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Catch-22

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Community supported fisheries
Fishing OrBiz Fishing 0513 ADOBErgb 
 Dr. Jane Lubchenco is the former administrator of the NOAA
and a catch-share proponent.

This kind of outcome is what catch-share proponents hoped for. “The goal here is to have healthy oceans and have healthy and profitable fisheries, and to get us out of what has been a downward spiral that has meant fewer and fewer fish and crumbier and crumbier fishing jobs ... to a more profitable, more sustainable fishery and a healthy ocean,” says Dr. Jane Lubchenco. An environmental scientist and marine ecologist at Oregon State University, she is the former head of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. She’s spent much of her career exploring catch shares. In 2010 she presided over the adoption of a new national policy that urges regulators to consider catch shares when making fishery-management plans, a coup for sustainable seafood.

She acknowledges the Pacific program is not perfect. Few catch shares are. “But it is one that many fishermen have said is light years better than it used to be.”

Even Georgon Lapham has so far prospered in the new program. The man ubiquitously known as Poggy is not an obvious winner. He’s not a quota holder; he’s a new entrant. Yet he feels lucky. Lapham is the new owner of the Michele Ann. Like Eder’s boat, it’s one that has a long history fishing sablefish, and Lapham was able to increase its catch by jumping into the catch share. After it began, he started leasing a trawl permit for about $10,000 a year, a move that makes the boat eligible to participate.

Lapham’s experience, however, illustrates why some observers of the catch share are concerned it will convert fishing from a small-business venture to a wage job.

Now, Lapham pays between $600,000 and $700,000 a year to fish in the catch share, or about 35% off the top of his revenue. This is rent, basically, payments made to roughly 20 different quota holders so he can catch their share of fish.

Many people Lapham rents from are whiting fishermen whose nonwhiting quota is up for grabs. The other quota holders he rents from, however — about half — are former fishermen who can earn just as much money leasing their quota as they can fishing. Once the costs are considered — fishermen traditionally shoulder the costs of boat maintenance, insurance, crew pay, bait, ice, food and fuel to get to the fishing grounds 18-miles away — renting quota is a break even and sometimes money-making prospect when compared to going fishing at all. Many former fishermen now prefer to stay home.

This is the trend that worries the likes of Eder. In a scenario where guys like Lapham prop up the industry’s retirees, it’s unlikely Lapham will own quota, at least not anytime soon. It wasn’t awarded to him — he wasn’t eligible because he didn’t own a trawl permit. And the rental economy is lucrative enough that there isn’t any for sale. Instead, Lapham operates on a tight budget to make payments on the boat and leases as well as cover expenses and his crew of five.

He isn’t complaining. “I’m extremely thankful that we are able to enter into the trawl program,” he says, adding that by doing so, even as a renter, he can catch five times the amount of fish he could otherwise. “I’ve never not leased, I’ve only ever leased. So I haven’t been spoiled, I guess.”



 

Comments   

 
Guest
+2 #1 Michael RetherfordGuest 2014-05-03 04:56:06
I am not a supporter of the catch share program. Our fish are a natural resource and should not be owned by any individual. The catch share program is drivin by greed and individuals who would like to see the entire ocean become a national marine sanctuary. It has taken away the opportunity for the next generation of fisherman. Force over capitolization of other west coast fisheries. My vessel used to trawl 2/3 of the year being our primary source of income. Due to and management cost and lack of resource we only participate in catch shares for a month maybe 2 a year. Fish prices go up and down depending on market conditions. I don't believe the catch share program has done anything for the price of are catch. Example crab and shrimp ( not catch share). Market drivin!!!!! The catch shares have only been in effect for the past 3 or 4 years so how can they take credit for healthy and substainable fisheries. I would say that the old management plan, which was more cost effective for bothe the industry and our federal government should get the credit for healthier fish stocks.
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Guest
-1 #2 eileenGuest 2014-05-10 19:20:01
What a fine article concerning the groundfish situation in the Pacific Northwest. The writer was insightful and accurately described the complicated situation currently facing the industry. Where we stand now as a result of past efforts of cause and effect and where we may be headed. Thanks for an honest and well researched piece.
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