trade dispute capsulizes flawed fed fishing system
The claim by a New Bedford fisherman of an unfair, inside move by local entrepreneur Vito Giacalone and the Gloucester-based Northeast Seafood Coalition certainly raises issues regarding a restraint of trade and free-market business practices.
And fisherman Pat Kavanagh makes a case that, when Giacalone dealt two boats legitimately sought with permits by Kavanagh to New Bedford fishing baron Carlos Rafael instead, Kavanagh was wrongly denied any chance to acquire the boats, permits and the added quota they would have brought to his own business.
But here's the real catch:
According to the catch share trading system put in place by NOAA and its New England fishery Management Council, Giacalone's and the Seafood Coalition's actions fit right in with the government's scheme. As we've noted time and time again, driving the small, independent fishermen down and out of the business while concentrating more control and quota within fewer boats and hands is precisely the way this system has been choreographed to work.
This time, even then-NOAA regional chief Pat Kurkul saw Kavanagh's complaint as a sign of how the Seafood Coalition's 12-sector business pool could "affect the liquidity" of quota trading within the rapidly changing fresh seafood market. And in forwarding her concern to the head of the New England council, she tacitly acknowledges what many within the industry have known since the start: this system spawns virtual monopolies over our seafood harvest and breeds economic disasters for independent fishing families and fishing communities.'
As outlined Saturday by staff writer Richard Gaines, here's the gist of the story:
In a Dec. 2 letter to Kurkul, Kavanagh claims that the Fisheries Preservation Fund that Giacalone manages — one of the coalition's "sectors," when it comes to holding and distributing catch quota for fishermen to "share" — unfairly exercised a "right of first refusal" to direct the multi-species permits Kavanagh had arranged to buy to Rafael instead.
Giacalone maintains he bought the boats and permits on his own, not for the Preservation Fund, which serves as a permit "bank" and was well-stocked with $12 million in state money as part of a 2008 LNG terminal mitigation deal. But when he acquired the two permits and two boats, he reportedly kept the quota, and flipped the boats to Rafael, already New England's dominant leading magnate with some 60 permits tied up in 15 large-scale vessels.
Kavanagh needed the quota, and his letter to Kurkul notes that had a deal in place to until Giacalone's move scooped it up under a first refusal tactic that Giacalone says covers all 12 of the coalition's sectors — by far, the dominant group in New England, with Rafael sitting pretty in Sector 6.