Catch shares is a way of regulating commercial fishing (and managing fisheries) that NOAA has been implementing for roughly the last two years that is based on a quota system where each fisherman or cooperative gets to catch a certain portion of harvestable fish. The shares can be sold or traded or used almost any time, eliminating the race for fish caused by the old whole fleet quota system. Some fisherman don’t like it so much and they have found an ally in NC congressman Walter Jones who is attempting to block NOAA from implementing this new policy. Jones’ motivation isn’t ideological; like many coastal state politicians he receives large contributions from the fishing industry and he is joined in his opposition by New England Democrats like Chuck Schumer (NY) and Barney Frank (MA).
The only inaccuracy in Michael’s second article is that catch shares are not “touted mainly by environmental groups”. In fact, NOAA direct Dr. Jane Lubchenco is a strong advocate of catch shares and the idea was largely developed by academic marine scientists like Dr. Steve Gaines, director of the Bren school of Environmental Science and Management at UCSB in wonky articles like this.
I guess the fact that politicians are meddling with the work of career federal scientists shouldn’t be surprising. Nor is the claim by Jones and others that catch shares will kill jobs. These days, anything politicians don’t like is a job killer. As Michael Conathan points out, however, overfishing is what causes the loss of fishing jobs, not federal scientists and regulators. If catch shares are fully implemented and effective, there will be more fish and more fishing, not less.