Here's some good news on the conservation front:
- This month, Alaska's crab fisheries switch to individual fishing quotas (IFQs). This is great news! Out will be the open derbies, where as many as 250 boats race each other at sea for a share of the overall catch. In will be a system in which fishermen will know exactly how much they can catch going to sea.
Crabbers will no longer feel compelled to fish in bad weather, or continue through sleepless nights or extreme fatigue, to catch the lucrative shellfish before other boats grab them. Each fisherman will have an exclusive percentage of the available crab to catch at his leisure.
The program has one unwelcome side condition. In addition to IFQs for fishermen, only buyers with individual processors quotas (IPQs) will be allowed to buy the crab directly from fishermen. This is an unnecessary restriction on commerce. Even the Justice Department has suggested it would not stand up under antitrust law. Nevertheless, the powerful senator Ted Stevens (R-Alaska) pushed it through as an appropriations rider.
Even so, the advent of IFQs for crabs is an important milestone.