Monday, November 10, 2008

As catch declines on West Coast, quota system like Alaska's is proposed for fishing industry

As concerns mount about depleted fishing stocks along the West Coast, many see a need for drastic changes in the fishing industry. Kenneth R. Weiss of the Los Angles Times writes, "After years of lax rules and wasteful practices that led to an economic disaster, fishery managers have decided to adopt a new approach to some of the West Coast's largest fisheries: give fishermen exclusive rights to a portion of the overall catch." Under this system commercial fishermen will have individual quotas, giving them "the right to bring in their portion of the catch when the seas are safe and they can command higher prices."

The hope is that the quota system will not only keep commercial fishing economically viable but make the industry more environmentally friendly by encouraging cooperation, not competition, among fishermen. "The shift to individual fish quotas comes after recent scientific studies showing that the system has a way of encouraging fishermen to be better stewards of the resource," writes Weiss. "It tends to end the dangerous race to catch fish before another boat does and has helped stocks rebound."

The program, used to great affect in the Alaskan fishing industry, would not go into effect until 2011 and needs approval from the National Marine Fisheries Service. There has been some opposition. "In most catch-share programs, the industry tends to consolidate into fewer vessels, as some fishermen sell their quotas to competitors and cash out of the business," adds Weiss. "That anticipated contraction has led to objections by one fishing group that contended that it would turn fishermen into the equivalent of 'sharecroppers' working for a plantation." (Read more)

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