Thursday, September 8, 2011

September 7, 2011, Seattle AFS. Hilborn urges fishermen to embrace catch shares.

Yesterday, Ray Hilborn, a controversial and high profile fisheries scientists at the University of Washington, wrapped up the Catch Shares Symposium at the AFS Meeting by urging people to embrace the catch shares system. He lived up to his reputation and stirred the pot by saying that anthropologists and sociologists should stop "whining" about some of the challenges presented by catch shares to fishing communities. He also emphasized that catch shares is a very broad term that can mean many things and is a system that is flexible enough to adapt to a particular fishery. He said that it is not a perfect system, but "pretty good" and that it is the best alternative for the majority of today's fisheries. Dr. Hilborn made an interesting point - that catch shares, because they essentially enforce "who can fish and who cannot", were similar to the enforcement of the 200 mile Exclusive Economic Zone which forced foreign fishermen out of US Coastal waters and was universally applauded by the US fishing industry. Hilborn also claimed that we must accept that fishing jobs and vessels are going to be lost - regardless of how fisheries are managed - simply because the US fishing fleet is too big as a result of the recent regulatory history of the industry.
Dr. Hilborn responded to critics of catch shares who claim that they destroy fishing communities by emphasizing that there are opportunities to combine community development with catch share programs. He also made the point that it is difficult to disentangle the effects of catch share systems with other outside forces that were going to affect fisheries and fishing communities.
Unfortunately, this talk came at the end of the day. I got the feeling that the group in the room could have discussed his comments into the night. It would have been very interesting to hear that discussion - one that those involved in sustainable marine fisheries will be a part of as we move forward.
-Erik Chapman

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