There has been recent debate over whether or not catch share programs are a sustainable fishing management technique or a profitable business for large fishing industries. The Saving Fishing Jobs Act of 2011, proposed by Congressman Jon Runyan of New Jersey, Walter Jones of North Carolina, and Congresswoman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen of Florida, attempts to protect small-scale fisheries from job losses and potentially protects against harmful fishing practices.
Catch shares are becoming known to destroy fish stocks and fish habitats as large fishing industries are fishing more intensively with profit as an incentive. Strangely, catch shares are in support by NOAA and the Obama administration’s fisheries management policy- players who are seemingly in favor of sustainable fishing. Why are organizations, who claim to support sustainable fishing, advocating a fishing management that is potentially environmentally destructive?
Those who support catch shares have fostered the claim that by privatizing fish, fish stocks will begin to replenish. But opponents of catch shares worry that fish stocks have actually declined under catch share programs while under smaller scale industries, fish stocks have actually thrived. In addition, catch share programs have resulted in the loss of jobs.
Fish and small – scale fisheries do not benefit from catch shares but big businesses are making a profit. Fish divided in a region are allocated to large fishing industries by a catch share while pushing out smaller, more traditional industries. In this scenario it becomes clear that the catch share program focuses on profit rather than sustainable fishing.
Under the Saving Fishing Jobs Act of 2011, catch share would not be prevented from being established, nor would any management techniques be changed. Instead, the act would only reinforce mandatory participation by fishery members and protection of jobs. Opponents of existing regulation claim that federal fisheries management establishments force catch share programs onto fishing industries instead of providing them with the opportunity to approve a program before establishment. The act requires fishery participants to approve of a catch share program by a majority vote and a specific management program designed by fishery magagers by a two-thirds majority vote.
The main feature of the act proposes that any catch share program in establishment will be shut down if it results in 15% or greater job loss in a given fishery. By preventing the loss of jobs in traditional fishing industries, the Saving Fishing Jobs Act could also potentially save the ocean from intensive and destructive fishing by large fishing industries.