More thought provoking comments on ‘rationalization’  programs by Duncan Fields at ComFish/Kodiak:  

 April 11, 2013

Fishing for snow crab in the Bering Sea Credit: AK Dispatch

Fishing for snow crab in the Bering Sea
Credit: AK Dispatch

Putting together a catch share program is like playing chess.  There are many moving pieces and every move impacts, in some way, the other pieces on the board.  Some of the pieces are more powerful or important than the others but each of the pieces has a different, important, function.  The goal, with the chess pieces of ratio nalization — to continue to use that metaphor — is to win at the end of the process. 

 In order to win – so to speak, the goals and objectives for a rationalization program must be defined and identified at the outset.  Quickly, this becomes the first area of controversy.  Why Rationalize?  Is it to reduce bycatch, is it to reduce over-capitalization, is it to protect current fishermen or is it to protect the Community —- and if the goal is to protect the community, is it “status quo” protection in a fishing world that is constantly changing or is it proximate protections?  Are community protections identified as processor access opportunities, processor jobs, industry vendor protections, protections for crewman and/or the vessel operators and owners that live in the community or are community protections sufficient if the program maximizes community tax revenues? Moreover, should Alaska fishery dependent communities have chance to increase landing or processing market share?

 Do we “win” if rationalization provides better “management” for the fishery so that operators can better decide where and when to fish and thereby increase product value and, perhaps, decrease operational costs.  Is rationalization mostly about efficiencies – more fish at less cost?  Or, should a rationalization program consider social values like encouragement of new entrants in the fishery, active participation by owners of vessels harvesting the resource and habitat protections? 

 Then, again, as part of the goals of a “winning” rationalization program, we must consider impacts on other fisheries – generally the goal of a program is to minimize impacts to other fisheries but does this include both direct impacts in terms of fishing opportunity as well as indirect impacts such as changes in economic prowess, i.e. increases in proportional capital. How does flight of resident ownership from fishing communities impact other fisheries and vessels available for those fisheries. (i.e. tenders after the BASI crab program)  Speaking of capital, how does a rationalization program reward current capital investment — in vessels, in processing plants, in community infrastructure.

 Ultimately, a developed rationalization program will directly or indirectly answer all of these goal/objective questions.  Some goals will be given greater weight, others will be incorporated and the answer to some will simply be no!  What goals and objectives should be championed needs to be part of the larger “public policy” discussion – which is going on now — including both industry and non-industry participants — remembering, of course, that we’re talking about the distribution of a public resource and that what we do with that resource is likely to be in place for a long long time. 

 Currently, the goals and objectives discussion is infused with a sense of urgency due to bycatch issues.  My concern is that our larger “stakeholder community” dialogue of programmatic goals is truncated by a sense of the immediate.  Consequently, more refined or innovative rationalization approaches are “discarded” because they may be complicated or require greater time and/or energy to implement.  Quick and simple rationalization is likely to give use results similar to halibut IFQs, AFA, Amendment 80 and BSAI crab programs.  For a variety of reasons I don’t think this would be a good result in the GOA.

 So, my first point is that you should tie your ideas of the “how” of rationalization with a specific programmatic goals.  Or, conversely, if you have a specific goals in mind, then you should work from those goals to develop programmatic details —- remembering, of course, that there are many goals for any rationalization program.  #