Most days in Destin, Mullet Mike takes his boat The Sand Gnat into Choctawatchee Bay and cast nets for Striped Mullet. People in seaside towns around the world prize mullet, but they get little respect here. They even have an awful haircut named after them. When eaten fresh from the sea these under-appreciated critters are delicious. Arriving next day from Mullet Mike’s net at a good price, they are awfully good to eat.
In Washington, the House of Representatives voted 220-191 to halt funding for new Atlantic and Gulf catch share programs, with the sponsors saying “catch shares are no different than any other inside-the-Beltway style tactic determined to destroy every aspect of American freedom under the guise of conservation. By capping the amount of fish that may be caught annually and gifting a select few with shares of the annual catch, NOAA is privatizing access to a once open fishery. Make no mistake about it: catch shares are nothing less than a cap-and-trade management system for our oceans.” The problem with this ideological rant is that it has nothing to do with fisheries - it does not address the problem of limiting catches - universally agreed to in the industry - and making vessels economically viable. The huge number of industry supported buyouts show harvesters recognize acutely the problem of too many vessels chasing too few fish. Unfortunately, Congressional grandstanding for 'freedom' won't solve the problem.
Catch shares provide each fisherman with secure access to a portion of the total annual harvest of fish, allowing them to plan their fishing over the entire year. Two things happen under this new approach: uncertainty goes down, and stewardship grows. Fishermen and managers find they have new tools to conserve fish stocks, and the evidence is compelling. A recent study of fisheries published in the journal Marine Policy looked at fisheries before and after they adopted catch shares. Since the implementation of catch shares, fishermen on average are earning significantly more, fisheries are stabilizing, and safety has dramatically improved. For example, in 2010 alone, catch shares in three fisheries in the Pacific, New England and Gulf of Mexico saved enough fish from being tossed back dead to feed an estimated one million Americans for a year.
Yellowfin tuna has been in short supply, with a good part of the reason being an increased number of FDA rejections of “adulterated” tuna from Asia. In a disturbing story from Peru, fishermen began finding dead dolphins, hundreds of them, washed up on Peru’s northern coast. Now, seabirds have begun dying, too, and scientists have yet to conclusively pinpoint a cause. “Never in my 40 years as a fisherman have I seen anything like this,” said Francisco Ñiquen Rentería, the president of the Association of Artisanal Fishermen in Puerto Eten, in the Lambayeque region. “Sometimes in the past, you’d randomly see a dead dolphin or a pelican, but this, what’s happening now, is really alarming.” It is bad to fool with Mother Nature.