As part of its ongoing effort to encourage the federal fisheries management system to overhaul the way it views the nations marine resources, Coastal Conservation Association is urging the South Atlantic Fishery Management Council to break with the failed policies of the past and chart new management plans for a series of important recreational fisheries.
In recent months, the Mid-Atlantic Fishery Management Council, the Gulf of Mexico Fishery Management Council and the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission have all opted to explore reallocation of fisheries using forward-looking criteria rather than outdated catch histories. The South Atlantic Council is noticeably absent from that list.
South Atlantic Council staff recently concluded a series of public hearings and scoping meetings on a wide variety of marine resource issues. Nowhere in the hundreds of pages of documents that accompanied dozens of controversial management measures was there any reference to reallocating the nationâ€™s fisheries to better reflect modern shifts in demographics, economics and conservation ethics. Federal fisheries have historically been allocated using backward-looking catch histories, many of them locked into time frames that were selected to favor high commercial allocations.
â€œWe understand that we are dealing with an agency that has not been sympathetic to recreational interests. However, evidence is mounting that not only are recreational anglers usually the best stewards of the resource, we are the best economic engine in many of these fisheries, too,â€ said Bill Bird, CCA National Board member from Florida. â€œIn many cases, it is not even a close call. Instead of finding new and sometimes baffling ways to preserve an outdated commercial fishery, we believe managers have an obligation to begin managing these fisheries for the future, instead of simply repeating the past.â€
Economist Brad Gentner recently analyzed the South Atlantic red snapper fishery and found recreational fishing generates significantly greater economic impact than the commercial sector.
â€œWeâ€™re not saying every fishery has to be 100 percent recreational, but many of the current allocations border on the absurd when you look objectively at the economics,â€ said Chester Brewer, CCA National Government Relations Committee chairman. â€œWe recognize that economics should be just one of the guiding principles to manage these fisheries, but even a cursory glance at terrestrial wildlife management shows what can be done with a forward-leaning approach. There is no reason marine resource management should remain stuck in a bygone era.â€
In testifying on Snapper Grouper Amendment 24 during the recent public hearings, CCA asked the Council to examine the red snapper allocation based on social, economic and conservation factors. â€œWe believe that the greatest economic benefits to the country can be achieved by having the South Atlantic red snapper fishery reopen as a recreational-only fishery,â€ said Bird. â€œThe snapshot report by Gentner indicates that the South Atlantic Council should follow the lead of other councils and take this opportunity to order a complete economic analysis as part of an overall effort to chart a new path for this fishery.â€