Stopping Corporate Takeover of the Ocean
“Catch Shares, the aptly named fisheries privatization program, has come to be dominated by larger and larger corporations, devastated coastal communities and higher prices for consumers at dinner tables.”
- Author Lee van der Voo of “The Fish Market: Inside the Big Money Battle for the Ocean and Your Dinner Plate”
Neo-liberal policies and antiquated market strategies are compromising our ecological goals, privatizing our ocean commons, and undermining the economic resiliency of coastal communities, particularly for independent small and medium scale fishermen. From the start, NAMA has opposed privatization of fishing rights and consolidation of the fishing industry. In fact, one of our core founding values was to recognize the marine ecosystem as a public resource and that access to this resource is a privilege, not a property right.
Challenging the Status Quo
Today, we are organizing efforts to challenge the dominant narrative and the policies that reinforce the status quo. We are bringing policy solutions to the table and elevating the voices of fishing communities fighting to protect their marine ecosystems, working waterfronts, and local economies.
Our efforts in the New England region challenged Catch Share policies that are currently privatizing fisheries access, consolidating the fleet, and eroding our ecological safeguards. Read more.
The dominant narrative in fisheries management assumes that market-based strategies alone will save the ocean and the fish. This has led to the adoption of Catch Share policy and similar neo-liberal policies designed to privatize the right to fish, keeping out small and medium scale fishing operations with the smallest ecological footprints. The rationale used is that fewer "more efficient" players are easier to manage and that by turning fisheries access into tradable property rights we will ensure ecological stewardship. For further analysis click here to read a presentation made by NAMA and University of Rhode Island professor, Seth Macinko, at the Left Forum in NYC.
Get Big or Get Out
It's disturbing to see that these policies mirror those that turned farms into food production machines with grave ecological, social, health, food access and economic consequences. Now fishing is being turned into a highly extractive industry with similar consequences that agribusiness had on farming. Aquabusiness, as we call it, is forcing fishermen to get big or get out. Check out Food & Water Watch’s Fish Inc. Report as well as the World Forum of Fish People’s Global Ocean Grab Report.
Privatization ≠ Stewardship
The reality is that each time policy decisions have forced a sector of our society to get-big-or-get-out it has failed at its core mission. Privatization, consolidation, and concentration of our financial, healthcare, education, housing and land-based food production systems have universally failed. Yet similar policies are being pushed on the water aiming to replace community-based fishermen with operations that, using an antiquated definition of "efficiency" with significant economic, social, and environmental consequences.
A new narrative exists; one that embodies lessons learned from land and highlights the social, environmental, economic and food system benefits of small and medium scale, community-based fishermen.
Carving a place for community-based fishermen with new ideas at the policy table has always been part of NAMA's work. In 2008 we began a strategic effort to focus on broadening the base of support for community-based fishermen, with a particular focus on reaching out to food system organizations and advocates.
Wave of Momentum
We are engaged in food system conversations locally, regionally, nationally and internationally; have created new business models -- such as Community Supported Fisheries (CSFs) that are thriving; mobilized unprecedented, diverse voices in favor of viable policies that highlight the multiple values of small and medium scale fishing operations; and, isolated policies and operations that compromise our collective values.
Networking for a Sea Change
During the 2014 Fish Locally Collaborative Assembly, the 60+ participants from North America, Europe, and Latin America developed a new narrative to achieve our ultimate objective: to stop the neo-liberal policies and antiquated market strategies that are compromising our ecological goals, privatizing our ocean commons, and undermining economic resiliency of coastal communities, particularly small and medium scale, independent fishermen.
The Fish Bill
With the process of the reauthorization of the Fish Bill (traditionally known as the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act) afoot and likely speeding up in 2020, we will expand and build on the current communications work to advance this new narrative. We will focus on highlighting the economic, social and ecological sustainability of small and medium-scale fishermen and their communities, and their contribution to healthy and just food systems. We will bring new voices and new perspectives into the conversation, and use a variety of tactics and tools to do so.
Already allies within the Fish Locally Collaborative have developed a sign-on letter to Congress and will be looking to create additional action opportunities in the upcoming year. Read more.