The National Oceanic & Atmospheric Administration has created a task force to advance the use of cap-and-trade regulatory schemes for fisheries.

The "Catch Share Task Force," announced yesterday, includes 16 NOAA advisers and fisheries experts to shape a system for setting strict catch limits and distributing total catch shares to commercial fishers, usually based on their historical catch. Fishers can then buy and sell their shares.

The 2006 Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act authorized catch shares for the first time and added some safeguards for the environment and commercial fishers in the program. There are currently 12 catch-share programs, up from seven two years ago. Four more are in the implementation or development phase, according to the National Marine Fisheries Service.

Cap-and-trade advocates say such programs halt the "race for fish" -- when fishery managers set total allowable catches and fishers race to get the most they can before the fishery reaches the catch limit.

The new task force indicates an increased commitment from the Obama administration to advance fisheries cap-and-trade. The administration also requested significant new funding for fiscal 2010 budget for the effort. The House approved a NOAA spending bill last week with $18.6 million for "catch share" fisheries. A Senate panel will take up its version of the bill today.

The task force's goals include developing a new NOAA policy to ensure catch-shares are "fully considered" whenever fishery-management councils reconsider management plans. The group is also supposed to make sure there is enough support for councils that want to move forward with catch-share plans.

Monica Medina, a senior advisor to NOAA Administrator Jane Lubchenco, will lead the task force. The executive director is Mark Holliday, director of policy for the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS).

The task force includes six other NMFS officials: Jim Balsiger, the service's acting administrator; John Oliver, deputy assistant administrator for operations; Alan Risenhoover, director of the sustainable fisheries office; Pat Kurkul, Northeast regional administrator; Roy Crabtree, Southeast regional administrator; and Sam Pooley, director of the Pacific Islands Fisheries Science Center.

Other task force members: John Pappalardo, chairman of the New England Fishery Management Council; Lee Anderson, vice chairman of the Mid-Atlantic Fishery Management Council; Eric Olson, chairman of the North Pacific Fishery Management Council; George Geiger, member of the South Atlantic Fishery Management Council; Robert Gill, member of the Gulf of Mexico Fishery Management Council; David Hanson, member of the Pacific Fishery Management Council; and Sean Martin, chairman of the Western Pacific Fishery Management Council.

Reprinted from Greenwire with permission from Environment & Energy Publishing, LLC., 202-628-6500