Monthly Archives: February 2010

New Gulf Grouper Catch Share Already Proving Good for Fish & Businesses

grouperOn Jan. 1, 18 Gulf of Mexico commercially-caught grouper and tilefish species were added to the region’s individual fishing quota (IFQ) program, a type of catch share. This newly expanded program is a big conservation victory. Now, 19 valuable Gulf fisheries are being managed under a tool proven to rebuild struggling fish stocks.

This move is good for small and large fishing businesses. A year-round fishing season is just one of many benefits.  See National Fisherman’s article on how the new IFQ program is already making a difference.

Unfortunately, grouper fishermen in the Southeast aren’t faring as well under traditional management. They’re in the middle of a four month fishing closure. This isn’t just hard on fishermen, it’s hard on local restaurants and other businesses too. Southeast fishery managers should consider catch shares to eliminate these devastating season closures and bring fish populations back to health quickly.

Finally, we want to congratulate the fishermen, Gulf of Mexico Fisheries Management Council and others who worked so hard to add grouper and tilefish to the Gulf’s IFQ. We are excited to see the progress that these fisheries will make in the coming year.

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NOAA’s New National Catch Shares Program: An investment that makes (dollars and) cents

Amanda Leland, EDF Oceans Program - National Policy Director

Amanda Leland, EDF Oceans National Policy Director.

Yesterday NOAA released its budget request to Congress for Fiscal Year 2011.  While the National Marine Fisheries Service budget request was decreased by 1.5%, it included a key feature: the creation of a new National Catch Shares Program, which would provide significant resources—over $50M—to those fisheries wanting to transition to catch shares. 

This federal investment comes at the right time because under conventional management fishermen struggle to make ends meet and fish stocks continue to decline.  Well-designed catch shares, on the other hand, can end overfishing while increasing fishermen’s profitability and wages and decreasing government costs.  NOAA’s announcement is a welcome shift in fisheries policy that will quickly accrue benefits to fishermen, fish populations, and the federal budget’s bottom line.
Fishermen are increasingly embracing catch shares because they boost profitability, wages, and safety. Catch shares enhance fishery economics with optimized catch limits (as overfished stocks recover and science improves), increased efficiency of fishing operations, and higher dock-side prices.  On average, fisheries in North America have realized an 80% increase in revenues five years after catch share implementation. In contrast, for many prized species the alternative to catch shares is closures, which will push fishermen off the water and have a devastating economic impact on coastal communities. 

As fisheries grow economically, catch shares can transition management costs to fishermen, reducing and stabilizing the overall federal investment needed to support fishing jobs.  For example, fishermen are required to recover 100% of program costs in the Alaska crab catch share.  That catch share has increased the overall value of the fishery because populations are recovering (so catch limits are increasing), and dock-side values have increased.  The economic increase has resulted in a surplus for management costs in 2009.
At the same time, as fisheries stabilize under catch shares, the federal government’s costs for disaster relief could substantially be reduced, which has averaged some $70 million annually over the past decade (not including salmon).
NOAA should be applauded for charting a new course and making an investment today in the solution that will help fishermen, fish populations, and the federal treasury recover. 
Now we need Congress to support NOAA’s budget request.

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Local Seafood is Key to Florida Keys Culture

Kate Culzoni with a spiny lobster at the Florida Keys Seafood FestivalA few weeks ago, I attended the 5th Annual Florida Keys Seafood Festival in Key West where I learned what Florida Keys culture is all about – seafood, sun and fun. As I enjoyed the fresh lobster tails and crab claws, I was able to speak with the actual commercial fishermen who catch Caribbean spiny lobster, stone crab and a variety of sumptuous reef fish. 

Fish houses, which act as fish buyers, retail markets and restaurants, are often a lifeline for fishermen needing financial assistance and are the heart of the fishing industry in the region. I used some of my time touring the operations and observing how fish from the nearby reefs become delicious seafood fare in restaurants. 

Key West has a vibrant and diverse culture. Only 90 miles from Havana, the Cuban influence can be seen everywhere.  As I walked the historic docks, I practiced my Spanish with Cuban American fishermen. “A donde se van a pescar?”

Talking with fisheries managers, academics and state of Florida researchers also educated me on the complexity of fisheries and some of the challenges facing the living marine resources in the Florida Keys. Of particular interest to me was the spiny lobster fishery, which is unique because spiny lobster’s tail meat is the only commercially valuable part, unlike the cold water American lobster that has meat-filled claws and tails.

Spiny lobster is valuable to the Keys’ culture and national economy, however, research reveals some discontent with the current management system. Growing concerns over proposed new regulations, the high cost of doing business, and illegal poaching and black markets have some commercial fishermen wondering how they can even survive in the spiny lobster fishery.

After listening to fishermen’s stories and ideas at the Seafood Festival, which is sponsored by the Florida Keys Commercial Fishermen’s Association, I have a much better understanding of the adverse impacts of the spiny lobster management system. This year I’ll be spending more time researching and analyzing this fishery and working closely with the fishermen on potential management improvements. I’ll keep EDFish readers abreast of my findings.

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