Oliveto Fisheries Forum

Saturday, July 18th

1:30 pm

The idea for a forum on local fisheries was sparked by one of our regulars at the upstairs bar who came in one night excited that Obama’s new head of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) would be Prof. Jane Lubchenco, a prominent and well-respected marine biologist from Oregon State University.  Our friend thought the appointment portended significant changes in the supervision of our local fisheries, which so urgently need enlightened management.  We became curious: what’s possible in these times of entrenched interests, with a legacy of bureaucratic inertia?

As a start, here’s a very good film about a Southern Oregon fishing community in jeopardy, but with a plan in place for a positive outcome.  Comparable fisherman from our community are also threatened by similar circumstance and policy.

To make the forum manageable, we’ll narrow the subject of the discussion to “ground fish” (sole, cod) management.  There is a plan ahead that could dramatically change which fish are available to all of us in the Bay Area.   Forum participants will be key stakeholders in the eventual plan, and we hope to show how this plan could be shaped.

As to the forum, there is good news and bad news.

The bad news: it’s complicated.   To understand past policy and future proposals, and come up with your own ideas for successful outcomes, it will benefit attendees greatly to look into the background information we’ve provided beforehand.

The good news: it’s complicated.   As we began to explore this topic, it just got more and more interesting. The forum is open to all and free, but reservations are required. Call 510-547-5356

The basics
Ground Fish, Catch Shares, and our Local Fishermen and Women

“Ground fish” is a blanket term used to describe 90 types of fish that live and feed on the bottom of the sea, including rockfish, cod, sole, and flounder.  Over the years, these species have been over fished and their numbers are drastically depleted.

A Legislative mandate known as Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act was drawn up in 1976 as a response to overfishing.  In 2006 the bill was amended and 2010 was set as the target date for the end of harmful overfishing practices.  In 2009, the Obama Administration selected Jane Lubchenco as the head of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), the agency responsible for fisheries management.  Since then a plan known as “catch shares” has increasingly gained popularity as a way to manage regional fisheries and to stop overfishing.

Catch shares is an idea by which percentages of the total catch – or shares – are “owned” by individuals (though revocable). By privatizing the catch, the belief is that fishermen will take better care of the seas. It will also make fishing less competitive and be based on yearly assessments of fish populations – cutting down on the possibility of overfishing. The idea is also backed by the Environmental Defense Fund.

But catch shares are of concern to local, small boat fishermen. Several fisheries around the world, including New Zealand and Canada have adopted catch shares, and while fish bycatch has diminished, the number of fishermen has plummeted. It is feared that remaining fishermen can become “sharecroppers,” working for much larger, often non-local companies. Also, fishing techniques such as trawling are given preference as quotas are handed out based on historical catch numbers not practices. Hook and line fishing – valued for its high quality catch and environmentally sound techniques – can become more scarce.

The Oliveto Fisheries Forum aims to understand how a new administration will manage a complicated local fishery in a way that promotes environmentally sound fishing.   The purpose of the panel is to understand how policy will be administered and how we, as a community could affect the outcome.

The Plan

The Environmental Defense Fund, among others has been involved in development of the Catch Shares plan. There is a bounty of information on the EDF site along with a press release for groundfish quotas from November 2008.

Who makes the decision

The Pacific Fisheries Management Council is the governing entity.  It is made up of appointees from four states and Native American agencies, but advised by NOAA’s National Marine Fisheries Service, and final plans are signed off by NOAA head Jane Lubchenco.

Local vs. Centralized

The impact polices such as catch shares have and possible solutions to past mismanagement is evaluated in this article from The Bay of Fundy Ecosystem Partnership.  With consideration toward fisherman and the local economies, it evaluates the benefits of  more community based control.

  1. No Comments