Sunday, December 20, 2009

A readers response to "Feds hope strategy boosts Gulf fishing"

Mr. Tresaugue,

I read your article yesterday in the Chronicle regarding the upcoming Catch Shares fiasco. There are some issues I would like to address;

1) Catch shares have already been in utilized in the Gulf FOR 3 YEARS NOW through the IFQ program which did away with the 10 day seasons/trip limits and replaced those with an allocation of the quota...the commercial snapper fishermen have not been "competing in derby-style openings" since January 1, 2007. The push underway CURRENTLY is to expand the Catch Share concept into the RECREATIONAL sector which, in my opinion will drastically change our fishing rights and heritage. I don't want to have to go to Walmart to purchase tags (at unknown prices) for each fish that I or my son intend to catch. These fish belong to EVERY American and should NOT be put on the auction block to the highest bidder. Additionally, since this concept is being pushed by well-funded environment.orgs such as EDF and others, there is the possibility that the shares would be bought by these green groups and not used at all. The average-Joe fishermen wouldn't stand a chance in competing at the auction block for these shares.

2) The Catch Shares concept revolves around the privatization of a public resource which could then be traded and sold as commodities, an ideology pushed hard by the Environmental Defense Fund (EDF). Lubchenco resigned as vice chairman of EDF — known for its penchant for merging investment and environmental principles — to become President Obama's nomination to head the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. Once confirmed by the Senate, she unfurled her commitment to catch shares and drafted Monica Medina, a former NOAA chief counsel in the Clinton administration,from the Pew Environment Group to organize a national catch share taskforce. Its final report is on Lubchenco's desk. It seems the green (EDF) has infiltrated the federal government to the highest levels to force their view of the world upon the rest of us.

3) Given our nation's recent disastrous experience with the unintended and negative consequences of deregulation and poor oversight of financial and real estate markets, I do not trust our federal government to introduce this concept into the fisheries, especially when it is not needed. There has been an 18% drop in saltwater fishing participation in the years 1996 to 2006, with a 15% decline from 2001 to 2006. This shows a steep downward trend in participation in the latter half of that 10 year span. This SHARPLY contradicts what the NMFS claims to be happening, especially since they have cut the snapper season by 2/3, cut our limits in half, and forbid captain/crew from retaining fish since this report. The NMFS wants you to believe that there has been a 300% INCREASE IN EFFORT in 2008 and 2009 according to THEIR figures that shows that recreational anglers caught over 4 million pounds of snapper. Makes you wonder why there is such a strong push for Catch Shares and/or Sector Separation when there is clearly no need.

4) This a "paradigm shift" in the approach to managing the bounty of the sea, is being pushed by EDF-affiliated financial advisers with ties to Milken and Lehman Brothers - 2 of the most notable names related to failed financial schemes. Incredibly, people are actually listening to them; "Two months before the Environmental Defense Fund achieved a political policy triumph with the vote last week to transform the New England groundfishery from a commonly held resource into negotiable commodities, a bullish EDF executive was urging institutional investors to buy these catch shares. EDF vice president David Festa's projection was a 400 percent return on the investment, based on what he said was recent experiences with the imposition of catch shares in other fisheries. A consultant to EDF spoke of returns of 10 or even 20 times investment. "It's not telecom money, but it's real money," Festa advised a small but influential private audience of mutual and hedge fund managers and ENGO —or environmental non-government organization — officials at an April 28 panel on "Innovative Funding for Sustainable Fisheries and Oceans." The panel was part of the 2009 Milken Institute Global Conference in LosAngeles, "the largest gathering of capital markets in North America..." You can read the whole story here;

5) Currently, the Gulf snapper quota is divided into 51% commercial and 49% recreational portions. There is a plan on the table to be addressed by the regulators in early 2010 called the "SOS Plan", which is again being pushed by EDF to carve out a 57% portion of the recreational quota and gift it to the charter-for-hire industry. The SOS Plan would reduce the CFH sector by eliminating most of the part-time charter operators. The plan would introduce Catch Shares into the recreational sector and severely restrict access to the fishery to private recreational fishermen,which would then be limited to 21% of the total Gulf quota even though they are the majority stakeholder in the fishery. This has HUGE economic consequences which have not been addressed at all.

6) Federal regulators are citing the Magnuson-Stevens Act as reason for pushing Annual Catch Limits and Accountability Measures even though the same MSA has mandated implementation of a better data collection system PRIOR to such action. The NMFS has thumbed its nose at Congress by ignoring this Congressional mandate even though it was required to be in place by January 1, 2009. Congress understood the importance of upgrading the existing MFRSS system (which data has been proven to be fatally flawed), PRIOR to implementing any new Annual Catch Limits or Accountability Measures such as Catch Shares. It is negligence to the highest degree to continue to use outdated data collection methods, especially when directed by Congress to CEASE DOING SO, and it is my belief that this is Contempt of Congress and should be prosecuted accordingly.

7) Lastly, going back to the existing IFQ program in the Gulf, the federal government "gifted" a portion of our public resource (Red Snapper) to a small group of commercial fishermen. This gift is now worth millions of dollars to some of the lucky recipients. I recently talked to one commercial IFQ holder and asked him how much would he take for his IFQ quota - his answer? He wouldn't take even $10 million dollars! I then asked him how much he paid for those IFQ shares - his answer? "Thirty five years of my life!" In other words, he paid $0 for this gift, yet we all somehow owe him "reparations", "welfare money" or "bailout$$" due to his decision to work as a commercial snapper fisherman. This fisherman can now sit on his rear and "lease access to the resource" to the tune of hundreds of thousands of dollars annually, personally profiting substantially from the government action, while not contributing a thing to the NGP other than driving the price of fish to the consumer higher and higher.

This is the real story Mr. Tresaugue. There is a LOT of money to be made on the converting the wild harvest of our fisheries into negotiable catch shares, creating a fish futures commodity market, and will forever change fishing that I, and my children, will know it.

We are leading an effort here in Texas to develop our own sustainable fishery in Texas State Waters working in partnership with TPWD. Texas State Waters are not subject ot federal regulations, and TPWD has proven to ably manage our wildlife resources infinitely better than the NMFS.

You can read more about it at

Sincerely,Tom Hilton

1 comment:

  1. Everyone needs to check this guy and his website out! They are making a difference