Sunday, December 18, 2005

MSA on catch limits and cooperatives

In an effort to help us on the West Coast keep a close eye on the evolution of the Magnuson-Stevens Act reauthorization, I occasionally include material from the East Coast. This from a correspondent in Washington D.C.

"Changes favored by Mainers include allowing foreign processing of seafood such as lobster and herring. Also, the New England Fishery Management Council could allow innovative programs such as fishing cooperatives without holding a referendum."

"Revisions approved Thursday involved quotas, which give each fisherman a share of the total catch based on his previous average catch. Quotas are controversial in New England because of concern that large fishing companies would buy out individual fishermen."

"To hinder such a move, the Stevens legislation would have required two-thirds of the fishermen targeted for a quota system to support it. On Thursday, however, he removed the requirement for a referendum to permit a similar strategy called cooperatives."

"Cooperatives are popular with environmentalists and are attracting interest from fishermen eager to get away from a limit on days at sea."

The New England Fishery Management Council has been struggling for years to keep fishermen from over-harvesting the stocks on the East Coast. There just doesn't seem to be the will to cut off fishing when the allowable biological catch has been reached. So the stocks have continued to go down.

A lot of what is going on in the reauthorization process looks like the Act's inability to rein in over-harvesting. The Aleutians East Borough wanted referendums of fishermen so there wouldn't be another "king crab debacle." And the Mainers want cooperatives so they can keep on fishing on their over-fished stocks and not go out of business. That, in real simple terms.

The Boroughs in Alaska probably have the most at stake, and the resources to keep up on the issues regarding the reauthorization of the MSA. So, keep up the good work, you Borough folks that have your spy-glasses out. It's your hen houses.


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