Legislators act to protect Gulf from catch share schemes

Officials move to eliminate NOAA funding for unpopular fishery management program

Posted on November 09, 2011

Elected officials from the Gulf Coast and beyond are promoting a move to restrict funds for the development of new catch share programs for any fishery under the jurisdiction of the Gulf of Mexico Fishery Management Council. In a letter to the leadership of the House Appropriations Committee this week, U.S. Representative Steve Southerland II (R-Fla.) and 24 co-signers are calling on Congress to continue to protect the Gulf of Mexico from “job-destroying” catch share programs.

“Just as Members who have Atlantic coastlines in their districts desire to keep new job-killing catch share programs from being implemented, so too do we, the undersigned Gulf Coast members, desire to prevent new catch share programs from wrecking our coastal economies,” the letter states.
Congressmen from the Atlantic region released a similar letter last week calling for the elimination of funding for catch share programs for fisheries under the jurisdiction of the New England, Mid-Atlantic and South Atlantic fishery management councils. Congressmen Walter Jones (R-NC) and 18 House colleagues made the request, although it is unclear why the Gulf of Mexico was carved out of those efforts. Last year, Congressman Jones successfully included similar language for all four regions in the fiscal year 2011 Commerce, Justice, Science and Related Agencies (CJS) appropriations bill which cut off funding for the implementation of new catch share programs.
“I appreciate Coastal Conservation Association for their dedication to protecting Gulf fisheries from the job-crushing impact of new catch share programs, and I look forward to continuing the fight on behalf of our coastal industries against these costly programs,” Congressman Southerland said.
“We are grateful to Congressman Southerland and all the other supporters who responded to the need to protect the Gulf of Mexico from these programs as well,” said Chester Brewer, chairman of CCA’s Government Relations Committee. “This battle is being fought right now mainly in the Gulf of Mexico for recreational anglers, where there is a concentrated effort by some environmental groups to slice up the recreational sector and assign catch shares to the charter/for-hire industry. We must have our elected officials engaged in this debate to counter-balance that effort.”
The House Appropriations Committee has already recognized the problems with the rapid implementation of new catch share programs cutting funding for catch shares to $21.956 million in the fiscal year 2012 CJS bill, roughly half the fiscal year 2011 level. However, Congressman Southerland and his colleagues are seeking to ensure that no new catch share programs will be developed or implemented in the Gulf.
“We have always maintained that there are far better uses for the scarce resources that are available to manage our fisheries than catch share programs,” said Brewer. “Catch share programs have gained traction simply because the federal government has done such an inadequate job of managing those fisheries in the first place. We need more and better stock assessments, better economic data, and better catch data to figure out how to get the most out of these fisheries, instead of just giving them to businesses to manage for themselves.”
In the letter, Congressman Southerland and his colleagues are pushing for the following language to be included in the final FY 2012 CJS bill: 
None of the funds made available by this Act may be used to develop, approve, or implement a new limited access privilege program (as that term is used in section 303A the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act (16 U.S.C. 1853a)) for any fishery under the jurisdiction of the South Atlantic, Mid-Atlantic, New England or Gulf of Mexico Fishery Management Council. 
Click HERE for a complete copy of Congressman Southerland’s letter.
CCA is the largest marine resource conservation group of its kind in the nation. With almost 100,000 members in 17 state chapters, CCA has been active in state, national and international fisheries management issues since 1977. For more information visit the CCA Newsroom at www.JoinCCA.org

Issues: Catch Shares