This week Representatives Jon Runyan (NJ-3), Walter Jones (NC-3), and Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (FL-18) introduced the "Saving Fishing Jobs Act of 2011." This legislation seeks to hold the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) accountable for fisheries management programs called catch shares that have been detrimental to fishermen throughout the Eastern and Gulf Coasts. The bill would require the Secretary of Commerce to terminate a catch share program if it reduces the total number of fishermen in the program by 15 percent or more. It also would prevent the government from imposing new catch share programs on fishing communities that oppose them. It would do so by requiring consideration of new programs to be initiated only via a petition signed by at least 50 percent of fishermen in the fishery, and by requiring a two-thirds vote of fishermen for approval of new programs. Finally, the bill includes language to protect taxpayers from shouldering the extra costs associated with implementing and managing new catch share programs.
The non-partisan consumer watchdog, Food & Water Watch has noted that if more catch share programs are implemented, " many traditional fishermen will be forced out of work, economies of their communities will crumble, there will be increased risk of harm to our oceans, and consumers will probably end up with lower-quality seafood (http://www.foodandwaterwatch.org/fish/fair-fish)."
Catch share programs have been controversial because many have resulted in the consolidation of fishing fleets, costing fishermen their jobs. According to NOAA, one of the largest fisheries in the northeastern U.S. lost almost 20 percent of its boats in the first year (2009-2010) after a major catch shares program was implemented across the entire region.
The Saving Fishing Jobs Act of 2011 is limited to the New England, Mid-Atlantic, South Atlantic, and Gulf of Mexico fishery management councils. Below you can find quotes from Reps. Jon Runyan (NJ), Walter Jones (NC), Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (FL), Wenonah Hauter of Food & Water Watch, and Greg DiDomenico of Garden State Seafood Association.
Rep. Jon Runyan (NJ)
"NOAA Administrator Jane Lubchenco has a previously stated goal of seeing "a sizable fraction of the (fishing) fleet eliminated. Catch share programs, her signature initiative, have done just that by forcing small fishermen out. This bill will ensure that catch share programs are shut down if they are forcing people out of work. This is a jobs bill and has the potential to save fishing jobs."