April 26, 2011
Gloucester -- What is that the fishing industry needs most? When communities were intact, they knew how to self-organize. Today, it is different; today every man is for himself. Our goal, therefore, is to help develop community rules that incorporate a sense of trust among all participants in the fisheries. I do not pretend to know it all. Far from it. Those who know more than I do are begged to contribute their wisdom for the most favorable outcome possible.
Rule 1. Whatever methodology is used to apportion shares within the sectors shall be used to apportion shares among those who are outside the sectors.
This is a basic rule of fairness and justice. It might be very painful to apply this rule in the short term, but it will pay handsomely in the long run.
Rule 2. Shares can be sold only among working fishermen. Fishermen have made indescribable sacrifices to assure the re-building of the stocks during the last 25 years or so. Now that stocks are back, the benefit of past sacrifices ought to accrue only among those who made those sacrifices. Only the unanimous consent of the fishing community as a whole can ever propose such a rule. Basic questions of fairness — and self-interest on the part of the community — can indeed impose such restrictions upon the market and the market value of shares. This rule ought to be enforced in no uncertain terms. The ultimate power might rest with the Harbormaster, who will not grant passage from the harbor to the fishing grounds of vessels legally commandeered by non-fishermen.
Rule 3. Shares can be sold only among members of the home port of each vessel. It is so much easier to have assent to community rules among the members of the community than from outsiders.
Rule 4. The value of the shares will be determined by the pounds of yearly catch landed by species times the value of the fish landed by the holder of the share. Share certificates will always carry on them the record of pounds of yearly catch landed by species. Attention, in other words, should be paid to determine share values on the basis of past, well-established, transparent experience, rather than on the expected value of future profits. This is going to be a very difficult rule to accept and to enforce. Its wisdom will be recognized only by those who have experienced the devastation of economic value during the last financial crisis. Values evaporated overnight because values were not there in the first place. No one knew values anymore. The hustlers and the sharpies ruled the roost. Once they stopped crowing, markets froze. And the last buyer was left with a worthless piece of paper.
Rule 5. A Catch Share Community Bank (CS Community Bank) will hold shares for new entrants and distribute them free of charge to approved applicants. CS Community Banks will determine the qualifications of applicants on the basis of standards approved by all fishing communities in which shares are used.
How many shares ought to be held for free distribution to approved applicants? Experience will tell. The ancestral rule of thumb is that 10 percent of the total value of the shares for each port ought to be reserved for such allocation. This rule is designed to prevent the unfolding of sectors/cooperatives into little monopolies. Monopolies are lovely for the first participants — in the short term; yet, they wreak havoc and ultimate destruction of values in the long run. The reasons for this trajectory of events are many; the essential one is that monopolies remain in existence only through the use of force. Power is might, and might is eventually resisted.
Rule 6. CS Community Banks will be funded by existing or future “mitigation funds,” as well as whatever monies will be apportioned by NOAA for the implementation of the Catch Share Policy.
It is necessary to develop Catch Shares Community Banks. The constituting funds come from financial resources belonging to the community as a whole; the community can dispose of them as the community sees fit. Certainly, mitigation funds are granted to the community as a whole. And, even more certainly, funds apportioned by NOAA come from the general national fund.
Rule 7. CS Community Banks will be governed by a Board of Directors appointed for a three year term on a rotating basis by the Mayor of each home port and elected by each major economic group existing in the community — e. g. banking, retailing, and industrial operations, as well as by each group of fishermen who want to be involved, namely inshore and offshore groundfish fishermen, shellfish fishermen, pelagics fishermen, gillnetters, longliners.
If Community Banks are indeed expressions of community life, their administration cannot be entrusted to merely a part of the community. The entire community must be allowed to participate in the administration of these banks. Specific rules and regulations will develop gradually once the need for their existence is identified.
Rule 8. Fishermen — members of catch share sectors as well as non-members — will operate under the umbrella of yearly Total Allowable Catch (TAC) allocations for each species.
Natural resources are national. It is proper that Total Allowable Catch Allocations be determined — and apportioned — in accordance with national policy.
Rule 9. TACs will be determined by the existing administrative structure set up by NOAA, NMFS, and the existing Regional Councils on the basis of a scientific methodology that takes into account natural predator/prey cycles.
There is no need to reinvent the wheel. The last thing the nation and the fishermen need at this stage is a struggle over administrative turf and administrative rules and regulations. Provided TACs are set in agreement with the community of fishermen, are set in a transparent way, and are apportioned in a non-contradictory and fair way, then TACs there ought to be. To agree to these — and undoubtedly other — rules will not be easy. But this is work of concord that needs to be done. This is work that President Obama in his best days is calling us to.
Carmine Gorga, PhD, is president of Polis-tics Inc. His latest book is titled The Economic Process: An Instantaneous Non-Newtonian Picture.
Read more: Sitting In: Catch shares from the bottom up - Gloucester, MA - Wicked Local Gloucester http://www.wickedlocal.com/gloucester/archive/x128435067/Sitting-In-Catch-shares-from-the-bottom-up#ixzz1KjfTqveZ