Massachusetts politicians have moved from requesting broad-scale action to assist New England fishermen struggling with reduced catch limits to pleading the case of an individual fishermen. From The New Bedford Standard Times:
A letter, released Wednesday and signed by U.S. Sen. John F. Kerry, along with U.S. Reps. Barney Frank, Stephen F. Lynch, William R. Keating and John F. Tierney, asked [U.S. Secretary of Commerce Gary] Locke to intercede directly in the case of Jim Keding, a lifelong commercial fisherman who has received only a fraction of the annual fishing quota he needs to maintain his livelihood.
Under the catch shares management system that went into effect last May, the allowable catch for an entire fishery is divvied up among registered fishermen based on their past catch record. The crux of the matter is a disagreement about whether or not Keding has the catch history to justify a larger allotment.
In April 2008, Keding borrowed $235,000 to buy his boat, the 55-foot dragger Zachary Nicholas, in anticipation of the new catch share system. Based on the vessel’s fishing history, he expected to receive an allocation of around 40,000 pounds of fish. Instead he was given only 15,000 because, he was told by NMFS, the catch history prior to November 2004 did not come with the boat.
Keding certainly isn’t the only fisherman struggling with the catch shares system. Earlier this season, it was estimated that over half the groundfish fleet had leased their fishing allotments and was staying at dock.
I’ve contacted a few of the signatories of the letter to ask whether Keding’s case was just one particularly compelling case for redress or whether this letter signals a shift in strategy when it comes to fighting catch shares. I’ll let you know what I find out.
In the meantime, you can read the full letter here.