First-hand Gulf Snapper Education

Earlier this month I took a few of my staff down to Galveston, TX to meet with fishermen and get some first-hand learning on the water and at the docks.

We started by taking a recreational fishing trip 30 miles into the Gulf of Mexico with a fisherman friend who answered every question in the book, like “where does this bait (sardines) come from?” to “how has Hurricane Ike damage affected local fishing businesses?” We got some great insight into how for-hire fishing businesses operate and had some fun at the same time.

The next morning I got a special treat when I met a red snapper individual fishing quota (IFQ) shareholder at the docks to watch him offload 17,000 pounds of red and vermilion snapper after a six day commercial fishing trip. I was given a tour of the boat and learned some of the nitty-gritty details about running a commercial fishing business.

While I’d barely met the fishermen who were offloading, they were extremely enthusiastic about the Gulf’s IFQ program. These fishermen described the drastic difference, a very positive difference, that the IFQ made for their businesses in just the first six months.

One striking example was that under an IFQ, because fishermen weren’t racing against each other for a limited amount of fish, cooperation and camaraderie amongst fishermen along the entire Gulf coast came to the surface. They spoke about peers who had once been fierce competitors but are now trusted colleagues.

Fishermen under an IFQ have more productive businesses, while making major strides in conservation. One boat owner told me that his operating costs were down about 50%, making each trip much more efficient. Efficiency is also achieved because fishermen throw back many fewer fish under an IFQ, fish that are unlikely to survive once discarded. The IFQ has significantly reduced these discards, which makes conservation and business sense.

Hearing new, in-person accounts of the conservation and business gains the IFQ has generated after just a few years was really inspirational.

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