Author Archives: Seema Balwani

More Red Snapper for Gulf of Mexico Fishermen

Teal basket full of red snapper

Gulf of Mexico Red Snapper

For another year, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) has approved an increase in the total allowable catch (TAC) for red snapper in the Gulf of Mexico.  The TAC is the overall cap (in pounds) of fish that fishermen are allowed to catch each year and is distributed to the commercial sector, which receives 51% of it, and the recreational sector, which receives 49%.

This increase of 12% brings the TAC up to 8.08 million pounds of red snapper.  Overall, the TAC has been increased by 60% since the beginning of the commercial catch share program for red snapper in 2007. Both commercial and recreational fishermen have seen consistent increases in the amount of fish they are able to catch since the catch share program began.

Last week, on the first of June,   the recreational red snapper season began.  Recreational fishermen have grown increasingly frustrated by short fishing seasons.  This year they will only have 40 days to fish for red snapper, down from 48 days in 2011.  And recreational fishermen are still being managed by closed seasons and bag limits. Read More »

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NOAA Releases Gulf of Mexico 2010 Red Snapper IFQ Annual Report

Gulf of Mexico Red Snapper

Gulf of Mexico Red Snapper

NOAA's National Marine Fisheries Service recently released the Gulf of Mexico 2010 Red Snapper Individual Fishing Quota (IFQ) Annual Report, and it provides a wealth of data and information collected during the fourth year of the IFQ program.  The report comes as the 5-year review of the IFQ is underway, and offers us a chance to use the latest data to evaluate the success of the program.

By all counts, the IFQ has been a success.  Back in 2006 when the Gulf Council was considering various management options in the red snapper fishery, fishermen had a short season each year, and had to go out even in dangerous conditions. The markets were flooded with fish for a short period of the year (and fishermen got low prices for their fish), and since the fishermen couldn't decide when, where, or how to fish, they had excessive bycatch of red snapper and everything else.  And to top it all off, they ended up going over quota anyway.

Then in 2007, the IFQ brought in a new way of doing things.  After getting approved overwhelmingly by local fishermen in not one but two referendums, the IFQ brought flexibility and stability to the fishing industry.  Fishing days increased from an average of 77 days before catch shares to 365 days a year.  Catch shares improved the stability of fishing employment; they allowed vessel owners the opportunity to provide full time jobs to qualified captains and deckhands, without the variability that results from short seasons.   In contrast, recreational fishermen only had 53 days to fish for red snapper (not including lost days due to the oil spill) under traditional management in 2010, and only 48 days in 2011. Read More »

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The Gulf of Mexico – The Fishermen's Success Story

Gulf of Mexico Red Snapper

Gulf of Mexico Red Snapper

If you read Food and Water Watch’s recently published report on the Gulf of Mexico Red Snapper fishery, you may be wondering why EDF is so supportive of catch shares as a tool for fishery managers. The report paints a pretty bleak picture for fishermen in the Gulf of Mexico. We could spend an entire blog post devoted to addressing the report’s flawed statistics and manufactured conclusions, or we can just tell you the story of the red snapper fishery and how it went from near closure to a rebuilding fishery on the path of recovery.

Anyone who grew up in a coastal community and who has seen the fishing industry struggle under the weight of restrictions and regulations understands the devastating impacts of size limits, trip limits, and short seasons.  Traditional management has been crushing both large and smaller scale fishermen to the point where their livelihoods – their ability to provide for their families – has been threatened.  Catch shares offer them a way out, and a choice.

When catch shares were being debated in the Gulf Council in 2006, fishermen came to the table to design them.  All fishermen who wanted to participate, could participate – the Council process provided plenty of access through Council meetings, Advisory Panels, public comment periods, and hearings.  Under the Magnuson-Stevens Act, which Congress passed as the fisheries law-of-the land, fishermen were guaranteed a referendum (red snapper got two!) to vote a catch share up or down.  That means the fishermen who historically made a living from fishing got the chance to decide how best to manage their fishery themselves. Read More »

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