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Friday, July 07, 2006

nature conservancy buys out fishermen

As reported in this SanLuisObispo.com article:
SAN FRANCISCO - For four generations, Geoff Bettencourt's family has fished the waters off Half Moon Bay by dragging heavy nets across the ocean floor to scoop up the sole and cod that feed there.

But the 35-year-old may soon sell his right to trawl the sea - not to another fisherman, but to environmentalists.

The Nature Conservancy, an international environmental group best known for buying development rights from farmers, is looking to strike similar deals with fishermen along the coast in a pilot program that it said could be repeated elsewhere.

The group has bought six federal trawling permits and four trawling vessels from fishermen in Morro Bay, about halfway between Los Angeles and San Francisco. The tactic is designed to reward fishermen for forgoing fishing methods that can damage sensitive marine ecosystems.

Financial details weren't disclosed, but each fisherman received "several hundred thousand dollars a piece," said Chuck Cook, director of the group's California coastal and marine program. Rather than punishing fishermen, Cook said, "you try to provide economic incentives for treating the habitats and fisheries well."

The Conservancy said its acquisitions represent the nation's first private buy-out of Pacific fishing vessels and permits for conservation purposes. The buy-outs are also part of its new, cooperative approach to protecting the ocean. Fishermen saw some past campaigns as financial burdens.
The heroic Nature Conservancy is the only environmental group I've ever had any respect for, taking a commendable private property-based approach to protecting natural resources.

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