A recent study documenting consolidation and specialization in Alaska’s fisheries over the past three decades illustrates a broader trend taking hold in coastal communities across the country. Catch share programs, a new fisheries management system, are turning fishing rights into tradable commodities, driving up the cost to fish and consolidating fishing rights into the hands of a few wealthy owners. For instance, in Alaska’s Bering Sea crab fishery, just four companies own 77 percent of the rights to fish a single crab species.
Republicans claim the House version of the Magnuson-Stevens Act, a.k.a. the fish bill, would strike “a proper balance between the biological needs of fish stocks and the economic needs of fishermen.” Environmentalists disagree. As the fight moves to the Senate, we look at five ways the House bill could damage fisheries management. (No paywall)
Criminals don't come more colorful than Carlos Rafael, once the most powerful fisherman in the nation’s most valuable seafood port. Rafael, who was the subject of a FERN story published earlier this year with Mother Jones, was known widely as the Codfather. He conquered the fishing industry in New Bedford, Mass., through a combination of guile and rule-bending; he famously described himself as a pirate, and told regulators it was their job to catch him. On Monday, the law finally caught up to the Codfather: A federal judge sentenced Rafael to 46 months in prison for masterminding one of the biggest fisheries frauds in American history. (No paywall)
A sweeping study of 78 fisheries concludes that market-based “catch share” programs help alleviate a vexing problem: the panicky “race to fish” that shortens seasons, harms fish populations, and imperils the safety of commercial anglers. The study was published in Nature, as Congress considers whether to limit these programs’ expansion.
As two-thirds of marine species off the Northeast coast adjust their range due to rising ocean temperatures, fishermen are frustrated by outdated catch regulations, says The New York Times. “Lobster, once a staple in southern New England, have decamped to Maine. Black sea bass, scup, yellowtail flounder, mackerel, herring and monkfish, to name just a few species, have all moved to accommodate changing temperatures,” says the Times.