Insiders 'triple down' on fishery privatization through catch shares

I’m sure you’ve heard of doubling down: “to become more tenacious, zealous, or resolute in a position or undertaking.”

Have you heard of tripling down?

Tripling down is just what South Atlantic Fishery Management Council Vice Chair Charlie Phillips and SAFMC member Chris Conklin did in an effort to gain private ownership of our snapper-grouper fishery through catch shares.

First, Phillips, Conklin and former SAFMC member Jack Cox, all commercial snapper-grouper fleet owners and dealers, attempted as insiders to get a pilot snapper-grouper catch share program for their boats, through a back-door effort using an Exempted Fishing Permit.

The EFP would have given them exclusive snapper-grouper shares and exempted their boats from any trip limits and seasonal or quota closures.

After the SAFMC received 600 comments against -- 97 percent -- and just 16 for the pilot catch share EFP, Phillips, Conklin and Cox had to withdraw the EFP application at the last minute, just as the March 8th public hearing in Jekyll Island, GA was about to begin.

But incredibly in the face of 97 percent opposition from fishermen they are supposed to represent as SAFMC members, Phillips and Conklin doubled down on their catch shares, vowing to regroup and re-file the EFP application at a later date.

But doubling down wasn’t enough – they had to triple down.

In the very last few minutes of the March 10th SAFMC meeting, when most fishermen had stopped paying attention to the meeting, Phillips and Conklin tripled down with a failed attempt to get a presentation on catch shares from a NOAA catch share guru on the SAFMC’s June meeting agenda to “educate” the fishery council and fishermen on the benefits of catch shares.

Click here for the audio recording of the meeting and fast forward to 2:57:30 to hear this unbelievable effort.

There are no benefits to catch shares unless you become a ‘snapper baron’ like in the Gulf of Mexico red snapper fishery, which appears to be the goal of Phillips and Conklin, contrary to the interests of the fishermen they are supposed to represent.

Catch shares consolidate fishing fleets, unemploying tens of thousands of fishermen, hurt fishing communities, and studies have shown they provide no biological benefit or enhance sustainability to fisheries. Catch shares are about picking economic winners and losers.

We’ll have to remain ever vigilant for this threat to fishermen and fishing communities!

Tom Swatzel
Executive Director
Council for Sustainable Fishing

P.S. The Council for Sustainable Fishing is a non-profit advocacy group that relies on membership dues to operate. Please help us continue our fight against catch shares and for fishermen and fishing communities by clicking here and joining today. Already a member – please consider a higher membership level to help. Thank You!

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