FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: February 17, 2011

SCHUMER, GILLIBRAND: NOAA CATCH SHARE POLICY COULD HURT STRUGGLING LONG ISLAND FISHERMEN; SENATORS URGE AGENCY TO PROMOTE TRIED AND TRUE FISHERY MANAGEMENT TECHNIQUES


Instead of Assessing Nation’s Fishing Stock, NOAA Has Committed Over $35 Million to Fund Unproven Catch Share Policy

Catch Share Program Endangers Struggling Fishing Industry by Reducing Revenue and Fishermens’ Flexibility to Pursue Fish

Schumer and Gillibrand: Our Fishermen are Hurting and This Flawed Catch Share Policy Could Make Things Worse

U.S. Senators Charles E. Schumer (D-NY), and Kirsten E. Gillibrand (D-NY), today called on the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) to promote proven fishery management tools in the wake of their decision to encourage flawed catch share programs that could hurt fishermen on Long Island and across the country. In a letter to U.S. Department of Commerce Secretary Gary Locke, Schumer  and Gillibrand, joined by U.S. Senators Kay Hagan,  Richard Burr (R-NC),and Scott Brown (R-MA), and Reps. Barney Frank (D-MA), Frank Pallone (D-NJ), Walter Jones (R-NC) and Mike McIntyre (D-NC), expressed their concern that NOAA has already invested $37 million and has requested an additional $17 million for a total of $54 million to encourage the adoption of catch share programs that, if adopted in New York, could severely limit Long Island’s commercial fishing industry and further endanger the already-struggling fishing industry. Instead, Schumer and Gillibrand urged NOAA to fund research to better assess the stocks of the nation’s fisheries, as required by law.

“Long Island fishermen are hurting, and this flawed catch share policy, if adopted in New York, would only make things worse,” Schumer said. “Instead of pushing these flawed, unproven catch share programs that could further endanger our struggling fishing industry, NOAA should stick with tried and true fishery management techniques. To date, NOAA has still not conducted the research necessary to accurately assess the health of local fishing stocks, yet it continues to push a system of catch limits that could irreparably damage our fishing industry.”


“Long Island’s fishermen deserve better,” said Senator Kirsten E. Gillibrand. “We cannot continue to go down this blind path with unproven programs while shifting funds away from the fishery stock assessments that govern the system as a whole.”

A catch share program operates by dividing up the total allowable catch in a fishery into shares. These shares are typically allocated based on historical participation in the fishery. They may be assigned to individuals, cooperatives, communities or other entities, who would be allowed to fish up to their assigned limit. Catch share participants also agree to stop fishing when they have caught as much as they are allowed.

NOAA has already committed $37 million and has requested an additional $17 million for a total of $54 million to encourage the adoption of catch share programs but has not committed the necessary funds to assess fishery stocks, as it is required to do under the Magnuson-Stevens Act. Schumer and Gillibrand said NOAA should first commit funding to carry out this important research duty before providing funding to push a new fishery-management tool that does not have broad-based support from the fishing industry. 

Adoption of a catch share program could further reduce the ability of fishermen to generate revenue because success in fishing has traditionally depended upon the ability to choose among various fisheries as conditions warrant. Such flexibility may be lost if a significant number of fisheries are regulated by catch share programs. Catch share programs could also deter future generations’ interest in becoming fishermen. Catch share programs increase capital expenditures and raise the barriers of entering the business, which discourage young people from considering a career in the fishing industry.

Schumer and Gillibrand noted the very real threat faced by commercial fishers who are seeing significant portions of their industry shut down because of overly stringent caps on catches that are not based on the best available and most accurate data.

A copy of Schumer and Hagan’s letter is below:

 

The Honorable Gary Locke

Secretary

U.S. Department of Commerce

Room 5421

Fourteenth Street and Constitution Avenue, NW

Washington, DC 20230

 

Dear Secretary Locke:

 

The fishing industry is a crucial part of our nation’s economy, but in these tough economic times too many fishermen are struggling to provide for themselves, their families, and their communities. We write to express our concern that the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s (NOAA) catch share policy will further endanger the economic vitality of the already-struggling fishing industry and will not end overfishing, and to urge NOAA to consider other well-established fishery management techniques.

 

We are specifically concerned that NOAA has committed $36.6 million to encourage the adoption of catch share programs when it has not committed sufficient funds to adequately assess the stocks of our nation’s fisheries. The Magnuson-Stevens Act expressly calls on NOAA to assess the health of fishing stocks, but NOAA has not committed significant funding to fulfill this requirement. NOAA should first commit funding to carry out this important duty before providing funding for a new fishery-management tool that requires – and currently does not have – broad-based support from the fishing industry.

 

We believe the adoption of a catch share program could further reduce the ability of fishermen to generate revenue because success in fishing has traditionally depended upon the ability to choose among various fisheries as conditions warrant. Such flexibility may be lost if a significant number of fisheries are regulated by catch share programs.

 

Finally, we believe catch share programs could deter future generations’ interest in becoming fishermen. Catch share programs increase capital expenditures and raise the barriers of entering the business, which discourage young people from considering a career in the fishing industry.

 

The recreational and commercial fishing industries generate billions of dollars each year and are central to America’s history and culture. Honest fishermen work very hard to make a living in our states every day. For them and for our economy, we must institute fishery management tools that enhance the industry’s vitality, not diminish it. We hope that you carefully consider our concerns and, when appropriate, encourage the use of proven fishery management tools.

                                              

Respectfully,

 

 

Kay Hagan                                                                  Charles Schumer

United States Senator, North Carolina                       United States Senator, New York

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