Obama war on fisheries jobs gets vacation protest

posted at 3:20 pm on August 24, 2010 by Ed Morrissey

President Obama may be on vacation this week at Martha’s Vineyard, but as with all Presidents, it’s a working vacation.  That’s good, because the people who rely on fishing in the Northeast Atlantic have a message for Obama, which is that they don’t think that fewer jobs is better for their industry.  The Boston Herald highlights a little-covered aspect of the administration’s efforts to impose top-down economic policies, this time on fisheries to solve a problem that’s mainly resolved anyway:

Leaders of the recreational and commercial fishing industry are planning a boat protest against federal policies Thursday outside the harbor of Vineyard Haven on Martha’s Vineyard, where President Obama and his family are summer vacationing.

The protest is being organized after a bipartisan, bicameral coalition of federal lawmakers — including the core of the President’s Congressional base on banking and health care issues — have given up hope of working productively with Obama’s top appointee for oceans and fisheries, Jane Lubchenco, who heads the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

The White House and Lubchenco want an end to private commercial fishing and have taken steps to eliminate “freelancing,” for lack of a better term.  Instead, they want to close the fisheries into “commodities markets” where the government essentially licenses fishermen and then allocates the catch based on a predetermined distribution plan.  The “commodities markets” will kill many fishing-based jobs and essentially turn fishermen into government employees, and they’re not happy about it.

In an economy where jobs are already scarce, how does the Obama administration justify the destruction of these jobs?

In a statement to the Times soon after her confirmation by the Senate, Lubchenco’s office said her goal was to see a “significant fraction of the vessels … removed.”

With the stocks rebuilding strongly, fishermen wonder at the need to reduce the size of the work force. …

Lubchenco has argued that consolidation, which has consistently followed catch shares, produces fewer but better jobs while giving the government a stronger hand in conservation.

So the new mantra is “fewer, but better jobs”?  I’m certain that the fishermen stuck on land will appreciate the beauty of the jobs they no longer hold.

The new policy has already been put in place in New England for groundfisheries, and the command economy approach has already produced its usual results:

New England’s groundfishery, America’s oldest continuing industry which had harvested commonly owned resources, was converted to catch share principles on May 1 — with a total allocation divided and distributed to fishermen as catching rights that [can] be bought, sold or traded.

But the minute size of the total allocation and the eccentric mixes of quota from the 15 species and 20 stocks in the groundfishery have pushed many businesses into — or close to — insolvency, a development that earlier this month brought a proposal from a bipartisan coalition of U.S. senators for a $100 million buyout.

Let’s get this straight.  The new policy of this administration is to encourage the kind of commodities speculation in fisheries that we saw in mortgage-backed securities?  And doesn’t that system favor large corporations who can afford to speculate with their capital over the small businesses and independent operators who can’t afford to buy rights to fish in these “commodities markets”?   Get ready for higher prices and more unemployment.


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Comment pages: 1 2

Wasn’t Alaskan crab fishing converted to “catch share” several years ago? Was referenced several times on Deadliest Catch but haven’t seen anything detailing its effects on that industry thus far.

MattUF on August 24, 2010 at 3:46 PM

It was and now they are so expensive I can’t find King Crab legs anywhere near me in SE CT, the grocery stores pretty much quit carrying them. The Summer Shack Resturant in the Mohegan Casino used to have a rib eye and king crab special, now they are so expensive they switched to snow crab leg clusters. Bummer.

Johnnyreb on August 25, 2010 at 6:40 AM

Does anyone else suspect this is yet another step toward government takeover of the food supply?

RebeccaH on August 25, 2010 at 11:38 AM

Comment pages: 1 2