January marked the second anniversary of the Gulf's red snapper IFQ program. Fortunately, fishermen, regulators and environmentalists continue to report good news compared to the decade the fishery suffered under destructive derby management (also known as a “race” for the limited number of snapper that fishermen were allowed to catch each year).
Year-round fish supplies and excellent quality mean that dockside prices climbed and have remained steady at least 25% higher than under the derby. Fishermen are allowed to keep most of the fish they catch, so the number of dead discarded fish (also known as bycatch) has been significantly cut. And, like the previous year, the annual catch was about three percent under its limit.
The West Coast is a big step closer to improving management of its valuable and struggling groundfish fishery. A plan for individual fishing quotas (IFQs) was identified as a top priority for the groundfish commercial trawl fishery by fishermen and the regional fishery management council. A goal for implementation in 2011 has been set.
This program and one in Alaska, along with the Gulf of Mexico’s recently approved commercial red snapper, grouper and tilefish IFQs are the newest additions to the United States’ catch share portfolio – now 20 programs strong. The first catch share in the U.S. was implemented in 1990 as an IFQs for the Atlantic Surfclam and Ocean Quahog fishery. Since then, states like Alaska have led the way with IFQs, community development quotas and cooperatives for its halibut, sablefish, crab, and pollock fleets. And, New England has implemented catch share “sector” management for portions of the hook and line and fixed gear cod fisheries.
These various catch share programs have benefits not often found under traditional management — they are successful in keeping harvests in-line with catch limits, reducing wasted fish and helping fishermen improve business practices.
Learn more about catch shares or see a fact sheet on IFQs.