Pushed by this administration and environmental groups, Catch Shares is a scheme to manage a public resource (fisheries) as a commodity for the benefit of a few. Mostly its implementation impacts commercial fishermen, as is playing out right now in New England, where smaller operators are being forced out of business by larger, who consolidate shares.
But if this scheme is used with “mixed” (commercial and recreational) fisheries, it also would limit access and participation for sports fishermen.
To gain support in the recreational community, those advocating Catch Shares seek to divide and conquer with “sector separation.” In other words, favored charter captains would receive guaranteed shares separate from recreational fishing in general.
Angler Tom Adams recently attended a Congressional field hearing regarding Catch Shares in the Florida Panhandle. In a letter to the editor of The Sun, he expressed his dismay at the behavior of those favoring Catch Shares. Here’s an excerpt from his letter:
“I was surprised with their obvious lack of manners when they interrupted a full Congressional hearing with shouting and clapping when someone made some statements promoting Catch Shares. It shows their lack of respect for the democratic process. It also shows this group will do anything to promote Catch Shares and sector separation, which will only put more money in their pockets and take away from the recreational fisherman.
“This loud group that represents maybe 10 percent of commercial and even less than that of the recreational side of fishermen is backed by groups such as EDF (Environmental Defense Fund) and other environmental groups who are shutting down our fishing seasons and limiting our access to all fisheries in the name of environmental protection.
“All of us who live here know that we have had more snapper in the last six or seven years than we have ever had, and yet they only give us 40 days to fish for them. These unnecessary short seasons are killing our economy. “Now we have found Steve Southerland, someone willing to stand up for us in Congress to help cure these wrongs and have our plight listened to by all of Washington!
“This is great except for this small group of people that is attacking him in newspapers and on the internet. They don’t care about the truth, only winning. This is part of the same group that interrupted the field hearing last week.
“Part of this loud group is not even from this district of Florida for that matter and the money that brings them here and pays for their articles and their buses to bring them here to disrupt a formal democratic process is not even from this coast.”