CONGRESS SHOULD ACT ON FISHERIES LAW A combustible mixture of election-year posturing and legislative gridlock has all but guaranteed that Congress will not pass fisheries legislation this year. This partisan paralysis is bad news because it will allow a controversial fisheries policy to take effect without restriction, amounting to the giveaway of billions of dollars of a federally-owned natural resource.
Giving Away a Common Resource
Here is a news update from Taxpayers for Common Sense. TCS is the best organization that monitors excessive government spending, corruption and corporate welfare.
The policy on fishing quotas could transfer fishing privileges into the hands of a few large commercial fishing interests at the expense of small fishermen and the local economies that depend upon them. In the last fisheries bill Congress put a moratorium on fishing quota provisions, but by allowing the moratorium to lapse, fisheries managers will be able to use them without limitation.
Congress's failure to act will open all of the nation's fisheries up to the use of individual fishing quota programs (IFQs) that lack any national standards necessary to ensure economic equity to fishermen or American taxpayers.
The biggest problem with IFQs is they guarantee a few lucky fishermen the right to catch a set amount of fish every year, and bar all other fishermen from fishing. Once handed out, the quotas amount to a winning lotto ticket that can be sold to the highest bidder. Their "resale" then causes even further consolidation of the fishing fleet into the hands of even fewer special interests. The surf-clam/ocean quahog fishery on the east coast is the perfect example of how consolidation leads to hundreds of lost jobs. After that quota program was implemented, there was a 70% reduction in the size of the fishing fleet, and more than half of the quota shares are now owned by a foreign finance company.
Fishermen who are lucky enough to get quota shares can reap big rewards at the expense of other fishermen and taxpayers. In the Alaska Halibut program, for instance, many fishermen became instant millionaires when they sold their quota shares to other less fortunate fishermen who had not received quotas. The federal government essentially handed away millions of dollars worth of this public resource and allowed private interests to profit from the resale. By letting this moratorium expire, Congress will allow these quota programs to be implemented nationwide, giving away billions of dollars worth of a public resource.
America's fisheries should remain the property of the American people. IFQ programs that give away fish for free, allow quota holders to sell out to the highest bidder, and do not limit the term of the quota unfairly deprive taxpayers of a fiscal return from this valuable public resource, and appear to vest property rights in the fishery.
To prevent the problems associated with current IFQ programs, Congress needs to set national standards for new quota programs that ensure the oceans remain a public trust, with legislative provisions that ensure equitable participation by all fishermen, and with limits on transferability and duration of the programs. The most efficient and equitable way to achieve these goals is to allocate quota shares only through periodic royalty auctions, with limits on consolidation and transferability, and protections for the family fishermen who would otherwise be driven out of business by unrestricted quota programs. A periodic royalty auction would prevent the complete privatization of America's fisheries while providing a market-based revenue stream to fund boat buy-backs, administrative costs, additional enforcement and research in the fisheries.
Fishery management and enforcement already costs taxpayers more than a billion dollars per year. Letting this fishing quota moratorium lapse will cost even more. Because abuse is more likely, tighter enforcement mechanisms are necessary to ensure sustainability. In light of the new budget deficits, it is more important than ever that the federal government collect new revenue to pay for the growing costs of fisheries management and enforcement.
Congress should act to set uniform standards for individual fishing quota programs before the moratorium expires on Sept. 30th. Tell your representative to take action to protect fishermen and fishing communities and fix fishing quotas before it is too late. Without standards for quota programs, the rich heritage of fishing communities and the very fish themselves are in jeopardy. Don't let fishermen become an endangered species.
For more information, contact Keith Ashdown at (202)-546-8500 ext. 110
or by email at email@example.com
TCS is at www.taxpayer.net
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