Fisherman's plight demonstrates challenges of sector system
"I caught my allocation in two days," he said. To try to stay in business he has had to buy fishing quota from another fisherman.
The new system allocates each commercial fishermen in a sector, or cooperative, a fixed amount of fish for the year. It allowed him a total of just 15,000 pounds for all species. Last year, before sectors, he brought in 74,000 pounds.
"I was always able to make a good living, keep the boat up and buy new gear. Now I'm going out of business. I'm done. I don't sleep at night for more than two or three hours. It's a lot of stress," said Keding, 41, whose wife Judi is a stay-at-home mom. They have two young boys, 10 and 8. "It's not working. And it's not just me. Other guys are leasing their quota out to survive the year," Keding said.
"I met with Pat Kurkul and she basically just sat there and said 'I feel your pain but my hands are tied,'" Keding said.
Nothing had changed by November when The Standard-Times announced it would hold a forum on fishing to address problems associated with the new catch share system, since many of the New Bedford groundfish boats in sectors were tied up as well, no longer able to make fishing pay.
Keding spoke passionately about his situation in front of a large crowd at the forum on Nov. 9. He was approached after the meeting by Eric Schwaab, head of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's National Marine Fisheries Service and one of the panelists at the forum.
"He told me he was going to have someone look into it. Later I get a call from some guy who thought I had a problem with a scallop permit. He didn't know anything about me," a clearly frustrated Keding said on Wednesday. "I e-mailed Eric Schwaab and he told me they had confused me with another man. This is what I get from them. Lip service."
In response to a query from The Standard-Times, Monica Allen of NOAA communications e-mailed the following statement from Eric Schwaab: "I have personally responded to Mr. Keding and provided him the fishing history associated with his permit and vessel. I understand that this is a complicated issue. Fishing permit history and vessel history are not always the same. I am sympathetic to Mr. Keding's plight. We remain open to any documentation he would like to provide us that might be different than that currently on record. NOAA Fisheries Northeast Region has also reached out to Mr. Keding to suggest potential collaborations for cooperative research that may assist him."
That has done nothing to reassure the Keding family. "If they are sympathetic to Jim's plight, why are they not accepting any responsibility for their error in providing misinformation?" she said in an e-mail. "If one can't get accurate permit history info from the agency charged with that job (NMFS), where can one get it? I believe they owe Jim some compensation."
However, Pat Kurkul of NMFS, while declining to comment on the specifics of Keding's case, said: "I told them that this is the situation as we see it and we'd have to have information that indicates otherwise to do anything. There is confusion between fishing permit history and landings history. You cannot tell just from looking at the landings of a vessel whether that vessel has any fishing history rights."
Read the complete story from The South Coast Today.