Selected tags: Red Snapper

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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A Lifeline for Gulf Fishermen: Catch Shares Cushion Blow for Commercial Snapper Fleet in Wake of BP Oil Disaster

At the time of the BP oil disaster, the once-failing Gulf commercial red snapper fishery was beginning to rebound, in large part due to a catch shares program called individual fishing quotas introduced in 2007.  Before catch shares, fishermen competed against each other in a dangerous race-to-fish before the short seasons ended. Now, fishermen are assigned a percentage of an annual sustainable catch and have a year round season. Individuals decide when to fish their secure amount, and can trade their allotments with other boats, providing incentives and accountability to save fish and the marine environment.

The system works for fishermen and fish. Before, regulations forced fishermen to throw out millions of fish, wasted and dying. Fish were caught during short seasons and were sold in the market all at once, pushing down quality and fishermen's earnings. Now, far fewer fish are wasted, fishing costs are dramatically lower, and fishing trips are timed when seafood demand is high.  In short, opportunities for a healthy Gulf and fishing industry are possible again.

While all Gulf fishing businesses have been harmed, catch shares have cushioned the blow for fishermen during the BP oil disaster in the following ways, as non-catch share fishermen – like red snapper charter fishermen – are stuck dealing with another huge blow to their industry.

  • Tangible assets to make loss recovery claims: Catch shares have a transparent market price, which may help fishermen calculate defensible claims for the loss of value of their business and assets from the oil disaster. In contrast, fishermen under old rules may find it difficult to prove the expected value of this year's and future catches. This case is likely the first in which disaster claims can be based on catch shares.
  • Ability to trade fish now to make ends meet: Catch share fishermen in areas closed by the spill can trade their shares to others in the open Gulf waters, giving them the means to survive in the short term. In contrast, fishermen under old rules are stuck at the docks with nothing to trade.
  • Security to wait and fish later in the year: Catch share fishermen have a year round seasons and secure amount of fish, allowing them to save their fish for later in the year. For those under old rules, like charter fishermen, important fishing seasons are often concentrated during summer months, so fishermen that have been closed in by oil from Louisiana to Alabama have missed out on fishing for some prized fish and substantial fishing income.  (Regulators may re-open some fisheries to alleviate hardship caused by the oil disaster.)

Overall, catch shares help make fishermen more resilient to man- made disasters like the BP oil disaster and natural disasters like hurricanes.

Now more than ever, we need to improve fishery resiliency, reduce waste and make every fish count — for the environment and for fishermen. Catch shares are the best way to make this happen.

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Vote on Massive Southeast Fishing Closures Passes

Today in Orlando, Florida, the South Atlantic Fishery Management Council (Council) approved amendment 17A (17A) to the snapper grouper fishery management plan. Now it will go to U.S. Secretary of Commerce Gary Locke for approval. 17A closes the red snapper fishing season throughout the Southeast. It also closes a 5,000 square mile area for additional kinds of snapper and grouper fishing from Georgia to South Florida. A short-term ban was put in place in January to prevent red snapper fishing, until 17A could be finalized.

While today’s passage of 17A fulfills the Council’s legal requirements to end overfishing of red snapper, it does not provide an effective long-term strategy for a healthy fishery. In reality, it reinforces many other problems:

  • Commercial and charter fishermen going out of business;
  • Difficulty in finding local fish in restaurants and stores; and
  • Recreational fishermen – including tourists – not being able to fish as much, which hurts countless bait and tackle shops, boat dealers and mechanics, and tourist hotels and restaurants.

Catch shares allow fishing as fish populations rebuild
EDF believes that catch share management is the best option for the commercial and for-hire (charter and party boats) sectors of the snapper and grouper fishery. Catch shares could potentially replace 17A’s closures with fishing seasons and reduce closed areas while fish populations rebuild. Private anglers deserve an opportunity to catch red snapper too, and fishermen and the Council have an opportunity to improve the management by exploring new tools like a tagging program.

Growing numbers of Southeast fishermen agree that catch shares are the best way forward.

Catch shares set a scientifically-based limit on the total amount of fish that can be caught and then divide that amount among individual fishermen or groups of fishermen.  Studies have shown that catch shares bring fish populations back and benefit fishermen. With catch shares, fishermen have much more flexibility on when to fish, are held individually accountable for what they catch, are no longer forced to waste tons of fish by throwing them overboard, and fishing can be more profitable.

A looming disaster: Effort shift
When 17A is implemented, fishermen will focus on other kinds of fish, instead of red snapper. This can damage other fish populations or underwater habitat. Also, the uncontrolled BP Oil Disaster in the Gulf of Mexico may push Gulf fishermen into Southeast waters. Both situations will increase the amount of fishing pressure on an already distressed fishery. Catch shares reduce the need for season and area closures and the chance of damaging effort shift in fisheries.

Catch share success is proven
Successful catch share management is in place in the Gulf of Mexico’s red snapper, grouper and tilefish fisheries and hundreds of other fisheries worldwide. Just three years after the red snapper catch share in the Gulf of Mexico went into place, the amount of wasted fish was reduced significantly, fishermen made higher profits, and fish populations were rebounding. With the BP Oil Disaster, the flexibility of catch shares allows fishermen in areas closed to fishing to sell or lease their shares of fish to fishermen in open areas.

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South Carolina Fisherman Wants Catch Shares, Not Closures

A recent op-ed by Chris Conklin in The Sun News of Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, voiced frustration over the cascading closures now hitting the Southeast. Conklin comes from a fishing family and wonders if he’ll be able to stay in the fishing industry unless catch shares are instituted. The South Atlantic Fishery Management Council is considering a number of options – including catch shares – to reduce fishing closures and get fishermen back on the water. 

Conklin points to the success of the red snapper catch share in the Gulf of  Mexico.  Not too long ago, Gulf red snapper fishermen were in a similar situation to fishermen in the Southeast. Now, they are now enjoying the third successful year of a catch share. They have a year-round season and dockside prices are higher. These fishermen will likely receive more fish this year because fish population rebuilding is going so well.

Even as Gulf commercial fishermen deal with the worsening oil spill, the flexibility they have to fish throughout the year lets them plan their businesses in the face of natural or man-made problems better than those not under a catch share.

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New NOAA policy an economic and conservation boost for Gulf fisheries

Red snapper on scaleThe National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s (NOAA) new catch share policy, which encourages the use of catch shares to manage fisheries, is exciting news for the Gulf of Mexico’s declining fisheries and struggling fishermen.

The Gulf of Mexico Fishery Management Council deserves a pat on the back for already considering catch shares for some of its fisheries, and NOAA’s new policy can help jumpstart even more progress to end overfishing in all Gulf fisheries. Ending overfishing is good for Gulf economies and will give fishermen more time on the water.

The red snapper individual fishing quota (IFQ), one type of catch share, is wrapping up its third year, and we continue to see the tangible benefits of catch shares: commercial overfishing is ending, fishing businesses are more stable, and bycatch (accidentally-caught fish that must be thrown back in the water and often die) has been significantly reduced.

Other Gulf fisheries and sectors can benefit from catch shares too: Read More »

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South Atlantic Council Carefully Considers All Impacts of Red Snapper Regulations

The past few weeks have been big for Southeast fisheries.

  • Two weeks ago, the National Marine Fisheries Service passed an interim rule that will close red snapper fishing for 180 days starting Jan 4;
  • Last week, the South Atlantic Fishery Management Council met in Atlantic Beach, North Carolina and approved measures (Amendment 17B) to end overfishing for nine species of snapper and grouper fish; and
  • Last week, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration released its catch share policy, which will hopefully increase consideration of catch shares for our declining snapper-grouper fishery.

EileenonDocksWith all this going on, it is no wonder that last week’s Council meeting focused on red snapper.

Red snapper in the Southeast is said to have been overfished since the 1960s, but its cultural and economic value and lack of consensus on data are all reasons why the Council has yet to institute a rebuilding plan. But according to fishery laws, the Council must end overfishing of red snapper and other species. This has prompted a very close look at how to end overfishing of red snapper in a way that keeps as many fishermen on the water as possible.

Currently the Council is considering large area closures to end overfishing, but is still seeking new information – like red snapper mortality rates – that might further decrease the need for large closures.  The pursuit of this new information is likely to lead to delays in implementation of regulations to end red snapper overfishing, which is one reason the National Marine Fisheries Service took action to implement a red snapper interim rule. 

A huge amount of responsibility is put in the hands of Council members.  If regulations are too stringent, more fishermen will go out of business.  If regulations are too weak and do not end overfishing, the fishery will likely see future regulations that are even stricter and more devastating. 

Over the last year, I have heard impassioned pleas from commercial and for-hire fishermen and their families for the Council to consider how new regulations will impact their businesses and families.  This is an important concern and the Council is clearly considering business impacts in its deliberations on new regulations.

There is no magic answer for red snapper and other fish in trouble because all solutions will impact fishermen – commercial and recreational alike.  However, a catch share for red snapper and other snapper and grouper species will help keep fishermen on the water and fishermen’s profits up.  Plus, the Council can now look for technical, analytical, research and public outreach help from NOAA, via the agency’s new catch share policy, to help make this opportunity a reality.

As the Council makes a decision on red snapper and starts hearing more about how the early fishing season closures on vermillion, black sea bass, and other fish are negatively effecting individual profitability and the price of fish, I encourage them to consider a catch share to address accountability, improve data, and maintain a profitable fishery.

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Scientists Say Gulf Red Snapper May Be Making a Comeback

Red snapper (7)

Last week the Gulf of Mexico Fishery Management Council's Science and Statistical Committee updated its regional red snapper stock assessment and found signs that the population, though not recovered, is finally beginning to make a comeback. There is work ahead and many unknowns remain, but this looks like great news for fishermen, local communities and the environment.

At its February meeting, the Council will likely increase the quantity of fish that fishermen are allowed to catch. Commercial fishermen working under a successful red snapper management plan called an Individual Fishing Quota (IFQ) will have a good chance to be rewarded with more fish next year (and beyond). This sector poses little risk because fishermen are living within their catch limits, they have reduced the number of fish that must be thrown overboard dying to comply with closed season and size limit regulations, and they follow strict monitoring and accountability rules. At the same time, IFQ management has helped fishermen improve and stabilize dockside prices, reduce the costs to harvest fish, and provide higher quality fish to consumers.

On the other hand, it is less certain how the recreational fishery will fare. This is because the sector's management plan is not working and fails to help anglers abide by their scientifically-safe catch limit. Any potential change in the amount of fish a sector is allowed to bring to shore must account for such past and anticipated overharvests. Read More »

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