Advocating for Fleet Diversity
"We do see evidence of a fisheries disaster caused by the transition to Catch Shares, with a disproportionate impact on small boat (30-50') owners, which have been hampered by their limited range and limited access to quota."
Since 2010, NAMA organized hundreds of fishing families and thousands of allies to weigh-in on regional policy through letters, petitions, testimony, thunderclap campaigns and most recently we organized a walk-out as part of a policy process to fix Catch Share policy in New England.
In addition, thousands more weighed-in through our extended network of hospital & university food advocates, new economy coalitions, family farm groups, and more. When all totaled up this equated to over a billion dollars worth of seafood purchasing power.
These efforts shifted the regional dialogue, brought an unprecedented level of diverse support to community based fishermen, and shined a spotlight on unbridled consolidation that recently prompted an IRS sting operation, which brought down the largest fleet owner in New England. Read our letter published in the Boston Globe and article in Mother Jones Magazine. Yet the policies that allowed this fisheries mogul to thrive are still in place.
In 2010 New England fishermen were promised the new Catch Share policy would improve fishermen's livelihoods and save the fish. Policy was rushed to implementation and fishermen were assured that if problems arose with the Catch Share policy, the New England Fishery Management Council (the Council) would work to fix them.
We heard from our network that Catch Share policy was quickly leading to problems such as fleet consolidation, loss of fleet diversity, and heavy pulse fishing on inshore areas that in particular affected inshore-dependent fishermen. Our network flagged these issues as a primary concern that needed to be addressed in order to advance our collective values and vision. Since no other organization was bringing together fishermen around these issues, NAMA stepped in. And together we took our issues to the Council. Watch some of the video testimony here.
Fix the Problems
Between 2010-2014 fishermen and many FLC allies testified to the Council saying "fix the problems". This led to the development of the Amendment 18, which promised to address the problems caused by the transition to Catch Share policy. Read our public comments.
After years of fishermen and supporters writing letters, testifying, sharing videos, and more, it became clear that the majority of Fisheries Managers never intended to create safeguards. This was a lie. As Amendment 18 wound to a close we saw that the majority of public input was ignored and even worse, managers blocked the public process. Read our public comments here and see article in Commercial Fisheries News.
Today: Charting the Course Ahead
Today the Amendment 18 policy is complete and as it stands, the policy ‘fix’ ignores the problems and maintains the status quo. Unless the Council changes course those who control the most fish quota will continue adding more. Those who fished at scale-inappropriate levels will continue along unbridled. And lack of transparency surrounding quota cost, data, and trading will stand.
Good news is that we've gained strength over the years, bringing fishermen together from around New England and creating links with amazing allies like the Real Food Challenge, Slow Fish, Health Care Without Harm, the American Sustainable Business Council, and the list goes on. We're stronger than when we began. And better poised to carry this work forward. The Council has failed and for accountability we now must go to our NOAA administrators and Congress.
Here are some of NAMA's more recent media stories surrounding these issues:
- NPR Morning Edition. How did 'The Codfather' Rise? Fishing rules favor big fishermen
- Mother Jones Magazine. Case of the Codfather and the policies that set the stage
- Boston NPR. What happens to the Codfather's Fishing Permits
- Cape Cod NPR. Fishing Magnate Pleads Guilt to Federal Charges, connected to Catch Share policy
- Golden Isle News. Catch Share Policy in the South Atlantic withdrawn due to public pressure
- Fox8 Local News. Catch Share policy allows snapper barons to rake in the riches from public resource
- National Fisherman. West coast fisherman exposes how NGOs exploit & benefit from Catch Share policy
- Portland Journal. New Book 'Fish Market' Exposes Fisheries Corporate Consolidation & Catch Share policy
Speaking Out and Speaking Together
What Healthcare Said
"I am writing in opposition of the current New England's Catch Share policy in the groundfish fishery as proposed, which continues to support consolidating the access to fish into the hands of a few large companies or entities. This policy is undermining our efforts to negotiate manageable pricing that supports a larger dollar to those from our historic fishing communities.
I am the Culinary Program Coordinator for Boston Children’s Hospital. We serve 2,000,000 meals per year and have a food budget of $5+ Million. As a health care facility serving patients, employees, and the broader community, it is important for my institution to have access to wild-caught fish from New England waters because we recognize that this is the best way to protect our marine resources and support the resilience of our local fishing communities. Imports of similar species are not a substitute...
The A18 policy will be a failure if it does not include safeguards for community-based fishermen to access fishing rights and protections for inshore fish stocks, which currently it does not. We recommend that the Council immediately prioritize solutions that support local economies, a diverse and regional market and a healthier ecosystem."
- Paul O'Connor, Culinary Program Coordinator, Boston Children's Hospital
What Fishermen Said
"I'm a second generation commercial fisherman and I've fished for 42 years. During the late 90's and 2000's, together with my fellow fishermen, we took drastic conservation measures to bring back the fish. The rapid shift to Catch Share policy in 2010 then allowed a pressure of fishing on our inshore fishing areas that reversed all of our conservation efforts. Now we're left with nothing to catch.
Over the past five years we brought these problems to the Council and the Council promised to fix them with Amendment 18. Additional problems we highlighted were excessive consolidation, issues with the allocation and quota market, and lack of transparency. We brought solutions to the Council such as flexible trip limits that avoid discards and we were ignored. Now as it stands, the options within Amendment 18 do little to fix any of these problems. If Amendment 18 doesn't not dramatically change course our New England Catch Share policy will be a complete failure."
- Ron Borjeson, F/V Angenette
What Independent Businesses Said
"As a small independent restaurant owner, finding high quality ingredients has always have a challenge. The advent of the sustainability movement, reviving the supply chain to look more like the one our grandparents remember, has been a boon to the enthusiasm, creativity and drawing power for businesses like Mulberry Street. We rely on the hard work of small independment fishermen, farmers and manufacturers to bring balance to the shopping cart the world now requires…
To state it very simply...We are the United States of America because of the work and backbones of the people who go to sea every morning and catch fish.
As the economic pendulum swings away from individuals toward an economy where the benefits and profits seem to end up in the pockets of the large corporations...we need a supply chain that ensures the benefits are fairly distributed...and that the availability of that supply chain reaches all members of society...rich and poor. As we move forward...please keep in mind the impact any changes will have on the people, the water and our country."
- Bob Sulick, Owner of Mulberry Street Restaurant
What Students Said
"Who Fishes Matters" check out this short-video put together by students at the University of Vermont who sent their message to the New England Council.