Family Fishing for Future Generations

This post comes to us from NAMA Community Organizer Shira Tiffany.

This summer I groggily greeted Captain Tim Rider and his crew at midnight in a parking lot in Eliot, ME. We were exchanging places with crew just returning from a trip on F/V Finlander. They finished unloading, we exchanged spots, fueled up, and 7 hours later we were 65 miles offshore. The sparkling sea stretched out to the horizon in every direction. A glorious day. Just us, 90s jams, fishing poles, a cooler of ice, peanut butter and fluff sandwiches, and a full day of fishing (and talking about fishing) before we’d be back on shore.

Me and F/V Finlander crew member Spencer Montgomrey on our way out to fishing grounds
At our first fishing location, Tim showed me how to drop the sinker down about 400 feet to the ocean floor and reel it up when you get a bite. Tim is proud he’s giving his crew members in their twenties a chance to be the next generation of small scale fishers. A fish bit immediately and I reeled it in. Minutes later a blue shark raced Tim’s line almost to the surface, chomping a pollock in half just before Tim reeled it out of the sea trailing blood and guts. Tim talked about how his dangerous way of life is in danger itself.

Fleet consolidation threatens the existence New England family fishers. Why?
In 2010 the New England Fisheries Management Council implemented Catch Share policy to manage New England’s groundfish, 13 species including cod, haddock, halibut, and yellowtail flounder. Catch Shares create a leasing market for quota, or the amount of fish you can catch, where anyone, not just fishers, can lease the right to fish. When outside investors enter the market they drive up the quota leasing price, making it too expensive for many small family fishers to continue fishing. Catch Shares have led to fleet consolidation worldwide (read more at the bottom of this post).

A brief history of fisheries management and explanation of Catch Shares.
Watch “Who Owns the Fish?” produced by the Center for Investigative Reporting.

The Council promised they would create safeguards against fleet consolidation when they implemented Catch Shares in 2010. The Council has failed to uphold their promise. This Wednesday the Council is holding their final vote rejecting strong safeguards in Amendment 18. Family fishers have told the Council throughout the past five years that safeguards are necessary to continue their way of life fishing at an ecologically appropriate scale. The Council did not listen and at last, fishermen and allies are walking away from the Council process. We are showing the Council that they have:

1) failed to take public input and uphold a democratic process
2) failed to guard against consolidation in the fishing fleet
3) failed the fish, fishermen, and public

Stand in solidarity with Tim and many other New England family fishermen in holding the Council accountable. We’re harnessing the people power of fishers and allies to elevate our call for a democratic process and a level playing field for community-based fishermen. The Council failed and now it’s up to John Bullard, NOAA Northeast Regional Administrator, and US Congress.

Walk out with us this Wednesday, September 30th, at the Radisson Plymouth from 12 pm to 4 pm
Details in our Action Prep Packet
  1. Sign the Petition
  2. Share our Thunderclap
  3. Share our Media Advisory with the press
Can’t join us Wednesday? Watch Our Livestream of the Council meeting and walk out.

Captain Tim Rider isn’t a worrier. He shared his concern that a blue shark could bite off his fingers while he untangles fishing lines over the side of the boat followed by a laugh. Tim is worried that Catch Shares without safeguards will erase his way of life for future generations. I am too. I’m not only concerned about family fishing as a way of life. Their disappearance hurts coastal communities, the fish, ocean health, and seafood eaters.

F/V Finlander crew member Zach Wark

Catch Shares Have Led to Fleet Consolidation Worldwide
Catch Shares implemented without safeguards have forced family fishers out of the fishing industry time and time again. Catch Shares are also known as Individual Transferable Quota (ITQs) and many other names.

New England family fisherman BG Brown talks about Catch Shares wiping out small boats

Catch Shares in the US
The first US fishery to implement Catch Shares was the mid-Atlantic surf clam fishery 25 years ago. That fleet declined rapidly from 128 boats in 1990 to just 28 boats left by 1999. In Alaska, one type of crab managed under Catch Shares is leased mainly by companies outside of Alaska. 77% of the quota is owned by four companies: Trident Seafoods and Icicle Seafoods, both headquartered in Seattle, and two Japanese conglomerates, Maruha Nichiro and Nippon Suisan Kaisha.

Catch Shares Abroad
Icelandic fishermen won a case they brought to the United Nations Human Rights Commission claiming that Catch Shares illegally privatize fish which is a public resource. In New Zealand, where catch shares are the national policy, the government estimates that eight companies control 80% of the industry’s production. EcoTrust Canada’s report Caught up in Catch Shares, describes catch shares, “turning fishermen into sharecroppers on their own boats.”

Me and F/V Finlander crew members Zach Wark and Spencer Montgomrey clean pollock