By SUSAN WEST
and recreational fishermen could see lower catch limits for some South
Atlantic species under a proposal to reserve a percentage of the total
allowable catch as a conservation buffer.
proposal, narrowly approved by the Allocation Committee of the South
Atlantic Fishery Management Council (SAFMC), was one of several major
changes made to a draft “comprehensive allocation
amendment” when the committee met in North Charleston, S.C.,
earlier this month.
The full council will review the changes at a meeting in Orlando, Fla., in June.
total allowable catch limit is set by scientists who review biological
data to determine the number of fish that can be harvested without
jeopardizing the health of the stock.
allocation amendment will identify how the SAFMC splits total catch
limits for species like vermilion snapper, black sea bass, and king
mackerel between commercial and recreational fishing sectors.
For some species, the council could approve a total catch limit lower than the biological limit.
The difference would be an allocation to conservation.
could be instances where the biological catch limit was so low that
managing the fishery would be extremely difficult, so the council might
shut the fishery down for several years, allocating to
conservation,” explained Brian Cheuvront, the North Carolina
Division of Marine Fisheries representative on the SAFMC and chairman
of the Allocation Committee.
The committee also recommended a distinct “for-hire” sector category for allocations to headboats and charter boats.
told, the SAFMC could consider allocations to four sectors –
commercial fishing, private recreational fishing, for-hire fishing, and
the total catch limit is split between sectors would be based on the
council’s judgment and sense of fairness and equity, under the
Economic information, landings data, and other factors could be considered.
council’s opinion on what South Atlantic fisheries should look
like in the future also would drive allocation decisions.
agreement on a vision for the future by the 17-member Council promises
to be controversial. Council members include commercial and
recreational fishermen and marine resource agency representatives from
North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, and Florida.
the end of our committee meeting, we discussed what fisheries should
look like in the future, and opinions were all over the place,”
And, the council might not have much economic data to work with.
isn’t much socio-economic information available, and for some
species there is none at all. To get the necessary data collected
will require a strong commitment from the states and the federal
government,” said Cheuvront.
North Carolina is one of the few states with a fisheries socio-economic program.
Allocation Committee recommended that, after the necessary data is
available, economic net benefit analyses could be used in setting
commercial fisherman Jeff Oden expressed concern that attaching a
monetary value to the benefits and costs of fishing doesn’t tell
the whole story.
an economic analysis to make fisheries allocations doesn’t turn
allocation systems into impartial, science-driven decisions.
Regulators need to own up to the social and political issues in these
decisions,” he said.