Look out, fishers, for a new scheme called Catch Shares.

We think it’s a half-baked, beyond-dumb idea.

It will fail, we feel certain, but in the process real reform will suffer as well.

The vaguely defined idea of catch shares is that fish would be put out to bidders, or possibly auctioned off, or simply given away as has happened before. Perhaps tags for individual fish could be traded, or sold, or whatever.

Details to come.

Unlike transferable quota permits used in a few commercial fisheries, these catch shares are being promoted for recreational interests as well.

Of course, this trading in recreational fish would violate the most important tenet of wildlife management. It was established over a century of trial and error.

And now comes the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (parent of our federal setup) with the appointment of a federal task force to develop “and implement’ the catch shares system. The taskers, as expected, are veterans of the federal system that has been a devoted puppet of commercial interests (with a few exceptions).

None of the distinguished leaders from traditional wildlife management were considered.

The shares push grows out of a sometimes understandable frustration over government’s failure after failure to stop overfishing. Let’s think outside the box, the share team suggests. Unfortunately, outside the box are dark and dangerous pitfalls.

Questions arise by the dozens about how a shares method could possibly work among recreational citizens.

The great irony is that we already have all the tools necessary for good marine management. They’re the same tools used so successfully all though the nation and in many saltwater regions.

It’s sharing, all right, but sharing equally among all. No bidding, lotteries, selling and re-selling or bizarre new systems…just good thinking by people without profit motives in selling the animals.

Without the self-dealing, wildlife management gets very easy. It works every time.

But what we have are bad decisions, on most occasions, such as the allocation of four out of five Gulf red grouper to a relatively tiny commercial fishery, while hundreds of thousands of citizens are shut out.

And we face what we think is absurd junk science concerning Atlantic red snapper (see Conservation Front).

While anglers land their limits in minutes, government biologists still insist that red snapper stocks are severely overfished. They cite extremely suspect data based on guesstimates of old times before good records were available.

A veteran biologist, Dr. Frank Hester, says federal authorities should reject the assessment. He says the statistics personnel made fatal errors that greatly overestimated the number of older fish in the 40s period. The assessment estimates the old stock size at 50 times greater than now.

We could, at least, have walked on the backs of red snapper. If it were true.

Dr. Hester’s independent report on the South Atlantic red snapper assessment is published in full at FloridaSportsman.com.


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