Coastal Post Online












(415)868-1600 - (415)868-0502(fax) - P.O. Box 31, Bolinas, CA, 94924

August, 2004

Privatizing The Pacific Ocean:

Proposed Give-Away of the Public's Fish Could Turn Fishermen Into Sharecroppers

PORTLAND, OR (July 22, 2004) - San Francisco-area residents had an opportunity to learn about and discuss proposed major changes to how the West Coast groundfish fishery operates on Monday evening, July 26, from 7 -8:30 pm at the Aquarium of the Bay (Pier 39, Embarcadero at Beach Street). This forum was sponsored by Pacific Marine Conservation Council, the Marine Fish Conservation Network, the Pacific Coast Federation of Fishermen's Associations and United Anglers of California.

Federal managers of the fishery have begun designing an "individual fishing quota," or IFQ system for the trawling sector of the groundfish fishery. Each trawl permit holder would be granted the right to catch a fixed percentage of the allowable catch of each species of fish. These fishermen could choose when to catch these fish, and buy, sell, or lease the quota which they are assigned.

Proponents of IFQs claim that such programs ensure profitability and enhance conservation following implementation. Recent research, however, shows only mixed results with respect to conservation of fish populations. Additionally, fairness in the initial distribution of shares, effects on other commercial and recreational fisheries and seafood processors, and negative impacts on coastal economies are issues that arise in use of these programs. Ownership of quota shares also raises the issue of privatizing a public resource. The groups advocate for national standards that closely follow the recommendations of the U.S. Commission on Ocean Policy to eliminate or mitigate the negative impacts of IFQ programs.

"The federal government is contemplating the most extreme and controversial change in ocean fishery management in decades," said Peter Huhtala, senior policy director with Pacific Marine Conservation Council, "and they're doing so with a pitiful lack of outreach to those who would be most affected-fishermen and the residents of coastal communities."

An additional criticism of the proposal is its exclusion of recreational fishermen, hook-and-line and trap fishermen, shrimpers and crabbers, as well as coastal communities. Ralph Brown, a federal fishery management council member who is himself the owner of a bottom trawling business, made the initial motion, last September, to form the committee with eight representatives from the trawl sector and three processors. The other members of the management council agreed to exclude the other fishing gear groups.

"This scheme to privatize ownership of these fish is being crafted by some of the self-same people who will reap the profits from this give-away," said Zeke Grader, executive director of the Pacific Coast Federation of Fishermen's Associations.

To the presenting groups, this illustrates some fundamental problems with fishery management. "This is a dangerous and embarrassing example of why this country has a crying need to improve the institutions that govern our oceans," said Huhtala. "The Pacific Fishery Management Council has demonstrated that they operate without representing the general public, and with acceptance of clear, personal conflict of interest."

More About Individual Fishing Quota programs

The Marine Fish Conservation Network

Pacific Coast Federation of Fishermen's Associations

Pacific Marine Conservation Council

United Anglers of California

Tony DeFalco

West Coast Organizer

Marine Fish Conservation Network

4189 SE Division

Portland, Oregon 97202

(503) 234-3505

Cell (503) 704-6438

Fax (503) 230-0903

[email protected]



Coastal Post Home Page