Federal plan for allocation of fisheries resources moves forward
By SUSAN WEST
South Atlantic Fishery Management Council plans to develop a
comprehensive method for allocating fishery resources between
commercial and recreational fishermen.
In the past, allocation decisions have been included in amendments to fishery management plans.
But Gregg Waugh, deputy director of the South Atlantic Fishery
Management Council (SAFMC), said the council will have to work at an
accelerated pace to meet new management directives in the 2006
Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Reauthorization
The 2006 reauthorization act requires the South Atlantic and other
regional federal fisheries management councils to adopt annual catch
limits set by scientists to prevent overfishing.
Catch limits must be in place by 2010 for species where overfishing is
taking place, and by 2011 for all other federally managed species.
“Then the council will have to figure out how to divide that
total poundage between recreational and commercial fishermen,”
Waugh told the audience at a SAFMC scoping meeting in New Bern on Feb.
Waugh explained that the council must also develop measures to ensure that allocations are not exceeded by either sector.
“We’ve had accountability mechanisms to limit the
commercial sector for a long time, and now to meet the new
requirements, we’ll have to do the same for the recreational
fishery. I think the agency (National Marine Fisheries Service)
has made its position clear,” he said.
The SAFMC has identified four different methods of allocation –
basing allocation on historical landings data, on catch and discard
mortality data included in stock assessments, on percentages determined
to be fair by the council, or on economic and social analyses.
Waugh said the council has heard concerns about all four methods,
ranging from concern over inadequate data to questions over the
council’s judgment of fair allocations.
In the past, the council has used landings data as the basis for determining allocations.
But last year the council agreed to explore other options.
“I believe we should be managing our fisheries resources looking
forward as opposed to looking backward,” explained George Geiger,
SAFMC chairman, in a recent council publication.
The Coastal Conservation Association of North Carolina (CCA-NC), a
recreational fishing organization, would like the council to consider
economic impact, demographic information, and other factors, while
minimizing the use of past landings in setting allocations.
“We would prefer to set allocations which reflect how managers
and fishermen would like the fishery to look in the future,”
explained Stephen Ammons, CCA-NC executive director, in an e-mail.
Sean McKeon, president of the North Carolina Fisheries Association, a
commercial fishing trade organization, said the council would use a
focus on demographics to strip harvest quota from the commercial
fishing sector and redistribute it to the recreational sector.
“Remember that current demographics are a direct result of the
regulatory burden placed on the commercial fishing industry by the very
council now wanting to reapportion quota,” he said.
“In other words, the SAFMC created the diminutive effort in our
fisheries through draconian regulations and now claim the increased
recreational effort justifies taking more and more fish from our folks
and handing them over to the recreational sector,” McKeon
Jeff Oden, an Outer Banks commercial fisherman, believes the SAFMC is
set on a course to reallocate the resource largely to the recreational
sector, no matter which allocation method is used.
He said the snowy grouper fishery has been a traditional commercial
fishery with more than 90 percent of landings by commercial fishermen.
“Now they are saying that all of a sudden in 2006, the fishery is now 40 percent recreational,” he continued.
“They said recreational fishermen landed 168,873 pounds in 2006,
exceeding their harvest limit by 35 times, yet NMFS (National Marine
Fisheries Service) Southeast Regional Administrator Roy Crabtree sat in
a meeting in Washington last fall and said the recreational community
was well under its 4,711 pound target for 2007,” Oden explained.
“The one thing that jumps out at me us how conveniently the
numbers change and how subjectively they are applied,” Oden said.