Many of you have asked for my opinion on catch shares, and I will oblige, but first, a little background.
A catch share program differs from traditional fishery management by dividing the total allowable catch (TAC) of a fishery into shares. These shares are typically allocated based on historical participation in the fishery. They may be assigned to individuals, cooperatives, communities or other entities, who would be allowed to fish up to their assigned limit.
Catch share participants agree to stop fishing when they've landed their portion of the catch.
The National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) supports the implementation of a national catch share program, purportedly to reduce overfishing and rebuild our nation's fisheries.
The NMFS stance is that catch share programs give fishermen a stake in the benefits of well-managed fisheries, and therefore greater incentive to ensure effective management.
The NMFS claims catch share programs improve fishery economics by allowing fishermen to harvest shares when the markets are best and take other actions to reduce costs, and increase revenue without fear of losing access to their quota, while also eliminating competition for common quotas that leads to overcapacity in the fishery, increased bycatch and waste, and overfishing.
That's what they say, but I have my own opinion.
While the idea has merit, truth be known it is in essence fishmarket socialism.
History tells us it has had limited success in mostly small, commercial communities. It is nothing more than a complicated facade that does very little to rebuild or renourish any targeted species. It appears the biggest winner will be the private sector.
Restrictions set forth by government entities can only lead to disaster. Dictating through legislation who can and cannot obtain shares is profit manipulation and has never been fair.
Granted, if properly designed, a catch share program could result in increased flexibility, financial stability, economic profitability, improved vessel safety, and the possibilility that overfishing could be prevented. In a perfect world this may be so, however ...
The economics of catch shares demand change. In my opinion, it is wrong to force legislation on areas such as that of the Lowcountry to make up for the short-sightedness of other areas that seem to have ruled their resources by purse strings.
Those who can better afford the shares -- and for certain many will be obtained through back room deals on the cusp of legality -- will prevail. It's the economy of scale and it is wrong at every level of reason and morality.
When things don't go right, it's always gratifying to blame somebody else; it just seems to be the way of the world these days.
Well, it's time to wake up and take responsibility for our own actions. If we don't get involved, we are just giving our rights to more government control, and when this happens you can say goodbye to more than where, when and what you can fish for.
I'm off the box now. Let the naysayers and opposition take their best shot. They know how to get in touch with me. These are my thoughts on what is wrong with catch shares, and I stand by my title as worded -- fishmarket socialism.
RECENT CLOSINGS REMINDER
The recreational harvest of black sea bass closed Feb. 12, after the National Marine Fisheries Service projected the annual catch limit of 409,000 pounds had been reached. As required by federal law, harvest must be kept below this level to prevent fish from being removed too quickly, and to rebuild the overfished black sea bass population.
The commercial fishery for black sea bass closed in October after the commercial limit of 309,000 pounds was reached. The recreational fishery for this species will open again on June 1.
CAPTAIN JUDY CLASSES
Savannah-based fishing guide Captain Judy Helmey will lead several upcoming classes from Tubby's Tank House in Thunderbolt, Ga.
Classroom-only in-shore courses are scheduled for today and March 12 from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. On-the-water in-shore courses are scheduled for Sunday and March 13 from 8:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. A classroom-only off-shore course is scheduled for March 5 from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m., and an on-the-water off-shore course is slated for March 6 from 8:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m.
Classroom-only courses cost $100 per person, and on-the-water courses are $125. All are one-day classes and include breakfast and lunch, and on-the-water classes also include boat, bait, tackle, ice and fishing licenses. Call 912-897-4921 for reservations.