Group Releases Report Revealing Rapid Consolidation of U.S. Fishing Industry Under Privatized Quotas – Says EU Has Same Problems
Brussels — Food & Water Europe are calling on European Fisheries Commissioner Maria Damanaki to do more to ensure the review of the Common Fisheries Policy (CFP) promotes genuine economic as well as environmental sustainability by radically rethinking how fishing quotas are allocated.
Food & Water Watch launched a report and campaign yesterday in the U.S. calling on Congress to stop the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) from further expanding a widely unpopular fisheries management program known as catch shares — a program that has resulted in job loss for thousands of fishermen across the United States. The international consumer advocacy group revealed that the number of catch share programs, which grant once-public access to fish to private interests, have increased by 150 percent (from 6 to 15) in the United States in less than a decade, while NOAA plans to expand the programs by an additional 33 percent in the next 5 years. Europe has similar problems; with privatized access to fishing leading to increased corporate concentration at the expense of local jobs and economies.
“Fish are a public resource. Unfortunately, private interests have shamelessly and publicly compared access to fish to the stock market and are treating it like an investment that can be bought and sold for personal profit,” said Wenonah Hauter, Food & Water Watch Executive Director. “Their model for fishing is big agribusiness on land, with giant commercial operations controlling the market, but they seem to ignore all the problem inherent in this model. As the UK’s Anne McIntosh MP, Conservative Chair of Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Committee has argued in the past few days, we’re not even clear who owns the rights to fish, but we do know it is driving smaller, more sustainable operations out of business and we agree it’s time to put that right.”
A means to essentially privatize fishing, catch shares, or individual transferable quotas (ITQs) as they are known, divide up the fish in any given area and grant access to certain companies and individuals based on historical catch— giving fishing privileges to fewer, often larger corporate interests while pushing out smaller-scale, more traditional fishermen and making it nearly impossible for new, younger or smaller local entrants to the industry.
As a result, catch shares consolidate the fishing industry when fish should be stewarded as a public good. According to the report, in 2010, about five months after a catch shares program began in New England, 55 of the initial 500 boats in the fishery controlled 61 percent of the revenue.
The amount of fish given to a fisherman through a catch share program, also known as quota, is often leased out for profit rather than fished by the quota owner. Last year in New England, for example, 253 of the 500 boats remained docked, unable to fish because they were not granted enough quota and could not afford to purchase more.
As Anne McIntosh suggests, the problems are not insurmountable. The solutions include:
– banning discards and highgrading
– creating new markets for the fish that are currently discarded
– urgently establishing a formal register of who holds quotas and who is actually fishing them
– ensuring that any quota that is not fully used by the holder in any given year, or any quota remaining if the holder leaves the market, is not sold for private gain but is redistributed to fishers, with new entrants and disadvantaged sectors (like inshore fisheries) receiving a fair share of the business.
“People who hold fishing quota should be fishing, not leasing out the right to others as an investment at a time when so many fishing businesses are being lost,” Hauter said.
These measures, in addition to continuing to improve the way total allowable catch is set and enforcing these improvements, will help ensure Europeans can continue the long fishing tradition into the future.
Proponents of catch shares have argued that they help combat overfishing. According to the report, however, catch share programs have shown little evidence that they increase fish stocks. In Norway, cod stocks dropped to their lowest level ever in 2006 after years of catch shares management.
“We hope that Common Fisheries Policy reform will incorporate lessons from around the world and move away from privatized individual fishing quotas,” Hauter said. “The last thing our fisheries management should be doing during the recession is spending money on a system that puts thousands out of work and undermines the economic base for the future. We need to get this right.”
The report Fish, Inc. and European context are available at www.foodandwaterwatch.org/europe/fish/catch-shares/.
Eve Mitchell, +44 (0) 7962 437 128, [email protected]
Gabriella Zanzanaini, +32 488 409 662, [email protected]
Food & Water Europe is a program of Food & Water Watch, Inc., a non-profit consumer NGO based in Washington, D.C., working to ensure clean water and safe food in Europe and around the world. We challenge the corporate control and abuse of our food and water resources by empowering people to take action and transforming the public consciousness about what we eat and drink.