Codders, Cape Codites?, luck with their endeavour. To my way of thinking it's logical and they have found one Foundation at least that thinks so too. Maybe these fishermen can teach the Alaskan communities a little in the way of creative financing to secure the fishing rights.

The multiplier effect of bringing the fish back to the community is awesome. There could be a caveat built in to these programs that encourages this. It would be hard to tell a fisherman that he had to bring all his fish back, because he might be fishing way out in left field and too far to deliver back to town. But with a handful of delivery receipts from the local processing plant, he might ought to get a break on his local taxes or utilities. This could be the ultimate win-win situation.

Just the sense of community that is fostered is well worth it. Fishermen tend to get real focused on making dead fish out of live fish to the exclusion of civic pride. This really has the potential to catch on all over the place. Just think of how much easier it would be to finance a shore plant with dedicated production as collateral. Fishermen would really have to break from the hunter-gatherer mode to go for that though. Among indigenous peoples this mind-set is more common though. Money also does some pretty strange things to people when they get their hands on it.

Many parts of the world are still in the industrial fishery/colonial power phase of the evolution of their fisheries. Such as West Africa and the Western Pacific. A lot of the tuna we eat doesn't come from anywhere near the North American continent, even though the owners of a lot of the biggest tuna clippers have been from San Pedro, California.


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