Bush admin proposes free-market system for managing fisheries

The Bush administration has proposed a major overhaul of the nation’s fishery management laws — ignoring the recommendations of its own scientific commission, and provoking mixed reactions from eco-advocates. The legislation would phase out current regulations limiting the number of days fishers can operate and the amount they catch per trip, in favor of allocating shares in the year’s catch that fishers can either use or sell. Supporters say such “free market” fisheries would provide an economic incentive to curtail overfishing. “It’s probably the single largest change we can make that will advance conservation,” says David Festa of Environmental Defense. But others fear that it would privatize a public resource, and give an edge to corporations over smaller operators. The proposal would also curtail public involvement in fisheries management policies, loosen rules on reporting bycatch, and fundamentally alter how depleted fish stocks are protected and restored. The administration is “turning back the clock on ocean protections by at least a decade,” says the Marine Fish Conservation Network.