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Decision to Provide Relief for Nations Fisheries Applauded

Lucy Towers
18 September 2012, at 1:00am

US - Food and Water Watch has applauded the US Commerce Department's decision to provide relief for the nations fisheries.

Food & Water Watch applauds the US Commerce Department for declaring a national disaster for New Englands fisheries. The move will allow the federal government to offer millions of dollars in relief for fishermen and their communities. While this assistance is much needed, it is not the permanent solution to the problem.

No one could have predicted the collapse of the cod population in New England. What was predicted was the collapse of the regions small-boat, independent fishing industry due to the catch shares management system. Catch shares, which has been promoted heavily nation-wide by the National Marine Fisheries Service, have forced smaller-scale fishermen out of business, paving the way for industrial fishing methods that can destroy sensitive ocean habitats. Without significant funds to compensate for these simultaneous disasters, catch shares combined with the cod collapse will be the end of New Englands traditional fisheries.

Catch shares dole out allocations of fish, pitting independent fishermen against large-scale fishing operations to compete for allotments or shares, often giving preference to big, commercial operations. These quota are typically given away for free to fishermen and fishing companies who can lease or sell them. But shares tend to consolidate in a small and elite group of wealthy companies.

Catch shares also encourage the use of larger boats, damaging gear, and wasteful fishing practices that hurt fish populations and their habitats. More than declaring New England fisheries a national disaster, the dismantling of NMFSs catch shares program could help the regions most important industry rebound. If this program continues, the devastating result would be the privatization of a natural resource, which would hurt consumers, fishermen and our oceans.