On behalf of the members of the National Association of Charterboat Operators (NACO), I wish to comment on the proposed commercial catch share EFP you will be discussing at your next meeting. NACO members are for hire charter boat owners and operators from across the United States, including the Great Lakes and Hawaii. NACO opposes any form of sector separation, catch shares and limited entry in any fishery, especially in the for hire charter fishery.
NACO took the lead in opposing and fighting against sector separation of and the use of catch shares in the recreational fishery in the Gulf of Mexico. After almost 10 years of opposing sector separation in the Gulf and with overwhelming comments by thousands of stakeholders to the Gulf Council in person and by electronic media, the Gulf Council, encouraged by the NMFS, approved sector separation and is now working to institute catch shares in the for hire charter fishery. This effort being pushed by the NMFS, in particular Dr. Crabtree (RA) and his staff, is being moved forward at every meeting of the Council even though the vast majority of the for hire charter fleet is in clear opposition to any form of catch shares.
As most know and understand the whole catch share initiative was brought to the NMFS by the Environmental Defense Fund. Their efforts, both financial and logistical, with forming several commercial and charter associations and with their substantial influence on the NMFS creates an atmosphere of stakeholder support. This support is generated by a small number of catch share recipients and others who seek to receive fishery shares but due to the EDF financial support and constant propaganda that they represent the majority, a false sense of fishermen support for catch shares is heard. As you should have heard from the many who oppose catch shares the vast majority of fishermen oppose catch shares in any form.
On behalf of our members I encourage you to ignore the push by the NMFS, Dr. Crabtree, and the EDF and refuse to support the proposed EFP. You should not only refuse to support the EFP but as a Council you should send a clear message to the NMFS, Dr. Crabtree, and EDF that you will not consider any form of catch shares, sector separation, or limited entry for any fishery within your region. It is past time for a Council to stand up for the majority of stakeholders and refuse to implement any program that only serves to eliminate fishermen, supporting businesses, and small family jobs.
Capt. Robert F. Zales, II