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Media Watch: IFQs on the radar

Oyster debate also gains attention

By April Forristall
January 01, 2010

Sometimes the mainstream media gets a story right, and yet other times newspapers, magazines and blogs can totally miss the mark. Here is a snapshot of seafood-related stories that garnered headlines last month.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration in mid-December released a draft policy encouraging the use of catch-share fishery management systems. The agency said it recognizes that while such systems are not the cure-all for ailing fisheries, they are a proven way to promote sustainable fisheries when adequately designed.

Mainstream media outlets from Maine to Texas to Alaska were quick to pick up - and editorialize - on the controversial subject.

The Boston Globe threw its support behind catch shares, saying "the chance that the nation's depleted ocean fish will return to healthy levels rose considerably Thursday when the federal government put its support behind a new way of managing fisheries." 

Though many media outlets failed to delve into the other side of the story, some did, pointing out that many fishing organizations have major concerns about catch shares. Perhaps the most balanced account of the catch share debate came from the Portland Press Herald. The Maine paper ran two editorials on the subject: Fisherman Mary Beth de Poutiloff and Food & Water Watch field organizer Nathalie Graham co-authored the editorial "If 'catch shares' catch on, many independent fishermen will be swallowed up." 

"Entire fishing communities in Maine and throughout the country could be destroyed" by catch shares, said the pair. "Can we really let our most valuable natural resource and our nation's oldest industry, which have created vibrant coastal communities throughout the 88,000 miles of U.S. coastline, become another Wall Street property?"

A week later, the paper's editorial staff penned that while a catch-share system isn't perfect, it is better than the status quo. "Adopting a more logical, coherent and fair system of allocating catch shares will improve the ability of those who remain to make a go of it until stocks improve - a process that is already occurring with some species. The old days of groundfishing in Maine will never be back. But the new day that is coming can still see a healthy industry in place, if wisdom and not nostalgia is allowed to prevail."

Earlier in the month, the seafood-related headlines were all about Gulf oysters (see Top Story, p.18). The U.S. Food and Drug Administration's proposed restrictions on live oysters from the Gulf of Mexico was fodder for editorials from Washington, D.C., to Opelousas, La. The headlines ranged from FDA Should Shuck Away Intrusive Oyster Rule to FDA Should Get Out of Our Gumbo. 

It's nice to see the mainstream media not only getting it right, but also taking a stand against a draconian plan and giving the industry a voice.

The Daily World in Opelousas, La., put it best in its editorial, Oyster Rules Aren't Worth Shucks.

"We'll side with the industry. The seafood industry in general faces enough obstacles - foreign competition, overfishing, fisheries loss and so on. They shouldn't be forced to become substitute mommies for people who ought to take some responsibility for their own well being. Producers who knowingly sell tainted oysters deserve all the punishment that can be heaped upon them. But if they act responsibly, let the slurper beware."



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